When to Wash Your Hands
By Bryan Caplan
Bryan thinks single-motherhood is a choice, I think it is more or less
a given. In other words, if, like me, you wanted to reduce levels of
poverty in the United States, you could persuade more single mothers to
marry the fathers of their children or never have children in the first
place. I would probably support such efforts.
“Given” for who? It’s not given for childless unmarried women who will become poor if they have kids. They can use birth control, which is both cheap and reliable. I’m not blaming Marsh for failing to persuade poor single mothers. I’m blaming poor single mothers for failing to be persuaded.
However, and this is the basis of my critique of Rector, I do not
think you would have too much luck with that approach, either because
you couldn’t persuade people or, as someone above commented, perhaps
this is out of their hands. Either way, in the end you would not reduce
poverty all that much.
I’m not claiming I have much ability to reduce poverty via persuasion. I’m claiming that the poor have massive ability to do so – or, to be more precise, that they had the ability to do so before having kids.
So, you would be left saying, well, we tried, it
is their choice to have children or not marry and thus fall into
poverty. Let them be and let us wash our hands of it.
I’m saying something even stronger. Women who are poor because they became single mothers didn’t try to avoid poverty. They didn’t take a minimal precaution against it. If total strangers can’t wash their hands of this problem, who can?
I have to think that Marsh washes his hands of many problems in his daily life. If a relative or friend is habitually drunk, late, rude, irresponsible, etc., you can try to persuade them to straighten up. You can clean up their messes. But eventually everyone says, “Why should I help you when you won’t make a minimal effort to help yourself?” Question for Marsh: If this is how you treat family and friends, why do total strangers deserve any better?
Last lines from Marsh:
I am of the try something else school. Bryan and probably most of
his readers are not. That is a difference of politics, not an
outrageous or equivocating argument.
It’s clearly outrageous to equate using contraception with winning the lottery. To quote Jules from Pulp Fiction, the two “ain’t the same ballpark, ain’t the same league, ain’t even the same f***** sport.” And though it’s not as clear-cut, it still seems outrageous to pardon someone in trouble because she failed to take minimal precautions – and condemn total strangers for failing to help her.