Friday, July 21, 2006

Every child deserves a sober start

Project Prevention kicked off a national awareness tour earlier this summer and has been criss-crossing the country in the non-profit's lumbering RV. Founder Barbara Harris hopes to keep at least 2,006 drug-addicted women from procreation over the long-term this year alone. The group pays addicts for using a variety of birth control strategies. Of course, the novel approach has plenty of critics:
Critics worry that the program is racist, disproportionately focusing on minority women, and preys on people ill-prepared to make life-altering decisions, or those easily swayed by an offer of fast cash.
According to Project Prevention's statistics, so far this year 913 of the clients have been white, 570 black, and 223 Hispanic. That aside, the argument that because a potential solution isn't proportionally distributed across demographic groups it is undesirable illustrates the sixties cultural revolutionary mindset that for half a century has failed dismally in solving the very problems it helped create (skyrocketing divorce, out-of-wedlock birth, and crime rates, a plateauing high school graduation rate, a bottoming out of the poverty rate, a beginning of US trade deficits, etc). The progress that has been made in some of these areas has come from the right: welfare reform drastically cut into the growth rate of illegitimate births and throwing more people in jail sent reversed the trend of increasing crime that had been in effect from the sixties all the way into the mid-nineties.

Using the same line of reasoning, any viable strategy to lower crime or reduce poverty is also 'racist'. As blacks are seven times more likely to commit murder than others and three times as likely as whites to be in poverty. It's impossible to create an adequate response if we refuse to point out that a problem exists. Blaming the messenger only accentuates the problem. But Harris isn't even doing that--indeed, she's married to a black man and the four children she adopted from a drug addict are all black.

There is nothing evincing that Harris has a eugenic purpose in mind. Her position of advocacy is from the perspective of the child:
“My children didn’t deserve to be given drugs for nine months,” Harris said. “No innocent child deserves that.”
Yet drug use, especially of urban substances like cocaine, serves as a proxy for poverty and lower IQ. Critics are quick to suggest that the organization is eugenist:

“She makes it all about individual blame,” Paltrow said. “She creates the mythology that if you could just get a certain group of people to stop procreating, some social and economic problems would go away. … That’s the same economic argument that was used to justify eugenics.”
It is fallacious to argue that because something has been flawed in the past, all future variations of it are doomed to failure. Physicists once believed an aether region creating electromagnetic waves surrounded the earth. Last year South Korea's Dr. Hwang shocked the world when it was revealed that his claims on therapeutic cloning had been falsified. Should we also, then, reject Newtonian physics and future benefits derived from stem cell research?

Eugenics, if the definition is made broad enough to include Harris' work, has many potential benefits:

- Eliminating the high costs of birth and hospitalization that 'crack' babies require. This report puts normal costs at $2,000 and costs for children of crack users at $11,000.

- Closing the wealth gap. This is putatively the raison d'etre of many on the left, yet more effective than wealth transfers or progressive tax rates are tactics that encourage wealthy people to have more children and poor people to have fewer children. If the Rich's, worth $1 million, have one child and the Modest's, worth $100,000, have five children, upon passing the Rich scamp gets $1 million and each Modest urchin gets $20,000. Now flip the fecundity. The Rich's have five kids, the Modest's a single child. At death, each Rich kid gets $200,000 and the Modest kid gets $100,000. Isn't the latter situation the more palatable of the two?

- Assuaging some of the financial burden that the government currently carries. Drug users are more likely than the general public to lack medical insurance. So that $11,000, if a crack baby is born, gets picked up by the net taxpayer.

- Improves the client's quality of life. Choosing from tubal ligation, Norplant (long-term contraceptive), Depo-Provera (injected every three months), Essure (permanent sterilization), or intrauterine devices, the drug addict is not burdened with the financial responsibility of raising a child. In addition, she receives $300 for at least one year (with duration varying depending on the method of contraception used). [Feigning surprise] I am startled to read that the ACLU opposes this freedom of choice for addicts, who are in no way coerced into accepting payment for undergoing one of the methods of birth control, since Project Prevention provides another option for destitute women who do not have many.

Paltrow, head of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, also complains that the Harris approach shifts focus away from drug counseling. But that's a non sequitur, as Harris can create incentives for drug addicts to forgo having children while Paltrow creates incentives for them to stop using drugs.

You can donate through paypal to Harris' cause here.



JSBolton said...

This is an example of the new left response, which keeps getting used, though with diminishing returns.
Americans don't see their society as a machine to keep blacks in their place.
The approach is utterly routinized and mindlessly applied: racialize, use ad hominem, slippery slope, and a false dilemma.
It is a piece of unreason; those who pretend that our alternatives are mass-murder or state aggression against eugenics, have always had the burden of proof.
There is gross equivocation between public and private action, and such as to obfuscate the category of aggression altogether.

savage said...

If the illegitimate problems in the black community were solved how would Charlie Wrangle get his votes? What would this woman Paltrow do? Make it salient, don't fix it. That is the mantra.