Sunday, July 04, 2010

That's MY kind of Conservative

One thing I've learned in life - and yes, it is a truism, but that's because it's true - is that it's a lot easier to avoid making a mess than it is to clean up a mess when it happens. That a penny saved is a penny earned. That an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Neil Wollman writes in Truthout:

In education, preventing dropouts could save in various ways. The General Accounting Office has identified a number of specific costs of dropping out of school: fewer employment opportunities for dropouts, with resulting loss of tax revenue for government; greater tendency to engage in high-risk behaviors resulting in pregnancy, crime, and drug use with their attendant social costs; and a greater tendency to draw on social programs throughout one's lifetime. (See "School Dropouts: The Extent and Nature of the Problem" cited here.) Analyses by the Center for Cost-Benefit Studies of Education at Columbia University demonstrate that cutting dropout rates in half increases new federal tax revenues annually by 45 billion dollars. In an extensive review of the research, sponsored by Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, E. Gregory Woods identifiedeffective (and ineffective) practices for reducing dropout rates. Job training can produce similar savings: a Department of Labor study found a return of one dollar and 40 cents for every dollar spent on programssuch as Job Corps and the Job Training Partnership Act. Finally, research indicates that rehabilitation of prisoners can prevent recidivism, and that even minimal reduction of recidivism results in significant savings. See "Rehabilitation - Does Correctional Rehabilitation Work?," "Reducing Juvenile Justice"  and "Florida - Fiscal Impact Of Prisoner Education, Vocation, & Rehabilitation."
Funds can also be saved by providing safety net services for needy populations - such as food, housing, and counseling - before costlier actions are required. For example, recent testimony by the United Tenants of Albany cited extensive research showing that providing housing for the homeless, coupled with on-site services, results in cost savings by "lowering the use of expensive emergency services like shelters, hospitals, prisons and psychiatric centers" that typically serve this population.
Now this is what I consider true progressive conservatism. To achieve the greatest bang for the buck, and to target those dollars in the least intrusive ways. Preventative government has another great benefit - it relies upon human nature, rather than declaring war upon it.

It therefore requires far less personal, pesky intervention in the lives of citizens. It requires far less actual Government.

Now, if you truly believe in smaller, less intrusive government, one that focuses on broadly good results - as do I - rather than some form of idealistic social goal, the facts above will be persuasive.  But if you are, you know that sort of Conservative is rather unwelcome in a world where people speak of Ronald Regan as the patron saint of Conservatism.

Let me be blunt. Social Conservatism is not Conservative. It is the radical presumption that some people, by virtue of their public behaviours, associations, professed religion and apparent virtue, are better people, and that you can create more better people by making these assorted public behaviours mandatory, or at least by heavily taxing various things that the current crop of social engineers find icky.

This is a faith-based presumption that has absolutely no base in fact. It's unethical on it's face, as well, for it presumes that "society" is something that should be defined by the "right" sort of people, and that they have the right to interfere in the lives of people they feel to be doing the wrong thing. It would be odious even if it did work. But how's that "War on Drugs" working out for you?

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