We are told that really terrible living conditions, which today might be defined as having a two-generation-old iPhone, are dehumanizing and lead to violence. It wasn’t always so, says Ol’ Remus:
The Great Depression of the 1930s showed that hardship by itself produces little crime and may reduce it, contrary to ideological drum beating and the sensationalist press. One effect of hard times was to solidify family life, especially where holding the family together wasn’t a goal so much as a means, agricultural piecework for instance, or self-provided daycare. But in our time, career welfare has atomized millions of families by becoming the de facto head of household for several generations running. One conspicuous result is anonymous paternity, or at least uncertain paternity, a rarely mentioned result of which is a high rate of inadvertent inbreeding. Bottom line, a viable population was experimented upon because they could. And they did it badly.
Not that it could have been done well, the existing structure was too fragile to bear redirection. Nor did it need redirecting. In most things of importance it was both admirable and admired, at least by reasonable persons of good will. Improvements were happening, halting and incremental, but improvements nonetheless. In the event, it capsized, taking a lot of genuine progress with it. “Assistance” is now defended as an escalating bribe paid knowingly, if not cheerfully, to contain the wreckage.
As I’ve said before, the worst thing about the War on Poverty is that nobody bothered to plan an exit strategy. It might even have worked, had it been possible to administer it outside the bureaucracy; but bureaucracy, we have learned, cares only for its own perpetuation.