Public Assistance and the American Dream

PublicAssistanceby Timothy Lane   4/29/14
John Stossel has an article available on TownHall discussing the difficulty of achieving the American dream in an increasingly hyper-regulated business environment, particularly given the distraction available of simply going on the dole. He mentioned successful business types who think that what they did couldn’t happen now, and most likely wouldn’t even be attempted by many people.

Of course, this is nothing new, as Stossel undoubtedly knows. Over 30 years ago, an obscure game company in Maryland (Hammerhead Publishing) came up with a game on the subject. The title was Public Assistance, and it exposed (in a possibly slightly exaggerated form) the increasingly baleful nature of the welfare state. Players get to start up collecting welfare, and have to be careful not to be sent into the labor force (except for the possibility of getting one’s live-in on the Government Cakewalk) – or even worse, go into business. (To be sure, there’s a tiny chance of striking it rich – but mostly just expenses, for labor, accident, regulation, whatever.) One interesting example of this is that when someone on public assistance has a child, any players in the regular workforce or business have to chip in to pay for the expenses. Naturally, if they have a child, they have to pay all their own expenses.

It should come as no surprise that even then, free expression was more limited than it should be. Major game stories wouldn’t carry a game like this because they were pressured not to. I got it because a local gaming group was sponsored by a much smaller game shop, which was freer to provide politically incorrect games such as this. Presumably this pressure consisted primarily of boycott threats from people involved in the welfare industry. Today I suspect the threats would be more serious.

Later, the company marketed Public Assistance in a box jointly with another politically very incorrect game, Capital Punishment. In this one, each player has 4 Murderers to be executed (no easy task, of course), as well as 4 Liberals whose role is to bump other player’s Murderers and put them back on the street. (Each time this happens, one of the player’s Innocent Bystanders is killed. Although the goal is to execute the Murderers, most likely the victor will be the last with a surviving Innocent Bystander.) I got both games at the same time (they were then available separately), and I suspect that there were similar pressures on major game stores not to carry either one.

The seduction of welfare vs. self-reliance by working for a living, either as employee or employer will always be a problem for any form of public assistance for the indigent. Thomas Dewey pointed out the dangers in the 1940s, and even FDR (who started the incipient welfare state) had some concerns about the problem. (His distant cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, who represented the early brand of progressivism, would have considered the modern welfare state abominable.) But Lyndon the Bane, hoping to create a welfare-electoral machine that would ensure Democratic Party dominance using the principle attributed (though he denied saying it) to FDR’s top aide, Harry Hopkins (“We tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect”), chose otherwise. Theodore H. White had noticed the implications even earlier, in reporting on black inner-city voting in 1960 (which was overwhelmingly Democratic because of welfare, not civil rights).

Only time will tell if we can survive the welfare trap set up by the ultra-corrupt Texan. If the Ninth Circle of Hell indeed freezes those who betrayed their country, perhaps no American deserves it more. • (886 views)

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3 Responses to Public Assistance and the American Dream

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That’s a good bit of reporting, Timothy. Cool games as well.

  2. steve lancaster says:

    Wait a minute, John Stossel is a known libertarian how can he have a good idea? 🙂

    • Timothy Lane says:

      On economic issues? Quite easy. Economically, I mostly agree with libertarians (though not as dogmatically as they often do). But in my analysis of the 2012 campaign, I also pointed out his discussion of some of the few libertarian successes (such as Amash in Michigan and Barr and Massie in my home state of Kentucky).

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