Leave Those Kids Alone!

Dave Killion — September 18, 2010

In a recent post, Jody Paterson praises a new report concluding that the costs of investing in early interventions designed to prevent or remediate the development of criminality in children and youth are outweighed by the benefits they can achieve.  It is the opinion of the paper’s authors that this makes such investment good public policy.  But of course that’s what they think, because in their minds there are only two public policy options: early government spending or later government spending.

Never once do they consider that government attempts to manipulate human beings might not be the best way to deal with crime and poverty.  Never does it occur to them that there may be a total incapacity of politicians, bureaucrats, and advocates to engineer society.  For them, there is only the question of when and how the government should intervene.

That aside, I would not be at all surprised if early ‘investments’ resulted in lower overall costs, but that’s not really important.  What’s important is that placing social welfare in the hands of politicians makes it subject and secondary to political expediency.  Paterson herself acknowledges that preventative services are frequently and repeatedly neglected, and appears to hope that politicians will one day support such services  on a consistent basis.  But so long as politicians face the incentives that place the acquisition, retention, and cultivation of office over the long-term welfare of individuals, I think the only thing she will see on a consistent basis is disappointment.

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