Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Shame on these stupid, selfish poor people

posted by Rod Dreher

Nicholas Kristof:

There’s an ugly secret of global poverty, one rarely acknowledged by aid groups or U.N. reports. It’s a blunt truth that is politically incorrect, heartbreaking, frustrating and ubiquitous:
It’s that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.
That probably sounds sanctimonious, haughty and callous, but it’s been on my mind while traveling through central Africa with a college student on my annual win-a-trip journey.

More:

Two M.I.T. economists, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, found that the world’s poor typically spend about 2 percent of their income educating their children, and often larger percentages on alcohol and tobacco: 4 percent in rural Papua New Guinea, 6 percent in Indonesia, 8 percent in Mexico. The indigent also spend significant sums on soft drinks, prostitution and extravagant festivals.
Look, I don’t want to be an unctuous party-pooper. But I’ve seen too many children dying of malaria for want of a bed net that the father tells me is unaffordable, even as he spends larger sums on liquor. If we want Mr. Obamza’s children to get an education and sleep under a bed net — well, the simplest option is for their dad to spend fewer evenings in the bar.

Good for Kristof for speaking a hard truth. I spend a lot of time talking about stupid, selfish rich people, usually in high finance, and the price innocent people pay for the foolish, immoral acts of the well-off and powerful. But many children of the poor are paying a terrible price for the stupid, selfish behavior of those entrusted to their care. And not only in Africa, but right here in America, too. Where I grew up, it was common to see poor people living in shotgun shacks, with shiny, expensive cars parked in front. Anybody here read “Angela’s Ashes”? Remember how horrible Frank McCourt’s family suffered from intense poverty because his no-good father drank up money that the family needed for basic subsistence living? I have no pity, none at all, for adults whose self-indulgence makes those who depend on them for everything suffer. Whether you’re rich, poor or middle class, there are always economic consequences to bad character. We shouldn’t sentimentalize them away. Every one of us is morally responsible for our behavior, and the impact it has on those who cannot care for themselves. True, the rich are more responsible than the poor, because they have more resources. But in every family, no matter what it’s class, children are the poor, and adults, because they have power, are the rich.



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MWorrell

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:32 pm


Most of what destroys human beings is willfully chosen. Sadly the victims often grow up to be the perpetuators because they haven’t seen anything else.
There’s a huge difference between an affliction and a consequence. Trying to blur/ignore the lines between them doesn’t help anyone.



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stefanie

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm


Not too much different than the poor Irish in, say, the memoir Angela’s Ashes, where “pub culture” robbed wives and children of bread and milk.



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Elena Grell

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm


A lot of this comes from the stupid and immoral rich broadcasting the stupid and immoral message to the poor that the meaning of life is “fighting for your right to party” and from the poor being too stupid and immoral not to reject that stupid and immoral message, even though they don’t have enough money with which to both “party” and raise their children in a decent or even an adequate way.
The greatest anti-poverty program ever-devised would be for people (1) to finish school, (2) not to have sex and therefore children without being married, (3) to get married, and (4) not to “party” after they marry, if partying entails spending money they don’t have on things that they don’t really need, instead of spending it to raise their children decently.
The stupid and immoral rich people who broadcast the stupid and immoral message I mention above all benefitted from that anti-poverty plan, and often for many generations.
But then they precede to kick the ladder down behind them, by telling poor people that they should “fight for their right to party,” instead of doing what it will take to better their lives.
Now, clearly, there’s a lot that private charity and government welfare also can and ought to do.
But without a widespread and constantly reinforced ethic of personal responsibility, it’s all more or less for nought, as the social history of this country and other countries for the past fifty years or so only goes to show.



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm


I agree with Mr. Kristof’s sentiment to a point. I would hope that he would also spare some vitriol for the tobacco companies who spend so much marketing to this economic group. Before the recent change in laws regarding advertising of tobacco products, one of the most popular sports with the poor underclass in rural areas through the South and Midwest was sponsored by a tobacco company. NASCAR racing, which has a large following among the poor that Mr. Kristof rightly lambasts.
That said, it is still a personal choice they make, and an unwise one. Their children suffer immensely for it. But I have to wonder if, miraculously, these selfish poor people suddenly quit purchasing tobacco products, how many wealthier folks would see their retirement portfolios take a large hit from the drop in revenue to tobacco companies. A number of investment funds view these companies as consistently profitable, and I strongly suspect that many in the middle and upper class, while speaking distastefully at the poor choices of the impoverished, have no trouble accepting profits from those poor choices.



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Peter

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm


Poor people make bad decisions that result in the remaining poor. Is this really news, even to Kristof?
Anyone who has worked with the poor know it. But that doesn’t make them any less needy or their need for compassion any greater. I’ve spent a lot of time working with, and volunteering with, the poor in the U.S., which means I’ve spent a lot of time with drug addicts, drunks, and whores. But that doesn’t make them any less needy of the food we provide them, the legal services were offer.
I wish they made better decisions, but I don’t know how much I’d drink if I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with five people. If I had an extra dollar, would I save it or would I got to McDonalds?



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Anon prof

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm


This is what irritates me about the derision folks hold for the Puritans. It is easy to criticize the austere culture they cultivated, but the fact of the matter is that if those puritan values were adopted by the poor in Africa, South American and South Central Asia, the poor (especially the children) would be far better off. A culture of thrift, delayed gratification, sexual restraint, sobriety, literacy, and strong community doesn’t just happen. Some religions are clearly better than others at fostering these values. The puritans, for all their flaws, were on to something and were in fact quite effective at improving the living standards of the lower and middle classes.



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Anon prof

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:07 pm


By the way, some might find this essay on conspicuous consumption interesting to read along side Rod’s post:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/inconspicuous-consumption/6845/



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Lord Karth

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm


Mr. Dreher, @ 2:21 PM, writes:
“I spend a lot of time talking about stupid, selfish rich people, usually in high finance, and the price innocent people pay for the foolish, immoral acts of the well-off and powerful. But many children of the poor are paying a terrible price for the stupid, selfish behavior of those entrusted to their care. And not only in Africa, but right here in America, too.”
I regularly go visit my indigent/near-poverty-level clients in their homes. Virtually ALL of them have one or more wide-screen TV sets; some of them have more than one. (I’ve been to one house in Cortland County in the “poverty district” that actually had FOUR of the things.) I regularly see beer/wine/other alcoholic beverage containers in these homes, and not a few of them, either.
It’s a matter of spending and saving priorities—and quite a few of them have those priorities bollixed up.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Rod Dreher

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:18 pm


I know, Stefanie — that’s why I wrote, in the very post you’re commenting on:
Anybody here read “Angela’s Ashes”? Remember how horrible Frank McCourt’s family suffered from intense poverty because his no-good father drank up money that the family needed for basic subsistence living? I have no pity, none at all, for adults whose self-indulgence makes those who depend on them for everything suffer.



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:20 pm


Anon Prof, your point regarding the Puritans is accurate. Unfortunately there was that nasty penchant for persecuting those who didn’t fit the religious model (such as Catholics, Quakers and Anabaptists, to name but a few). If the better qualities of Puritanism could be recalled without the negative qualities, you might have a good social model.
Unfortunately we have far too many examples of human nature being incapable of combining strict moral/ethical behavior with tolerance for “the other”. Sooner or later the moral rules are modified to brand “the other” as the problem, rather than part of the solution.
In a pluralistic society (something Puritans did not tolerate), the answer will be much more complex.



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Al-Dhariyat

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm


Here in PA, the proceeds for the state lottery go to fund assistance for the elderly. Who do I most often see buying lottery tickets? – the elderly.
We all make bad economic choices. The poor pay for those bad choices more acutely than I do when I’m sitting at work contemplating buying a new TiVo.
very odd captcha: Ismail lemonade



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Allen

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm


I’m not going to win any friends by pointing this out, but I feel like the Condemnation Conga Line going on here is ignoring a very salient point of their own critique — these stupid, selfish poor people ARE STUPID. By any measure you’d care to take, they are significantly less intelligent than their more successful peers, and make significantly poorer judgments. Does their stupidity ameliorate their moral wickedness?
There seems to be a consensus here that everyone has equal responsibility and agency in life, and thus is equally blameworthy when they make bad decisions. I’m not so sure. But I also don’t know if a free society can meaningfully remedy the situation — the best way to keep stupid people from making bad decisions is to not let them make decisions, and that’s an extremely slippery slope.



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Nixon is Lord

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm


Or “If you can’t feed them, don’t breed them.”?
Guess why Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece and the former Yugoslavia aren’t economic basket cases anymore? They lowered their birthrates. Guess why crime rates have gone down in those countries? There isn’t nearly the same huge pool of young men with nothing to do and eager to risk life and limb.
They’re certainly still having a lot of problems, but increase their birthrates and combine that with their public corruption and other anti-social behaviors and what do you end up with? Mexico, Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria,…..
The single best thing the developed world could do is help the developing world get secure access to safe, reliable methods of birth control.



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MH

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm


Where’s Godisaheretic? We need one of those posts about how the innocent suffer and we should forgive God.



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm


“Guess why Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece and the former Yugoslavia aren’t economic basket cases anymore?”
But…but…have you read a newspaper lately? Say, within the past year?



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LutheranChik

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm


My partner and have had numerous experiences with households like this — either neighbors or people we’ve gotten involved with through our church. We always start out trying to put the best construction on their situation, giving them the benefit of the doubt as far as the reasons for their hard times — and we keep getting burned, in a disillusioning process that we find is increasingly cauterizing our bleeding hearts. We are honestly trying to figure out how to be faithful to Jesus’ charge to help “the least of these” when it seems that many of the poor with whom we cross paths are at worst scam artists, at best people with a seemingly inherent inability to make healthy choices about nearly any aspect of their lives — even with an entire team of social workers, clergy and other helping professionals trying to guide them. That was our latest experience with someone we met through church, for whom we tried to be a supportive presence. We’re just burned out at this point. I hate feeling cynical, but…



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Andrea

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm


I’ve heard of a few welfare recipients who leave the kids alone at home while they go out to the bar or spend the paycheck at the casino. It’s infuriating but I suppose a lot of it is due to addiction that they may not be capable of controlling. There’s a complex cycle of abuse, addiction and domestic violence that is hard to end.



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Peter

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:14 pm


LutheranChik, you have to “get through the greed to get to the need.” Being poor means you’ve created coping skills that are resourceful, appalling, and conniving all at the same time. If they made good decisions, they probably wouldn’t be in poverty.
While Lord Karth and I don’t agree on much, we both agree you can idealize the poor and turn them into martyrs. Most make really bad decisions and will continue to make bad decision, even after you help them.
But I’m not going to close down a food pantry just because parents are taking more food than they should or because they buy smokes or drugs with money they could spend on food. You end up rolling your eyes, offering advice, but ultimately continuing to do God’s work amidst the world of bad decisions.
It’s like working with people with HIV/AIDS. Almost every person in American who has HIV/AIDS has it because they’ve made bad decisions about sex, drugs, whatever. But they still need help, regardless of the bad decisions.



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm


“It’s like working with people with HIV/AIDS. Almost every person in American who has HIV/AIDS has it because they’ve made bad decisions about sex, drugs, whatever. But they still need help, regardless of the bad decisions.”
And, in many cases, these same decisions are replicated in middle-class and upper-class homes. The difference in these homes is that they have the resources to hide or compensate for their poor decision making.
Is a wealthy father who hires a nanny to watch his kids at home while he heads off to Bermuda to spend a weekend boinking his secretary really any better than the poor father who leaves his kids at home for an evening so he can go to the bar and drink the family paycheck?



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Richard

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm


I am glad theat Kristof wrote this piece. Peter is right in that we don’t stop doing what we can to help the poor, but at the same time we are required – God’s biblical demand – to speak the truth in love. Admittedly, Christians are usually good at one of those, but not usually both – together.
We touched on a similar vein in the “Whole Foods & Food Stamps” controversy, but I feel the same way. Poor economic decision making is just that, whether the people are poor or not.



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Richard

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm


hlvaburen: yes, it is worse. To put the basic needs of your family – food and shelter – behind your selfish need to get hammered is despicable.



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dangermom

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:51 pm


My grandmother always insisted that Prohibition did more good than harm because it stopped so many poor working men from spending all their paychecks on liquor before they even got home Friday nights. Then the wives could spend the money on sensible things like rent and food and clothing, and a lot of families moved a few steps up the ladder.



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Episcopal priest (forgive me)

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:57 pm


Okay, I’m with you about irresponsible poor folk drinking too much or having too many luxury items. (I grew up in poverty caused or aggravated by my parents’ alcoholism and mental illness/depression and I see a different set of problems in part of my family caused by lack of discipline to complete school or otherwise delay gratification) Still, why the manichaen take on life? Why the condemnation of the small joys/comforts in life: a drink or a cigarette or a Fatburger for that matter? Does one have to earn the right to a reasonable amount of happiness? How about moderation in all things? Rod, for all your francophilia and laissez rouler les bon temps here you are definitely planting your cultural flag in the Shreveport end of Louisiana.
Vive Carrie Nation!



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Mark Gordon

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:00 pm


Dorothy Day wrote: “…it is part of the bitterness of the poor, who cheat each other, who exploit each other even as they are exploited, who despise each other even as they are the despised. And it is to be expected that virtue and destitution should go together? No … they are the destitute in every way, destitute of this world’s goods, destitute of honor, of gratitude, of love, they need so much that we cannot take the Works of Mercy apart and say ‘I will do this one or that one Work of Mercy.’ They all go together.”



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Steve Sandberg

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:02 pm


Al-Dhariyat: Here in PA, the proceeds for the state lottery go to fund assistance for the elderly. Who do I most often see buying lottery tickets? – the elderly.
Good point by you. While we’re talking about the addictions of the poor, maybe we ought to remember that if every state that funds its budget via lotteries and casinos suddenly decided to forego them, our whole infrastructure of education and other government services would be about twelve times deeper in the red than it is now. Then we’d have to face the alternative of raising taxes…. God forbid, as the saying goes.



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Turmarion

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm


Peter: But I’m not going to close down a food pantry just because parents are taking more food than they should or because they buy smokes or drugs with money they could spend on food. You end up rolling your eyes, offering advice, but ultimately continuing to do God’s work amidst the world of bad decisions.
hlvanburen: And, in many cases, these same decisions are replicated in middle-class and upper-class homes. The difference in these homes is that they have the resources to hide or compensate for their poor decision making. Is a wealthy father who hires a nanny to watch his kids at home while he heads off to Bermuda to spend a weekend boinking his secretary really any better than the poor father who leaves his kids at home for an evening so he can go to the bar and drink the family paycheck?
Both excellent, two of the best posts here, so far.
I’m from Appalachia and I’ve seen shacks with satellite dishes, and having taught in contexts where most of the children were from poor families, I’ve seen plenty of dysfunction of the type discussed here. The problem is that all too many people, especially on the Right, would use bad behavior by poor people as a reason to “close down a food pantry”. Look at all the stuff from the VDare crowd and their ilk after Katrina which in essence blamed the inhabitants of NOLA for being stupid, lazy, ignorant hooligans who deserved what they got. Also, as hlvanburen points out (and as George Will said a long time ago regarding drugs), the upper classes are just as ill-behaved–they just can cushion the results of their stupidity, lack of self-restraint, etc.
I have much too much personal experience to romanticize or idealize the poor. However, the moralizing about their failures rubs me the wrong way for the following reasons:
1. Even ill-behaved, lazy, greedy, stupid, ignorant hooligans are human beings, right?
2. When Jesus, in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, says, “Inasmuch as you did this (fed, clothed, etc.) to the least of these, you did so to me,” he doesn’t qualify it as “except for those least who were ungrateful or stupid and lazy”!
3. This tends to obscure the fact that there are poor who are hardworking, thrifty, sober, etc. and who are still poor nevertheless. There’s a dangerous tendency to portray all poor as greedy, lazy, stupid slobs.
4. As hlvanburen also points out, the very wealthy who decry said poor are certainly willing to make money off of them by selling them tobacco, booze, etc. Which is morally worse, those with the bad habits or the purveyors thereof?
5. Frankly, a lot of this comes perilously close to the type of stuff stari_momak is always spouting about how certain parts of town inhabited by certain ethnic groups are smelly, ugly, brutal, and nasty. Here we’re talking about the poor rather than any given ethnic group, but the rhetoric has a rather similar bad flavor, nonetheless.
6. Finally, I’m hearing some of the same hectoring tone that irritated me and others so much on the weight-loss threads. Yes, some (not all) overweight people are overweight by their own fault. Should we thus solve the weight problem by putting social pressure on them and calling them fat, weak-willed slobs who need to shape up? Yes, some (not all) poor have appalling behavioral habits that make things worse. So do we call the poor lazy stupid hooligans who need to straighten up and fly right?
Finally, I’d like to do two things: one, a special shout out to the best part of Peter’s post, which bears repeating: “You end up rolling your eyes, offering advice, but ultimately continuing to do God’s work amidst the world of bad decisions.”
Two, let me quote hlvanburen one more time (despite some of our past disagreements, I find that I’m pretty much in your amen corner on this thread!): “Unfortunately we have far too many examples of human nature being incapable of combining strict moral/ethical behavior with tolerance for ‘the other. Sooner or later the moral rules are modified to brand ‘the other’ as the problem, rather than part of the solution.” Maybe we don’t want to take a starry-eyed, overly-romanticized, “bleeding heart” attitude towards the poor; but do we really want to be Puritans, either?
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Julia

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:06 pm


Hmmm, rhetoric like this encourages the dismissive attitude of seeing the forest but not the trees. Poverty is people’s own fault? Poor people have big-screen, flat-panel TVs and addictions? Well, not this poor person. And maybe it’s only because my poverty came at the hands of an incurable disease but those are the people I know — people who have always worked hard for a living, weren’t extravagant, and later found themselves displaced or unable to work. And they don’t have addictions or homes full of new electronics.
You can pontificate about the “forest” and ignore the struggles of the individual trees but it doesn’t make the reality go away. That reality being that many people in America are one layoff and one serious illness away from being poor, if not destitute. Perhaps those of us who wanted to serve our communities by being teachers, social workers, peace officers and the like — thus, living a reasonably comfortable existence but unable to sock away big bucks — should have quashed our sensibilities and gone for those MBAs, instead.
When I was teaching, I taught the poorest of the poor, by choice. I believed they deserved to have people who cared about education and about them. I gave kids money for college out of my own pocket. I visited with their families and never saw fancy cars or the latest electronics at their homes. Do such people exist? Yes, they probably do. Is it typical? I hardly think so.
Perhaps you can call me and those like me foolish for not going after the big bucks in our careers and for using our modest resources to help the less fortunate. When bad things happen that are out of our control, we do indeed feel the effects more acutely than those who earned big salaries and were able to feather their nests snugly. But don’t dismiss us as addicts and what-nots. When you do, you contribute to an environment in which the poor are dismissed and despised. Our dignity is important to us.
Oh, and if anyone is wondering, I’m typing this on a very old desktop computer that friends keep going for me. I assure you, it’s not new or state-of-the-art.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm


I am doomed to be needled by commenters who don’t actually read what I write before commenting. Episcopal Priest, I am clearly talking about poor people whose indulgence in booze, or whatever, is depriving their children of basic needs. Context matters. I am not poor, but if my children need new clothes for school, but I can’t provide those clothes because I’ve spent my extra money on expensive wine or restaurant meals, then shame on me. Does that make eating in restaurants or drinking wine immoral? Certainly not. But my children have a greater claim on my resources than I do. My pleasures, however small, must take a back seat to my children’s necessities. If, having met their needs (not the same thing as their desires!), I have money left over for my own pleasure, sure, I’ll have a beer or a glass of wine, or whatever. But if I choose my own pleasures over my children’s (or spouse’s) needs, then I have behaved immorally and foolishly, and I deserve condemnation. If that’s Puritanism, then fine, I’m a Puritan. I don’t think I’m a Puritan, though. No child should go hungry or shoeless so his mother and father can have a cocktail or play the slots.



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lancelot lamar

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:09 pm


I work with the homeless, mentally ill, and addicted, and it largely the addiction that makes them homeless and “mentally ill.” (Diagnosis of mental illness–at least in publicly funded agencies, is a joke.)
People are stamped “mentally ill” so they can get the welfare type benefits that mental health agencies provide. Just like the “end of welfare as we know it” only meant that the welfare caseload transferred its dependency from AFDC to SSI and SSDI.
The dependent population in our nation is large and getting larger. At some point, some time soon I fear, someone who goes on the public teat will be the one that provides the “tipping point” which will bring everything down.
I believe in compassion and helping the poor–that’s why I do what I do–but many of them are not getting the help they really need. They need to be taught and held to the old, “heartless” but honest injunction, “If a man will not work, he should not eat.”
We really need a Wesleyan style revival that would inculcate the virtues of responsibility, thrift, work, sobriety, and chastity among the poor and everyone else. Failing that, we will eventually be doomed by our dependent population.
(I realize that all societies have necessarily dependent populations–the infirm elderly, severely handicapped, and children. It is precisely because of this that large numbers of the able bodied adult population cannot be allowed to become dependent as well, making it impossible–eventually–to care for those who are necessarily dependent.)



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Mark Gordon

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:13 pm


This all reminds me of complaints about the poor that they have bad manners and poor personal hygiene; that they overbreed, are coarse, and unreliable; that they lack foresight and are profligate. To which I reply: Yes, isn’t it terrible what poverty does to people?



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Anon prof

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm


hlvanburen,
Certainly the puritans were given to much excess intolerance by 21st century standards, but I think their history is more nuanced than you allow. I certainly wouldn’t advocate a return to Cromwell’s England or Mather’s Massachusetts, but perhaps there is something to valuing hard work and seeing “secular” labor as much a vocation as “religious” labor. Perhaps it is not possible to encourage strict moral behavior without breeding intolerance of the other, but it seems to me that it is time for the pendulum to swing back and give it a try.
Captcha: Evading Million



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Lucas

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm


Missing amongst all this this, yes, “sanctimonious, haughty and callous”-ness is the notion of cycles of poverty and an awareness of place. Mr. K’s observations are taken from situations in the global south where the economic is only one form of poverty; as evidenced by the substance abuse, adults and children alike are wallowing in a poverty of hope. Mr K also seems to mistake the demands of addiction with a simple lack of rugged individualist willpower, an obvious betrayal of his North American ethnocentricism.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm


Turmarion, I think you’re responding to things that weren’t in my actual post. I don’t think everyone who is poor is poor because of his own moral choices. Some are, some aren’t. Kristof’s column isn’t a blanket condemnation of the poor; it’s a specific indictment of poor adults whose stupid and immoral spending choices are condemning their children to suffer.
Secondly, hlvanburen says that it’s no more immoral for the poor to leave their children at home so they can go out carousing than it is for the rich to hire a nanny to look after the kids so they can go out carousing. I disagree. Depending on the circumstances, the rich couple that does such a thing might be behaving immorally — if they are neglectful of their children’s needs, emotional or material. I don’t think a couple’s going on a weekend trip alone is necessarily evidence of bad behavior. In hlv’s example, though, the poor couple has left their children alone unsupervised, presumably to go out and spend money they don’t have to waste on an indulgence. That is more immoral, not because the drinking and the gambling they are doing is immoral, but because of the suffering it imposes on the children.
Let me put it another way. If Thurston Howell III is a chronic gambler, his gaming could be sinful, but if he’s got such a pot of money that his losses don’t mean his children go without dinner or clean clothes, it’s not as bad. But if Billy Bob Mudbucket is a chronic gambler whose losses force his wife and children to do without dinner, etc., because they have no financial cushion, then it’s worse.
Or consider this: Rent is due next week. If I went out and bought a large-screen TV this weekend, it might be a stupid purchase, but there wouldn’t be anything particularly immoral about it — unless my purchase means I’m not going to be able to meet my obligations to pay my rent.
What I’m talking about is a hierarchy of duties. If the fancy restaurants in Philadelphia are full of wealthy people tonight, that doesn’t mean that I have the money to spend like they do. I don’t. That might be unfair, but that’s life. They have the money to spend on such luxuries; I don’t. My first duties — everybody’s first duties — are to their children and their spouses. We didn’t take many vacations when I was a kid, in large part because we just didn’t have the money to do so. Mom was a school bus driver; Dad was a civil servant. But we always had food on the table, and decent clothes to wear. It would have been nice to have had those luxuries, but Daddy was a good steward of our resources, and he knew we couldn’t afford them. He felt that to have gone heavily into debt for those pleasures would have been immoral, because of the risk it would have put us at for poverty (he grew up very poor in the Great Depression, and knew what poverty meant). When I was younger I thought of my dad as something of a party pooper. But now I see he was wise, and I wish I were as wise as he, and had as much self-discipline as he.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm


Lucas:
Mr K also seems to mistake the demands of addiction with a simple lack of rugged individualist willpower, an obvious betrayal of his North American ethnocentricism.
So the African father whose child dies of malaria because he spent the money he should have given to buy mosquito netting instead went to pay for whores is a sex addict who cannot be expected to do right by his children? And Nick Kristof is the racist for condemning him? Wow.



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Peter

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:35 pm


Since we are slipping-and-sliding the immorality scale, would you also concede that someone who robs a store to feed his family is less immoral than someone who robs a store to buy drugs or just have more money?
Or is it all immoral?
And since you are concerned about shaming immoral–which seems to be the impetus of your title–should we not shame the “lesser immoral” or just the “more immoral”?



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Jon

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm


In many parts of the world (and not just poor countries) alcoholic beverages are a regular part of the diet, and indeed where alcohol is far safer than local water supplies. Only in puritanical America is it a scandal that the poor imbibe; if you ran that past someone in Italy or even Germany they would be puzzled as to what the problem is.
Meanwhile we might ask what utility an education serves in these poor countries since in many of them the only way to get a job is to know someone in the power structure.



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Karl G

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:46 pm


The parable of the Gardener and the Fig Tree applies here as well- it doesn’t matter that year after year they cease to bear fruit; they still should be given what they need that they might have a future chance to do so.
As has been noted, the that bad behavior worsens poverty is no real surprise; that’s part of the negative feedback cycle that perpetuates it. It seems a shame, though that there’s not much light cast on what teaches people to behave that way; it’s glossed over as selfishness and left as a moral fault for the benefit of those better off- they can bask in their own moral superiority over these people who obviously deserve their lot in life.
And perhaps that’s true for some- but those kinds exist at all levels, as has been noted; they just have the luxury of being able to use money to gloss over their failings.
For most though, the reason for such behavior is rooted in poverty itself. Both in having been at the receiving end of just that kind of neglect as children and from the active mental damage that comes with hopelessness. Their money vanishes into debt faster than they can earn it. Investing in education may eventually pay off, but that doesn’t make their life any better now- in fact the short term expense just makes it worse; they have no faith that they’ll ever see a real return on the investment. The only avenue left to them are things that help them escape the misery of day to day life, however briefly. After all, if doing the right thing isn’t going to help, they may as well make the ride down a little less painful.
Talk about investing in your future (or even your kids’ futures) is only useful to someone who thinks that they actually have a future to invest in. They have nothing to lose, and act accordingly.
If they don’t believe that they’ll ever be able to improve their lot-that they’re impossibly trapped in a downward spiral, no amount of good advice or moralist preaching is going to change that. In fact it will likely reinforce it; if poverty is the punishment for their failing, then they must obviously be bad people deserving of such punishment.
We managed to solve one of the problems in the US and most of the Western world- compulsory public education and child labor laws. Is the system perfect? No. But it makes a basic investment in education (and prevents kids from being abused as income sources instead of getting that education) in a manner that can’t be spent any other way, and we use it to try to ensure at least something resembling nutrition as well. We also try do it through such programs as CHIP- healthcare money that again can’t be diverted.
It’s far short of what we need to provide to give the kids trapped in these situations a chance to not be doomed by the sins of their elders, but some of these trees do eventually bear fruit. As opposed to that other fig tree that Jesus rebuked; look how far moral condemnation got that one.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:47 pm


If I were a judge, and had brought before me a thief who stole to feed his family, and a thief who stole to feed his greed, I would call thievery wrong in both cases, but would have mercy on the man who stole to feed his family.
But look, you’re making this entirely too complicated. Kristof’s point was that in his travels in Africa, he’s seen children suffering, even dying, because their parents spend what little money the family has on drink, hookers, smokes, etc., instead on what their kids need. Why is that not worthy of pointing out, and condemning? It doesn’t mean that all the poor do it, or that we are thereby freed from our obligation to help the poor. For all I know, the people who live in the big house up the street from me blow way too much money on booze, cigarettes and liquor. Boo, hiss, etc. But their kids probably aren’t going hungry or without an education because of it, so I’m not inclined to worry about what they do.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:53 pm


Jon:
Only in puritanical America is it a scandal that the poor imbibe
Who is saying that it’s wrong for the poor to have a drink? The point all along here is that it’s wrong if there’s food being taken out of the mouths of children to pay for Dad or Mom’s booze. Do you think it’s “Puritanical” to tell Dad he can’t have a beer until he’s fed and clothed his children? Did you read “Angela’s Ashes,” and see how much that poor Irish women and her little children suffered because her no-good husband drank up his meager wages, with no thought for them? He needed a good dose of Puritanism upside his head, that man did!



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Karl G

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm


“Why is that not worthy of pointing out, and condemning?”
Because condemning, while it might provide some warm fuzzy feelings, won’t change it. It’s worthy of making an effort to fix it; to break the cycle. But to do that you need to dig deep than the fact that it’s happening and address _why_ it’s happening, rather than simply asserting that it must be a moral failure that they should just turn around and overcome.



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Julia

posted May 28, 2010 at 6:13 pm


Exactly, Karl G.
And also because this sort of thing is picked up and used to paint broad strokes over poor people in general, as was done here (big screen TVs and lotto tickets).



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Turmarion

posted May 28, 2010 at 6:49 pm


Rod, if you read my post carefully, I didn’t specify that I was responding only to your post—I was responding to things in several of the comments as well, and I mentioned overall tone, not necessarily specifics.
I don’t think a couple’s going on a weekend trip alone is necessarily evidence of bad behavior.
I certainly agree with you here, and I don’t think hlvanburen was saying that couples should never go off and do things alone, either. The key is in what you say here, with added emphasis: [T]he rich couple that does such a thing might be behaving immorally — if they are neglectful of their children’s needs, emotional or material.” Since they have fewer resources, it is easier for the poor to be neglectful of their children’s material needs; but I don’t know that the track record for the rich is all that great regarding emotional needs. When these don’t get met, you can have bad results, too. Look at the children and grandchildren of J. Paul Getty, for the most egregious example. I think we could list at length other examples, too.
Put it like this: You’ve said in the past that people want to live in the 50’s, but they want it edited. That is, they want the sense of community, the safe streets, etc., but without the racism, chauvinism, the Peyton-Place-type dirty little secrets, etc. I submit that something similar is the case here. We want to discourage vice and encourage virtue, and we should condemn those who’d rather drink or get high than take care of their kids; but we have to be careful we don’t do what the Puritans and Victorians also did in painting the poor as bad people who deserve what they got and can only be rehabilitate through harshness. In short, yes, point out the habits that need to be fought; but let’s be careful we don’t swing the pendulum back to where we’re in a Dickens novel.



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Richard

posted May 28, 2010 at 6:58 pm


Karl G, you’re simply mistaken. The first step required in order to fix a problem is to recognize the problem. Condemning the behavior leads to possibly improving it in the future.



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Bradley

posted May 28, 2010 at 6:59 pm


I think according to *Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs* that a beer in the evening after a hard day’s exertion would be very appropriate – after some food and milk for the family.
I think that having expectations of moderation is the way to go for folks up and down the class ladder.
Often it’s a problem when employers go to excess in consumption because they can not ‘afford’ to pay employees a *living wage* – which is the Christian thing-to-do, whether the worker is a screw-up or not.



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Jon

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:02 pm


Re: The point all along here is that it’s wrong if there’s food being taken out of the mouths of children to pay for Dad or Mom’s booze.
True, but these stats do not break that down. They’re very high level stats: we don’t even know if the people buying the booze are the same people who have the kids. Of course there are alcoholic parents in every culture, and that’s a terrible thing, but in general the people who drink the most are single young men.
Also, don’t even most poor countries have public schooling? I don’t recall my parents spending a lot of money on my education either– they didn’t have too, beyond some some basic school supplies each year since the schools were free. That certainly did not make them terrible parents.
And my biggest question remains: does schooling actually help people get ahead in these coutries? I don’t know the answer but it would not surprise if, in the more dysfuntional and failed nations, all an education does is leave you an educated unemployed slum dog. Even in the US we are not too far away from that situation. Check out the stats on how hard it is for graduates (even college graduates) to find work now. There are a lot more reforms needed in this business (here and abroad) than just sending Junior off to school.



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:06 pm


“Secondly, hlvanburen says that it’s no more immoral for the poor to leave their children at home so they can go out carousing than it is for the rich to hire a nanny to look after the kids so they can go out carousing. I disagree. Depending on the circumstances, the rich couple that does such a thing might be behaving immorally — if they are neglectful of their children’s needs, emotional or material. I don’t think a couple’s going on a weekend trip alone is necessarily evidence of bad behavior. In hlv’s example, though, the poor couple has left their children alone unsupervised, presumably to go out and spend money they don’t have to waste on an indulgence. That is more immoral, not because the drinking and the gambling they are doing is immoral, but because of the suffering it imposes on the children.”
Two things:
1) Where did I say that the rich fellow was married to his secretary? Do you naturally assume that because of his resources or some other reason?
2) What is the value of parental attention to children?
While I admit I was not clear about the relationship between the rich fellow and his secretary, I find it a bit interesting that so many folks assumed that she was his wife. Does that say something about a possible situational bias or preconception? And what of the oft-stated value of “family time”? Is anyone really going to try to make the case that Paris Hilton is any more well adjusted than Britney Spears? I’m sure the Hiltons provided for every need of their children: housing, clothing, medical care, food. They had the best nannies available, no doubt. And more than likely they never suffered a hungry night save by their own choice.
So that I may come across more clearly, I would ask any of you to tell me how a rich fellow (or even a middle class fellow) who makes sure his children are well-fed and well cared for while he heads off to have an ilicit, adulterous affair with his younger secretary is any better or worse than a poor fellow who drops his kids off at his sister’s house for the evening while he heads to the bar to drink the family paycheck?
Is it only the money?



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:08 pm


“We want to discourage vice and encourage virtue, and we should condemn those who’d rather drink or get high than take care of their kids; but we have to be careful we don’t do what the Puritans and Victorians also did in painting the poor as bad people who deserve what they got and can only be rehabilitate through harshness. In short, yes, point out the habits that need to be fought; but let’s be careful we don’t swing the pendulum back to where we’re in a Dickens novel.”
I don’t think that is where Mr. Dreher or the others are going. If it is then I would suggest that they are preaching something approaching a prosperity gospel, which is a b@$tardized form of hyper-Calvinism.



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:24 pm


“Karl G, you’re simply mistaken. The first step required in order to fix a problem is to recognize the problem. Condemning the behavior leads to possibly improving it in the future.”
Yes it does. But let’s take a look at what happens when the person misbehaving has the “ah-ha” moment and decides to take positive steps to change the behavior.
- In the case of a drunkard who wishes to change, where is that person to go? AA chapters or other 12 step programs are not widely available in rural areas in this country, and many smaller churches lack the resources to offer any kind of meaningful counseling for a person trying to kick the bottle.
- In the case of a smoker who wishes to quit, what is there to help that person? My father was fortunate in that he was able to put aside a 2.5 pack a day habit of nearly 50 years and quit cold turkey. Not everyone has that fortitude. What resources are available for these folks?
- Even after they dry out and stop smoking, what then? Education? What resources are available to care for their children while they are in classes? Many of the cuts that are so popular with conservative legislators are in the very programs that provide childcare assistance for parents wishing to pick up training for a new job. Is it any more moral to ask a single parent to leave their children unattended so they can attend classes?
- And then, once they finally get that retraining certificate or degree, what then? Here in SE Iowa we have a good number of folks in unemployed with a nice Associate’s degree on the wall in what they were told was a marketable service or trade.
Look, I agree that people make terrible choices. I also agree that poor people who make terrible choices often suffer more for it than wealthier people (or worse, their children suffer more for it). And I am willing to join you in chastising them for these choices in hopes that they will turn it around.
But if that is all we offer these folks are we really any more moral than they are?



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:37 pm


Sorry for being so verbose on this, but the issue hits a bit too close to home for me.
On Monday morning, Memorial Day, around 10:30 we will be saying goodbye to the daughter of a dear friend of ours as she heads off to the MEPS depot in Des Moines, IA. She graduated from a local university on May 15 with a Bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement, missing honors by less than 1/10th of a grade point. She is a dynamic and energetic young woman who wanted to make a difference in her community by entering police work and, eventually, investigations.
Having been to several tests at police departments in Iowa and Illinois she found herself competing with 200-300 other applicants, some with 5-10 years experience, for anywhere from 3-5 openings at the departments. Prospects of her employment were not good.
A friend suggested she go to an Army recruiter and talk. That was about six months ago. Monday we send her on her way to basic training, and later in the summer to OCS at Ft. Benning, GA.
She, like so many other folks from less-than-well-off families in the Midwest are heading to the armed forces in large part because of the lack of job opportunities in their chosen field of study. In the case of this young woman the economy coupled with huge spending cuts by all levels of government have put her in this position.
The tone so often expressed by conservatives when issues of poverty are discussed seems to condemn the poor for their circumstances. Yes, they do make poor choices. Yes, their choices contribute to their poverty. But if we stop there and do nothing else but condemn, are we really improving the situation.
The well-off have the resources to cover for their moral failings. I am pretty safe in saying that not one child of a member of Congress, justice of the Supreme Court, or of any of the Presidents in my memory have never had a child who went into the military because there was no other option available for them.
Poverty sometimes has its own paradigm, folks. Even for those at the lower end of the middle class, the rules are different. It may not be right, but it is reality. It would be good to remember the old maxim “before judging someone, walk a mile in their shoes.”



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Karl G

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:38 pm


“Karl G, you’re simply mistaken. The first step required in order to fix a problem is to recognize the problem.”
Great, on this issue that was handled at least 2000 years ago, if not other times before and after. The entire problem here is that analyses like the one above not only point to what’s already known, but then they skip out of deeper analysis by punting to blaming it on selfishness, stupidity, or similar failings rather than taking a deeper look at the more difficult issues surrounding the problem.
“Condemning the behavior leads to possibly improving it in the future.”
Really? Next time my plants are wilting, I’ll go try yelling at them and see if that helps. Maybe I’ll even beat them with a stick a bit; spare the rod and all…
Condemning people only serves to exacerbate the problem- it doesn’t offer anything productive at bast, but more often it only serves to dig people even deeper into their bad habits.



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Turmarion

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:54 pm


hlvanburen, your 7:24 PM post is excellent.
I don’t think [a Dickensian solution] is where Mr. Dreher or the others are going. If it is then I would suggest that they are preaching something approaching a prosperity gospel, which is a b@$tardized form of hyper-Calvinism.
I don’t think Rod’s going there, though I don’t know about some others. However, for nearly thirty years now politicians have been running for office using the infamous “welfare queen” and other iterations of her as a whipping girl. I think the Prosperity Gospel and hyper-Calvinism are alive and quite well in the US, and I think with mutations, such an attitude is a big part of the libertarian view. There is a pervasive feeling in libertarian discourse that the poor are that way because of their dissipation and bad behavior and thus are where they deserve to be (never mind their innocent children) and who thus are not owed anything by society. In light of the renewed prominence of libertarian thought, this is not a good thing.
And then, once they finally get that retraining certificate or degree, what then? Here in SE Iowa we have a good number of folks in unemployed with a nice Associate’s degree on the wall in what they were told was a marketable service or trade.
Devastatingly true. I have worked and currently am working in the type of two-year college that you see lots of commercials for on TV and radio. The students are definitely from poor backgrounds, and many have dysfunctional pasts (alcohol, drugs, multiple divorces, out-of-wedlock kids, welfare, and on and on). Most of them really are trying as hard as they can to pull themselves up and out–many of them are the first in their families to go to college, and they desperately want that degree so they can succeed.
This is what makes it so tragic. Most of the degrees or certifications (e.g. glorified secretarial programs) are worthless; or the number of available slots are far outnumbered by the number of students; or the debt they incur from student loans to get the degree will burden them far beyond the ability of their jobs to pay back.
Moreover, many of them still need support that they’re not getting to be able to keep out of the dysfunctions they’ve temporarily overcome. It’s no good to dry out, get a degree, get a job, and then fall off the wagon again.
I actually hate working at such a place, but it helps pay the bills while I’m looking for something a little bit better and little bit more ethical. I try my best to encourage the students not to rely just on what they’re doing right now, and while I don’t try to get them to leave the school, I don’t do the standard, “Oh, gee, but you’ll miss out on a great opportunity” speech that’s expected if someone says he’s dropping out for something better. I’m certainly not knocking education, but when it’s sold as a pipe dream it really bothers me.



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hlvanburen

posted May 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm


“This is what makes it so tragic. Most of the degrees or certifications (e.g. glorified secretarial programs) are worthless; or the number of available slots are far outnumbered by the number of students; or the debt they incur from student loans to get the degree will burden them far beyond the ability of their jobs to pay back.”
Around here the degree/certificate tracks at the local community college include:
- Cosmetology
- Nursing
- Gunsmithing
- Welding
- Computer software support
- Computer networking
- Computer hardware support
- Desktop publishing/media
- Building trades
- Auto mechanic
These are all excellent programs, but how many of these does a community of about 20K need? Yes, we have a regional hospital that serves about a 20 county area, and yes healthcare is a growth industry in this country. But gunsmiths? Yes, the national office of the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association used to be here, but they left town years ago. Welders? The companies that used to hire welders by the droves left town a LONG time ago. Robots and southerners work cheaper and don’t have unions.
Unemployed people cannot afford transportation to one of the major universities in the state, nor can they afford tuition there. So the advanced degrees that might really help them get a re-start in life are not available to them.



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MH

posted May 28, 2010 at 9:17 pm


hlvanburen, sorry to say but in the US you have to be willing to move to the work. Of those jobs you mentioned nursing, computer skills, and auto mechanic are all in demand, but might not be in an one area or another. I speak from personal experience because I had to move once in 87 and again in 91 to find work.
BTW Welding is fun! I had no use for it, but took a course in metal working because it looked interesting. I’ve welded (technically brazed) a few broken things around the house too!



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Ken

posted May 28, 2010 at 10:02 pm


Secondly, hlvanburen says that it’s no more immoral for the poor to leave their children at home so they can go out carousing than it is for the rich to hire a nanny to look after the kids so they can go out carousing. I disagree. Depending on the circumstances, the rich couple that does such a thing might be behaving immorally — if they are neglectful of their children’s needs, emotional or material. I don’t think a couple’s going on a weekend trip alone is necessarily evidence of bad behavior.
I think moral choices are basically exercises in self-control. Does the rich person have more self-control, or is he just more fortunate?



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Quiddity

posted May 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm


I’m going to agree and disagree with Rod. There are definitely cases where the poor squander money that could be used in a better way for their children. However, I also believe that there are situations where the prospect of lifting oneself – or one’s children – out of poverty are so remote that it actually makes sense from a utilitarian perspective to purchase booze and smokes.
CAPTCHA: New whisky (I think Captcha is trying to send Rod a message that it’s okay to indulge!)
Don’t believe me? Here is a screenshot:
http://threetwoone.org/uggabugga/2010/new%20whisky.jpg



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Betty Carter

posted May 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm


I think that those of us who had hard-working parents with common sense and few vices forget that this too was GRACE–if it seems foolish and wicked to us for somebody to spend all his money on his own pleasures instead of his children, that’s because we were blessed with parents who knew how to love us and teach us well. Rather than patting ourselves on the back and saying, “I have no pity for people who blah blah blah,” we should remember that we didn’t do anything to deserve the cultures we grew up in (that probably stressed responsibility and hard work); on the other hand, if we don’t share what we do have, then aren’t we like those selfish parents?



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meh

posted May 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm


Turmarion: “Look at all the stuff from the VDare crowd and their ilk after Katrina which in essence blamed the inhabitants of NOLA for being stupid, lazy, ignorant hooligans who deserved what they got.”
Steve Sailer was outraged at the irresponsibility of the Bush administration.
Republican Presidents are supposed to provide adult supervision for crooked Democratic urban machines. But the White House is now occupied by George W. Bush, a politician so irresponsible, so uninterested in proficiency and honesty among his minions that late last year he tried to appoint as Secretary of Homeland Security the egregious Bernie Kerik.
Mr. Bush shows no evidence of holding his appointees accountable, so long as they remain loyal to him personally. Just as he has never vetoed a bill, he almost never fires anyone for poor performance.
VDARE.com readers are familiar with the contempt with which Mr. Bush treats his sworn duties to uphold the laws against illegal immigration. Now the whole country is starting to catch on to his disregard for his duties in his pursuit of image over effectiveness.
His invade-the-world-invite-the-world policies have left America unprepared for predictable domestic troubles, as Paul Craig Roberts recently pointed out here.
The ineptitude displayed by the Louisiana state government is also unsurprising. The state is unique in having a Latin political tradition (it uses the Code Napoleon rather than the English common law, even though Napoleon didn’t release his code until the year after he sold Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson), a culture in which the Argentinean demagogue Juan Peron would have felt at home.
The unofficial state motto is “Laissez les bons temps rouler” or “Let the good times roll.” Compare that to New Hampshire’s official motto of “Live free or die,” which display a rather different understanding of freedom. Louisiana’s reigning philosophy is freedom from responsibility.
It’s a general rule that the tastier the indigenous cuisine, the lousier the government. Its culture has provided America with jazz, A Street Car Named Desire, and the great American comic novel of the 20th Century, A Confederacy of Dunces. New Orleans is a nice place to visit. But you wouldn’t want to raise your kids there.
All this is now common parlance, more or less. What you won’t hear, except from me, is that “Let the good times roll” is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.



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Turmarion

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:08 am


meh, I’ll see you your Steve Sailer quote and raise you one part of the essay that you printed but didn’t emphasize and a further part of the same essay that you didn’t quote at all, emphasis added:
“What you won’t hear, except from me, is that ‘Let the good times roll’ is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.
In contrast to New Orleans [after Katrina], there was only minimal looting after the horrendous 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan—because, when you get down to it, Japanese aren’t blacks.”
Doesn’t seem like Bush was the sole focus of his ire, huh? Care to associate yourself with these parts of said essay?



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meh

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:28 am


Turmarion, where is Sailer’s ire against blacks in his essay? Does it raise your ire that Japanese aren’t blacks? I care to associate myself with all empirical parts of Sailer’s essay. I never subscribe to the moralistic fallacy.



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Karl G

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:57 am


“hlvanburen, sorry to say but in the US you have to be willing to move to the work. Of those jobs you mentioned nursing, computer skills, and auto mechanic are all in demand, but might not be in an one area or another. I speak from personal experience because I had to move once in 87 and again in 91 to find work.”
And what of the people that can’t afford to move, never mind afford to look for work in a place where they don’t currently live?
The cost of a move even within a city is prohibitive to some, and that’s not even looking at the new class of people immobilized by being so far under water on their current mortgage that moving might require being able to absorb tends of thousands of dollars in losses to make up the difference.
Again, it’s easy to ignore the actual nature of someone else’s problem and just blame it on them not being willing to put in effort.



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Rombald

posted May 29, 2010 at 3:21 am


I can never make up my mind about these sorts of issues. In England, I get exasperated with “poor” people, mostly relatives, who seem incapable of behaving in a vaguely rational, never mind moral, manner. Welfare gives someone a new fridge, but he sells it to buy drink/drugs, and is then angry that they won’t buy him another. People have nothing to do all day, yet can’t make sure that their children get to school. People with huge flat-screen TVs, etc., but no clean underwear.
However, degraded pleasures are cheaper than decent pleasures. I live frugally, but then I have a house with a big garden in a decent area with good schools, where I can go for a walk on the hills 10 minutes away – those sorts of things are much more expensive than drink or drugs. I was on welfare for a while when young, and I remember not managing to make it to a (free) dental appointment on time, and then being angry when the dentist would not reschedule at my convenience – looking back, I can’t imagine what was going through my head. People find it much more difficult to live frugally and respectably when they have no self-respect.
Holland, Germany and Scandinavia have much more generous welfare systems than the UK, yet seem to have less social dysfunction. Why?
The only other country with which I have had prolonged experience is Japan, and they have no welfare, which means they have a significant amount of absolute poverty. Absurd social behaviour is less in evidence, but you do read about in the newspapers – women who make their children sleep in left-luggage lockers – that sort of thing. There is also the ubiquity of prostitution, the high abortion rate, and the inability of women to divorce violent husbands. I’m not really sure that I prefer the Japanese approach.
People may say that what is needed is Christian regeneration, and I do think that Methodism played a positive role in Britain. However, Africa is the most Christian place on earth, and I suspect that some forms of Christianity are part of the problem, especially the excitable type that seems to be popular in Africa – speaking in tongues, ranting on about the end of the world, and insisting that “works” don’t matter. It is the more “Confucian” forms of Christianity that are helpful. There is also the point that Africa had its traditional culture destroyed by slavery and colonialism far more than anywhere in Asia, say, and I think the personal-dignity issues that apply in Western inner cities may apply on a continent-wide level there.
No easy answers. Sorry.



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Richard

posted May 29, 2010 at 6:54 am


Karl G, if your plants are such moral reprobates that they habitually drink up their families’ paychecks, maybe yelling at them would do some good. Maybe nobody’s ever told them they’re making bad decisions. Many are the occasions I’ve had to lecture my cantalope about depriving its fruit of nutrients while visiting the wanton Sugar Baby melons next door.
Or just get yourself a good roto-tiller.



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Jon

posted May 29, 2010 at 8:21 am


Re: …the new class of people immobilized by being so far under water on their current mortgage that moving might require being able to absorb tends of thousands of dollars in losses to make up the difference.
If you actually do find a job somewhere else you are fool to let a house hold you back. You can rent it out, or at the exterme let it go for foreclousre (yes, the latter has nasty cosnerquences for your credit rating). I’ve known people who have done both in these days. And banks are increasingly willing to do short sales if you can locate a buyer.
One utilitarian reason to keep in touch with family and friends in parts distant: they can be of great help should you ever need to relocate where they are at. When I moved to Florida I lived with my cousin Nancy in Largo for two weeks, and rented a house from my cousin Barb, long vacant so a good deal for us both. No, I am not saying *use* people, but there’s nothing wrong withg family helping family, and of course you should be there for them at need as well.



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MH

posted May 29, 2010 at 9:50 am


Karl G said “Again, it’s easy to ignore the actual nature of someone else’s problem and just blame it on them not being willing to put in effort.”
You’re reading more into my statement than I intended. No doubt there are people who lack the needed capital to move and take advantage of jobs elsewhere. But if you obtain skills, then you should be prepared to move to fully take advantage of them.
Also people underwater in their mortgage with no hope of recovery have the option of default. There is no debtors prison and foreclosure will take a few months, during time they can build a nest egg.



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MH

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:03 am


Rombald, it seems like there are two poles of human behavior which are calling by different names in different cultures and times (think ant and the grasshopper, or the Apollonian versus Dionysian temperament).
So the fact that the same dynamic is present in African Christianity just means that culture expression is being influenced by the same underlying human dynamic.



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Richard Bottoms

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:48 am


All I can say is, you didn’t find liquor stores on every other corner in Zionsville or Greenwood, unlike Center Township where I grew up. Shut them down along with Rent-A-Center, and the Payday Lenders too.



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stari_momak

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:04 am


All those stupid upper middle class people who spend money on gym memberships, leased cars, and, once they get married, French and tennis lessons for their 1-2 spawn. If they held some of that money back and produced 3-4, their good culture and genes would spread, or at least even out with the underclass breaders.



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stari_momak

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:05 am


breaders, breeders, whatever.



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M.Z.

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm


Having been out of work in IT for 1 year, I can tell you there are not IT jobs. The wages are down to under $14/hr for a number of positions.
It’s tiresome to hear about big screen TVs. A big screen TV costs less than $1000 today. When your entertainment isn’t flying to Vegas for the weekend, going to the theatre or cinema, or dining out, it isn’t shocking that money can be put aside for a little luxury. And a $1000 isn’t all that much money, even for the poor. Food for a family of four is around $8-12,000 per year. Housing expense can be as high as $10,000 per year. Don’t get me started on cars and how much that costs the poor. We have these convenient narratives to convince us that there aren’t any real injustices. All it is a comforting narrative.
I always love middle to upper class calls for austerity. With less than a 10% rise in the prices at Wal-Mart, all their workers could be removed from the poverty roles. Do you think the middle class would go for that?



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Peter

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm


Stari’s version of eugenics.



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Turmarion

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm


meh: Turmarion, where is Sailer’s ire against blacks in his essay? Does it raise your ire that Japanese aren’t blacks? I care to associate myself with all empirical parts of Sailer’s essay. I never subscribe to the moralistic fallacy.
Maybe “ire” isn’t the right word, but it’s not warm and fuzzy feelings, either. I’m not subscribing to the moralistic fallacy, either–unfortunately, all kinds of bad things are part of human nature. As to the “empirical” parts of the essay, differences in human intelligence according to race, and even the existence of race, are nowhere near “empirically” established, despite what the VDare crowd might contend. Or are you willing to say that you think it “empirical” that some races are lazier and stupider than others? Sailer certainly believes this to be “empirically” established. Anyway, I’d give some links in rebuttal, but they’re easily found and I’m inclined to think you’d disagree, anyway.
Put it like this: The Irish, Jews, Italians, Slavs and other groups which are now pretty much assimilated into the American mainstream were spoken of by “experts” in pretty much the same terms that the VDare crowd now speaks of Hispanics and Blacks. Ditto the Chinese, which is funny, since the VDare bunch really like Asians, but the Chinese immigrants of yore were described as lazy, sneaky opium heads and later immigration law barred them from entering the country. It was these groups, and also the “undeserving” poor, whom the eugenics movement wished to target in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
I might point out that a lot of eugenics theory of the day, which trumpeted its “empiricism” to the high heavens, resulted in some of that unpleasantness in Germany in the middle of the last century.
So what exactly do you want to associate yourself with?



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Richard Bottoms

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm


Having been out of work in IT for 1 year, I can tell you there are not IT jobs. The wages are down to under $14/hr for a number of positions.
Four words: Bay, Area, iPhone, Objective-C
Couldn’t get arrested for almost two years. Now life is good.
Get an iPod touch, a Mac Mini and some books.
Good luck to you.



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Karl G

posted May 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm


[quote]Also people underwater in their mortgage with no hope of recovery have the option of default. There is no debtors prison and foreclosure will take a few months, during time they can build a nest egg.[/quote]
And in the meantime they can’t even find a decent place to rent, because their credit score is tanked and landlords won’t take them.



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MH

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm


Karl G, back in the 91 recession New England had a property bust with dynamics similar to this one. Landlords realized what happened and were much more forgiving about things like that. So I suspect that in troubled markets across the nation there are landlord happy to have a tenant.



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stefanie

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm


Lancelot Lamar: They need to be taught and held to the old, “heartless” but honest injunction, “If a man will not work, he should not eat.”
And what jobs are these individuals supposed to do, with unemployment as high as it is?



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Richard Bottoms

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm


“If a man will not work, he should not eat.”
Of course you need to be hired first. I spent almost 24 months hearing “You’re overqualified”, roughly translated: you are too old.



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Jon

posted May 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm


Re: They need to be taught and held to the old, “heartless” but honest injunction, “If a man will not work, he should not eat.”
Which should be read in proper context: Christians in the early Church held all things in common, and those who refused to labor for the common good were to be denied the Eucharistic meal, which back then was a complete feast, not just a morsel of bread and sip of wine. Anyone who can interpret this passage as a call to Social Drawinism despite the immense testament of the Gospels on the need for charity to the poor has left all sound hermaneutic far behind.
Re: And in the meantime they can’t even find a decent place to rent, because their credit score is tanked and landlords won’t take them.
I’ve know all sorts of people who have rented adequete apartments and houses with bad credit scores. Landlords who check credit (many do not) are loking for a record of evictions or judgments by prior landlords. They generally don’t care about bankruptcies or unpaid credit cards or mortgage foreclosures.



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Kyle

posted May 29, 2010 at 3:53 pm


I agree with the principal behind what I hear you saying.



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meh

posted May 29, 2010 at 8:33 pm


Turmarion: “So what exactly do you want to associate yourself with?
This will do.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm


Peter and LutheranChik each have a point. Its not right to give up on a family, or a person, but the first think liberals miss about dealing with con artists is to recognize that they ARE con artists, let them know in a courteous, non-judgemental, street-wise way that you KNOW they are con artists, do what you can for them, encourage them to reach for some better coping skills, and DON’T give them another box of potatoes when you KNOW they are taking them out on the street and selling them to buy beer.
Circa 1970, many veterans of the civil rights movement and the peace corps were publishing memoirs, some of which were instructive to those of us who had the undeserved good fortune to grow up just a few years later. One recalled a training session where a group of volunteers were watching a local TV news show, on which a lady of apparent African descent was crying about her kids being hungry and how hard things were. The “white” volunteers had tears in their eyes. The “black” volunteers, more familiar with the immediate community, were rolling on the floor laughing, saying “Ha-ha-ha, there goes Mrs. Washington again.”
If you stick around, you can learn to recognized the Mrs. Washington’s of any community. They exist in small midwestern cities that have no black residents also. Its an important skill to pick up. But don’t write off Mrs. Washinton’s children. In fact, don’t entirely give up on Mrs. Washington. But let her know you are not a stupid easy mark.
There are occasional success stories in communities where men spend a good deal of money on betel nuts or other drugged veggies. Women organized to look at the arithmetic agitated to set aside a certain sum, just be reducing, not eliminating the purchase of the drug of choice. It adds up to a good sum for investment. It does take some planning, persistence, education, to pull off.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:26 pm


P.S. Everyone who is quoting that old socialist standard “Those who work will eat” should either cop to being closet socialists, or find another principle to live by.
in gazer ?



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Lisa

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm


Sadly, this is so true. I’ve previously commented about my experiences teaching “poor” children in a Title 1 elementary school in a large urban district and this posting has inspired another rant. I have personally purchased and delivered groceries to some of my students’ families. It is heartbreaking to help them try to fit the food in the frig when it’s stuffed with booze. One family that is typical of many in our school community (on free lunch) left their two young children home alone when I had arranged to bring food. The youngest had chicken pox. They had two dogs and 6 new puppies (the dogs were not “fixed” or being cared for appropriately – is it just me or do those living near or below the poverty line often have animals they can’t afford to care for?!), 3 children, and 2 adults living in a filthy one bedroom apartment. There was a large trash bag in the tiny, dirty kitchen filled to the brim with empty beer cans, an unopened case of beer on the counter, and a completely empty refrigerator. These kids wear dirty clothes to school and often only eat what the school provides during the day. The teachers have to provide basic school supplies for them (why can’t the parents think ahead to the fact that their kids will need folders and pencils in the fall and pick them up when they’re on sale for 10 cents?! They have all summer to do it…) Unfortunately, these kids aren’t alone. They struggle academically and socially for lack of support at home. They eat junk, don’t do homework, don’t exercise, and watch totally inappropriate TV shows and play all of the M-for-mature video games. They can’t bring $2 to school for a field trip, but, they ALL have large, flat-screen TVs (often several), the latest video game systems, “pimped” cars with expensive rims and stereo systems, etc. When the parents bother to show up for conferences, almost all of the moms have extravagant fingernails and hair-dos, the latest cellphones, and knock-off designer handbags. We desparately need to shake the PC thing and begin seriously addressing these problems that are so rampant – if only for the children who are subjected to the unconscionable behavior of the adults who are supposed to care for them.



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meh

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm


Turmarion: “Anyway, I’d give some links in rebuttal, but they’re easily found and I’m inclined to think you’d disagree, anyway.”
It’s not obvious what links you would give. It could be of value to see what your assumptions are based on.



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Turmarion

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm


meh: Turmarion: “So what exactly do you want to associate yourself with?
This [article] will do.
Fair enough. I’m sure you can have long, wonderful conversations with stari_momak about how all those awful groups of swarthy immigrants are destroying our country and can work hard to restore the good old days of eugenics with fun stuff like mandatory sterilization and such.



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meh

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm


Turmarion: “Fair enough. I’m sure you can have long, wonderful conversations with stari_momak about how all those awful groups of swarthy immigrants are destroying our country and can work hard to restore the good old days of eugenics with fun stuff like mandatory sterilization and such.”
Turmarion, where in thisarticle does Jason Malloy call for mandatory sterilization? It is you, Turmarion, who is taking the moralistic fallacy with a vengeance. You are saying that if it’s true that blacks have a lower average intelligence, then it follows that they should be sterilized.



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MH

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm


meh, Turmarion’s reaction is understandable. When a problem is presented with information about it. It is natural to ask what action we should be taken.
Also in spite of claims to the contrary, there’s a strong undercurrent that a person’s worth in society is proportional to their economic output and position. A group that was disadvantaged would be one that was viewed as lesser.



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meh

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:40 pm


MH: “A group that was disadvantaged would be one that was viewed as lesser.”
Does the tail wag the dog? Do you think that if it’s immoral to think of a group as lesser, that proves in the objective world that that group isn’t lesser? The moralistic fallacy isn’t a fallacy? Moral order reigns over physical order? MH, do you think that is the way the world is organized?



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meh

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:57 pm


MH: “meh, Turmarion’s reaction is understandable.”
MH, Turmarion’s reaction to Jason Malloy’s scientific article is not understandable.



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Geoff G.

posted May 30, 2010 at 12:16 am


Not to say that there aren’t people who do make very poor choices in life, and not to say that there are certain very selfish people who consciously put their own pleasure ahead of their family.
On the other hand, there are aspects of this that sound a lot like the interpretation of drug and alcohol abuse as merely the lack of willpower.
As it turns out, very many addicts of all kinds would very much love to quit (witness the huge industry that revolves around smoking cessation, everything from nicotine patches and gums to prescription drugs to hypnosis to laser therapy). If stopping smoking or drinking or drugs or whatever were a simple matter of the exercise of will, then there likely wouldn’t be anywhere near the problem that there is.
Please also note that many (although by no means all) addictions begin in adolescence, at a time when even the law recognizes that people have diminished capacity to make good decisions for themselves.
Perhaps a better response to the problem, instead of beating up on people for the decisions they are supposedly making is to instead at least say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” If you want to do more that is actually constructive instead of bemoaning the inferiority of the masses to your own superlative virtue, there are tons of opportunities for volunteer work.
As usual, these issues are a great deal more complicated than the simple black-and-white world of conservatism.
reCAPTCHA: spatulas are
SPATULAS ARE WHAT???!!! TELL ME, I MUST KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY! STOP TAUNTING ME WITH YOUR RIDDLES RECAPTCHA!



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Turmarion

posted May 30, 2010 at 12:38 am


Apparently my dripping sarcasm wasn’t as obvious as I’d thought. Oh, well.
meh, just for the record, I’m not in favor of sterilizing anybody. I also remain unconvinced that observed differences in IQ test performance by different groups are permanently intractable and genetic in origin. Richard Nesbitt, among others, has argued forcefully and cogently (and based on the statistical analysis so beloved by the other sided) against this.
In any case, I am aware that the article did not advocate sterilization, and I wasn’t implying you do. It is an undeniable historical fact, however, that in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the same people promoting racial differences in intelligence were also promoting eugenics, along with which package came sterilization of “undesirables”. At least they were explicit in drawing ideas for social policy from their “scientific” beliefs.
After World War II, for some strange reason (sarcasm alert! Hope that helps….) the promoters of theories of different IQ’s among different races suddenly stopped suggesting social policy based on their ideas. It’s as if I said, “My research shows that smoking is strongly correlated with lung cancer, but I have no opinion at all as to what one should do with that information.” Instead, the people in this quarter, when criticized, whine about the attacks on science and free inquiry. The article you linked to very helpfully gives an example near the end, and I quote: “What effect will this continuing intellectual mob violence have on future and current scientists and researchers who want to freely study human genetics, cross-cultural psychology, sociology, or any discipline that may reveal similar facts that have the potential to cause their professional or personal destruction by an intellectual community that resembles the medieval church?”
See, it’s not about what people might do with the information–it’s about all those gibbering, anti-scientific masses who want to keep the poor scientists down; all about that awful “intellectual community that resembles the medieval church” (which manages to get a nice little anti-Catholic dig in while also getting the history wrong–the Galileo case was in the Renaissance, not the Middle Ages!) Kinda reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s classic “The rockets go up, who cares where they come down?/That’s not my department, says Wehrner von Braun.”
Look, if it is true that there are hereditary, significant, and ineradicable differences in intelligence between races; then given the obvious fact that our culture allocates better jobs, money, prestige, etc. on the basis of higher cognitive abilities, does not the former have social policy implications? Or are some ethnicities and racial groups just SOL, condemned to lower echelon, lower-paying, less-prestigious careers and places in society forever?
I think it is a reprehensible dodge to use the “it’s just about the science” or the “Wehrner von Braun” or the “How dare you say I favor sterilization!” (which I did not say–again, it was sarcasm) routines in order to avoid saying what one really thinks about social policy. At least stari_momak, repugnant as his beliefs are, is honest enough to do that, when he argues for banning most non-Northern European immigration and suggests that the ideal would be countries segregated by race or ethnic group. Few are willing to say these things outright.
So, assuming that you do in fact believe that there are significant and irremediable intellectual differences among races; and assuming that when you associated yourself with the article you were agreeing with James Watson and his statements such as that African nations are failures because the people are less intelligent and such (and I am willing to be corrected on either of these assumptions!), then you must have some ideas about social policy in light of these views. Care to share?
meh: Do you think that if it’s immoral to think of a group as lesser, that proves in the objective world that that group isn’t lesser?
I’m not arguing logical fallacies; I don’t think the science supports what you’re saying. However, the issue isn’t whether a group is “lesser”–it’s how one should treat lesser groups, given the assumption that some are indeed “lesser”. We know what kind of ideas the eugenicists and Germans of the 1930′s and 40′s had about the appropriate treatment of “lesser” races. Got any opinions you’d like to share?
And if you don’t share, then it means either A. the existence of “lesser” races, ethnicities, groups, etc. has absolutely no implications for government policy or for treatment by “greater” groups–which is prima facie absurd; or B. you are reluctant to say things that might seem unpleasant or nasty or such in this forum. To which I respond, whatever happened to the courage of convictions?
MH, thank you.



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Roger

posted May 30, 2010 at 11:55 am


Hmmm – what’s the old saw about walking in a mans shoes for a mile before condemning him?
If you shared the life of an African slum-dweller or subsistance farmer would you not want to blot out the misery occasionally.
Your frequent references to expensive champagnes, fine wines and French restaurants really don’t put you on much of a pedestal.
Sure YOU can afford these things and really could live without them if a greater good like that of your family’s health and education demanded it.
Can’t you imagine that for at least some of these people behind the statistics its much the same?
And here’s a thing – shouldn’t the vast success of both fundamentalist Christian and Muslim missionaries in these very regions have made just a little bit of difference?
And if they haven’t couldn’t we be dealing with a ‘problem’ that is not going to go away because we sit at our own dinner tables, wine glass in hand pontificating about the profligacy of people who have to live for a whole week on considerably less money than we’ve just spent on our meal?
Shame on us as well as on them…



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MH

posted May 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm


meh, Turmarion already alluded to the prior history of eugenics, and where it ended up, so I won’t recap that. Also I am not qualified to comment on the accuracy of this research, but my instincts make me worry about the possibility of confounding variables. I can explain my emotional reaction to it and why I think that is important.
First, history shows that when one group of humans views another group of humans as lesser, its a short trip to less than human. From there things can go downhill pretty quickly. My empathy instinct tell me I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a less than human designation, so I want to avoid doing that to someone else.
Second, I’m a monist and don’t see a physical versus moral order. I see them as the same thing because matter creates mind which creates thoughts and feelings. You yourself said previously “information is physical.” How we feel about things is the result of natural selection producing an evolutionary stable solution. So we should pay heed to our feelings because they may have access to information wired into us via natural selection that we can’t access rationally.
Basically if we go against our instincts like empathy we might undermine the stability of the social system. Our reason wouldn’t be equipped to understand the danger until it is to late.
recaptcha: downpour bear



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meh

posted May 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm


MH: “My empathy instinct tell me I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a less than human designation, so I want to avoid doing that to someone else.”
MH, forget all about this less than human stuff. Afghan Hounds are dumb as a box of rocks. Are they less than dogs? C’mon man, think!
Second, I’m a monist and don’t see a physical versus moral order. I see them as the same thing because matter creates mind which creates thoughts and feelings.
So if a Creationist thinks that evolution by natural selection is immoral, his moral order is on an equal basis with his physical order? Unicorns abound!!!

So we should pay heed to our feelings because they may have access to information wired into us via natural selection that we can’t access rationally.”
And natural selection would never lie about information at the expense of our rationality in order to get a breeding advantage, right? Natural selection is very moral. { /sarcasm }



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MH

posted May 30, 2010 at 11:11 pm


meh, humans tend to draw a sharp line between right accorded to man versus animals. There’s really no distinction between dog versus less than dog. Human versus less than human is a big distinction.
Obviously the Creationist is wrong, but his moral order is part of the physical order.
Natural selection can’t lie because it is an unconscious process without intension. However, it has the ability to wire instinctive knowledge into organisms. For example babies won’t crawl across a visual cliff even though it is not real and they haven’t been exposed to one before. There’s potential harm which instincts are trying to avoid.
Now by lie you might mean that we might misperceive the world because it conferred a breeding advantage. Like everyone being born with beer goggles or on average most people being optimists. That’s possible, but how does it relate here?



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Turmarion

posted May 31, 2010 at 12:28 am


meh, I notice in your response to MH you still refuse to acknowledge your specific beliefs, and also refuse to tell us just what social policies you’d support in light of your beliefs about human intelligence. Rather, you throw in irrelevancies about Afghan hounds, Creationists, and natural selection. None of which addresses the issues at hand, i.e., assuming you believe that some races, ethnicities, or other groups are, as you so felicitously put it, “lesser” than others, what social policies should flow from this?
MH, I think we’re wasting our time on this, but it will be interesting to see if meh actually responds to the actual issues at hand here.
CAPTCHA: Administration mullets Hmm…..



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Jon

posted May 31, 2010 at 7:52 am


Re: There’s really no distinction between dog versus less than dog.
Most people would recognize a distinction beween higher animals like dogs, and lower animals (insects etc.) No one would ever be prosecuted for Cruelty To Animals because they have squashed worms or burned moths.



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Marion (Mael Muire)

posted May 31, 2010 at 8:49 am


The Poor. The Poor. The bad choices the Poor make. The bad decisions the Poor make. . . but . . . how many of us here know what it is to be poor? Not “student poor” with a family back home and a bright future ahead even while we eat mac ‘n’ cheese in the grimy studio apt, no not that. I mean, truly dirty, faceless outcast underclass poor – no insurance (never had any), no job, no prospects, no respect (never had any), no background, no future, no options . . . imagine an astronaut who has been out on a space walk and has had his tether cut; he’s floating free in space with no way to get back to his ship or back to Earth. You are utterly alone. You are utterly without recourse.
You and the cockroach are one.
You are a cockroach.
You rub shoulders with lots and lots of fellow cockroaches, so in that sense you’re not “alone”, but to have a companion or an ally who is actually a settled member of society with some background or status is unknown to you. In that sense you are alone – one among a gaggle of insects.
I don’t know about you, but if I were in that condition, with no way out, I would consider it a successful day if I didn’t wrap my lips around a revolver. I would be so stressed out from the moment I got out of bed in the morning! Why would I even get out of bed? What does a human cockroach have on his schedule?
So I live for the moment, I drink too much, I party too much. I neglect my children; I neglect myself. I do love them; I do try. But I can only do so much for them. Their future is no brighter than what I can give them, which is . . . cockroach-hood. So I try, but I also try to forget. There is comfort, some comfort in forgetfulness, in oblivion, in denial. That’s all the comfort and peace I ever know.



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MH

posted May 31, 2010 at 12:39 pm


Jon, in general animal cruelty is most commonly charged as a misdemeanor offense. So even in the case of higher animals there is an enormous gulf between the standards for human and non-human.
The step of dehumanization is always the first step before a war or genocide. The status of lesser is one step along that path. Given humanity’s track record I would be really careful before heading that direction.



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meh

posted May 31, 2010 at 9:13 pm


Turmarion: “assuming you believe that some races, ethnicities, or other groups are, as you so felicitously put it, “lesser” than others, what social policies should flow from this.”
Turmarion, that different races have different average intelligences is a fact. What social policies flow from it is a matter of opinion. This seems to be the sticking point for you. You seem to think if it’s true that blacks have a lower average intelligence than whites, then you are locked into having a white nationalist viewpoint. This isn’t so. Do you really think by assuming “This isn’t what God would want”, you’ve ipso facto proved it isn’t true that different races have different average intelligences?
You could have whites who want to marginalize blacks because they are less intelligent than whites. You could have whites who want to marginalize whites to expatiate white guilt against blacks (although I don’t see how whites are responsible for the average IQ of blacks.). The emotional and moral response is optional.



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meh

posted May 31, 2010 at 9:21 pm


MH: “meh, humans tend to draw a sharp line between right accorded to man versus animals. There’s really no distinction between dog versus less than dog. Human versus less than human is a big distinction.”
Follow me here. If dumb Afghan Hounds are still dogs in comparison to brilliant Border Collies, then could it follow that low IQ Australian Aboriginies are still human in comparison to high IQ Ashkenazi Jews?



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Marion (Mael Muire)

posted May 31, 2010 at 9:31 pm


Who care who’s “smarter”? Crafty, conniving Wall Street human vacuums-of-other-peoples’ money and wily, sharp shyster lawyers are *smarter* than kindly, caring little old ladies who provide after school care for disadvantaged children, and not-too-bright but hard-working maintenance workers. If the world had very many fewer Wall Street bandits and shyster lawyers, and very many more kindly not-as-bright people, I think fewer people would suffer and more people would be happier. Hence, the world would be a better place.



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meh

posted May 31, 2010 at 9:53 pm


There you go, Marion. There’s your optional emotional response to the fact that there are smarter and less bright people in the world. If only Turmarion could keep from conflating the fact of intelligent variance with the emotional reaction to that fact.



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meh

posted May 31, 2010 at 10:00 pm


Turmarion, Liberal Biorealism says that blacks are less intelligent than whites. Liberal Biorealism wants social justice for blacks. Can you handle the cognitive dissonance?



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MH

posted May 31, 2010 at 10:24 pm


meh, biologically a smart human and a dumb human are both human. But the lessor and less than human are social constructs. So you want to be sure of your facts and their potential implications because we all know how humans behave.
As I said before I’m not qualified to analyze the research to know if it is accurate. But I do know that people often have hidden agendas and set up studies to confirm their built in bias. This is why peer review is important, but even with this the social sciences often have fads (like phrenology as a psychology).
For example if you compared a border collies against a scent hound you might conclude that the collie was trainable while the scent hound was untrainable. But the problem is that scent hounds have a sense of smell so acute that they always know when you have a treat and variable reinforcement won’t work on them. So you need to take that into account when you train both dogs and test their abilities. Their sense of smell is a confounding variable that you need to correct for.



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meh

posted May 31, 2010 at 10:56 pm


MH: “meh, biologically a smart human and a dumb human are both human. But the lessor and less than human are social constructs. So you want to be sure of your facts and their potential implications because we all know how humans behave.”
And do you think the Nature we evolved from gives a rat’s ass about our moral conundrums? We is what we is, no matter who it gives aid and comfort to.



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MH

posted May 31, 2010 at 11:05 pm


meh, you and I both think of nature as impersonal and not caring about anything. Only humans bring meaning and values to the universe, so we need to care about our moral conundrums.
recaptcha not robbing



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meh

posted May 31, 2010 at 11:11 pm


MH: “So you need to take that into account when you train both dogs and test their abilities. Their sense of smell is a confounding variable that you need to correct for.”
O frabjous day when we figure out the confounding variable holding back black IQ. I’ll bet it involves white stink eye. {/sarcasm}



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meh

posted May 31, 2010 at 11:16 pm


MH: “Only humans bring meaning and values to the universe, so we need to care about our moral conundrums.”
I’ve got it! Let’s lie (but pretend it’s true) and say that all races have the same average intelligence! That solves the moral conundrum! I’m the first person to ever think this up! Me smart.



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MH

posted May 31, 2010 at 11:24 pm


meh, first I’ll echo Turmarion comment that you can’t shoot the rockets up and not care where they land. What would you suggest people do if the research proves true?



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meh

posted May 31, 2010 at 11:41 pm


I’d say the people who want to grant amnesty to illegal Mexican peasants are the folks who are shooting rockets up and not caring where they land.



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Marion (Mael Muire)

posted June 1, 2010 at 2:09 am


meh, what if there were scientific proof that people of Caucasian background, experience and display significantly less affect and less interpersonal empathy than people of African descent? I.e., white peeps got less *soul* . . . .?
Ultimately, “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” When I stand before the throne of the Almighty on Judgment Day to give an account of how I treated my fellow man and woman, I believe I will be judged *firstly* upon how I behaved toward those who may have had slightly fewer advantages than I – natural as well as social advantages. For we are all His children in His sight, all His brothers and sisters.
Meh, if I had a younger brother of sub-par intelligence, would I be right to treat him disdainfully because of it? Wouldn’t a mensch make it a project to see to it that everything was done for this brother; that he had every opportunity to contribute and to become all that he could be, and especially that no one else dared to tax him for it?
What matters isn’t my neighbor’s qualities so much as my response to my knowledge of God’s love for my neighbor.



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MH

posted June 1, 2010 at 10:56 am


meh, while I agree that rewarding illegal immigration is a bad idea, that strikes me as a non-sequitur.



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meh

posted June 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm


MH, how does that strike you as a non-sequitur?
captcha: leakage system



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Alicia

posted June 1, 2010 at 3:38 pm


I’m catching up on Rod’s posts after more than a week away processing my grief at the ending of “Lost.” So, I’m not reading all the comments but just wanted to offer my own perspective from my own experience with microfinance organizations. Microenterprise, which usually encourages women living in poverty to become self-sufficient through very small loans, may be one of the best solutions available to this problem.
Men in these societies are not a lost cause (when poor women have a bad time of it, the poor men in those societies are often not much better off) but historically, it seems men are more likely to have the alcohol abuse problems (and other problems). Help the women become self-sufficient, and their boys may grow up to be better men with healthier social attitudes. That’s my two cents.



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Turmarion

posted June 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm


meh: Turmarion, that different races have different average intelligences is a fact.
I’m not a biologist or a psychologist, but I follow the literature and I don’t think that’s been adequately demonstrated yet, and we’ve both cited sources. Maybe someday it’ll be solved to everyone’s satisfaction. We’ll see.
Do you really think by assuming “This isn’t what God would want”….
Curious–I mentioned nothing about God’s preferences at all in what I said. I’m making a purely secular argument.
Turmarion, Liberal Biorealism says that blacks are less intelligent than whites.
I guess your argument here is that it’s not just those nasty conservatives making the argument. Of course you realize that this is a logical fallacy. Whether one is liberal or conservative or anarchist is completely irrelevant to the scientific case for or against the idea that blacks are less intelligent than whites. As I said, I maintain that the science has not yet proven that. You may disagree. Has nothing to do with one’s politics, though.
The emotional and moral response is optional.
For Vulcans, yes. If we’re talking about this planet, no. In fact current psychological models have come to understand that emotion is not just some kind of annoying epiphenomenon or evolutionary left-over that gets in the way of “rational” thought, but a key part of how we reason and make decisions. MH is exactly right in this.
And do you think the Nature we evolved from gives a rat’s ass about our moral conundrums?
Unlikely, but irrelevant. We all have to make moral choices on both the individual level (should I tell the boss that Jack left work early?) and collective (should I support the health care reform bill or not?) every day. Regardless of nature, God, the Flying Spaghetti monster, or whatever (and I speak as a theist), we must make those choices.
Moreover, just a statement of what is is not sufficient–as I never tire of pointing out, David Hume showed that you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”. That people, e.g., are born with handicaps is. But what ought one to do about them? Accommodate them in public structures (as we do) or gas them (as the Nazis did)? Nature’s indifference is totally irrelevant and does not absolve us of our responsibility to make moral choices.
Turmarion, that different races have different average intelligences is a fact. What social policies flow from it is a matter of opinion.
Yes, and you still haven’t given us your opinions on such policies. I can’t believe you have none whatsoever. It’s your right to say, “None of your *&%$ business, but by bringing the issue up to begin with and arguing about it at such length, I think you invite the question. Why won’t you tell us? Why all the red herrings about indifferent nature, immigration, and dog breeds?
You could have whites who want to marginalize blacks because they are less intelligent than whites. You could have whites who want to marginalize whites to expatiate white guilt against blacks (although I don’t see how whites are responsible for the average IQ of blacks.).
OK, here I’ll see your “that’s how life is” and raise you. If you look at the history, almost 100% of the time when Group A considers Group B as inferior, intellectually or otherwise, Group A “marginalizes” Group B (usually much worse). This is historical fact, and I’d like to see you try to refute it. Given this, do you see why both MH and I think you’re being disingenuous by trying to make it some kind of abstract “no one knows what would happen” or “people have different opinions” exercise?
The reason, btw, your comment about immigration is a non-sequitur is that it’s a tu quoque (“you too”) argument. Both I and MH said that your refusal to tell what social policy should be implemented on the basis of your assertions about race and intelligence was reminiscent of von Braun’s indifference to the uses to which his V2′s were being put. Rather than demonstrating that you’re not likewise indifferent by telling us what you actually think, you said, “Well, the real ones who are indifferent are those who want to grant amnesty to illegal aliens!”
It’s like the kid who catches his brother with his hand in the cookie jar and says, “I’m gonna tell!”, to which the brother replies, “Hey, I saw you stealing cookies yesterday!” To accuse another of what you’re doing yourself is not a logical defense! This is elementary debate and logic 101! So who cares about advocates of illegal immigrant amnesty? That’s not what we’re talking about, and it doesn’t get you off the hook!
Once again, I have great difficulty taking with any seriousness anyone who keeps pushing a theory, idea, or supposed statement of the facts but who refuses to draw conclusions from them. It’s like a saying that smoking causes cancer but refusing to take sides as to whether it ought to be discouraged and instead to bring up red herrings and attacks against others, rather than speaking to the issue.
This is what almost all the crowd who tout racial differences in IQ always do, as I’ve pointed out and as meh has amply demonstrated. They bloviate about the science and the proof and are very indignant with those who disagree with them, but they never want to tell what they think we should do about it if they’re right; they just want to be aggrieved that their opponents don’t want to face the nasty truth. Give me a break!
MH: But I do know that people often have hidden agendas and set up studies to confirm their built in bias.
Very true, MH, and one of the biggest problems with the social sciences. Bias isn’t going to affect studies of the value of G or of the charge on an electron or the validity of the Mean Value Theorem; but when it gets into human behavior it gets very messy very fast. All the more reason, as you wisely counsel, to take such studies with a grain of salt and to be very careful in what one draws from them.



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MH

posted June 1, 2010 at 4:38 pm


Thanks Turmarion, I didn’t have the energy to point out why illegal immigration wasn’t related. But you post was better than I would have done anyway.



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meh

posted June 1, 2010 at 9:13 pm


Turmarion: “Whether one is liberal or conservative or anarchist is completely irrelevant to the scientific case for or against the idea that blacks are less intelligent than whites.”
That was the point I was making to you. You don’t need to make it back to me.
“Moreover, just a statement of what is is not sufficient–as I never tire of pointing out, David Hume showed that you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”.
Where did I derive an “ought” from an “is”?
“OK, here I’ll see your “that’s how life is” and raise you. If you look at the history, almost 100% of the time when Group A considers Group B as inferior, intellectually or otherwise, Group A “marginalizes” Group B (usually much worse). This is historical fact, and I’d like to see you try to refute it.”
So now you’re saying people do derive “ought” from “is”. Make up your mind.
Would this be your motive for denial of differences in average racial intelligence?
” they just want to be aggrieved that their opponents don’t want to face the nasty truth. Give me a break!”
Turmarion, why can’t you face the nasty truth of differences in average racial intelligence?
“All the more reason, as you wisely counsel, to take such studies with a grain of salt and to be very careful in what one draws from them.”
Yeah, keep an eye out for the widely cited Lewontin’s Fallacy. Oh wait, only nasty conservatives have hidden motives. Never mind.



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meh

posted June 1, 2010 at 9:47 pm


MH, sorry to be so oblique. One of my reactions to the differences in average racial intelligence is that illegal Mexican peasants should not be granted amnesty. I also think the fact of differences in average racial intelligence should not be suppressed.



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Turmarion

posted June 1, 2010 at 9:48 pm


meh, I wasn’t deriving an “ought” from an “is”–I was saying that while you act is if the way people would react to one group being “lesser” or dumber is something we couldn’t anticipate at all, or somehow irrelevant, it is in fact very easy to anticipate, and thus very much relevant.
I don’t deny that IQ as measured on tests differs among different races and ethnic groups; I think the jury is still out on whether this means that some races are in fact intrinsically less intelligent, whether there is a measurable g, etc. People with a lot more training in biologhy and psychology than either of us are on both sides of the issue. Perhaps it will be settled one way or other to everyone’s satisfaction sooner or later; but I’m not convinced that it’s settled yet. The research indicating that there are no significant differences between races in intelligence seems more compelling to me; but I could, of course, be wrong. We’ll see.
Finally, I note that you still haven’t told us your opinions on social policy, given your views! Why are you so very unwilling to do so?



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meh

posted June 1, 2010 at 9:55 pm


PCA plots and trees
7) Question #3 hinted at the powerful social impact your work has had in reshaping how we view the natural history of our species. One of the most contentious issues of the 20th, and no doubt of the unfolding 21st century, is that of race. In 1972 Richard Lewontin offered his famous observation that 85% of the variation across human populations was within populations and 15% was between them. Regardless of whether this level of substructure is of note of not, your own work on migrations, admixtures and waves of advance depicts patterns of demographic and genetic interconnectedness, and so refutes typological conceptions of race. Nevertheless, recently A.W.F. Edwards, a fellow student of R.A. Fisher, has argued that Richard Lewontin’s argument neglects the importance of differences of correlation structure across the genome between populations and focuses on variance only across a single locus. Edwards’ argument about the informativeness of correlation structure, and therefore the statistical salience of between-population differences, was echoed by Richard Dawkins in his most recent book. Considering the social import of the question of interpopulational differences as well as the esoteric nature of the mathematical arguments, what do you believe the “take home” message of this should be for the general public?
Edwards and Lewontin are both right. Lewontin said that the between populations fraction of variance is very small in humans, and this is true, as it should be on the basis of present knowledge from archeology and genetics alike, that the human species is very young. It has in fact been shown later that it is one of the smallest among mammals. Lewontin probably hoped, for political reasons, that it is TRIVIALLY small, and he has never shown to my knowledge any interest for evolutionary trees, at least of humans, so he did not care about their reconstruction. In essence, Edwards has objected that it is NOT trivially small, because it is enough for reconstructing the tree of human evolution, as we did, and he is obviously right.



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MH

posted June 1, 2010 at 10:10 pm


meh, no problem and now we’re getting somewhere. So one policy is your against amnesty for illegal immigration. It also sounds like you’re not a fan of people who aren’t that smart moving here.
Neither of these needs to be a race based policy. Given that there’s no such thing as an average person and only individuals immigrate, you could simply require immigrants to have skills and be literate.
I’m a big fan of the first amendment and people having the right to free inquiry. So I wouldn’t be in favor of suppression either. But I don’t think that is happened as books like “The Bell Curve” did get published.



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meh

posted June 1, 2010 at 10:56 pm


MH: “Neither of these needs to be a race based policy. Given that there’s no such thing as an average person and only individuals immigrate, you could simply require immigrants to have skills and be literate.”
Yup, that would work. As a side effect it would have a different impact on different races. But who would object to that?
(As an aside, regression to the mean will have a differential impact on the progeny of similarly skilled immigrant individuals of different races. The progeny of an Askenazi Jew immigrant will tend to be more talented on average than the progeny of a similarly talented Sub-Saharan African immigrant).



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Turmarion

posted June 2, 2010 at 10:24 am


All this back-and-forth has clarified something for me that I think was in the back of my mind on the Nietzsche threads awhile back (not to beat poor Fritz any more than need be!).
Most moderns, and certainly most moral philosophers since the Enlightenment, take for granted universal human rights. This is based on the concept, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal”. Not equal in ability, intelligence, health, etc.; but that all humans have certain fundamental rights (e.g. “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”) in common, and should be held of equal value as humans and equally in the eyes of the law (that is, the law is the law whether you’re poor or rich, black or white, man or woman, etc.). Moreover, this implicitly holds that our similarities, in light of our common humanity are more significant and important than our differences. I think it’s fair to say that to most of us this seems so obvious.
Now, on what basis do we assert this? Theists assert that “all men are created” equal–that is, we’re all God’s children, all equal in His eyes. Yes, theistic religions haven’t been good in implementing this at all times; but it does seem to be the basis that the later Enlightenment ideals derived from. In any case, most modern theists would take this for granted. Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and kinda-sorta Sikhism) would assert that we differ in abilities because of different personal and collective karma, but that we all share the same Buddha-nature (Hindusim and the others would express it differently, e.g. as being equally parts of Brahman, but it comes to about the same); thus all persons share a common basis for rights, etc. True, there was the caste system, but the equality of humans was definitely implicit–movements such as Jainims, Buddhism, and others rejected the caste system from early on, and Hindu reformers of the last two centuries have vigorously opposed it. Other religions would have other bases for human equality (of value and treatment, not, I repeat, of endowment).
The question I raise is, on what grounds does a truly secular ethic base such universal human rights and dignity? Well, it’s hard to see anything! Aristotle’s ethics was secular, and he thought that some people were suited by nature to be slaves, and that women were naturally inferior–because, y’know, that’s the obvious if ugly truth! Confucius was clear that people should be treated differently depending on circumstance. Nietzsche was enthusiastically for “noble” morality which relegated the “herds” to a lower position, as opposed to the hated “slave” morality, with all its hoo-hah about brotherhood and such.
Now most modern secularists are in the tradition of the Enlightenment (secular humanists especially), taking for granted universal human nature, rights, etc. The thing is (and I could be missing something) that I’ve never read any account from that quarter as to why we have this universal human nature, rights, etc. It’s assumed as axiomatic, but given no basis. Therein lies the problem. Unless you’re willing to assume it–and there’s no strictly logical reason to do so–it falls, and everything else with it.
Consider Peter Singer, the atheist and secularist philosopher. He does not take the specialness and uniqueness of humanity as axiomatic–in fact, he calls it “speciesism”. He would assert that animals (at least the higher, sentient ones–he suggests anything from fish on up) have the same rights as humans, since they can all feel pain equally. Thus, humans get no special moral consideration over gorillas, turtles, or goldfish. He explicitly says that a severely mentally damaged person (e.g. someone in a vegetative state or a severe autistic) would have less right to moral consideration than an intact dog or chimpanzee. He goes on to argue for euthanasia, for infanticide if done humanely within the first few months, at the parents’ discretion (not making this up!), and he suggests that the obligations I owe, say, to a starving child in the Third World are equal to any I owe to my own daughter.
Now the vast majority of atheists, agnostics, and secularists would quail at most of this. Most of us, of whatever faith or metaphysical orientation, agree that humans deserve consideration higher than that of even higher animals; even those who are pro-euthanasia would generally limit it far more than Singer does; the post-birth infanticide lobby is minute (thank God!), whatever one thinks about abortion; and even the greatest advocates of international aid agree that our first obligation is to our families (only a creep would send all his money to the kids overseas at the expense of his own children). The problem is that I haven’t really seen a secularist argument that puts this on a firm ground that can’t be attacked by a Singer. He is, whatever else one might say about him, perfectly logical, given his premises. As John Neuhaus said in reference to Singer, quoting Chesterton, the problem with the madman isn’t that he’s not logical; it’s that he’s only logical.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a secularist ethics that allows for universal human rights and human uniqueness isn’t possible. It had better be possible, if we don’t want to live by Singer’s dicta, and if we want a common ethical groudn between believers and non-believers. In this regard, I think that my secularist friend MH points a way out of this. When he argues that the emotions and intuitions that we have arise from the same physical processes that gave rise to us, and thus are a significant and important part of our whole being, including moral reasoning, I think he hits the nail right on the head. Too often in modern times moral intuitions or the feeling of “ickiness” or compassion have been dismissed as mere “feelings”. However, nature did not design us to be moral philosophers. Feelings of “ick” or compassion are adaptive–they help us survive as a species. We don’t have to do complex moral reasoning and philosophizing to know that hurting the weak is wrong or that I should prioritize saving the life of my sister over that of my cat. Moral emotions aren’t extraneous–they are a vital part of who we are.
Now of course, it’s more complicated than that. One can have leaned emotional responses that are illogical (“broccoli is icky!”) or evil (“Jews are icky!”). There is obviously a lot of room to work out a systematic ethos taking account of moral feelings, and here is not the place to do it.
The point is that if you just consider emotions “optional”, as meh has put it, you’re on the road towards truly terrible things if you’re not very, very careful. This has been the challenge to science in the last and current century. The tendency has been for all too many to take a Wehrner von Braun attitude–”I do the research, and it’s not my problem what the implications or uses are. Who cares where the rockets come down?” As Neil Postman put it in terms of media technology, the assumption is we do it because we can with no idea that it’s not just adding something new, but something that will radically alter everything. I think we can look around (BP disaster; global warming; the nuclear arms race; etc.) and see where the perfectly “logical” ethos has got us. This is exactly my problem with the ethos of meh and others that he cites. It’s not about human beings and their needs–it’s all about the science, and too damn bad if some peoples are “inferior”. And gee, if eugenicists or Nazis do bad things to people on that basis, well, that’s not my department–it’s their bad choices, not mine. I hope it’s obvious why this is so noxious and reprehensible. Beating the drum of “logic, reason, and science” with no regard for the human factor all too often leads to callous and horrendous results.
meh: As a side effect [limiting immigration by intelligence] would have a different impact on different races. But who would object to that? (emphasis added)
And you’e living on what planet?
John Derbyshire was honest on this. He said that he had a personality that had very little solidarity with others and that was very individualist. Thus, if it turned out that his race (white) actually was less intelligent, his attitude would be, “Well, too bad–that’s the way it goes. Not my problem.” He also admitted that such an attitude among humans is very rare.
I think, for the record, that immigration law should be enforced. As to not being a “fan of people who aren’t that smart moving here,” by definition about 85% of the population is average or below average in intelligence. That’s a lot of “not so smart” people. If you had immigrated here, and you made the intellectual “cut” for residence, but your wife/brother/sister/son/daughter/significant other did not, would you just say, “Oh, well, them’s the breaks. I guess I can send the extra bucks back to ‘em in the old country, anyway.” Is human value dependent on intellegence? Are the dumb less worthy than the bright? I might point out that many evil people throughout history have been eminently intelligent. Ken Wilber pointed out that there is no necessary connection between intellectual and moral development, and that it’s quite possible (in his words) to be a brilliant and cultured Nazi. Many of them were, in fact.
I think I’m going to hang it up after this, since it seems to be doing little good, and aside from the issue of immigration (which I think is a red herring here) meh is still unwilling to tip his hand on the more interesting issue of the people who are already here. I just close by hoping that whatever the science ultimately turns out supporting, we as a people will be able to make much better and more ethical use of it than what all too many of the so-called “race realists” tend to imply.



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meh

posted June 2, 2010 at 11:42 am


Turmarion: “And you’e living on what planet?”
I was being sarcastic, duh. It’s obvious the differential impact on races would be objected to. Look at the objections in this country to the racial difference in scoring on fireman’s examinations.
http://vdare.com/sailer/090419_ricci.htm
http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/07/vulcan-society-v-fire-department-of-new.html



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MH

posted June 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm


Turmarion, good post and thanks! You can probably guess that I’m not a fan of Singer because he doesn’t seem to understand human nature or nature itself. I think many philosophers and economists fall into the same trap of assuming humans act rationally. We don’t and there’s a lot of evidence that we don’t.
A classic game is where a banker puts $100 on a table and nominates one player to split the money and the other to accept what is offered. If the second player rejects the bank takes back the money. Perfectly rational players would split the money $90 to $10 and offer the second player $10. The second player should always accept because it is free money. But in the real world no one plays like that. Generally the first player acts irrationally and splits the pile roughly equally and the second player accepts. On the rare occasions were the first player acts rationally the second player acts irrationally and rejects free money! Most economists are baffled by this, but not people who have studied game theory.
Humans are a social organism which are individually weak, but collectively strong and we must cooperate to survive. But this traps us in a game of iterated prisoners dilemma where the shadow of the future looms large. If a leader defects against his people, then they can defect against him. If one country defects against another, then its other neighbors will likely later defect against it. The net effect is these physical realities have produce strong unconscious mental processes where we try to optimize the collective outcome.
In game theory terms we would like a conspiracy of doves (heaven) since it produces the best possible society with the greatest good for all. But the temptation for someone to free ride looms large and such a conspiracy fails. So we follow the second best strategy of Tit for Tat. I want to be treated equal in law, so I need to grant equality to others to prevent their defection. I should also say that I view game theory as a mathematical model of reality, but not reality itself.
I don’t think any of this is incompatible with theism because a theist would view physical processes as being under control of the divine.



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Turmarion

posted June 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm


meh, I notice that you still refuse to give your own opinions directly.
I notice also that you didn’t answer the hypothetical about you immigrating to the US under your preferred IQ principle while a loved one who doesn’t make the cut gets excluded. Too bad for them, I guess, since we all know that smarts trumps love and compassion.
I notice additionally that you seem to have nothing to say on feelings vs. pure logic in ethics. Planet Vulcan, here we come!
This silence speaks louder than anything you could say.
I might point out also that if you boil down the suggestions in this Steve Sailer article it comes down to saying to blacks, “Hey, you’re kinda dumb, but that’s OK! You’re charming, smooth-talking, have lots of rhythm, and are athletic and manly! If we play to those strengths and keep you away from the chicks who don’t understand it’s not harassment, just “different dating styles”, you’ll do fine!” I hope you don’t mean to suggest that any group would appreciate such “helpful” advice!
That’s it for me on this thread. You have a right to your views, and I have a right to see them as totally repugnant. À chacun à son goût; but I hope your side isn’t the one that ends up making the policies. As I imagine you hope the converse.



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Turmarion

posted June 2, 2010 at 12:22 pm


MH, thanks to you, too. I think your most recent post is a good statement of how I’d tend to look at it, too, and an excellent model for a secular ethic to which we could all subscribe.



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meh

posted June 3, 2010 at 5:16 am


So you don’t think it’s ethical for the public at large to know about the differences in average racial intelligence. Gotcha.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted June 3, 2010 at 7:32 pm


Oh yes, the tired old saw about intelligence being genetic. There are two decent compendiums of all there is to say on that subject:
The Bell Curve by Murray and Herndon, and
The Mismeasure of Man, by the late, great, Stephen Jay Gould.
Yes, I know, Gould didn’t believe in God, but he admitted he had no way of knowing for sure. I didn’t bother to read Murray and Herndon until I was assigned an article on racism, and the editors specifically wanted that book discussed. I did not find it convincing, but I did find it well written, and devoid of DESIRE to promote any race as “superior” by preference. In fact, they are very clear that the statistics and tests on which they rely show Asians to be superior to Europeans and “white people.”
The most convincing point they make is that if better than half the people in a nation live under what we now call “the poverty line,” it is a good bet that a large portion are poor due to circumstances beyond their control, but, if the poverty rate is down to 15% or so, it is a good bet that a large portion (not by any means all) of that 15% really just aren’t very competent.
Gould, however, makes a convincing case that most racial analyses of intelligence in the past two centuries were badly flawed, in their assumptions and their methodologies. I concur that intelligence is a product of too many different factors, genetic, environmental, economic, geographic, demographic, nutritional, etc. to be attributed or traced to any statistical determinant.
Still, it should not be ruled out that SOME poverty, relative to the general standard of living, may indeed be the result of stupidity, on an individual basis. Nor should it be assumed that children who are not doing well are inherently stupid. Its obvious that there are individual differences. To apply these individual differences as aggregate statistics, then break them down by artificial categories known as “race,” is absurd and unproductive. It doesn’t help much to characterize “the poor” as intelligent or stupid either. Each individual is unique, go from there.



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meh

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm


Siarlys Jenkins: “In fact, they are very clear that the statistics and tests on which they rely show Asians to be superior to Europeans and “white people.”"
No kidding. That’s part of the truth about the differences in average racial intelligence.
“Gould, however, makes a convincing case that most racial analyses of intelligence in the past two centuries were badly flawed, in their assumptions and their methodologies.”
No he doesn’t



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meh

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:29 pm


Siarlys Jenkins: “In fact, they are very clear that the statistics and tests on which they rely show Asians to be superior to Europeans and “white people.”"
No kidding. That’s part of the truth about the differences in average racial intelligence.
“Gould, however, makes a convincing case that most racial analyses of intelligence in the past two centuries were badly flawed, in their assumptions and their methodologies.”
No he doesn’t.



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meh

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:43 pm


WHAT ECONOMISTS CAN LEARN FROM EVOLUTIONARY THEORISTS
I am not sure how well this is known. I have tried, in preparation for this talk, to read some evolutionary economics, and was particularly curious about what biologists people reference. What I encountered were quite a few references to Stephen Jay Gould, hardly any to other evolutionary theorists. Now it is not very hard to find out, if you spend a little while reading in evolution, that Gould is the John Kenneth Galbraith of his subject. That is, he is a wonderful writer who is bevolved by literary intellectuals and lionized by the media because he does not use algebra or difficult jargon. Unfortunately, it appears that he avoids these sins not because he has transcended his colleagues but because he does does not seem to understand what they have to say; and his own descriptions of what the field is about – not just the answers, but even the questions – are consistently misleading. His impressive literary and historical erudition makes his work seem profound to most readers, but informed readers eventually conclude that there’s no there there.
-Paul Krugman



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meh

posted June 4, 2010 at 9:06 am


Siarlys Jenkins: “In fact, they are very clear that the statistics and tests on which they rely show Asians to be superior to Europeans and “white people.”"
Yes, race realists know that east asians have a higher average IQ than whites.
“Gould, however, makes a convincing case that most racial analyses of intelligence in the past two centuries were badly flawed”
Race, Intelligence, and the Brain: The Errors and Omissions of the Revised Edition of S. J. Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man (1996)



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meh

posted June 4, 2010 at 10:12 am


Rod, I thought too much time passed for you to save that comment, so I resurmised it. You were able to save it after all. Sorry for the repetion.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted June 5, 2010 at 8:43 pm


YAWN!!! Your little man from western Ontario (a perfectly nice corner of the world, not too far north of my home, and a place I hope to visit again someday) really lost me when he described a series of the most obvious charlatans as eminent and respected scientists. The article you linked to is a polemic, not a presentation of data or an attempt to offer a new interpretation. Gould does use a good deal of algebra — that’s why I’m having to work at reading his book, which is only right. I don’t know where Krugman came up with the contrary impression. Race is an artificial concept, made up by men who saw a chance to make money off the difference, and sustained by petty little minds who seek to inflate their own sense of self-importance. (Yes, that’s a polemic, I don’t have time to write a whole book in Rod’s space. As I said, I read The Bell Curve, actually before I read Gould, so I’m not limiting myself to one source.)



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meh

posted June 13, 2010 at 12:19 am


Siarlys Jenkins: “The article you linked to is a polemic, not a presentation of data or an attempt to offer a new interpretation.”
After carefully reading the book, I charge Gould with several counts of scholarly malfeasance. First, he omits mention of remarkable new discoveries made from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which show that brain-size and IQ correlate about 0.40. These results are as replicable as one will find in the social and behavioral sciences and utterly destroy many of Gould’s arguments. Second, despite published refutations, Gould repeats verbatim his defamations of character against long deceased individuals. Third, Gould fails to respond to the numerous empirical studies that show a consistent pattern of race differences in IQ, brain size, crime, and other factors that have appeared since his first edition went to press.
How is that a polemic?



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Troy Camplin

posted June 18, 2010 at 6:48 am


This is common in most developing nations. In Mexico, it’s not uncommon for poor families to spend all their money on various parties, including quincieneras. But there may be a perfectly good reason why so many people throw away their money in these countries on what we think of a frivolous things, including extravagant parties. The reason is their governments are known to take everything — land and other property — so there is no point in buying anything that can be taken away. Might as well have a great party, as no government can take away your fond memories.
Not that the other points on drinking and prostitutes isn’t valid. But take away the governments’ power to steal everything from its people, and I guarantee you that the vast majority of these problems will vanish before you know it.



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Teach

posted July 16, 2010 at 4:46 pm


Thanks Anon Prof for the website. Thought you might like this article. I’m a teacher and see kids in designer clothes, that have cable, laptops, portable video game systems, and I-Phones getting free government lunch. I have no problem helping people who need it, but the system is being taken advantage of by people that have no shame. Our country is ripe for a revoultion.



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long on natural anti inflammatory

posted June 21, 2011 at 4:48 am


Those facts are very true. However as I know, poverty and prosperity are like both sides of a coin.

Knowing the facts only won’t do anything good. I think it’s our jobs to help others. People that are stronger and richer are meant to be responsible for the poor. That’s the law of human life.



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Robin

posted October 30, 2011 at 9:52 am


I used to have a lot more compassion for poor people. Then I moved into a “working class” apartment complex. After four years, my patience is gone. Poor people keep themselves poor by having kids they can’t afford, keeping pets they can’t afford, smoking (that really shocked me, since so many don’t have health insurance), and drinking almost constantly. The woman in the apartment beneath me only buys disposable plates, napkins, etc. I am sick of being ordered to cough up money for poor people’s kids. Neither of my parents went to college, both went into the military instead. They planned for and only had one kid. One of the main reasons I’m so well off now is from not having children, sine I can’t afford any. And after earning several promotions at work, I’ll be able to move not a nicer place, because I can afford it. Not from public assistance, not from some agency wanting to distribute the poor out of poor neighborhoods. Oh, and part of being educated comes from just reading a lot, which I never see people in my neighborhood doing despite having a great library within walking distance.



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