Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
 

 
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Contributors:
  •   Please send any comments or suggestions about America 3.0 to:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Lex's Tweets
  • Jonathan's Tweets
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Bread Alone

    Posted by Shannon Love on November 3rd, 2005 (All posts by )

    Via Instapundit comes a discussion on whether the riots in France, and the general breakdown of law and order in some sections of other European countries, are primarily the result of Islamo-facism, runaway multiculturalism or the welfare-state. All three factors play into the problem but I think the primary driver is the welfare state.

    One might ask, however, why should anyone riot when the welfare state provides all the basic material necessities of life? It’s not as if the residents of the suburbs of Paris are starving, exposed to the elements or deprived of medical care. By the standards of most of humanity, they live quite opulent lives. Why doesn’t the welfare state make them happy?

    The short answer is that human beings are not cows. Cows are quite content if their material needs are met but people have hopes, dreams and aspirations. It is precisely these psychological benefits that the welfare state ultimately cannot provide. People are rioting not because they are deprived of material benefits but because they are wholly dependent on the whims of others for the benefits they do receive. They have no status and no control. It is these social, psychological and spiritual deprivations that they are ultimately striking out against.

    Advocates of the welfare state are driven by an overwhelming need to provide economic security and stability. Unfortunately, they will not acknowledge the inherent inverse relationship between security and stability on one hand and economic growth, mobility and creativity on the other. Anything done to increase pay, benefits and job security for people who have jobs now makes it more difficult for people without jobs to get them. Over the course of decades, this situation creates enormous structural unemployment. High unemployment drives the expansion of the welfare state further, increasing taxes, which slows the economy which drives higher unemployment and the feedback loop is closed. By creating a stagnant economic system focused on the security and well being of those that have, it chokes off any hope for those that have not. The welfare state grants security today by sacrificing tomorrow. Sacrificing tomorrow kills hope and that is what ultimately leads to rioting.

    In the modern developed world, the basic material needs of even the most poor are easily met. Even the most die-hard libertarian must give some attributes of the welfare state, such as universal education, some credit for getting us to this point. However, just because a concept met the needs of the past doesn’t mean it meets the needs of present or the future. The point of diminishing returns has long since been passed. What the poor now need, and what the welfare state cannot provide, is an environment that lets the individual gain control over their own destinies. The very degree of micromanagement that the welfare state requires to function means that it must strip the ability to choose from the individual. People in such situations do begin to feel like cattle, cared for but ultimately herded .

    In the 80′s, a great shift occurred in American thinking about welfare. Americans grew less concerned about the material aspects of lives of the poor and instead began to pay attention to their psychological well being. We made the decision that long-term dependence on the state was destructive to both individuals and communities. Americans think it’s better for a community that 100% of people capable of work are able to get a job a $5 an hour than it is for only 50% of workers to get jobs paying $10 an hour. We have decided that giving people active control over their own lives is ultimately better than providing a higher level of material benefit. I believe that is why in recent years, when disasters like blackouts or massive hurricanes disrupted the functioning of centralized authority, America’s poor did not riot or prey on others. Instead, overall, they reacted with great civility, even when abandoned by the state.

    Europe has not yet made the same conceptual shift from material to psychological welfare. For many historical and cultural reasons I think Europeans will find the transition much more difficult, yet it must occur. Much of the appeal of radical Islam is that it provides hope and self-respect for the most marginalized members of European society, something the welfare state is incapable of ever doing. The only long term solution is to create an economic and social environment were every individual believes they have the opportunity to better their lives through their own initiative. This will require a significant shift in European political culture.

    I hope they have the time to pull it off.

     

    23 Responses to “Bread Alone”

    1. Sandy P Says:

      I’ve called it mutated monarchy for a couple of years now. They can’t get past it. The peasants want to be taken care of, it’s been that way for 1000 years.

      They are freedom from.

    2. James R. Rummel Says:

      The short answer is that human beings are not cows. Cows are quite content if their material needs are met but people have hopes, dreams and aspirations. It is precisely these psychological benefits that the welfare state ultimately cannot provide. People are rioting not because they are deprived of material benefits but because they are wholly dependent on the whims of others for the benefits they do receive. They have no status and no control. It is these social, psychological and spiritual deprivations that they are ultimately striking out against.

      I’d have to say that every single rioter I ever helped put in jail was doing it because they thought they could get away with it, and because they thought smashing and burning stuff they didn’t own was fun.

      The arguement might be made that I’m missing the broader picture and ignoring the underlying motivations of 2nd or 3rd generation welfare recipients. People raised in their environment, subject to the unique pressures they have to live with every day, would be so alien to my experience that I would miss the nuance.

      That might well be true, since the rioters I was helping put away were affluent college kids who were acting up after football games. Still, I note that their actions were remarkably similar even though their motivations, environment, future prospects and upbringing were completely different.

      Smash stuff, burn stuff, steal stuff. It’s fun!

      James

    3. Ginny Says:

      Johan Norberg’s “The Scientist’s Pursuit of Happiness”:

      If happiness comes from a sense of competence and efficacy, the welfare state is worse than a lottery. If the welfare state does what it is supposed to do, abolish problems and risks and guarantee a certain material result whatever we do, then it deprives us of many of our challenges and our responsibilities. That actions have consequences, both rewards and punishments, is not just good because it helps us make better decisions, it is also important because it gives us the sense of control. Without this direct feedback our sense of hopelessness and frustration grows.

      Autonomy correlates with happiness; dependency leads to unhappiness. (In earlier post; please excuse the pimping.)

    4. David Foster Says:

      It was a Frenchman, Antoine de St-Exupery, who wrote:

      “If you want men to be like brothers, constrain them to join in the building of a tower. If you want them to hate one another, throw bread among them.” (approximate quote)

      I wonder to what extent the lack of ever having had a serious resposibility is a factor among the college rioters about who James writes, just as it is among today’s rioters in France.

    5. Graham Rhodes Says:

      I think that the analysis is on the mark. People who have to work for a living value what they have (and what others have) more and are less likely to riot and break things. The work and the opportunities to move ahead focus peoples’ energies on the constructive and the future. A French market economy that had a tight labor market would draw immigrants into the mainstream where they would work alongside their French confreres and truly integrate as they take control of their own lives and build a future for themselves. I think Sarkozy understands this and I hope the US never forgets it.

    6. AST Says:

      That phrase “psychological welfare” kind of bothers me, not because of the way you use it, but because of the obsession so many have with “self-esteem.” American students have great self-esteem, but they don’t have the achievement to back it up. A truly good society would achieve psychological welfare through individuals who live up to their beliefs rather than trying to make others do so through the power of government. Government welfare delivers a pretty drab existence and makes its beneficiaries ashamed of the help they get rather than appreciative.

      The effect must be multiplied manyfold in France where the primary national characteristic seems to be pride. After all these years they still have an aristocracy even in a democratic system. If I’d been born in one of these Muslim ghettos, I might feel like rioting too.

    7. Ginny Says:

      I suspect some of it has to do with the underrated importance of purpose in our lives. That can come from religious faith, from a humanist faith in our relations to others, but often with these (or maybe even without) it comes from working & putting bread on the table and sheltering the heads of our children. That is one of the things that really angers me about some arguments in this country that say other’s jobs are meaningless. Just because some columnist for some urban newspaper thinks they are above flipping hamburgers doesn’t mean that those who do such a job aren’t fulfilling real duties and making other’s lives better.

    8. bb Says:

      Yes, I welfare state creates a whole host of resentments and fury but I don’t believe a welfare state by itself creates the conditions of this event. I currently live in Ukraine. Even after 15 years of independence there is still a substantial welfare state but in spite of the recent revolution, the majority of people are like sheep. The accept whatever is presented.

      I believe there is a cancer in these areas that is feeding the actions of the rioters and going on nothing more than conjecture and some recently quoted Iman’s from that area, I’d guess it is radical Islam.

      Oh, the Iman’s answer to the problem wasn’t to provide jobs, stop descrimination or police brutality. The Iman said they just wanted to be left alone.

    9. Shannon Love Says:

      ” Just because some columnist for some urban newspaper thinks they are above flipping hamburgers doesn’t mean that those who do such a job aren’t fulfilling real duties and making other’s lives better.”

      I have an almost visceral reaction to arguments such as this. My grandfather once told me that the only job a person had to ashamed of was the one he refused to do. I took that to heart.

      I think that there is a dividing line within subcultures in attitudes about work. On one side, people value work only in regards to what it can provide them in terms of material benefit and social status. On the other side, people value work as a positive good in and of itself. The very act of working ennobles.

      The experience with welfare-reform in the U.S. certainly leads empirical weight to the latter view. Families whose parents were transitioned into work gained many additional behavioral benefits even if there actual purchasing power remained fixed. Children of such families do better in school, have fewer problems with the law, less drug use etc. A simplistic economic model of human behavior would not predict such a benefit.

      The last thing someone working a boring, low status job needs is some elitist twit telling them that their efforts are worthless.

    10. mrsizer Says:

      Interesting perspective. You must listen to country music, not hip-hop.

    11. MB Says:

      I agree that bread alone is not enough. I wish the Arabs would think of that before leaving their country (or going back there). What you say about people not being cows is great, but how does that relate with the Arab riots in Paris ? Many Europeans live on welfare, and yet they do not go on rampage burning cars. The obvious lesson from all this is that immigration must be reversed, especially Arab and African immigration. Do you have any opinion on immigration ? Do you think we need more of it ?

    12. X US soljah Says:

      Maybe the French can deploy the Army.
      Then it can surrender…as usual…

      I hope the immigrants haven’t burned the handkerchief factories, or the brave French will have trouble finding white flags.

      REMEMBER OPERATION TORCH!

    13. Solipson Says:

      funny tone of the discussion by the posters from over the pond. it implies something like: rioting&looting? over here? never! this only ever happens in europe :-) or in new orleans or in los angeles
      us? we have no underclass that lives on welfare and in ghettos. no, our proud underclass is either dealing with drugs or in jail. they live in ghettos and shoot each other. ok. but welfare? never!:-)
      joking aside, you cannot compare american and french welfare systems.
      they let the north africans in, because they came from their ex-colonies. and there is one overriding principle in france: their cultural unity. it seems funny to people from the outside to see a country in the 21st & globalized century to insist on this unity, but that’s what they do. one has to accept that. everything else derives from that.

    14. MB Says:

      1) there is one overriding principle in france: their cultural unity.
      2) they let the north africans in

      Is it not inconsistent ?

    15. X US soljah Says:

      It’s hard to feel sorry for a bunch of idiots who import rioters from places sworn to destroy the West.

      As we used to say in my soldiering days: “You want Sympathy? Look in Webster’s [it's a dictionary] somewhere between Shit and Syphilis!”

      REMEMBER OPERATION TORCH!

    16. X US soljah Says:

      1) there is one overriding principle in france: their cultural unity.

      I thought their overriding principle was Chieu Hoy, the Art of the Surrender.

      REMEMBER OPERATION TORCH!
      (This self-inflicted rioting is actually fun to watch)

    17. Solipson Says:

      MB,
      it is not necessary inconsistent, they let them in with the implicit demand that they become true french.
      nearly every society has this implicit demand to immigrants. look at the largest of all, the us of a. the implicit demand is to become american. if immigrants are not willing or able to they will not survive very long, as the time span to become american is necessarily much shorter than in the rest of the world, because the society does not provide them with long term support.

    18. Douglas Hill Says:

      kaytrina vs. Self Reliance

      If we learn anything from Katrina, it should be the profound emasculation of will and spirit brought about by abject reliance upon government, as opposed to reliance upon oneself.

    19. Douglas Hill Says:

      kaytrina vs. Self Reliance

      If we learn anything from Katrina, it should be the profound emasculation of will and spirit brought about by abject reliance upon government, as opposed to reliance upon oneself.

    20. X US soljah Says:

      Hey MB, if they were “True French” they would be shouting Chieu Hoy! at the tops of their lungs before the first shot makes it through the Cone Of Fire into the Beaten Zone.

    21. colson Says:

      I read an intersting article from the Washington Post that quotes a few of the rioters. While I’m sure there is some creative editing in the article the overall gist of it comes down to not religion but a general lack of opportunity for them to do anything.

      This puts them at a very pivotal point. I’ve never understood French labor laws as I feel the unions have too much power to begin with. But the problem facing these young people is more a matter of a lack of opportunity. And within a socialist-leaning framework, opportunity becomes more limited as the government attempts to provide for the welfare of all the people. Hardly anyone in the press has mentioned what *could* be done if France would loosen the labor death-grip and push for more opportunities for these individuals to find their own solutions to their issues through starting and running their own businesses. So what the French have done is enact such strong labor friendliness that it pins the business community into a position where it cannot scale or add more people.

      While I would love to bash the French, they did help us during the war for independence, they trained our military, gave us the statue of liberty. I’m sypathetic to the French to the point that they really need to begin shunning years of social tendencies that have lead to this uprising.

      This could spread as much of Europe has burgeoning immigrant populations and fairly strong labor perspectives. I would suggest keeping an eye on Germany as there always seems to be some turmoil just under the facade and this will rise with unemployment

    22. X US solja Says:

      While I would love to bash the French, they did help us during the war for independence, they trained our military, gave us the statue of liberty. I’m sypathetic to the French
      –That was a bazillion years ago, and more recently, those scum were the first ones to shoot at and kill US troops in North Africa, not the Nazis.
      I don’t mind bashing them.
      They are getting what they deserve, these lukewarm allies and cheese-eating surrender-monkeys.
      The best I can do for them is to arrange an airdrop of white hankies so they can Chieu Hoy to their immigrants.
      Q: Why are Parisian streets lined with trees?
      A: So the German troops can march in the shade!

    23. rmark Says:

      I’ve always been bothered by the fact that journalists don’t actually produce anything, they just complain about everything.