Will said... Oh dear. I fear Brad has turned on Nassau Senior! While the pro-relief conservatives mentioned are both Frenchmen, and thus obviously suspect, the transition in England's from the traditional policy of Tory paternalism to Whig/Radical haughty stinge in the conservative English mind, is embodied in one man, Thomas Malthus. It was Malthus's essay on population that ultimately served to undermine the Poor Laws, and to lead to the perverse spectacle of "charitable" institutions denouncing aid to the poor. However, this same Malthus wrote perhaps the last texts in the Tory paternalist tradition, with his defense of the Corn Laws as stabilizing Effective Demand and thus employment.
It all seems to boil down to me to a very simple question: do those afflicted with misfortune and want need help to stand up, or do they need punishment to change their ways? It's an empirical question, too, though it is only ever treated as a moral one.
Luis Enrique said... wow, what a quote from Nassau! I googled it, and wiki tells me he might have meant something rather different: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassau_William_Senior
Essayist-Lawyer said... "[G]ood public policy seeks to create human catastrophe rather than to avert it." This, I think, is at the crux of it. I have been much taken with Jonathan Haidt's psychology. While he says much that is critical of liberals and has great praise for conservative philosphers, he is critical of the modern Republican Party as well. And high on his list of comments is how liberals and conservatives see justice. Liberals see it as alleviating suffering. Conservatives see it as sure that people suffer the consequences of their bad decisions. IOW, creating vs. averting human catastrophe.>Gene O'Grady said in reply to Will... Perhaps the essential critique of Nassau Senior was Oliver Twist? (The book was written specifically with that in mind.) I believe Professor Krugman wrote something about maybe he should have read Little Dorrit to better understand the socio-economic developments under Bush II. It should be recalled that Malthus was a clergyman, as were most economists up until about 1850. If you want a real piece of work, you can try Nassau Senior Junior, a hideous man married to a wonderful woman who was an important pioneer in women's advancement in the civil service.
Don Strong said... One needs to read more Malthus to understand Malthus, "In fact the historical Malthus was on both sides of the argument. The Malthus of the First Essay (call him Malthus I) wrote like a pure biologist, but in later editions of the Essay he brought together biology and social science. Malthus 11, writing in those later editions of the Essay, continues to insist on the animal within each of us, always present and always pushing for reproduction and growth; but, he adds, equally embedded within us is the capacity for cultural control of the animal as fortified by education and social betterment." Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos, by Garrett Hardin, Nathan Keyfitz Population and Development Review, Vol. 19, No. 4. (Dec., 1993), pp. 859-863.
marcel said in reply to JohnR... The original sin of bad decisions, so to speak, being the choice of parents.
Matt said... What's curious is the notion that "dependence on government is emasculating". For women too? As for libertarianism, a consistent libertarian would denounce the phrase "will of the people", "free" or otherwise, as an invocation of a Rousseauian collectivist concept. The libertarian would counterpose to this the wills of "free individuals" as the only reality to be reckoned with, and declare that any social insurance scheme by its collectivist nature cannot possibly reflect the will of anybody real, and is therefore only the project of those individuals whose own will is to exploit the needs of others to foster a dependency upon these selfsame individuals in pursuit of their own self-aggrandizement, an egoism the libertarian understands perfectly well.
Will said in reply to Don Strong... That is all true. Malthus in fact acknowledged that most of the criticism Godwin and others offered, such as that self-restraint and later marriage could mitigate the population problem, were valid; he just didn't put it thus. However, this Malthus is not the one who was hugely influential. When Darwin and Wallace's pondering of Malthus led them to discover natural selection, it was the first Malthus they were thinking of. When Dickens has Scrooge say, "then let them die, and decrease the surplus population!", he is lampooning the Whig/Radical types of his time who followed Malthus I. When Henry George opens Progress & Poverty with a sustained attack on "the Malthusian Theory", he is attacking the Malthus of the first essay. That was the Malthus the world knew.
Will said in reply to Gene O'Grady... There was a Nassau Senior, Junior?! Heavens, that is too much. What a ridiculous name. Nassau, younger elder. I'd never given much thought to the specific target of Oliver Twist, but nobody else would have been more appropriate. Dickens kept up on the conservative intellectuals, such as they were, of his day, lampooning them effectively. Victor Hugo was also quite good this way.
Will said in reply to urban legend... Ah, but people have gotten more lazy since 2000, and now prefer their $200 a week in unemployment and their $50 in food stamps to a character-building job paying $7.25 an hour. The proof? Eight percent unemployment! Just ask Casey Mulligan.
eastvillager said in reply to Matt... "For women too?" you need to read Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind. The whole point of libertarianism's credo of freedom is freedom for the patriarch....to rule his household with an iron fist. It is not freedom for anyone else in that household. See, e.g., http://coreyrobin.com/2012/04/19/what-katha-said/
urban legend said in reply to Will... Actually, under the Casey Mulligan theory, laziness simply exploded over a 20-month period from April 2008 through December 2009. During that period, eight (8) million people suddenly refused to go back to work because they decided food stamps and unemployment compensation would be quite adequate -- screw the kids -- to support their preferred life of indolence. That doesn't even count the three (3) million who entered working age but also just wanted to fool around on a very low income. (After all, who needs anything more out of life than a smart phone?) Hey, they're rational agents, aren't they?
Min said in reply to JohnR... Conservatives believe that people should suffer for bad decisions, but not necessarily the ones who made the bad decisions.