David Thompson
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February 06, 2008

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Frank Hilliard

Absolutely correct. To take one example; we reward young native women with support payments for their numerous offspring, thus creating a market in fetal-alcohol syndrome baby-making. If having a fetal-alcohol syndrome baby were, instead, a criminal offense, punishable by 18-years of compulsory work at a day-care centre, we might have fewer native people in jail in, say, Saskatchewan. Many other examples abound.

Dutch Canuck

Old story. You promote what you permit. Large bureaucracies of all types seem to maximize this tendency. The only solution, it seems to me, is the periodic destruction/reconstruction of these entities. But it takes a somewhat tough bastard to do the right thing (I'm thinking of, for example, Ronald Reagan vs. the striking air traffic controllers), and tough bastards who are also popular enough to be given a shot at this seem to be in perpetual short supply.

David

Despite my comedy gasp, the desire to become bourgeois is not, I think, a trivial point. My own parents, and those of my partner, have very humble backgrounds and would, I suppose, now be considered bourgeois. And that transformation didn’t involve welfare or assumptions of entitlement, and it didn’t involve disdaining the thought of one day becoming bourgeois. If a person is encouraged to sneer at such things, perhaps on principle, and encouraged to believe that they’re entitled by default to a given standard of living at someone else’s expense, that person may not be inclined to do what is required to become self-supporting, or functional at all.
Insofar as a great deal of leftist thought involves disdaining bourgeois values – whether as prosaic or “hegemonic” - and insofar as it fosters a sense of entitlement – often irrespective of responsibility – one has to wonder whose interests such thinking is actually supposed to serve.

morbo

"creating a miasma of subsidised apathy that blights the lives of its supposed beneficiaries."

Spot on true for remote aboriginal communities in Australia, too.

Jamie

Yes Morbo it would be hard to come up with a more extreme example.

A while back all my guilty white liberal friends were decrying the high incarceration rates of aborigines and saying that the police should be more lenient towards them. When put into practice what happened was that the aborigines who wanted go about their lives peacefully were left to the mercy of drunken thugs. I thought that denying people the protection of the law based on race was something progressives should oppose but when I said as much I was told that I didn't understand and risked being called a racist.

Steven Conatser

I think "What is Poverty" is quite possibly the greatest essay Dalrymple has ever written, and that's saying something. I have been sending this essay to practically everyone I know for the last two or three years (and I've given away about a dozen copies of Life at the Bottom, the book in which it is reprinted). His description of the moral squalor in which lower-class Britons now live is undeniable and shocking, but what's really devastating is the comparison he draws between lower-class Britons, who have material wealth but "poverty of soul", and Africans, who have exactly the reverse. The last few paragraphs that illustrate this point are among the most beautiful and heart-breaking prose I have ever read.

I think it's very important to remember that Dalrymple says repeatedly in his other work that welfare itself is not the problem. Welfare has existed in some form throughout much of Western history without creating the sort of debauchery and depravity we see today. He describes welfare as a necessary but not sufficient condition. Rather, it is the popularity of the idea that people can not and should not be held responsible for their own situation and behavior that has created the overwhelming excesses of welfare and the resulting squalor so common today. Much of Dalrymple's writing catalogues the myriad bad ideas modern intellectuals have embraced and foisted on the rest of society, and this idea in particular has probably been the most destructive.

Taken as a whole, his work highlights a truth not widely accepted in democratic America: the great influence that intellectuals and elites have on society and the duty and responsibility they have to get it right.

Steven Conatser

That last line really should have read, "a truth not widely accepted in our modern democracies". It's not just America.

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