Saturday, May 20, 2017

Either a Patriarch or a Case Worker

I think a lot of Arkansans have been moved- in all sorts of directions - by the sad case of the baby attacked by rats in Magnolia. The teenage parents (Erica Shryock and Charles Elliot) are now being prosecuted for neglect leading to abuse. The facts of the case are still being gathered, but my initial take on the situation is that these are not particularly evil people but they are particularly incompetent people. They look like a couple of not-very-bright teenage screw-ups to me. I don't think they have the wherewithal to manage their own lives in today's complex society, much less raise children on their own.

They will probably have to go to prison. If they were a member of the ruling class they might get off- like Judge Wade Naramore did when he left his two year old son to die in a hot car. But he had the assistance of a Hot Springs police department which conveniently "lost" the video tape evidence showing the child's last agonizing hour of life. Without visual evidence of the child's pain all the jury sees is the parent's pain so it is harder to convict. I promise you the system will not "lose" the evidence when they prosecute these two clueless kids.

I think there are a lot of people like that in prison. Not particularly evil, just terrible screw-ups who cannot manage their own affairs without hurting themselves or others. There are a lot of people like that who are not in prison too. People like this are the heart of the argument for the paternalistic welfare state. I want you to zoom out a minute and use this tragic event to make some larger connections. Here is a quote from the famous Ronald Reagan speech in 1964 called "A Time For Choosing"....
This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
Here is the thing, I am totally with Reagan in principle on the idea of people running their own lives better than experts can run them. But that's me as I am now. That's the people I work with and politic with. It's not these kids or the people like them. Left and right are shouting past each other. The left is screaming that we need bigger budgets and more programs so that people like this don't wind up in situations like the one they are in. The right hollers back that we don't need our taxes raised so that (as Gingrich put it) "the government can hire our cousin to tell us what to do."

The right is exactly correct- for them and their friends. There is an underclass though for which that is not quite right, at least until they get older and wiser. There is going to be a slice of every population which is going to need either a patriarch or a case worker.  Today the system and the laws and the economy and culture are totally one-sided in favor of the "solution" being the case worker rather than the patriarch. That is partially the fault of the right, for their side of the argument of late has been to show how they do not need more government regulations and overseers.

What the caring-right should be arguing is that the poor don't need a case-worker, but that they need a patriarch. We don't need programs to provide housing at taxpayer expense to screw-ups. Victorian England did a lot wrong, but in one respect they had a better solution. That is, a culture and economy where young people like that were household servants of some successful person. They did not live in a slum somewhere and onlt showed up to trim the yard or clean the house. They lived on the same grounds as the owners. There these young people can see how successful people operate. They can have access to the resources they need- including someone to make big decisions for them. In return, they could relieve the Patriarch (or Matriarch) of the day-to-day stress of all of those errands and household tasks that today's person on the go does not have time to deal with.

To take a specific example, this young couple did not have the wherewithal to manage their own lives and Judge Wade Naramore had so much going on that he tragically forgot his own child in the back of a hot car. I submit to you if the Naramores had taken in these young people as their household servants then both tragedies would have been avoided. Shryrock would have, with guidance, been a loving nanny even as she is a loving mother. She is just not competent as a stand-alone mother in a house full of viscous rats. If the Naramores had constant access to someone who could watch the kids a bit while they were off attending to their high-powered duties then their own child would not have been lost. We are only going to see more tragedies of both of these kinds until we make some changes- starting with the way we view patriarchy.

Right now the tax laws are not set up to encourage that- in fact they discourage it. The same with liability laws. The culture has twisted the lower class until a lot of them consider that it is a disgrace to live in a comparative mansion as the household servant of a power couple. The reality is that is much better for them than living in a rat-infested dump with no clue or access to a way to become a successful person. The poor would be much better off with a patriarch (or matriarch) than a case-worker. But the other problem is that our ruling class is tilting toward social Darwinism rather than Christian duty. The latter encourages caring patriarchy, the latter disdains it. We have an unworkable and unsustainable society because of the present condition of our hearts and heads. Both rich and poor are going to have to rethink things.


Blogger Unknown said...

One issue you limned is the military welfare state. This stretches from the armed forces jobs program to the vast, hydra-headed contracting complex that has attached itself to Washington D.C. and various state senators/representatives and thoroughly embedded itself into the very functioning of our government.

You and I probably have different opinions on the welfare state as it currently stands, but make no mistake - it's the military welfare state which keeps many of the young/stupid people you mention out of prison and employed (albeit as part of a totally false economy) - and which thoroughly dictates the priorities and proportionality of our federal government, necessitating war and strife (shouting past each other is a feature, not a bug) at home to keep the rubes occupied and in fear of the next bogeyman should the current one be rendered impotent.

2:57 PM, May 29, 2017  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I agree with you on that point. I was Ron Paul's campaign spokesman for this state in 2008. I share his and George Washington's views on our interventionist foreign policy. And Eisenhower's on the MIC. For that, I must be "extreme."

4:35 PM, May 29, 2017  

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