Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Very bad selection:

There's been a lot of talk lately about the "virtues" of stigma (in particular, relating to food stamps). A post at NRO celebrates stigma. It quoted Charles Murray, who had this to say:
First, stigma leads people to socialize their children in ways that minimize the chance that they’ll need help as they grow up. When children are taught that accepting charity is a disgrace, they also tend to be taught the kinds of things they should and shouldn’t do to avoid that disgrace.
Wow. Lots of times it's not something a person did or didn't do that leads them to accept charity. Health problems are the best example of that. But Murray still want's "accepting charity" to be a disgrace.

He continues:
Second, stigma encourages the right kind of self-selection. People in need are not usually in a binary yes-no situation. Instead, they are usually somewhere on a continuum from “I’m desperate” to “Gee, a little help would be kind of nice.” Stigma makes people ask whether the help is really that essential. That’s good—for the affordability of giving help, and for the resourcefulness of the potential recipients.
Murray is talking about selection of assistance by a potential recipient. That stigma leads said person to only accept help when the need overrides the "stigma barrier".

But there's another kind of selection going on in this scenario. There are many people who just don't care about stigma. They are typically boorish, rude, grasping, and not particularly nice. They would be first in line for whatever is being offered, while everybody else - those who wish to conform to social norms (aka "the good guys") shy away. That's what implementing stigma does. It is a form of selection that distributes goods in a way that most of us would find unfair. But conservatives are all for it.


"They are typically boorish, rude, grasping, and not particularly nice."

But Blankfein said he was doing God's work!

By Blogger riffle, at 12/01/2009 11:05 AM  

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