The Dark Side of Ideological Inconsistency

A couple of days ago I was listening to a radio show on Sirius. The hosts were playing audio of a woman who had spent six hours waiting in line at the welfare office. The woman did not sound particularly old, and she had six kids.

There were several disconcerting elements to the story. The fact that this woman waited so long highlights the inefficiencies of government bureaucracies. More importantly, it was clear that this woman not only depended on the welfare checks to get by, the attitude expressed in the soundbite revealed how deeply she felt entitled to the government benefits.

No one should begrudge those who truly need government assistance. I know nothing of this woman’s history, so I won’t comment on her situation specifically. But I was saddened as I listened to this woman speak, and I thought of how welfare has turned many people into truly helpless individuals – not because they are so by nature, but because that is what the welfare state does to people.

The radio hosts who played this story have what can be described as a libertarian bent, and they decried the welfare state’s tendency to breed dependency. Yet I couldn’t help but laugh at their willful blindness, for they are certainly the types who would mock social conservatives. So many libertarians, or socially liberal and economically conservative individuals, fail to appreciate the nexus between social and economic issues. The breakdown of the family contributes to the rise of the welfare state. More and more children are born out of wedlock, and single mothers must turn to the state to provide financial support to their families. Yet these social libertarians (indeed some of them are libertines) see no contradiction in promoting lax cultural mores while decrying ever-increasing government dependency.

Yet libertarians are not the only ones who fail to connect economic and social issues. Looking at it from a different perspective, those who consider themselves socially conservative but who advocate enhanced government intervention in economic affairs do not see how the welfare state itself leads to the breakdown of the family. The welfare state has practically displaced the family in many situations, fostering the sense of independence from family life. The family hasn’t been wholly displaced as the primary means of financial support, but many people have been brought up to expect that the government will be there to bail them out of poor life choices. Therefore, just as the breakdown of the family contributes to the rise of the welfare state, the welfare state itself contributes to the breakdown of the family. It is a vicious cycle, and those who insist that we can separate economic and social issues perpetuate that cycle.

22 Responses to The Dark Side of Ideological Inconsistency

  • “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    John Adams

  • Evil people cannot be free. Their embrace of the seven deadly sins forges their chains.

  • [J]ust as the breakdown of the family contributes to the rise of the welfare state, the welfare state itself contributes to the breakdown of the family. It is a vicious cycle…
    –Paul Zummo

    The welfare came first. And that has made all the difference.

    More and more children are born out of wedlock, and single mothers must turn to the state to provide financial support to their families.

    Shame on all who misuse the phrase “single mothers” in order to cloak females who choose to put baby-making before marriage. And what she’s doing outside of marriage isn’t making a family, it’s making a brood. Or a primate troop. But no way is what she has a ‘family’.

    <blockquoteIt is a vicious cycle, and those who insist that we can separate economic and social issues perpetuate that cycle.

    Those who invert initial cause (welfare) and effect (social breakdown) also “perpetuate that cycle.”

  • “what she’s doing outside of marriage isn’t making a family, it’s making a brood. Or a primate troop.”

    So it’s OK to call her children “primates” after they’re born but not OK to call them “fetuses” before they’re born? I get your point, and I agree that women should not be wilfully having children outside of marriage, but that sounds a bit too much like something a pro-abort would say.

    As I’ve written before, the question of whether the welfare state or family breakdown came first is a chicken-and-egg type of question. Personally I think family breakdown, or more precisely the sexual revolution, came before the welfare state, but the welfare state continues to feed off of it and perpetuate it.

    However, there are other factors besides family breakdown that are contributing to dependence upon government, such as the high cost of college education, the need for both parents in two-parent families to work outside the home, and the fact that many people have to move away from their families of origin to find work, leaving them with no one to turn to in time of crisis.

  • First, please don’t blame Libertarianism for the break down of the family and other problems of the welfare state. You want to preserve marriage then get marriage out of the marriage business. It is a Sacrament and not something the State should be involved in or regulate any more than Holy Orders or Extreme Unction – it should be the sole purview of the Church. Marriage has become weakened over the past 500 years because we have allowed the State to define, regulate and administer marriage. Any State strong enough to define marriage as a relationship between a “man and a woman” is also strong enough to define marriage as a relationship between a “man and man”, “woman and cat”, “man and woman and woman”. If left to various denominations you may still get those that allow “marriages” in the above combinations but I won’t be legally compelled to recognize it as a marriage. Get the State out of the Marriage business. (But then fine Catholic lawyers who make money off of divorce would loose a large source of income.)

    Secondly, Ms. Krewer, sexual promiscuity, illegitimacy, drug abuse have always been with us. If you listen to Protestants licentiousness has always been a major characteristic of Catholic countries and cultures. Legal prohibitions and restraints on drugs, alcohol, prostitution are extremely recent innovations, i.e. the last 100 years. Look at their success! No, when you subsidize something you get more of it. When you give immigrants rights to government entitlements you get more immigration (legal or otherwise). If you subsidize woman who have children outside of a traditional family – then you will get more women having children outside of a traditional family.

    Finally, Mr. Zummo, when you have people who make their living inside the beltway working for lobbying organizations you end up with people (even allegedly conservative individuals) with a vested interest in a Government which is dedicated to the regulation of every aspect of our existence.

  • I agree with much of the above but I do not agree that it is a “fact that many people have to move away from their families of origin to find work, leaving them with no one to turn to in time of crisis.”

    It is not a “fact,” it is a choice. It is similar to putting off marriage until one’s career is “established.” It has no more validity than that.

    Having to “strike out on our own” and establish a “nuclear” (or, “nucular” if you will. Dear God I miss GW.) family… “the two of us against the world” – is a zero sum gain for most people. We do it for careers that leave us no better off financially, no more satisfied with our lives than if we had stayed at home, and, usually, considerably poorer for those lost family connections.

    My wife and I have had numerous opportunities to advance our careers that would have required our leaving home. However, having her parents only an half an hour away and mine five blocks from our home has been a tremendous blessing. It has allowed us to maintain perspective and family life. It allows my wife and I to have time alone, knowing the children are well cared for. Most importantly, it maintains continuity between the generations, enriching our lives through constant interaction between three generations and across an extended family of parents, grand-parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles.

    We are blessed and not everyone benefits from living in close proximity to their families but I suspect many more would than do and that most who move away for their careers gave up far more than they gained.

  • That should be “get the State out of the marriage business”.

  • “You want to preserve marriage then get the state out of the marriage business.”

    I can presume then Mr. Tiden that you are not an attorney and represent people fighting over custody of kids and property after a marriage goes south? “Get the state out of the marriage business” may make a great libertarian bumper sticker, but as long as there are divorces, inheritances, adoptions, etc, in short as long as humans remain humans, the state will be in the “marriage business”.

  • “Yet these social libertarians (indeed some of them are libertines) see no contradiction in promoting lax cultural mores while decrying ever-increasing government dependency.”

    Correct. In fact, I would call all of them libertines.

    However, many Libertarians, few if none of which are libertines, see no contradiction in allowing the consequences of immoral behavior, allowed by lax cultural mores, to play themsleves out with no molly-coddling “assistance” from taxpayer-funded (read: extorted) government agencies.

    The consequences of drug use, sexual irresponsibility and profligate sloth, etc. are self-evident. The promotion of those behaviors comes not from Libertarians, but from State-sponsored “protections” against those natural consequences. Remove those protections, and the examples thus provided would soon do quite an efficient job of discouraging those behaviors, libertines be damned.

    “Sink or swim” does not equal “It’s OK to pee in the pool.”

  • When Bill Clinton popularized that tidy little phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” people applauded that clear -spoken delineation of what’s wrong, and what seems a sticky mass of overlapping and knotted thread.
    But let’s don’t take that (“economy”) to mean Just Job Numbers. The economy turns on mutual respect, dignity and love, despite earnest beliefs otherwise/with efforts to separate moral precepts and government.

    In Christian writings “economy” is seen in the overview; in the connectedness of all the parts; in how all things work together… not Necessarily in a financial sense but indicating God’s plan, providence, and also Order.

    In the bible the word in Greek mean something like household management. Anyone who has had a part in managing a household ( the famous “kitchen table” conversations ) knows that love and mutual respect can carry people through.

  • I just re-read, and see that I wasn’t very clear. To re-phrase: Clinton was identifying the problem to be addressed as the “economy.” I say, the economy is more than that whole ball of knotted problem, more than just as economic indicators, and let’s address cultural underpinnings of what makes it all work.
    I have heard people say that abortion, for instance, is not an economic issue. I say that it is, and I would like more national talk about that.

  • I could not agree more!

    We don’t hear enough about people being “industrious” about how they apply themselves… about risk-taking and earning rewards. I think there are a lot of people out there doing all kinds of cool things but the image that is presented is that of a stagnant and dying people, fighting for scraps from the government’s table.

    Hard work is a virtue that is essential to our national well-being, to the broader “economy” that you are talking about. It isn’t anomalous but it sure is made out to be.

    One of the reasons I love country music is that it talks about things that aren’t mentioned in the rest of popular culture: hard work, God, patriotism, duty, etc. We hear enough about the mean streets and licentious lives. Country music provides a safe harbor for the America that I love.

  • WK, I have two problems with that. First, the consequences of bad actions don’t just fall on those who commit them, but on their family and neighbors as well. Secondly, there’s got to be some finite government role in steering people toward better behavior and helping those who stumble. God created us as societal beings, not just as individuals or families. There is a role for government in supporting the common good. I don’t see much in the writings of libertarians that acknowledges it.

    Are we anywhere near the proper balance between individual, family, community, and government? Of course not. But libertarians would be more persuasive if they could argue for what the right balance is. I can’t think of libertarianism as anything more than a critique until it does.

  • Donald Mc Cleary: I agree with your assessment of marriage and the state. I must think on the rest.

  • Anzlyne: ” In the bible the word in Greek mean something like household management. Anyone who has had a part in managing a household ( the famous “kitchen table” conversations ) knows that love and mutual respect can carry people through.”

    Love and mutual respect is called good will.

  • Don:

    People who are not married (sacramentally or otherwise) fight over the custody of kids, inheritances and property everyday, and the courts have jurisdiction over those disputes. Likewise, people who are not married adopt children.

    People enter into legal agreements all the time in which they share real and personal property and enter into agreements giving each other the right to act on their behalf, i.e. powers of attorney. It has always been the argument of those opposing Gay Marriage that these legal tools are available to gay couples; therefore, gay marriage is not needed.

    I just carry this one step further and say heterosexual couples can enter into the same type of legal civil contracts – again with or without marriage – and the courts (if necessary) can administer and oversee the division of assets if the parties wish to dissolve the partnership (just as they can for business partnerships); and, if there are children the courts can determine custody just as they presently do for unmarried couples.

    Let’s just keep the State’s hands off the “sacramental contract” of marriage and the definition of marriage. Don’t worry small town lawyers will still be able to make money off of broken relationships!

  • Chas, the state is involved in marriage because it is the building block of society. Calling marriage something else does not alter that reality. Additionally I think the explosion of shack up or hook up relationships have been devastating to society and usually detrimental to the children produced by such transient “unions”. Weakening marriage by passing it off as no different than any other type of partnership is completely wrongheaded. As for the homosexual aspect of this, “marriage equality” is simply pretextual. The goal of most homosexual activists is for society to give a big stamp of approval to what they do in their bedrooms. Playing semantic games with marriage will do nothing to alter that goal.

  • There is no liberty without virtue. The Founding Fathers knew it, and many of the Austrian school philosophers also understand it. This is how “paleo-libertarianism” came about and is the school of thought I most identify with.

    The whole “keep the state out of marriage” line sounds appealing at first, I must admit. The problem is that the radical homosexuals and the radical left in general will never cease their attempts to force the issue upon the state. A federal definition of marriage, therefore, appears necessary to protect the institution from total disintegration.

    I don’t only support this for moral reasons, but for the reasons Paul and Don have brought up as well. Marriage is one of the most important predictors of household income and poverty status. People who get married are far less likely to become dependent upon government programs. A society of married people with religious values will do more to eradicate the practical arguments made by leftists than all of the liberty rhetoric we could ever produce.

    At this point there is no greater act of rebellion against the established order than to marry, have kids, and take them all to Church every Sunday.

  • “At this point there is no greater act of rebellion against the established order than to marry, have kids, and take them all to Church every Sunday.”

    Tragically true.

  • Thanks for the great discussion. I would have commented but spent much of the day in a feverish haze.

    As I’ve written before, the question of whether the welfare state or family breakdown came first is a chicken-and-egg type of question. Personally I think family breakdown, or more precisely the sexual revolution, came before the welfare state, but the welfare state continues to feed off of it and perpetuate it.

    This more or less sums up how I feel. I would say, though, that the advent of the welfare state unleashed the worst aspects of the sexual revolution. So while I think we saw fractures in the family before the Great Society, it was one of the prime forces if not the prime force in speeding up the process of societal decay.

    All right, now I am off to see if I can stay awake to at least watch Clint speak.

  • The Dark Side of Ideological Inconsistency:
    It seems that the aid, which was a bright spot for families in financial trouble before the 60’s revolution of sex and drugs as recreation, has become the dark side for those here and now; as the partiers denied existence of God and virtue and tradition, they paved a way of life with nothing but material benefits for half the people to look to for underpinning their lives. A poverty worse than material, and driven to the edge by this admin.
    Insane Vocabulary: baby daddy, baby mamma, flash mob, occupier, war on women, legalizing infanticide, are you in, …

    Lack of Manners: Waiting room at Dr. Ofc.: Baby daddy on cell to reception 6 feet away busily demanding more supervisors to cancel the 30 min. wait as atrocious, then arrogantly gathering mamma, baby in carriage, infant in carrier and toddler in quest of a better dr. leaving a wake of elderly and youngsters observing without pity. Healthcare benefits on demand.
    Elder teen boy at Soc. Security Ofc. stopping by for a check to take him to a hotel and restaurants due to spat at home until his regular check comes.
    Teen mom sneering at her substitute teacher for low pay, advising same to have babies for money and a nice place and sire, who can make as much in an hour on the street.

    Voodoo Math: Doubling national debt for benefit of political backers, but not the ‘poor’ political backers, who are set up for betrayal by Obama’s lack of economy. Their only hope is Paul Ryan’s budget and Mitt Romney’s encompassing capability to lead them from total darkness of the edge they are on now.

    Division of citizens by acrimony and mocking: After attacking their religious conscience and causing an angry reaction, belittling them as bigots and racists and only excepting Islam for fear.

    Waste of time, money, and hopes. A government not working. Agenda of fund raising.

    Allowing people freedom of religion is the restart button, if only people wake up to see good and evil. Meanwhile, I hope people see that Romney and Ryan are there now wanting to work for the return of good to their lives.

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