Walter E. Williams

 There's another devastating feature of growing dependency on government. Professor Olasky says that prior to the 1960s, marriage was a more vital institution than today. It was a "compassionate anti-poverty device that offered adults affiliation and challenge as it provided two parents for each child." Before the '60s, the support for marriage was so strong that an unmarried woman who became pregnant usually would get married. Professor Olasky adds that 85 percent of teenage mothers in the 1950s were married by the time their babies were born. That's before we bought into the vision promoted by "experts" such as Johns Hopkins professor Andrew Cherlin, who said, "It has yet to be shown that the absence of a father was directly responsible for any of the supposed deficiencies of broken homes." The real issue, according to Professor Cherlin, "is not the lack of male presence but the lack of male income." That's a vision that says marriage and fatherhood can be replaced by a welfare check.

 Dependency on government also has the effect of reducing economic mobility among the poor. Professor Olasky says that the dramatic progress of Asians and Cubans in recent decades demonstrates the existence of opportunities for those who are willing to conform to the traditional work-hard-and-rise pattern by staying out of the welfare system. Easy access to welfare has made many individuals, who turned down opportunities, believe they were better off so far as income, leisure time and family time than they would have been by accepting a low-paying job. In terms of short-run economics, many were correct. Welfare reform during the 1990s, despite the dire predictions, moved many former welfare recipients into the world of work and upward mobility. Many who never had a job are now working and are self-sufficient. As such, the tens of thousands of former welfare recipients who moved from welfare rolls to payrolls are proof of the inhumanity of dependency. What's more important is that these former welfare recipients and their families have a greater sense of self-worth.

 Benjamin Franklin had it right when he wrote, "[T]he best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it." Government dependency makes poverty easy.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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