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.”