Friday, November 4, 2011

It's Not Just the Economy

Church near Hemingfold Grange
Image by Truus, Bob & Jan too! via Flickr
I'll be in Washington for the next few days at Americans for Prosperity's (AFP's) Defending the American Dream Summit (Twitter hash: #dream11). It's been interesting so far.I spoke with several of the other AFP attendees yesterday on the bus ride up from Georgia.

Surprisingly, most of the conversation revolved around non-financial topics.
I posed the same question to several people on the trip up, "What do you believe is the most significant problem facing our country and what is its underlying cause?"I got some interesting answers but none were specifically related to fiscal or monetary policy. In fact, all of the answers were either directly or indirectly related to moral issues. Nearly all involved the American family.

Do the thoughts of a few people, all from the same part of the country with similar beliefs and backgrounds offering similar opinions prove anything? No, they do not; but, their responses do raise the possibility that many people do understand the link.
“No matter how noble the objectives of a government, if it blurs decency and kindness, cheapens human life, and breeds ill will and suspicion – it is an evil government.” - Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind
Let's face it, there are federal policies that encourage the break-up of families, especially among lower
income people. It's the old, tried-and-true Law of Unintended Consequences. I believe it has led to the destruction of many families, especially in the African-American community.

Look at the households headed by single adults in the 1950s. The ratio of those households among whites was higher than among blacks. Then something happened.
In the early 1960s, many poor women - and let's be honest, the opportunities for black women were not what they should have been in that era - were put in a dilemma by a federal program that was designed to help. Lower income women could choose a path that kept a man in the household or a more prosperous path that excluded that man and relied on federal benefits. 

While many of you may believe that the "right" choice or the "moral" choice was certainly to keep that man, please consider that it was often a case of choosing what appeared to be in the best interests of children.

The federal government offered free medical care, food stamps, prenatal and early childhood care and a welfare check. A man earning very little could not match that package.

Throughout history, how many women have married, not for love, but for security? While it may not be romantic we seldom lash out at those women, Many of these women chose Uncle Sam as their suitor of choice, leaving the fathers of their children behind.

As Eric Hoffer wrote, 
“No matter how noble the objectives of a government, if it blurs decency and kindness, cheapens human life, and breeds ill will and suspicion – it is an evil government.”

People will do those things for which they are rewarded and avoid those things for which they are punished. Women were rewarded for choosing a single-parent household.
There are other illustrations of similar programs; you're probably familiar with them.

Government cannot outsmart the marketplace, even a market of its own creation. The creation of unintended consequences is unavoidable. The failure to recognize those things and to accept responsibility for those results is nothing more than willful ignorance. 

by Ken Carroll

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