Monday, February 9, 2009

That single mother

Sitting here listening to our president, Barack Obama, I am struck by the reference to the mythical "single mother of 3 trying to save her house". There is an subtlety that needs elucidation.

What is omitted is any judgement of how her predicament is a direct result of choices made. Could it be that if the mother were not single or did not have any children or chose to rent instead of own that things wouldn't be so bad for her? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps she was thrust into this situation and had no control in the matter or perhaps she purposely got into the scenario. What should be noticed is the implicit acceptance of the situation. Nowhere does he question the wisdom of becoming a "single mother of 3 trying to save her house".

This may sound like blaming the victim, but one should ask if this person is really a victim. There is a sickness here where we fail to grant any responsibility to the actions one takes and the consequences that result from those actions. It is possible for people to fall victim to circumstances but it is more likely that circumstances are a result of deliberate actions. As a matter of public policy it should be our goal to tailor incentives to modify behavior which leads to unfortunate circumstances.


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