The Question of Good Inventions vs. Good Results
What is the proper relationship between intentions and results from the perspective of political policy choices? I touched on this issue in a previous post, in which the strange behavior of Progressives in response to our failed Welfare State was discussed.
This discussion hasn’t yet included the human and social wreckage wrought by the Welfare State, where entire communities descended into generations of broken families, hopelessness, violence, addiction, and yes, poverty.
One would have thought that our moral betters would have been so appalled by this situation that a massive effort at reformation and renewal would have been pursued.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, the poverty industrial complex has been on a unending campaign to prevent any reform and to expand failed policies to new areas of our society.
If there is doubt about this conclusion, I simply ask when was the last time that Progressives, Christians or otherwise, admitted failure for the current welfare policies and then proposed fundamental reforms? Yes, they have proposed doubling and tripling down on those same failed policies, but doing more of the same certainly is not fundamental reform. Moreover, when anyone dares to question the effectiveness of current welfare policies, let alone propose actual reform, they are shouted down as racist, selfish, uncaring and unChristian.
The Chicago Experience
I have lived for the past 34 years in the Chicago suburbs. Over that time the City of Chicago has been governed exclusively by the Democrat Party, which is home for the Progressive political movement. As a member of the PC(USA) I have seen how Progressive politics dominates the Presbytery of Chicago and a significant part of the local churches. And, over that significant time period, I have consistently witnessed the obstructionist Progressive party-line that demands continuance of failed policies.
The results have been catastrophic for the city’s poor.
Here’s how John Kass has described the city’s murder situation in the Chicago Tribune.
How bad is the bloody violence in Chicago, where more than 700 people have been murdered so far this year and thousands have been shot in the street gang wars?
The gangs keep shooting, the survivors mourn, police morale is down, anti-police sentiment is up and the mayor says some cops have gone fetal.
And the politicians do nothing in the bloody city. Street gang violence in Chicago is as bad, if not worse, than the record-setting death years of the 1990s.
But there is no penalty for Democratic politicians who sit back in the Democratic city and do nothing to compel tougher sentences for gun crimes to keep the most aggressive shooters off the streets.
Some say this a gun issue. But that’s a con job. There are many guns in the suburbs, yet suburbanites aren’t slaughtering each other.
This is a street-gangs-with-guns problem, on the South and West sides of Chicago. And calling it anything else is a distraction to give cover to the politicians.
If there is a downside, it is only for the dead and the maimed and their families.
And there is a downside for police, too. Because if something goes wrong, the cop is the headline.
Yet what of the politicians who do nothing? They really have nothing to lose. And they’re doing just fine.
Another reason for Chicago’s tragic murder situation is utter failure by the authorities to solve these crimes in the first place. Don’t look away, Chicago Progressive do-gooders, the city that has been under your control for generations has a murder case clearance rate of less than one-third the national average. Yet, I hear virtually nothing from our Progressive betters about this appalling failure of Chicago’s governing authorities.
But, as terrible as Chicago is from a total number of murders perspective, it is far from the worst in terms of murder rate. The following figure shows the worst 2010-2015 murder rate (i.e., murders per capita) numbers for cities with populations greater than 250,000.
And, who has been governing these cities for generations, well, Progressive Democrats! To begin, note that the City of New Orleans has been governed by Democrats since 1872. The following image from National Review allows us to see that the other four of the top five murder rate cities have also been continuously run by Progressive Democrats for generations.
When I hear Progressives address this issue at all, it’s at least 90% about gun control. Apparently they believe that in minority communities inanimate objects called guns hold a magical power over the inhabitants, causing them to commit murder. The fact (as explained by John Kass above) that guns lack this magical power in suburban and rural communities gives them not the slightest pause. For people who tend to shout “racist!” at the slightest deviation from their party line, this looks like a pretty shaky glass house.
Over this same time period Chicago’s public school system has performed disgracefully. With regard to educational performance, the Illinois Opportunity Project states that:
… of CPS high school students who graduate in four years, less than 20 percent of them will be considered “college ready.”
With regard to financial responsibility the story is just as horrible, as documented by The American Interest.
Chicago’s public school system is on the verge of facing financial insolvency, and it’s not because selfish taxpayers have been starving it of revenue—both the Windy City and the state of Illinois have significantly higher than average tax rates. Much of the school district’s acute fiscal distress can be chalked up to mismanagement, plain and simple—short-sighted decisions by blinkered public officials who chose to mortgage the school system’s future against pension benefits for current retirees. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that CPS is finally drowning under the weight of interest on debt it has accumulated over the last decade …
Once again, Chicago’s utter failure to educate its children is only one specific case of a general situation, as is shown by the following figure. As reported by the federal government, only 33 percent of public-school eighth graders scored proficient or better in reading in 2015 and only 32 percent scored proficient or better in mathematics.
Does this abject failure of public education in our cities, which primarily affects the poor, bother our Progressive betters? It’s hard to conclude yes after decades of watching them support the status quo with a ferocity that leaves no doubt as to their purpose.
What Really Matters?
These catastrophic failures, despite the incessant insistence on their benevolence by Progressives, Christian or otherwise, forces us to wonder about the relationship between intentions and results. That is, if someone does things or supports policies because of “good intentions,” is that sufficient in and of itself as an act of charity? Or, does their moral responsibility extend to the realm of demonstrable results? These two philosophies lead to very different attitudes towards how best to help the poor, with corresponding differences in practical policies.