Saturday, January 14, 2006

"Welfare is not a lifestyle choice."

I had better make good on my promise to debunk myths surrounding the welfare state.

"I do not support the view that the DPB is a lifestyle choice." Steve Maharey, Minister for Social Developemnt and Employment, 2001.

Over the past few years questions I've put to the Ministry of Social Development under the OIA have revealed some interesting facts;

(21/7/05) 37,631 single parents currently on a benefit started on welfare before they reached twenty. Of those, 5.5 percent began on the DPB. Most began on the dole.

(12/7/04) 36,986 single parents on welfare have school-age children only.

(2/10/03) In the year ending 2002 4,860 newborn babies were added to a benefit that had been in place ten months or more.

Some people are using welfare as last-resort, temporary assistance.

Other people are demonstrably abusing it. Unfortunately they form a majority.


Unsurprisingly I have been advised against using the term "illegitimacy". It is a word I've struggled with before (and been advised against using before).

But the following passage made me think again so I'll quote it (also from The Bell Curve.)

We use the older term "illegitimacy" in favour of the phrases currently in favour, "out-of-wedlock births" or "births to single women", because we think that, in the long run, the word illegitimacy will prove to be the right one. We are instructed in this by the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski. In his research early in the century, Malinowski observed a constant running throughout the rich diversity of human cultures and indeed throughout history. He decided that this amounted to "a universal sociological law" and called it the "principle of illegitimacy". No matter what the culture might be, "there runs the rule that the father is indispensable for the full sociological status of a child as well as of the mother, that the group consisting of a woman and her offspring is sociologically incomplete and illegitimate." The rule applies to east or West, primitive cultures or advanced ones, cultures where premarital sex was accepted or banned, where children were considered as asset or a burden, where fathers could have one wife or many.

I agree that the religious connotations of the word, that a child is born of sin, is a "vile concept". (So is the idea of children being born into sin which is why I refused to have mine baptised.)

So I could use another word for the sake of diplomacy and not causing injury to the feelings of single parents and their children but then I would be doing exactly what has got us into this unhappy state of affairs; saying that it is completely legitimate for single women to have babies with no care for whether the father will support her or her child emotionally or financially.

I need to make one more point. It is none of my business if a woman wants to do motherhood alone and can do so independently. But she is the exception to the rule. The majority of single mums having babies alone go on welfare.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Why the welfare state is self-perpetuating

Unlike conservatives I don't advocate government spending money on a plethora of "family strengthening" programmes. Neither do I think families should get taxbreaks over and above what single people qualify for.

On holiday I re-read Is there really a fatherhood crisis?

Stephen Baskerville, professor of political science at Howard University, puts it better than I can.

"Identifying fathers rather than governments as the culprits behind family dissolution not only justifies harsh law enforcement measures, but also rationalises policies that contribute further to the absence of fathers, which they are ostensibly meant to prevent. Further - given the undeniable coorelation that the fatherhood advocates have established between fatherlessness and today's larger social pathologies, such as poverty, crime, substance abuse - it allows officials to ignore the simplest and safest solution to these ills, which is to stop eliminating fathers. Instead, governments devise elaborate schemes, invariably extending their reach and power, to deal with the problems that their removal of fathers has created: not only fatherhood promotion and marriage therapy, but larger anti-poverty programmes beloved of the left and law enforcement measures dear to the right. By concocting a fatherhood crisis where none previously existed, government across the spectrum has neutered the principal rival to its power and created an unlimited supply of problems to solve."

The paper also introduced me to a new term, "plethysmograph." It is not in my dictionary and I am not going to describe here what it means. Read the paper. I am sure you will be as horrified as I am at what is going on in the States, according to the author.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Home thoughts from abroad (the SI anyway)

Went on holiday. Not terribly good at it. I was "supervising" the kids in the pool. Another middle-aged lady was supervising her aged mother. She plops down beside me and makes lots of inviting-conversation noises. Then she starts peering over my shoulder. "That looks like heavy holiday reading", she says.

I stop. Think about it. Not unkindly, I said, "It's the only kind of reading I do. "

"It's the only kind of reading I don't do," she replied.

That was the end of that budding relationship.

I was reading the Bell Curve, by Charles Murray and another guy who died before it was published. Fascinating. Only half way into it but the hypothesis is that IQ (or lack of it) is driving a deepening strata in society. They build a compelling case.

Couple of things I noticed while away.

The witnesses to the lion-mauling at Wellington Zoo received counselling. I wonder which training module specifically covered counselling people who witness lion attacks? And did you notice the absence of condemnation of the male juvenile-deliquent lions?

Ex Labour MP, Mark Peck became the Smoke Free Coalition boss. How awful. He admits to fighting his own addictions of gambling and alcohol yet has no compunction about making a living out of heaping more guilty misery onto addicted smokers.

And finally, Judith Collins beefing about CYFS spending at least $300,000 on conferences for their social workers made me feel an uncharacteristic pang of sympathy (stopping short at Ruth Dyson) for this dogsbody of an agency. The National opposition is about as effective as a hawk hanging over a road-kill but none-the-less keeps CYFS name in the public's bad books, their "clients" hate them, and the government hates them (let's contract out to the private sector so we can't be blamed for the tragic and predictable failure of bottom-of-the-cliff services.)

What JC should be talking about is the government's ongoing encouragement of widespread illegitimacy (it's as good a word as any to convey my meaning) and associated woeful parenting. She has seen enough of it in her electorate.

Politically, I haven't missed much of moment.