By Cruz Marquis
One of the most eccentric presidential candidates in recent years is poised to take another crack at the highest office in the land, presumably keeping her equally eccentric policies.
New Age, crystal-type Marianne Williamson ran in 2020 on a creative platform of woke, hyper statism which included proposals such as creating a Department of Children and Youth, free university education, massive welfare investment, racial reparations, “compassion for the horses,” and a constitutional right to an abortion, among other things.
Now that Williamson is gearing up to run again, it is fitting to take a look back at her last try and why she was wrong then, and remains wrong now.
Nationalizing the Children
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the Williamson campaign was the idea of a cabinet level federal agency explicitly for the purpose of overseeing child rearing. Essentially, her department would be a nexus for all regulations impacting children covering the “Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Homeland Security, and others.” By centralizing all the authority in one place, she posits greater services, more intervention in the family, and greater regulations will make the US a children’s utopia. Of course, everyone knows what road is paved with the best of intentions.
On the most fundamental level, the parents are the most competent ones to make decisions over the raising of their children, they have a stake in his/her development that no one else possibly can have. This incentive coupled with the natural title to parental authority conveyed by the act of bringing the child into existence justifies the supremacy of the parent over any other entity in raising kids. Making parenthood subject to mazes of increasingly complex and detailed regulations, as is inevitable when a federal agency is created to oversee something, and subject to the arbitrary power of bureaucrats who have no stake in the child’s development at all, nor any shadow of a title to parental authority, ensures that the family will lose all power to Washington.
Under this plan, bureaucrats in Washington, largely childless, young, and single, will have the full panoply of political power embodied in Child Protective Services, prisons, courts, and police to enforce what the state views as the proper way to raise a child. Put differently, this amounts to the abolition of parenthood as it is viewed today and its replacement with biological parents as unwilling mediators between their actual children, and their new stepdad: the omnipotent state. If one seeks the logical outcome of this development, please see the way the state raised children in Eugen von Richter’s Pictures of a Socialistic Future.
As a minor aside, Williamson’s sureness that all the problems of raising children in modernity will vanish in a poof with more government agencies and services shows how little she understands the dilemma itself. As Robert Putnam showed in his classic piece Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, government swelled in size in the latter part of the 20th Century right when community engagement dropped off a cliff. Granted, he attributed the decline to generational succession as opposed to the growth of the state, but in what way can more government fix the problem now, if it had a negligible effect at best then? Civic disengagement which is a major causal factor in anti-social behavior, poverty, and hopelessness in children and young adults is not fixed by more dollars from a government a continent away, but instead by Churches a few blocks away.
The Bachelor’s Degree Inflation Problem
As America slouches towards Scandinavia, the free college proposition is gaining steam, but it is divided into two camps: those who would federally fund two years of schooling and those who would go all the way with four years. Williamson falls into the latter group and proposes to make four-year university education free by devoting a whopping three sentences of explanation to it.
Economics has rules and one of them goes as follows: if something is subsidized, there will be more of it after the subsidy goes into effect. Making college “free” is an enticing subsidy indeed, and afterwards, more people will take advantage of this and go to college, perhaps significantly more. However, as Thomas Sowell once said, “there are no solutions in life, only tradeoffs” and there is a hidden one with more college degrees: crippling inflation.
Inflation does not just apply to money; it applies to the value of every good which is traded. When farm production shot upwards due to the invention of combines and the expansion in the size of the average field, there was significantly more grain to go around, which in turn, lowered its price, and allowed the average person to demand more of it. With academic credentials the same thing happens as the general level of education increases in society, employers also increase their demands. With more BAs and graduate degrees floating around, employers can afford to be more choosey and raise their bar to hiring until all of a sudden, a job which could have been done by a bright high school graduate is now looking exclusively for college graduates.
Extrapolate this dynamic out to the rest of society and the result is choosier employers who want overqualified candidates and will turn their nose up at less credentialed but potentially equally bright others.
There are five parties to this equation, and only two of them, the employer, and the colleges, benefit from the change. The employer gets far better employees for depressed rates because the increase in the supply of college graduates will drive down their labor cost. Colleges flush with federal dollars will grow, hire more faculty, and have an unprecedented bonanza on the backs of the rest of society. The one who goes to college at the subsidized rate has to endure several more years of schooling in order to keep up with the degree inflation, and in that time, he will still “pay” the opportunity cost of the education: sacrificing his most productive years of labor. The one who still does not go to college will find himself even worse off than he was before, now the employers who would have hired him in the past will not give him the time of day because of his lack of credentials. The state which foots the bill for this economic treadmill will have to vampire suck more lifeblood from the general populace, leaving the average man even worse off.
Perhaps it would be best to let the free market, the family, and the individual decide who goes to college so as to avoid this vicious cycle.
In Williamson’s words, reparations is “an idea whose time has come,” and for the stability of what is left of this country, one should hope her forecast is wrong. Her plan calls for $500 billion dollars to be paid to descendants of slaves over a period of two decades (as a sidenote, I wrote a recent piece about the unfathomableness of numbers like this to the average citizen and how it impacts our politics).
All reparations schemes about American slavery suffer from one problem: all of the parties to the original crime are long since passed. Litigation of any sort, especially the financial variety, becomes tangled and less likely to proceed after one or both of the parties passes, and it is the same here. Fundamentally, the only people who pay the price for committing a crime are those who *ahem* committed it, and conversely, the only people who are subject to compensation from a crime are those who were *ahem* victimized. Both the planters who thought they could use humans as capital goods and the victims of the process are gone with the 19th Century so how does one proceed?
One does not proceed. Several generations have elapsed since the 19th Century and the descendants of the slave holders had no hand in the crime itself, nor were the descendants of slaves forced to toil for the enrichment of another. US slavery reparations get down to forcing people who did not commit the crime pay copious amounts of money to people who were not victimized, a horribly unjust situation.
Perhaps before the federal government goes raiding suburbs with their battalions of taxmen, they should look to themselves as to the cause of the disintegration of the social fabric of the predominantly black inner cities, and the rampant poverty and crime that go with it. Economist Thomas Sowell (who happens to be black himself) wrote extensively about the black community before and after the Great Society, drawing the conclusion that the villain in the story of late 20th Century black misery is Washington.
The state ramped up welfare spending during the Great Society era and made it easier and more remunerative to be a single mother supported by Washington than a wife supported by a husband. The state razed neighborhoods with authentic ties to build housing projects devoid of community and authenticity which only centralized crime. The state mandated that teaching would cater to the ones who could not keep up and as a result, squandered the potential of the bright students who with a better education could have become community leaders. The state cracked down with broken windows policing, the drug war, and the prison industrial complex which justly, turned a vocal part of the community against the government, and regrettably, towards gang culture.
The best way to help America’s black community is to dismantle the apparatus of state which has been systematically harming them under the guise of helping them for several generations now. Liberty is an anti-poverty program I can wholeheartedly endorse.
Marianne Williamson almost certainly means well by all her proposals, people seldom if ever go about their professional lives seeking to do ill, but her do-gooder ideology is predicated on pollical power, which is where it flounders. Bertrand de Jouvenal made this point in his book On Power: political power has a duality to it, a pretense to its social i.e. beneficial ends, while having brutish and coercive means. As a result, the state, the one creature which exists only through political power, can pretend or sincerely try to do good, but it will always use violent means to do so, making the whole system manifestly wrong.
Put differently, there is an enormous difference between meaning well and doing well, and this is where the ideology of the Washington do-gooders falls on its face: it fails to take into account human nature, the laws of economics, and the laws of nature. Disregarding any of those things invites disaster as surely as a fork in an outlet invites electrocution. Williamson assuming she means well, is trying to get America to stick a fork in an outlet.
America does not deserve Marianne Williamson.
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