Every now and then I wonder why I get into arguments over on liberal blogs. It rarely ends well, and usually the twits I’m arguing against end up changing the terms of the argument, deleting and banning me, or just keep changing the subject.
The first happened over here, but I ended up continuing the discussion with a couple of the commenters after the host proved once again what a schmuck he is. THAT talk stayed civil, and it ranged over a variety of topics, including taxation and poverty.
And that reminded me of this George Will column, in which he said something so simple, so profound, and so true that it is guaranteed to drive most liberals absolutely berserk:
“…three not-at-all recondite rules for avoiding poverty: Graduate from high school, don’t have a baby until you are married, don’t marry while you are a teenager. Among people who obey those rules, poverty is minimal.”
Other commentators have added a fourth rule: don’t get hooked on alcohol or drugs.
One of the big arguing points among liberals is “don’t blame poor people for being poor,” and I agree. But those four simple rules are not that difficult to follow. In fact, it pretty much takes acts of will to violate all four of them.
1) Graduate from high school. School attendance is mandatory until the age of 16, and free. Further, the law encourages kids to stay in school — our labor laws are designed to encourage kids to stay in school and out of the work force until they are 18.
2) Don’t have a baby out of wedlock. Again, this is one you gotta work at to violate. It’s been about 2000 years since anyone just “woke up pregnant” — itt’s pretty well established what sorts of things lead to pregnancy, and the vast majority of pregnant women did those things willingly. Yes, there are exceptions, but those are very rare exceptions.
3) Don’t get married as a teenager. This is an expansion of the above one. But it also reminds people that marriage is supposed to be forever, and that’s a hell of a commitment to make before one is 20 years old. Even miliatary enlistments are only for a couple of years, and nobody in their right mind is gonna give a 20-year mortgage to a 19-year-old. Take a couple of years as an adult to establish yourself, find out just who and what you are, before making a lifetime commitment.
4) Don’t get hooked on alcohol or drugs. Again, those are active choices. Nobody wakes up an alcoholic or a junkie; it takes a bit of work and effort to develop an addiction. In fact, teenagers have to violate the law to even get their hands on it, let alone regularly enough to develop a dependency.
Now, this is not a formula guaranteed for success. Even Will says that “poverty is minimal,” acknowledging that it is there.
I should know. I’m a living example.
I followed all those rules without realizing it at the time. And I was born with some remarkable gifts and advantages. I’ve had numerous opportunities throughout my life, and I’ve let most of them pass me by. So I find myself now with some hefty debts, living paycheck to paycheck.
But I don’t blame anyone but myself. I can look at precise moments in my life when I had a chance to do better, and for various and sundry reasons (the biggest being sheer laziness) they slipped through my fingers.
Every now and then, though, I grab one at the very last moment. One such case was my dithering and procrastinating when Kevin picked me as one of his “guest bloggers” back in April 2004. I hemmed and hawed at the time, wondering if I could find enough material to come up with a couple of pieces a week. A year and a half and over a thousand postings later, I find I can’t imagine my life without Wizbang — and the readers who make it all worthwhile. I’m still a “nobody from nowhere with a nothing job and no life,” but I’m also a part of the #10 blog in the Ecosystem, only six points behind the Drudge Report (who, in my opinion, doesn’t count as a “blog”) and 26 behind the legendary Hugh Hewitt.
So, no, I don’t “blame” poor people for being poor. But I don’t believe in protecting people from the consequences of their bad decisions. One of the most fundamental rights has to be the right to be wrong — and depriving people of the right to make mistakes is a grave injustice.
(Hmm… I think I could come up with a dozen or so paragraphs on “the right to be wrong,” but this one is getting long enough already. I’ll save that one for another time.)