Monday, November 15, 2004

"Jumping the shark"

KiwiPundit thinks I've "jumped the shark" with my comments on there being no non-coercive solutions to the "problem" of beneficiaries having children. DPF agrees.

To which I think it's fair to ask "what non-coercive solutions has the right actually suggested"?

Looking at DPF's comments, it's all about using benefit cuts (starvation) either as a punishment for those beneficiaries who have the temerity to breed, or as a lever to "encourage" (meaning force) mothers to give their children up for adoption, or to "not have them" - which as not every pregnancy is by choice, ultimately means abortion. There is no concern for the welfare of any child which is born (in fact one poster essentially says that they must be victimised to maintain the credibility of the threat), and there seems to be no consideration of the centrality of children to ordinary life plans, or of the sheer invasiveness of what is being proposed.

For people who claim to care so much about "freedom", this is a little odd, to say the least. But, then, theirs is the "freedom" of Spencer and Hayek - a freedom that belongs only to the rich.

What non-coercive solutions are available? Liberal solutions that respect freedom would focus on giving people the tools to control their own lives - such as universal free contraception. Make Tea, Not War also suggests an informational campaign, aimed at informing people that parenting is actually expensive and hard work ("A baby is for life, not just for Christmas"?). If this is done without demonising poor parents, then it's perfectly acceptable. The problem is that these solutions are not 100% effective, and are therefore likely to be regarded as insufficiently "tough" by those complaining about "subsidising other people's kids". Which brings us right back to coercion...

If the right are truly concerned about children being raised in poverty, then GreyShade suggests a better solution: "get rid of the poverty, not the child". If OTOH they are concerned about beneficiaries having children per se, then they represent a very ugly strand of right-wing thinking indeed.