Thursday, March 15, 2012

Welfarism 17: Personal Irresponsibility and Government

This is my article yesterday in the online magazine,

Personal irresponsibility can take many forms, among the most prominent are: laziness, work little but complain a lot, frequent procrastination, impatience and resigns easily from work, work hard but also party hard and save little or nothing. In health, personal irresponsibility includes over-drinking, over-smoking, over-eating fatty food, over-sitting and sedentary lifestyle.

The result of such irresponsibility and laziness is easy to predict: poverty, heavy debt, poor health, dependence on other family members, relatives or the government, or turning to stealing and corruption to tide over.

In my previous articles here, I have repeatedly argued that poverty in most cases, is self-inflicted. Sure, people can become poor if a super-strong typhoon and flood, or a powerful earthquake or volcanic eruption, or a huge fire or freak accident, will wipe out the various properties and investments accumulated through years of hard work and savings. But for such nature-caused poverty, getting up and starting all over again is relatively easy for people who ve the culture and ethics of hard working and high ambition to improve their lives and that of their households.

When governments, the various foreign aid bodies and multilateral agencies (UN, WB, ADB, OECD, etc.) talk about “fighting poverty” or “eradicating poverty” and dream of a “poverty-free world”, they normally do not ask what are the major factors, like internal and personal factors, that contribute to poverty.. And if one will review their literatures about poverty or “sustainable inclusive growth” and related concepts, find terms like “personal responsibility”, one will be dismayed and disappointed.

Those governments and foreign aid bodies talk about lack of access to: credit, modern farming methods, good quality seeds, efficient irrigation, post-harvest technology, poor infrastructure, quality healthcare and nutrition, affordable housing, high child and maternal mortality, and so on. Almost all factors are external to the individual and hence, all the interventions, welfare and subsidies, are external to the individual.

Governments can give subsidized credit or hand tractors or irrigation pumps to farmers. Then some of the farmer-beneficiaries will use the money or the agri machines as collateral to borrow money, and use it to a child’s wedding or birthday party, or go to a cockpit house (sabungan) or a beerhouse and have a grand time. The next day, the money is gone or there is little left. Then governments will find another round of subsidies if not freebies to “fight rural poverty”.

Personally, I can cite many persons – from some of my relatives, friends, neighbors, friends of friends, etc. – whose excuses for their poverty or lack of economic mobility are plentier than their actual effort at overcoming poverty. Rice farmers who complain of expensive prices of vegetables but do not want to plant vegetables in their idle plot or in non-rice planting dry season. Douoble-degree college graduates who have no work or do not want to work. College students whose parents are either sickly or have no work, but do not want to become working students and just depend on some relatives for their daily expenses. People with stable full time work but have almost zero savings as their monthly pay are severely eroded by paying debts due to over-partying or gambling or other vices.

The expansion of personal irresponsibility jibes in step and positive correlation with the expansion in government fiscal irresponsibility. Politicians and government officials are more than happy to pamper the lazy and the irresponsible because there is poverty. And more poverty is more reason to justify more or higher taxes and fees, more regulations and restrictions, more social and economic central planning, more loans and debts to “fight poverty.”

Irresponsible people are more often than not, more articulate in demanding their “rights and entitlements” from the government. For them, there are only rights, little or no responsibilities. There are only entitlements, little or no obligations. They are poor, the government and the rest of society should bail them out with endless welfare and subsidies.

Building a prosperous and peaceful society starts from developing self-reliant and hard-working people, not from pampering lazy and irresponsible people.

I posted my article in my facebook wall, and it attracted some good discussions and exchanges, below.

  • Tata  Totally agree!!!
    17 hours ago ·  ·  1
  • Jules ‎"Poverty, in most cases, is self-inflicted. " nuf said.
    17 hours ago ·  ·  2
  • Michael  wealth, in most cases, is not earned.
    15 hours ago · 
  • Nic  It would have made salient points to talk of regulations and govt activity that restricts wealth - this the poor's only plenty.
    14 hours ago · 
  • Stephen  Michael, how do you define "earned." Most studies I've read recently indicate that the vast majority of millionaires, at least in the U.S., are not receivers of inheritances and gifts. They made the money on their own. If you mean "earned" as in by physical or manual labor,then I guess you're correct. But "earned" as in doing work that pays well, then most of these folks earned it.
    12 hours ago ·  ·  2
  • Stephen  Nonoy, you point out a problem with the "serial victims" who live in flood prone areas and are victimized with every storm, and then move right back to the flooded area. They are poor and have nothing because of bad choices. Not government regulations that push them to live in areas that are unsafe.
    12 hours ago ·  ·  2

  • Nonoy Oplas Thanks Steve for reminding me of that term "serial victims", I forgot about it. Yes, no one forced anyone to live under the bridges, or in creeks/esteros.

    Mike, wealth in most cases, is earned, via hard work, efficiency and high ambition. The only people who become wealthy without those virtues are the criminals, also thieves in government. They got their wealth via coercion, not via voluntary exchange.

    10 hours ago · 
  • Jules   
    If it is through deceit, extortion, force, fraud it is certainly not earned. Lucky you if it is inheritance - what is wrong with that any way if it is wealth gain not through the means I mentioned above but through hard work? Unless you can only frame poverty/wealth issues in the context of class struggles, I rest my case. What is ironic is that every time you call for more regulations in government, you are exactly giving more privilege to hose who wields power and their circle of select friends.

    2 hours ago · 

  • Nonoy Oplas Inheritance is not wrong. Some parents work hard, as in they work 6-7 days a week, making lots of money, but never spending it for themselves, they hardly take vacations and pleasure travels. Because they want to save a lot and give to their kids as inheritance. The goal to leave a huge inheritance to children is an incentive for parents or grandparents, other guardians, to become very productive and efficient, and society benefits from their productivity and efficiency.
    30 minutes ago · 
  • Nic  I don't think you can generalize so much here and ignore how impossible it is to rise out of poverty if governments regs enforce it - happens in a number of developing countries.
    21 minutes ago · 

  • Nonoy Oplas Yes, government regulations are prohibitions. People cannot put up even a vulcanizing shop, a barber shop, a sari-sari store, etc. unless they comply with many govt regulations (from barangay to municipal/city to national like BIR, SSS, DTI, etc.) and pay plenty of taxes and fees. More govt actually means more poverty because the self-reliant, the hard-working among the poor are prevented from spontaneous action and entrepreneurship, things have to be kept slow and long via various regulations and bureaucracies.


See also:
Welfarism 7: Squatters in the Univ. of the Philippines (UP), February 23, 2009
Welfarism 9: Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), November 12, 2010
Welfarism 11: Bureaucratizing Entrepreneurs, April 12, 2011
Welfarism 13: Decriminalize Prostitution, January 20, 2012
Welfarism 14: Hard Work vs. Dependence, the Pacquiao Experience, January 30, 2012 
Welfarism 15: Abolishing Pork Barrel, February 04, 2012
Welfarism 16: Bailing Out Lazy and Irresponsible People, February 27, 2012

1 comment:

modern farming methods said...

Very nice posting. Thanks!