"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, September 09, 2005

Stuck in the Crowd

I've been thinking a lot about those people in the Superdome who have now become a human herd moved from one massive venue to the next.

I agree with those who say that the trouble these people have endured is a scandal and a terrible comment on race relations. No question about it. However, the discomfort caused means we have to wonder what is wrong with this picture.

Think about it. We are looking at a group of people who literally were unable to get out of town. Many of them may have no family ties outside of the city. Many have probably lived in a welfare culture for decades, born and raised. Such persons have been robbed of their basic human dignity. This is a group of people who have been socially engineered into passivity and helplessness. The possibilities for sociological study are astounding. How many of them have ever held a job, have ever left the city of New Orleans, have ever left their state, have ever drawn a check from any entity other than a government agency? How many have any family member in a position to help?

Once you consider it, this is an unacceptable existence for anyone and we should not settle for it. Before 9-11, we were hearing story after story of the amazing successes due to welfare reform. We heard about people who held jobs for the first time, people who had pride in accomplishing something on their own for the first time, and children who could view their parents as role models for living a broader life for the first time. We heard about former Clinton officials who resigned in protest over welfare reform and now strongly endorsed it.

We have got to get back to addressing this situation. The War on Poverty failed -- possibly made things much worse -- and we must once again get people out of this institutional lifestyle where they are so terribly encapsuled in hopelessness and passivity.It's time to bring welfare reform and school choice back out of the closet. We've seen the cost of not moving forward with a better solution.

49 comments:

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Here here!

I wonder if there is a welfare equivalent to the "broken window fallacy"? Anyone?

My version would go something like this:

A town with 10 able workers currently has only 9 jobs available. One of the jobs is that of mayor. He, in benevolence-by-proxy, decides to tax the employed to help the poor unemployed individual.

Now, the question is:

Does the unemployed individual now have a better or worse chance of gaining employment than before the tax was enacted?

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Hunter ... great post.

Another thing to ponder:

Bush rescinds Davis-Bacon for New Orleans reconstruction.

This is good news ... no GREAT news for the thousands of non-skilled workers displaced by Katrina. Of course, we don't quite know exactly what the reconstruction will mean.

I'm not sure how many Democrats are going to spin this. Restricting the "reconstruction" to mostly white, skilled, union labor would appear racist ... at least in my book.

James Elliott said...

Hunter, much of what you write here is very wrong. Not because you are evil, or conservative, or even dumb. You simply don’t understand how welfare actually works. You have bought in to the vision of welfare that was framed by the master of the inspiring but fundamentally wrong statement, Ronald Reagan. You do raise some important points, however, and I will give you your due on them when they arise.

The very first is the idea of welfare culture. Before we can address what welfare culture is, we must address what welfare is: Welfare is tax expenditures for the public good. What then, is a welfare culture? Welfare culture is found wherever people benefit from public expenditure. Do you enjoy the public park your children romp around? Perhaps you enjoy having running water, sewage, and roads to drive on? You’ve lived in Texas: Where does Texas get its water? It gets it from other states. California is no different. We all live in a welfare culture, Hunter. In Ronald Reagan parlance, we are all, every last one of us, welfare queens.

You quite rightly address the question of human dignity, and recognize that it is interwoven with the fabric of poverty. However, ask yourself this: Does the loss of dignity so commonly attributed to poverty result from “institutional welfare” or does it result from society’s attitude towards poverty? You can trace this back to Luther and Calvin, to the very idea that industry equals godliness, that the poor are poor because God wills it to be so, and are thus less exalted in the eyes of man and God than the wealthy man. Does a poor man or woman lack dignity because government holds their hand or because you and I, with our own two hands, push them away as hard as we can?

You see poverty as giving life to poverty. But what, at heart, are the root causes of poverty? It is not by accident that the vast majority of the urban and rural poor in America is comprised of people of color. As you say, the possibilities of a sociological study here are immense, but are you losing the forest for the trees? Are you focusing on one system without accounting for others?

Part of what makes your query so flawed is your adherence to the Reaganite vision of welfare. You ask if any one of them has ever held a job, or drawn a check from anything other than a government agency. The answer, Hunter, if you had any working knowledge of the welfare system, is unequivocally “yes.” Welfare is largely supplemental, and always has been. The reality, Hunter, is that except for the disabled almost every family on welfare, be it one person, four people, or more, has at least one working breadwinner. For all your well-meaning words, you implicitly buy into the Western Protestantism view that the poor are lazy and shirkers of responsibility, a view that exists far apart from reality.

You are quite correct to criticize the War on Poverty. Johnson’s plan was incomplete and poorly actualized. It fell victim to the typical liberal thinking that throwing more money at a problem will make it go away. As Noam Scheiber of The New Republic has written, Johnson’s plan ignored the societal, cultural, and institutional barriers the poor face in America. Welfare Reform, as envisioned during the “Gingrich Revolution” of 1993, is also fundamentally flawed, for many of the same reasons. While conservatives have, unlike liberals, always looked to sociological answers to explain poverty, they look at the wrong ones. They, too, ignore the real barriers faced by the poor.

Not all of Welfare Reform was bad. Tommy Thompson’s implementation in Wisconsin has proven, 12 years later, to be very effective. But Thompson’s implementation was highly systemic, and provided far more comprehensive job training and initial support than the federal reform did.

One need only look at the numbers for TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families, formerly known as AFDC) to see how incredibly poor Welfare Reform has been. TANF (the largest and most common form of welfare as you would describe it) has a five-year lifetime limit on benefits. Use those five years up, and it is gone forever. Additionally, it only covers the first three children in a family. God forbid you should happen to have two sets of twins. And lest you be tempted to blame the poor for breeding too much, let’s not forget how many unwanted pregnancies are prevented by places you abhor, such as Planned Parenthood, by providing low-cost or free birth control.

The last twelve years have demonstrated that the majority of Welfare Reform’s “beneficiaries” cyclically graduate to working-poor and then back into poverty, often due to environmental or economic factors beyond the scope of one individual family’s control. Welfare Reform, like the War on Poverty, was incomplete and poorly implemented.

Kathy Hutchins said...

It is not by accident that the vast majority of the urban and rural poor in America is comprised of people of color.

This statement is incorrect. According to the 2001 Current Population Survey, there were 32,907,000 people living in poverty in the US, of whom 15,271,000 were non-hispanic whites. Granted, the poverty rate for non-hispanic whites is lower, but you didn't make a statement about rates.

I find it curious you unloaded such a dissertation about poverty without ever once mentioning the role of female-headed households with minor children, which account for fully half of all households in poverty.

Hunter Baker said...

James, I think you misconstrue my attitude toward these individuals. I am no way making the case that there are welfare queens out there living it up. I think being on welfare sucks. It sucks most for those on it.

I stick by my characterization of the ultra-limited lives these folks are living, including with regard to not having worked in real jobs. My wife did her residency in an inner-city hospital in Houston and she observed very clearly the "world" in which men are transient and the women get by on subsistence welfare payments (like TANF and food stamps). I think too many people have spent their lives in that world without ever really leaving.

These people spend a lot of time waiting in long lines because the only way of rationing welfare benefits is through waiting and bureaucracy. They live on very little money in very bad government housing. They never board a jet or even a simple fishing boat. They don't read much if at all. They don't even have the outlet of satisfying manual labor in many cases. This is just a bad way to live. I don't wish it on anyone. I want to get everyone out of it possible.

I also reject your view of welfare reform, which was bipartisanly praised until the Howard Deanization of the Democratic Party after 9-11.

James Elliott said...

Kathy: Doing the math by your 2001 numbers, we see that people of color outnumber Caucasians by over 2.5 million on those poverty rolls. Then we must consider the people census takers tend to miss: The illegal immigrants and the migrant workers. Your attempt to dilute the point is not so, pardon the terrible pun, black-and-white. You must also remember that those poverty numbers reflect a standard set across state averages, an arbitrary limit that crosses differing costs of living. A person in Wyoming meeting the federal poverty guidelines has a very different standard of living than one in, say, Los Angeles. The consensus among social welfare academia and professionals is that the federal figures miss most of the picture.

Why are single mothers often poor? Inherent in your question is the moral judgment most often heaped upon them: poverty is their fault. Gingrich-era welfare reform was largely aimed at these women. Hence lifetime limits on the amount of TANF funds a mother can receive, limits on food stamps, et cetera.

In 2000, I wrote a story for my university newspaper about single mothers. The most common job for a single mother is retail. Retail pays, on average, minimum wage. In 2000, the minimum wage necessary for a single mother of two to meet her and her children's minimum requirements of care was $15/hour (Approximate). Please note very carefully that the Federal minimum wage is and was nearly $10/hr less than necessary for these women.

Single mothers face limited job opportunities. As women, they face the "glass ceiling" and sexism. As mothers they face demands upon their time that many employers do not accede to. Other barriers are institutional (for example, Wal-Mart is frequently castigated for its practice of scheduling single mothers (the majority of its hires) for less than 35 hours a week, which means they do not have to provide benefits such as health care). As parents, single mothers experience greater outlays of already limited capital devoted to care for their children. This is a strain on dual-income married families. How much more, then, on a single woman, faced with multiple institutional barriers to earning?

And let's not forget the social stigma attached to being a woman who ::gasp!:: had unmarried sex and begot herself a bastard! This creates instant barriers to community aid based on nothing more than pigheaded morality.

Indeed, let's address that morality, since it is inherent to your question. As previously indicated, Western thought (not limited to it, but pertinent to our society) places great stigma on the poor (the works of Janssen and Dolgoff might aid your elucidation here). Welfare Reform in its much-touted way was deliberately aimed at single mothers, to effectively punish them for their sinful ways. In effect, all it really did was punish the mother for the sins of the father. More importantly, it punishes the children for any supposed sins the parents committed. Welfare reform, by limiting aid without providing for amelioration of other systemic factors (education, vocational training, institutionalized racism and sexism), exacerbates and perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

James Elliott said...

Hunter: I agree with you that the lives of the poor are limited, and that it is no way to live. But, the question you (perhaps inadvertently) pose is: Are their lives limited by choice, or by circumstance?

The barriers faced by the poverty stricken are manifest and largely invisible to privileged members of society. (One must remember that white people, poor, wealthy, or in-between, are privileged members of American society. The barriers faced by a poor black man will not always be the same as those faced by a poor white man.) Just as institutional racial barriers are hard for us, as white people, to identify and comprehend, so too are the barriers facing the poor (of all races). Povery is largely cyclical, and largely because of a confluence of factors, the most important of which are educational opportunity and social integration.

When you are witness to generations of your people struggling, to no avail, to lift themselves up, how hard do you then struggle before you are beat down by the weight of society and adversity? It takes a special person to soldier on past that. I submit that neither you nor I can appreciate the institutional barriers' full scope or their impact on those on the receiving end.

Welfare reform was much touted and well-received by both parties because both Democrats (completely) and Republicans (primarily) mistakenly perceive poverty as an economic problem and therefore in need of an economic answer. Welfare reform was an attempt at an economic solution.

Poverty is not solely an economic condition, but nor is it a matter of moral or personal failure. It is a failure of society: The poor are not integrated into our social fabric, and so long as they are not, there will be no workable solution.

New Orleans, the impetus for this discussion, provides an excellent example of how institutionalized barriers are. Using statistics from 2001, we see that the average worker income in Louisiana was approximately $24,000. However, the average income for an African American in New Orleans (at 67% of that city's population) was under $11,000. Today, Federal guidelines state that an individual is considered impoverished at $9,000 and a family of four is impoverished at approximately $18,000. A city where 67% of the breadwinners earn less than the state's average income faces more than a mere culture of poverty. There is something within the social fabric that is inherently preventing its poor from improving their lot.

Tlaloc said...

"Once you consider it, this is an unacceptable existence for anyone and we should not settle for it."

Damn right why can't they just starve to death with dignity like in the good old days!

weren't you people supposed to be feigning a compassionate side of conservativism?



"Before 9-11, we were hearing story after story of the amazing successes due to welfare reform."

The problem is that those stories, like Reagan's "welfare queens" were flat out lies Hunter. Welfare reform means one thing: screw the poor.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Why are single mothers often poor? Inherent in your question is the moral judgment most often heaped upon them: poverty is their fault,

No, that judgment is not inherent in the question. I never said a word of judgment against these women. I will, however, indict the society elites that have decided that monogomous heterosexual marriage as the norm for the bearing and raising of children is strictly a personal decision. This catastrophic embrace of the "rainbow of choices" has left the women on the bottom of the heap with a fragmented to non-existent support network, forced to either accept TANF payments or eke out a life at the bottom of the minimum wage system, leaving their children in the care of whatever neighbors or relatives can be co-opted until they reach school age, when they can be warehoused in substandard schools until they reach puberty and they can start the whole sorry cycle over again. It has freed men from any sense of responsibility towards their children, and left women holding the bag.

I don't condemn these women; I applaud them for giving life to their children when so many urge them to abortion.

You're right when you say the federal statistics smooth over many variations. Would you like to hear about the poor of rural Indiana? She's a white girl who dropped out of school in the 10th or 11th grade. She has two or three children, fathered by two or three different men, none of whom support her financially or in any other way. She lives in a trailer, or a frame shack, connected to the nearest chip & seal road by a quarter mile of dirt that had a quarter ton of gravel dumped on it in 1962. There may or may not be electricity. If there is, there is running cold water of dubious purity from a shallow well; if not, there is a hand pump. The blackwater from the toilet runs raw into a ditch 30 feet from the back door. She lives with her sister, perhaps, or a friend, who also has children. One watches the children while the other works at some minimum wage job. That and their food stamps feeds them and buys some gas. Or maybe she lives for the moment with yet another man, who fixes her car and buys her some cigarettes if she sleeps with him, but will disappear if she gets pregnant.

These are the women I went to school with. I've watched their children and driven them to work and taken them to the doctor and paid the bill when they weren't looking. You think you know poverty because you worked for a welfare agency. You think you're qualified to accuse other people of blaming the victim. Effing think again.

Hunter Baker said...

T, I'm not interested in "screwing the poor" as you say. I actually have a much higher view of them as human beings than you do. You seem to think they can do no better. I disagree. I think that the reason the welfare reform worked so well (and it certainly did despite your characterization) is that it knocked many poor out of their complacency.

Now, the tougher question is this: Since many poor escaped the welfare rolls via welfare reform, is it possible the other half represent the true hard cases requiring some more radical action? That would be a valid inquiry.

James, you clearly seem to care, but you buy into a lot of old theories that I just don't think are true. I don't know if you have children, but I have two and I can tell you that having children without a wife/husband to help both economically and with just sheer work around the house and with kids would be a massive burden. It would be hard for a professional man or woman to deal with, much harder still for a person without that much going for them. There's a moral lesson here and it is backed up by much research. The simple fact is (and it is well documented) is that if you finish high school and get married prior to having children, your chances of being in poverty fall through the floor.

Tlaloc said...

" T, I'm not interested in "screwing the poor" as you say."

I do believe it isn't your intention but it is, I promise you, the end result of your desired choice of action.



"I actually have a much higher view of them as human beings than you do. You seem to think they can do no better."

I don't think they are poor because of any inherent problems of theirs but mostly due to the inequities of capitalism. So long as you maintain the cutthroat system of capitalism we must have a social safety net or you will see (as we have in the past) the poor abandoned to starvation. That's really not disputable Hunter. There never will be nor can be a system of capitalism in which you do not have winners and losers. And of course the winners have continued to own more and more of america forcing more and more of everyone else into poverty.

see here

The idea of the American Dream has always been just that, a dream. It has never been the case. Not in the days of slave plantations, nor in the days of the robber barons, nor today with the microsofts and walmarts. The poor have always been oppressed by the captains of industyr. Look at the criminal and excessively violent attempts to prevent unions from first forming in industries like mining. The very fact that Unions often had to get in the pocket of organized crime to survive proves just how vicious their supposedly upstanding corporate opponents were.



"I think that the reason the welfare reform worked so well (and it certainly did despite your characterization) is that it knocked many poor out of their complacency."

Well then since we disagree can you provide some proof it worked?





"There's a moral lesson here and it is backed up by much research."

It's an economic lesson Hunter, not a moral one. There have been plenty of other cultures that because they organized themselves differently had no issues with single parenthood, indeed cultures with no concept of marriage at all (Anasazi for instance).

Hunter Baker said...

I don't think you can argue that more and more of us are poor when our standard of living is ever higher. We can find much more equitable societies where the "middle class" lives far more sparsely than our poor.

James Elliott said...

Hunter, my graduate and professional work is IN social welfare. The theories I use aren't old, they're widely accepted among those of us who work in the field.

Now, I don't disagree with the figures that show married couples are better off: Two incomes and two people to split the work are always better than one, and children do best with two or more full-time involved adults in their lives. However, welfare reform works counter to its avowed purpose. It takes two to tango, so to speak, but welfare reform is unnecessarily punitive to the mother and her children.

Hunter Baker said...

James, I agree that punitive policies are a problem, but we also have to deal with incentive and disincentive. A pre-1995 welfare policy actually provided disincentives to make a life based on work, saving, deferred sexual gratification/pregnacy, etc. That had to be changed. So, we make welfare benefits severable, so you can keep some as you work your way out of others. You also need a time limit on benefits to send a message that his is not a life option. It is a relief option for a time in your life.

James Elliott said...

I don't necessarily disagree with some of what you've said. See my favorable opinion of Tommy Thompson's system in Wisconsin. I absolutely agree that the WoP was the incorrect way to fight poverty.

However, your contention that pre-"Welfare Reform" welfare encouraged sex, pregnancy, bladdy blah blah, is just plain wrong.

Kathy Hutchins said...

welfare reform works counter to its avowed purpose. It takes two to tango, so to speak, but welfare reform is unnecessarily punitive to the mother and her children.

In many ways I agree with you on this, James. In 1995 George Gilder wrote an essay for the American Spectator, titled End Welfare Reform as We Know It that made exactly this point -- while the (then) current welfare regime harmed children, the reform introduced a different, but in many ways no better, set of problems. I tried to find a copy online for you, but TAS archives only go back to 2001. I can quote you the money line, though: "AFDC has robbed these children of their fathers, and now the reform will steal their mothers as well."

But what is the solution? I have come to the conclusion that the federal government does not and cannot have a solution. There is no question that the welfare system pre-reform provided the poor, particularly women, with a horrible set of incentives that led to nothing but more dependency. But given that you have a situation where half the people who need welfare are women with dependent children and no spouse, how can you help them to independent status without demanding that they absent themselves from their children?

My aim in bringing all this up was to stress that if the welfare policy gurus insist on framing poverty and welfare dependency as race based instead of sex and family structure based, nothing will ever improve.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Bravo, Hunter! Writing with excellence and passion.

Hunter Baker said...

Thanks, Jay. It's a nice compliment from the most prolific writer at TAS!

Tlaloc said...

" I don't think you can argue that more and more of us are poor when our standard of living is ever higher."

I thought it was easy to argue that more and more of us were poor when I looked at the census data that says poverty and the poverty rate have increased for five years running now.

Meanwhile the median income has gone up. Quick math lesson what does it mean if the median income goes up but more people are poorer?

It means that wealth is getting concentrated even more at the top. Which is of course the motto of the Republican party.

Hunter Baker said...

It's a fallacious argument. Your definition of poverty depends on a comparison with other individuals versus any "hard" standard of poverty. By the standard of what poverty looked like during the vast majority of known history, the poor aren't very much so.

Now, does that mean I don't think major efforts should be made to improve the plight of the individuals/group we are discussing? No. I believe in the dignity of all human beings and would discard none. I simply disagree with welfare policies that have generally been used and would like to see more entrepeneurial/creative approaches.

James Elliott said...

40 percent of all poor people in the U.S. are children. These comprise one-fifth of all children in the country.

The focus in entrepreunerial solutions is a focus on privatization. Privatization denies communal solutions. However, history shows that an emphasis on privatization solutions increase, not decrease, poverty and near-poverty. Witness the increase in poverty rolls from 1981 on.

Seeing as how the historical definition of poverty is near-starvation subsistence living in dirt hovels, prey to predators and privation, your conflation of modern poverty to historical poverty is rather callous, whatever personally egalitarian regard you carry for the poor.

Kathy, I've read the conservative meme of "AFDC takes fathers away" many times, masochistically enjoying, as I do, the writings of Irving Kristol. It's simply not so. Government welfare does not create a culture of joblessness and transitory relationships. A capitalistic focus in privatization and personal gratification do.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Government welfare does not create a culture of joblessness and transitory relationships.

Oh?

A capitalistic focus in privatization and personal gratification do.

It appears you have written that a capitalistic focus on privatization creates a culture of joblessness and transitory relationships.

Also that personal gratification and capitalism are somehow linked. I might be able to follow this one, perhaps that advertising weakens the will of the Great Unwashed (but surely not yourself, eh?)

Still, perhaps a bit elitist, but that can be defended too, I suppose.

Please advise, Mr. Elliott, and I trust you won't ask me to hold your feet to the fire on the more difficult (apparent) contradictions.

Tlaloc said...

"It's a fallacious argument. Your definition of poverty depends on a comparison with other individuals versus any "hard" standard of poverty. By the standard of what poverty looked like during the vast majority of known history, the poor aren't very much so."

Sorry Hunter but no. When we have more than 10 million children going hungry. I don't know what standard of poverty you'd like to adopt but I hope to god it includes children not eating.

As for issues of welfare it's ironic to me that people devoted to a religion that explicitly demands you cloth the needy, feed the hungry, and so on would object to a government program designed to exactly that.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"As for issues of welfare it's ironic to me that people devoted to a religion that explicitly demands you cloth the needy, feed the hungry, and so on would object to a government program designed to exactly that."


You're right ... it is DESIGNED to do just that. But the fact that there are (allegedly) 10 million kids going hungry only solidifies the argument that the federal government is not up to the task.


Apparently the religion of "federal government to the rescue" has its own believers; I, myself, do not put my faith into an organization of men.

Tlaloc said...

"You're right ... it is DESIGNED to do just that. But the fact that there are (allegedly) 10 million kids going hungry only solidifies the argument that the federal government is not up to the task."

CLA, so you if a program doesn't do enough to help the poor the answer is to stop what help it already does? That's just brilliant. I mean it really, I'm astounded that I just never thought that the way to help poor people was to take away any little help they might get!

Fantastic.



"Apparently the religion of "federal government to the rescue" has its own believers; I, myself, do not put my faith into an organization of men."

I'm an anarchist so I very much believe the eventual goal should be no state whatsoever. But in the mean time there is a very simple question: do you want your taxes to buy food for the poor or bullets for the military?

For me it's not even a close thing. Our military is bloated beyond all need for self defence andis used as a tool of aggression so bush can play cowboy and locheed can make another hundred million.

Bullets or food CLA? The taxes are going to be collected either way, the only question is what they do with it.

In '93, under a democratic president, welfare cost the US less than half what we paid for defense. Bullets or food.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

If I told you that banging your head against a wall would bring forth rain, would you do it? Dumb question, I guess, because if your religion told you that it would work, you would just continue on faith.

Here is what I see as agreement on this thread:

A safety net of some kind is needed. This safety net had been provided by private charity, for the most part, until the New Deal era, and is now provided by private charity and government (yeah, maybe that is an oversimplification, so sue me).

Tlaloc, if you were a Katrina evacuee would you rather be put up by government or a private charity?

In regards to the "food or bullets" question, because it is TAX money I can only hope that elected officials will stay within the constructs of the constitution.

In your anarchist view of the world, who would feed the poor?

Tlaloc said...

"A safety net of some kind is needed."

Yes. It is in fact one of the principle functions of government.



"This safety net had been provided by private charity, for the most part, until the New Deal era"

It wasn't provided very well by private charity back then and private charity does even worse today.



"Tlaloc, if you were a Katrina evacuee would you rather be put up by government or a private charity?"

Depends on if you call the Red Cross a private charity even though it's working tightly with the government (or trying to). But if I have to choose one or the other then most definitely the government. The charity has absolutely no responsibility to me, the government does. I have no reason to trust that the charities "good" doesn't come with string attached, such as those that require conversion or adoption of their beliefs. The government at least is not yet run by cultists.



"In regards to the "food or bullets" question, because it is TAX money I can only hope that elected officials will stay within the constructs of the constitution."

Meaning? A strict interpretation of the constitution? Then we'd have neither bullets nor food.



"In your anarchist view of the world, who would feed the poor?"

Most likely an anarchist world would live much more simply in primarily agrarian societies because maintaining large scale infrastructure would be very unlikely. That being the case the economics of such a world would be entirely different than our current economics, quite probably even using barter style trade.

Notice however that I am only saying what is likely. That's because there are no rules in anarchism. You can't say people will live this way or that because there is no force compelling them to. It will depend entirely upon the people making up the social group as to how they work together or do not work together. That being the case the poor may be fed by their neighbors or they may starve.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"But if I have to choose one or the other then most definitely the government."

You give us heaps of data regarding how bad things are for the poor in this country (near righteous indignation);

You blame it on government, insinuating that is is WRONG to let people starve.

Then you say you'd choose government over private charity if homeless and hungry.

As an anarchist you would have no choice but to accept private charity as no government would exist, but then say people might just starve (with no righteous indignation).

What a dim view of humanity.

Does your moral view of right and wrong change depending upon whether your system of "governence" (or lack thereof) is in place?

Tlaloc said...

"You give us heaps of data regarding how bad things are for the poor in this country (near righteous indignation); You blame it on government, insinuating that is is WRONG to let people starve. Then you say you'd choose government over private charity if homeless and hungry."

Uh those private charities are doing no better than the government since the people are in fact still starving, I would have thought that was so obvious it wouldn't have to be pointed out. Given two ineffectual manners of relief, one of which may come with strings attached I'll opt for the one without (government). Is that really hard for you to understand?



"As an anarchist you would have no choice but to accept private charity as no government would exist, but then say people might just starve (with no righteous indignation)."

I feel no righteous indignation in that case. Groups of people would have to decide for themselves how they would co-exist (or not). If they can't share they will most likely weaken and die out. Hopefully it won't happen but you can't prevent people from being self destructive if they really want to be.



"Does your moral view of right and wrong change depending upon whether your system of "governence" (or lack thereof) is in place?"

No but the difference here is that we have a goernment in place which is there precisely to act as a safety net. When it fails to do so that's bad as I see it. And we need that government in place for the time being because people are not right now ready to live without a Big Brother. I hope they will be someday.

See what you are consistently not understanding is the practical side of the argument: we do have a government, that being the case and since government comes with a substantial number of problems we may as well eke out whatever good we can from it while it's here. It's called making the best of a bad situation.

Having our government help out those who have been systematically disadvantaged by our system of retarded economics is one of those things we could eke out. The question is if we will.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Sounds like you want people to be in control of themselves and what they do.

Me too.

This includes whether they share with others?

I agree.

It also means they ought to be able to spend their money how ever they want to.

Right?


You seem to be awful chummy with government considering your claim to be an anarchist.

Tlaloc said...

"Sounds like you want people to be in control of themselves and what they do."

Certainly.


"This includes whether they share with others?"

Sure.


"It also means they ought to be able to spend their money how ever they want to.
Right?"

Nope there is where we differ. The money exists solely because of the government, it's printed by the government, it is in fact for all intents and purposes the property of the government. We're just borrowing. That being the case I have no problem saying that a "right" to spend money a given way is a fallacy. So long as we have a government it will collect taxes. Those taxes then should be spent fulfilling the societal contract.



"You seem to be awful chummy with government considering your claim to be an anarchist."

You seem awfully clumsy with nuance for a liberal. Que sera sera. As I've made abundantly clear I want to reach a state where people cast goverment aside. As I've also made clear we aren't there yet and likely won't be for sometime, if ever.

In the meantime since I'll have to suffer a government I may as well try to get them to do some good.

I'm not sure why you are having so hard a time understanding the idea of trying to get the best result out of a bad situation. It's really pretty elementary.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"Nope there is where we differ. The money exists solely because of the government."


Huh? I don't know where to begin...

Tlaloc said...

"Huh? I don't know where to begin..."

A good sign that you shouldn't and instead should learn.

Who printed the money precisely? And who maintains the Fed which determines in great extent the value of that money? FOr god's sake who's symbols are plastered all over the money?

In all three cases the answer is the government. They invented the unit we call the dollar. They produce it. They have a great deal of control over the distribution of it. They take it back in whatever proportion suits their fancy. It is a convenience provided by them because of course a moneterized economy is needed for the kind of massive infrastructure we wanted to build.

In what way then is the money not essentially theirs?

Our money is no longer based on the gold standard when the point was even easier to illustrate but it remains the case.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Many forms of money existed BEFORE government. It is simply a tool to allow for a "freer" exchange of goods and services.

Not only that, but I believe that money as you have defined it (currency printed by the government) represenst a small percentage of the "money supply."

I will not claim to be an economist, however, and will be happy to be corrected.

Tlaloc said...

"Many forms of money existed BEFORE government. It is simply a tool to allow for a "freer" exchange of goods and services."

Certainly but we are speaking of the almighty dollar here.



"Not only that, but I believe that money as you have defined it (currency printed by the government) represenst a small percentage of the "money supply.""

True but the virtual money supply that exists as data on computers is of course representational of actual cash and must be redeemable for the genuine article should the investor wish (subject to the terms of the contract of course). In other words the rest of the money supply is much like the dollar was back during the gold standard: a promisary note for something else.

James Elliott said...

Private giving is higher in regions that have high amounts of government welfare, such as New York City. When welfare is reliant upon private giving, poor economically performing areas/eras' giving (when it is arguably all the more necessary)) is at its lowest, and woefully inadequate to need.

Pre-New Deal private welfare gave us the Great Depression's demonstration of a need for a government-administrated social safety net.

James Elliott said...

Also that personal gratification and capitalism are somehow linked. I might be able to follow this one, perhaps that advertising weakens the will of the Great Unwashed (but surely not yourself, eh?)

It's quite simple, Mr. Van Dyke: Capitalism leads to rank materialism, to a focus on being one of the haves. Having, in this case, being measured by the amount of money and material goods one has. This creates a transitory society, one concerned, at best, with immediate family only after personal gratification. Advertising does, indeed, play a role: Bombarded by images of what society tells them they should have, young men and women with nothing else going for them will focus on the material. Hence the prevalence of (expensive) brands like Fubu among the (urban) children of the poor and working poor.

I exaggerate. I should be writing "unfettered capitalism." Capitalism is a system that has winners and losers. The losers, in an unfettered system, lose more and more as power and wealth concentrate at the top of the ladder. Young men (and increasingly women) who, after generations of societal oppression and visible lack of opportunities, will become idle. The idle will become focused on self-gratification, violence, and the "quick fix."

This is not welfare's problem. This is a capitalistic society's.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But the "welfare" state and the "capitalist" system are both empirically materialist.

Substitute the former for the latter in all your assertions, and it makes no difference.

Certainly if you subtract the concept of "virtue" from either, the dynamics you condemn remain.

Tlaloc said...

"But the "welfare" state and the "capitalist" system are both empirically materialist."

How do you contend that providing welfare is materialistic? It is altruistic: the sacrifice of some to benefit others who are in need.

Certainly the benefit provided is in the form of money or subsidies but somehow giving pregnant woment access to WIC is just a little different than drooling over the latest gadget or even larger SUV.

Tom Van Dyke said...

God save us from the moral judgments of the relativists.

Tlaloc said...

"God save us from the moral judgments of the relativists."

There were no moral judgements when I corrected your fallacy that welfare is materialistic. Not every judgement is a moral judgement, some are merely factual, Tom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You did not correct, sir; you merely asserted to the contrary.

There is nothing altruistic about addicting one's fellow citizens to a lack of self-sufficiency, which was the original author's point.

A welfare state is a materialistic solution to a philosophical problem. Modern philosophy is purely materialistic, and when all one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Tlaloc said...

"There is nothing altruistic about addicting one's fellow citizens to a lack of self-sufficiency, which was the original author's point."

If you could show that welfare is in any way addicting you might have a point, however I'm fairly sure you can't because of course it isn't.



"A welfare state is a materialistic solution to a philosophical problem."

No. It's an altruistic solution to a materialistic problem: a small few own so much that despite the wealth of our country in total many still cannot support themselves.

Claiming that people on welfare are lazy is very 80s but as then it's also very wrong.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Again, a materialist answer to a philosophical question. I'm afraid there's more to it than that.

Altruism? Appropriating the vocabulary is not the same as speaking the language. It is not necessary to accept the prevailing counterarguments on an issue, but it is discourteous to remain willfully ignorant of them, especially when links are thoughtfully provided. The boulder remains on the same Sisyphusian hill, and we roll it up one side and down the other, forever on Square One.

Peace, I'm out.

Tlaloc said...

Tom, if you want to claim that that philosophy is correct that's fine but that in no way alters the situation. By the normal usage of the terms this is a materialistic problem: some people lack sufficient goods to sustain themselves. And it is an altruistic answer: other people have chosen to sacrifice to help the needy.

You can say that altruism is wrong but it doesn't stop it from being altruism. It's called a definition and we have these big books called dictionaries to help us get them right.

If you don't like english you have plenty of other options of languages to use but don't get all whiney just because the words don't mean what you really really want them to mean. Blame Webster if you like but there's a reason we use common definitions, mostly to prevent this kind of tantrum on your part.

Hunter Baker said...

I've got news for you, JFE. There are winners and losers in every system. In the Soviet Union, ostensibly a nation of equals enjoying equal benefits, there were large gradations of who got what. It can be decided by government or by the more meritocratic market. I'll take the latter.

Tlaloc said...

"I've got news for you, JFE. There are winners and losers in every system."

I like to put it this way:
Communism is a system in which the economic power is held by a political elite and the masses have nothing. Capitalism is a system in which the political power is held by an economic elite and the masses have nothing.

Seen like that they really aren't so different now are they?



"It can be decided by government or by the more meritocratic market."

Hunter the dream of a truly free and meritocratic market is just that: a dream. It has never existed and will never exist in part because nobody, and I mean nobody has any interest in really seeing it come about. Just like the idealized commune it falls apart instantly because people pursue their individual goals above the group ideology.

Hence you get monopolistic ventures. You get price fixing. You get predatory location practices. You get all manner of collusion and market manipulation that destroy any pretense of a free market.