Tuesday 8 May 2012

Is this state control of reproduction? [updated]

Welfare Minister Paul Bennett has announced beneficiaries already taking the Domestic Purposes Benefit will be “encouraged” to take contraceptives to avoid having further children while sucking on the state tit—to the extent, apparently, of giving them free contraceptives which they will of course be expected to use.

It’s as if women are too dim to realise, if the state didn’t point it out to them, that having sex without protection invites impregnation—as if all that’s needed to lower the birth rate of beneficiaries is for contraceptives to fall fortuitously into their hands.

As if those women weren’t getting pregnant by choice.

So is this state control of reproduction? Well, yes it is: rest assured that those employed by the state will be offering “incentives” to beneficiaries  to cooperate with the plan—and when bureaucrats begin “strongly suggesting” to beneficiaries they should take up an “offer,” they expect their “suggestions” to be obeyed. (As former minister Marian Hobbs once explained the state’s view of “encouraging” behaviour the stale likes, “we start with encouraging, but there’s always the big stick.)

Every beneficiary is aware of the big stick.

So it is state control of reproduction.

But that’s the deal you make when you accept government as your senior charity provider, isn’t it. Whatever they do by definition involves coercion.

Because when private charity providers can and do offer whatever incentives they are able to contrive to encourage the recipients of their charity to become more independent, those incentives are offered by private organisations in the context of offering voluntary charity. But when the state doles out charity not only is it given begrudgingly, but every incentive imposed to change or improve behaviour comes with accusation of the state meddling in people’s affairs.

Like I said, this is the deal you make when private charity is crowded out by the state. And why incentives to get off state welfare are so rarely introduced.

Because as the kerfuffle around the introduction of even this very mild form of incentivisation indicates, the very real fear of coercion in private affairs is enough to make everybody queasy. Which is just one more reason the state is not the right organisation to distribute charity.

UPDATE:  “As pathetic as it is, Paula Bennett’s attempts to encourage mothers on the DPB to use contraceptives is a classic example of the state trying to fix a problem that was caused squarely by the state,”  says Peter Osborne, Libertarianz spokesman for Social Welfare. “Ms Bennett would do better handing out her condoms to her fellow politicians, so we would no longer have to endure the next generation of their ilk.”


Jeremy Harris said...

The issue of state control and interference aside, I don't know why the DPB isn't set at the number of children you have when you go on it.

You had more children? Well that was stupid of you...

Peter Cresswell said...

@Jeremy: Because just like some women (and most men), it's impossible for the state to say "No."

Jeremy Harris said...

I was watching one of the old Free to Choose episodes last week and Milton Friedman described the "least bad" option for welfare as a negative income tax based on individual entitlement with the elimination of minimum wages.

That system would take the contraception issue and make it irrelevant.

I find it interesting that that "solution" isn't even on the radar here in NZ. Instead given $520,000,000 of new spending as part of benefit "cuts" the media and public choose to focus on $1,000,000 of it.

Falafulu Fisi said...


Dirty Mind said...

The best thing to do is to offer DPB women a vibrator each. If they're horny, then they can just have sex with a vibrator which doesn't lead to pregnancy.

peterquixote said...

with all this stuff,do you think our NZ currency will re-evaluate PC,
what with all this sad economic,
but of course there is Australia, imagine catching up with Australia, all my friends left me here PC, I am a loser, I did not go to Australia,

Anonymous said...

But they should be, it is only right and fair.
I don't understand why people haven't got it into their heads.
When you are on a benefit, you are spending someone else's money, not your own.
More importantly you are not contributing towards your future or the nations financial well being.
Therefore they have rights on what you can or cannot do with their money.
Similarly you have an obligation on how you spend your time.
If you are not looking for work or studying to upskill/upgrade yourself then you are not working to be a contributor to society.
The benefit is not a right but a privilege because other people are paying for it.
Michael Mckee

Paul Goodsort said...

The welfare system in this country is sustainable in even the short term with out mounting debt. The solutions need to be ‘the stick’ and not ‘the carrot’. By the way as they say ‘it takes two to tango’. If all fathers were made responsible for their actions, wearing condoms etc the numbers on state-support would be reduced substantially.