Re: Bell curve

Tibor Benke (benke@SFU.CA)
Tue, 22 Nov 1994 12:42:35 -0800

>Whether or not Republicans buy Murray's theories, their welfare reform
>platform should not be judged on the basis of a supposed logical
>connection between the cryptoeugenics of Murray, et al. Welfare reform
>as I understand it could just as easily be "buttressed" by Pierre
>Bourdieu. The argument behind it--valid or not--is that welfare is a
>short-term solution to poverty with longterm negative consequences.
>Those long-term consequences result from the creation of a *habitus* of
>poverty, from which there is not incentive to use traditional,
>capitalistic means of escape. It pays more to recieve welfare that to
>work at McDonald's (so the argument goes). It pays not to have a two
>parent family. And so on. These arguments can be resolved empirically,
>in principle. SO we should be arguing about these.
>In any case, when I hear Republicans speak about welfare reform, I hear
>arguments about the ineffectiveness of welfare reform to eliminate
>poverty, not because it is impossible to elevate the poor--as Murray's
>argument seems to say at its worst--but because welfare is not designed
>to eliminate poverty. It is designed to make poverty tolerable but
>nothing more.
>It is worth assessing the actual social effect that government programs
>have had and can have. It is too easy to call Republicans racist and
>not discuss the issues. As anthropologists, we should be doing the kind
>of work that would serve as the foundation for effective social policy,
>and not succumb to what is all too often the politics of guilt and envy
>(to match the rightist politics of hate).

Sometimes anthropological discussion inevitably degenerates into political
discussion. Rushton's , Murray's , at al. theories have a given political
agenda, and though one might find more sophisticated arguments for the same
policies, the anthropological question would be, why those arguments are
not made in those terms? Is it because sophisticated people might consider
that if welfare reform rather then the moral evaluation of personality
traits were the real concern, other solutions might be found? I submit,
based on personal experience, that much of the supposedly negative effects
of welfare are caused by those aspects of it that are designed to enforce
the tribal superstition known as 'the work ethic'. For example, I had to
spend nearly ten years being kicked around until the authorities were
convinced that I really was unemployable in the current labour market
dispite the fact that I can walk and write a coherent declarative sentence
and even operate a computer - on the good days - but employers demand
predictability. It has been known for several decades that the entire
welfare apparatus could be eliminated by designing a programme of income
insurance or guaranteed minimum income, without raising overall cost, but
employers are afraid that people would quit working without compulsion -
they have assumptions about human nature. As a society, we need to decide
whether we believe that everyone should work, in which case we should see
that jobs are available for everyone regardless of any physical,mental,
moral, ethnic, or whatever characteristics they might have; or else, we
have to admit that some people might live without work and see that they
have a minimum living. We must get past the idea that welfare is
involuntary taxpayer charity and realize that any system of property rights
which can survive must be able to either kill off or buy off those who are
left out. In the thirties most capitalists realized that it was cheaper to
buy them off. Or maybe welfare just softened the poor up so they can be
killed off more easily now that the 'evil empire' is gone. From where I
sit,beside the politics of hate or envy and guilt, there is also the
politics of greed that believes that property rights are the only natural
rights. To me it seems that if you need police to protect it, it ain't
natural. In any case, we will see, if or when a second civil war breaks
out, or maybe not. But it may be well to consider that agression is
probably natural in certain circumstances which have little to do with hat
size or melanin distribution in the skin.

>@> (*)%(^)%
>@> Tibor Benke / (^)%(#)
>@> Graduate Student (MA program)
>@> Department of Sociology and Anthropology
>@> Simon Fraser University,
>@> Burnaby, B.C., Canada. V5A 1S6 >@>
>@> Nota Bene: The opinions herein expressed are merely my own ! >@> ^^^^^^^^^^^