Stop the Free Stuff
How do we stop giving money away? Seems simple when you write it down, but like most policy, the devil’s in the details. Operationally it will take some time to implement, but if the will is there, we have the expertise to get it done. A detailed operational plan would depend significantly on the new policy. If it truly is a work/get paid, don’t work/don’t get paid, it would sort itself out pretty quick, but you have to manage the transition. The goal is to reward work, not displace or starve people.
Like a lot of policies, changing one disrupts another. This is a good example. If you work, we pay you, but this does not take into consideration all the other stuff you get for free (housing, utilities, etc.), so all that stuff has to go away too. More entitlements require more policy investigations. Take housing, the last thing we want is people living on the street, but that doesn’t mean a free house or apartment. In my head it means a minimalist existence. A barracks environment with required chores. If you want your own place, pay rent.
What is the optimal implementation plan or permanent strategy? Who knows! I can offer many ideas but you may have a better plan. Is there one solution, I suspect not. This is part of the problem; we don’t try new things. If the policy goal of government assistance is to reduce people’s reliance on government money, it should be pretty easy to measure. How many people are on the dole this month? If it is more than last month, why? Is it the economy or something else? If the number continues to increase, something is wrong, the policy is failing.
We have fifty states that could all be incubators for new ideas. I argue you could take the largest 100 (or more) cities and invite them to try different things. We have to ensure people have the opportunity to achieve a quality standard of living. If they choose not to pursue that opportunity, that is their choice. I didn’t want to be a doctor, so why should I expect to live at that standard of living? Now, we can argue if a doctor’s standard of living is too high for the value society receives, but the market (supply and demand) helps sort that out. This logic fails if the value is influenced (e.g. by policy/subsidy – Investigate General Contractors in California). Just as the market sets the price for a plumber or mechanic.
We don’t need a country full of brain surgeons or brick layers. We need people who excel at a host of professions and skills. We need laborers too! Before we can aspire to this, we have to demand each person work. It may mean they answer phones, read to kids, help in retirement homes, or sort trash, but after a while, they will figure something out. Just like the rest of us. Most of us try many different things before we hit on the one thing that we are good at or provides us an acceptable income. For some, these two are the same. While I think the later is an admirable goal for everyone, I suggest we strive for a bit of reality before we seek Utopia.
Again, what is the policy goal? The goal is to get everyone working. Just like with that crappy summer job, if you don’t like doing it, learn a new skill and move to something else. We need to provide a minimalist existence, beyond that it is up to the individual. People are motivated by different things but if you want a more affluent lifestyle, you have to bring something to the table that society wants. In most cases that means learning a new skill. We need to do a much better job explaining to young people what opportunities exist.
Next up….the tangle web we weave…