Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Colin James' christmas message

I didn't want to blog today. But this couldn't go without comment. It's an extract from Colin James' Christmas message:

In our small, enlightened society many tens of thousands of children go without some necessities or nourishing food or emotional security or guidance to learn.

Through the actions of mothers who eat badly and/or smoke, drink and take drugs before conception and during pregnancy and/or live with a violent man and/or then don't or can't get their children reading and counting and ready to be schooled, many of those children are in effect imprisoned, not in a hulk but in the lesser persons they become compared with what they might have been. Many are imprisoned in drugs, mental illness, delinquency and crime.

Well, that's just bad parents, isn't it? None of our business. Our job is to bring up our kids right, not interfere in others' private affairs, isn't it? Isn't that individual liberty? 
Individual liberty requires individual responsibility. When individuals cease to act responsibly, when they neglect or abuse their child, they are no longer living in a state of individual liberty.

They lost - or never achieved - that status because the collective has absolved them from taking it. That is the genesis of the conditions James' describes. Will more intervention and investment by the collective return these parents to a state of individual liberty? That seems to be the advice.

The parliamentary health committee disagrees. A report in November, chaired by National MP Paul Hutchison and signed by all 10 MPs on the committee -- five National, three Labour, one Green and one New Zealand First -- focused on the needs and opportunities of the child and proposed many interventions to get parents ready and fit and get children a good start.

That report, the most important parliamentary report in a long time, essentially said the country should frame policy and then make social investments on the presumption that a child of one of us is a child of all of us and that no child deserves a bad start.

That is a simple economic calculation: a child who can get educated and is emotionally stable will join the workforce, pay taxes, take a full part in society and bring up children who do the same in turn.

It is also a calculation of social cohesion: the more numerous the children who grow up feeling they are fully part of society, the stronger, and probably richer, that society will be.

But as the Health Committee report notes NZ's spending on children is already high compared to other OECD countries.

So the message sounds noble but it doesn't take me past the essential problem. You can't make people more responsible by taking responsibility off them. And in a large part, that's what the welfare state does.


Brendan said...

"on the presumption that a child of one of us is a child of all of us"

Ah, so it 'takes a village to raise a child'?

No, it takes functional parents, preferably a mum and a dad. The State makes an appaling parent, and increasing intervention in the family compounds the problem.

Merry Christmas to all of us.

Anonymous said...

Since its Christmas I'll "quote" the Bible on what I see as the principle behind this. Jesus encountered a woman that had been caught in the act of having a bit on the side and having got her off the hook (and she knows it) says something lie "Go; and sin no more". Today people expect to simply "go" and take along a get out of jail free card to use every time you get caught as well.

Consequences in some form always tag along behind actions and when consequences get serious enough actions will be modified.

Merry Christmas Lindsay.


Anonymous said...

I'll "quote" the Bible on what I see as the principle behind this.

You quote the most applicable scripture:

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all.

2 Thess 3:10-11a.

Think any New Zealand Churches will be preaching that this Christmas morning!

Anonymous said...

And in a large part, that's what the welfare state does

The largest part of what the welfare state does is ensure that those who do not work, or whose parents do not work, are fed, clothed, sheltered, hospitalised, and indoctrinated into socialism.

Thus new generations of socialist voters are raised up to ensure the continuation of the welfare state.

thor42 said...

"Thus new generations of socialist voters are raised up to ensure the continuation of the welfare state."

Very true.

thor42 said...

At the moment we have the ridiculous situation of a "self-reinforcing welfare cycle". Mothers get paid for having babies. This creates a perversely negative incentive for mothers on welfare to have more babies (and many of those children, in time, will continue the cycle).

What is *needed* is to remove *all* welfare incentives for having children. This will completely stop the flow of young women who see welfare as a career option.
Women who are already on welfare will have fewer children (as there is no financial incentive to have them). This will result in far fewer (and eventually zero) children keeping the negative cycle going.

It *really is* that simple.