24 January 2011

Stop Subsidizing Sin

Note: this an edited excerpt from a letter originally written to a good friend a year ago (almost to the day).  I present it now as a companion to a forthcoming post.

I’ve been annoyed with social conservatives for a couple of years now.  They always whine about how society is going to hell (with nary a shred of evidence in support), and the government should force people to be moral (keep in mind I’m simplifying and editorializing a bit here), all politicians should be saints (or at least preachers), and how it’s so horrible when our leaders commit fornication/have children out of wedlock/are drunks/act immoral, etc.  This smacks of hypocrisy, given that aforementioned SoCos supported Palin and Gingrich and others who can’t get/keep their collective acts together.  I digress.

The problem I have is that such thinking seems short-sighted.  Sure, it’s easy to say “we should end no-fault divorce,” but it would be more effective to eliminate alimony (which is immoral anyway).   It’s easy to say “make abortion illegal,” but it’s better to defund Planned Parenthood.  It’s easy to say “prohibit gay marriage,” but cutting university funding will solve that problem faster.  It’s easy to say “get rid of affirmative action,” but it’s better to enact welfare reform (by which I mean elimination).

My point in all this stems from a simple economic truth:  Whatever you pay for, you will get more of.  If you want to reverse the tide of social self-destruction, stop paying for it.  I know, ideally, it would be great to both defund and prohibit immorality.  But if you have to choose between the two, defunding is most effective.

And thus you can see my frustration with social conservatives:  They would accomplish more of what they wanted to accomplish if they would a) support candidates who had strong fiscal-conservative credentials and b) stop concerning themselves with the morality of the candidate in question.  After all, God never said “go into the entire world and establish governments to enforce the Bible.”

3 comments:

  1. "If you want to reverse the tide of social self-destruction, stop paying for it. I know, ideally, it would be great to both defund and prohibit immorality. But if you have to choose between the two, defunding is most effective."

    This is the key concept, IMHO. It is quite difficult to control behavior via government, and the attempt to do so would create a society in which I suspect many of us do not want to live in.

    By disincentivising bad behavior, we get people's self-interest working for us and not against us.

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  2. >>I’ve been annoyed with social conservatives for a couple of years now. They always whine about how society is going to hell (with nary a shred of evidence in support)

    Funny!

    Oh, wait a minute, you are serious.

    So, just how much evidence do you need?

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  3. @piegrande- I didn't say I doubted them. I merely said that they tend to rely on anecdotes and excuse their side (e.g. Gingrich cheating on his wife). Mostly, I was complaining about their emotional sermonizing, which leads to predictably stupid policy.

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