In Jim Cook's Archive


By James Cook

In Toronto, Canada six shootings in 24 hours made the headlines. Former mayor, John Sewell, obviously a liberal, claimed that much of the violence stems from “treating black kids in a way that has made them give up generally on the traditional roots we have for success in this society. It is very sad and the last thing you’d want to be at this point, I think, is a black kid. We’ve got to rush in with big programs quickly.”

That’s the liberal mantra; if people misbehave, rush in with programs that give them more money. But, big social programs don’t work. They cause more problems than they cure. Management guru Peter Drucker sums it up, “despite ever larger and constantly growing expenditures, the ‘welfare mess’ in the United States is getting steadily worse. In fact, a strong case can be made – and has been made – that the poor in America…. have become the poorer, the more helpless, the more disadvantaged, the more welfare money is being spent to help them. American welfare spending encourages dependence. It paralyzes rather than energizes.”

Why is it that liberals never catch on to the error of their ways? Why don’t they see the harm in giving people money they didn’t earn? There’s a word for people who don’t learn from their mistakes, and it’s not very flattering. It’s really not that hard to figure out why people who are subsidized misbehave. They don’t have anything to do. The operative word is boredom.

In 1966, Robert Ardrey wrote a controversial inquiry into the nature of man entitled, “The Territorial Imperative”. He linked behavior with the ownership and defense of territory. (Birds sing to defend their territory.) This contention, and its allusion to private property, made Ardrey unpopular with the left. His wisdom never gained mainstream attention.

He wrote that there are three principal needs of all higher animals, including man: the need for identity, the need for stimulation and the need for security. Beyond these three, he could find no others. Ardrey wrote, “Identity, stimulation, security; if you will think of them in terms of their opposites their images will be sharpened. Identity is the opposite of anonymity. Stimulation is the opposite of boredom. Security is the opposite of anxiety. We shun anonymity, dread boredom, seek to dispel anxiety. We grasp at identification, yearn for stimulation, conserve or gain security.”

“There are few exceptions,” he wrote, “to the rule that the need for identity is the most powerful and most pervasive among all species. The need for stimulation is not far behind. And security, normally, will be sacrificed for either of the other two.” Then, ominously for the American welfare state he wrote, “The structure of security is the birthplace of boredom,” and “Our means of satisfying innate needs are precious few, and sacrifice of any must mean replacement by another.”

Mankind’s requirement to feed, clothe and shelter themselves fulfills many of these human needs that Ardrey wrote about. Work relieves boredom, and even a humdrum job brings far more stimulation than idleness. Success at a job brings status and identity that relieves anonymity. And security is by definition the result of work and labor.

Social welfare provides security, but deprives the recipient of the stimulation and identity that come from work and struggle. Writing in a biology book in the mid-60s, almost as though he could foretell the failed future of “The Great Society,” Robert Ardrey stated, “We may agree, for example, that our societies must provide greater security for the individual; yet if all we succeed in producing is a social structure providing increased anonymity and ever increasing boredom, then we should not wonder if ingenious man turns to such amusements as drugs, housebreaking, vandalism, mayhem, riots, or – at the most harmless – strange haircuts, costumes, standards of cleanliness, and sexual experiments.” Nowhere else has anyone written a more apt description of the welfare predicament.

Work is part of the growth process of life. A job forces people to maintain certain standards of good character, effort and temperance. If you steal, lie or take drugs while at work, you lose your job. Welfare does not weaken you as much as excuse you from the normal pressures of employment and self sufficiency that make you stronger, and improve your character.

The time is overdue for society to conclude that human nature does not harmonize with income supports. The longer people receive economic assistance, the worse their social condition. Destructive behavior grows from one generation on income supports to the next. Bad behavior and low character are common among the subsidized underclass. The media plys us with stories aimed to arouse our social sympathy for the poor. They overlook that in America today, “poor” stands as much for poor character as it does for poverty.

Many of our poor deserve far less sympathy, and least of all do they deserve a check. Theirs is not the same kind of poverty that we see in Ethiopia or Bangladesh where jobs don’t exist. Anybody can get a job here, as millions of dirt poor immigrants of every racial background prove conclusively. There is a job within walking distance in every American city. While jobs are available, these people refuse to work. Why work when you don’t have to? It’s so easy to get a government check. At the very least, people who get subsidies should have to get up in the morning and do something, even if it’s a make believe job. But most liberals would oppose even this simple test of responsibility.

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