Thursday, May 28, 2015

Aid To Dependent Children

Harry Harpending proposes that government support go through the father rather than the mother, and gives reasons based in biology and incentives. I admit to being dumbfounded and very suspicious.  However, it would never have occurred to me and I thus have not thought about it in the least, so I reserve judgement. Part II to follow, and I will certainly wait for that.

Charitable groups in poor countries tend to give aid to women, or directly to programs such as schools or cooperative agriculture, because the men are more likely to spend the money on alcohol or gambling than the women are. In western cultures, women have long been the default parent, the one who is stuck with, or gifted with, the children. Upending that seems risky.  One can easily imagine terrible scenarios where the children's needs are completely neglected in favor of the father's choices for the money.

On the other hand, that occurs now with some women already.  My Romanian children were neglected by both parents, perhaps more by the mother than the father.  Would it happen more with men?  We think so, but I doubt there is data that is not thoroughly contaminated by the laws and customs of any place.  If the number of horror stories is similar, and there is some other cultural gain that would be a long-term advantage, perhaps it should be considered. Go over and join the conversation.

Or here.  Here is good.


bs king said...

Reading the comments, I saw a solution I like better (if we're going to go full social engineering that is): up the earned income tax credit for men with dependent children.

That seems to incentivize good behavior we're aiming for here without some of the downsides the welfare checks have.

The welfare idea just seems too broad to me. There's too many situations where it would logistically make no sense - like if the father was in jail or completely absent. I don't know what the numbers are, but I have to imagine those scenarios aren't a negligible percentage of the population we're talking about.

Boxty said...

Limit welfare to married women, or those over 65, like it says in the Bible. Problem solved.

Boxty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...

Boxty, nice in theory, but doesn't solve the problem of absentee fathers. Over time, perhaps you could bend the culture towards that. But you're looking at at least 40 years of desperately poor children without any social net.

Boxty said...

There are desperately poor children today that are also morally bankrupt despite the social safety net. In fact, the Bible predicted this situation when it warned against charity to single mothers. Forty years in the U.S. with all its private charities is probably a walk in the park compared to 40 years in the desert.

Jonathan said...

I'm okay with feeding "morally bankrupt" five-year-olds.

I'm trying to suss out your thoughts here. Are you saying that private charities should ignore this biblical injunction and still give aid, but not the government? And what is your plan if the father dies? Should the mother marry the brother of her deceased husband?

Do you think that the Bible's injunctions are applicable to the government here or for Christians?

james said...

I'm trying to game out the idea as it might look from the "cad's" perspective, starting from the situation on the ground right now. He gets money if a woman and her kids say he is supporting them. That doesn't have to be 100% support, of course, and since at least some of the woman's kids aren't his I don't see a groundswell of enthusiasm growing for 100% support. Is there any penalty for bailing on the dependents, aside from losing future funds? If it were jail, I'm not sure how many takers there would be. If it were fines, I don't know how you'd collect.

I'm short a little information: does "cad" behavior correlate positively with short-term focus? I'd guess yes, but can't say for sure. If yes, then this plan would look like a nice source of free money that only lasts for a little while.

Boxty said...


Morally bankrupt children grow up from morally bankrupt parents (usually). If you don't break the cycle somewhere then your good intentions will consign many more generations to poverty and worse.

The goal of a government bureaucracy first and foremost is to grow the organization. They don't care if you are a bad single parent or are abusing the system in every way imaginable as long as the bureaucracy grows. Charities are much more goal oriented as their donors expect results and often closer to the ground. They can look at a person and tell if they are truly needy or abusing the system much better than a bureaucrat.

We know what giving money to the mother does. Give it to the father, or exclude single mothers, or something else. But we should stop what we're doing right now.