You Get What You Pay For

A junior high school in downtown Washington, D.C., is a microcosm of America's battered cities. The playground is a cratered black top, strewn with broken glass and cigarette butts. The windows are barred, the doors chained shut. Guards frisk students for guns and knives, and thirteen-year-old girls brag about their pregnancies. Every year, classes get smaller as students drop out, and those who do graduate can't read well enough to read their own diplomas. What's happening to our cities? We have to go back, just as I said yesterday, to the 1960s, and to the cultural revolution that it spawned. The existentialist philosophies of the 60s declared straight out that there is no God. Scripture readings and prayers were banned from the classroom. The Ten Commandments were stripped from the walls. But if you create a vacuum, something else will come rushing in. Belief in God was replaced by belief in government. Government would eliminate poverty; government would help the sick and the old; government would create what then-President Lyndon Johnson called the Great Society. And so during the 60s, the government told the poor that they were victims: that it was society's fault that they were poor and that it wasn't their responsibility to solve the dilemmas of their lives. Uncle Sam would fix everything. This is the voice of the cultural revolution of the '60s, the utopian philosophy that assumes that people's motives are basically good, and that only injustice and oppression keep them from achieving their best. It refuses to hold individuals responsible for their own actions. On the surface this may sound compassionate. In practice it is dehumanizing. To treat disadvantaged men and women as victims rather than morally responsible individuals only reinforces their own expectations of failure--expectations all too often fulfilled. Take for example, the AFDC program--Aid to Families with Dependent Children--which provides welfare checks to unwed mothers. The idea was to ensure that the children of single mothers didn't starve. The result, however, has been to subsidize dependency, and even to encourage illegitimacy. Today, through AFDC, some 5 million young women are paid a monthly sum provided they don't work and don't get married--an offer many find hard to refuse. Well, government gets what it pays for. And instead of investing money into creating workers and building families who would support themselves, today we plow billions of dollars every year into the empty hole of welfare dependency. Five million women aren't allowed to work; their children aren't being taught to work; and 5 million government workers manage the whole welfare empire. All together, it's a national scandal. What does this mean to America's economy? Just ask any banker what happens when you keep investing in the same money-losing proposition year after year. He'll tell you that pretty soon, you're going to end up bankrupt. It is a simple matter of economics. But it's also a matter of morality. We're enslaving people today on welfare plantations--and its time to set them free. Put them to work. For their sake--and ours.


Chuck Colson



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