Friday, May 12, 2006

Pro-family ? Anti - everything else !

So far every piece of commentary on the budget has mirrored the treasurers spin on the increased spending towards childcare and family rebates as being "pro-family".

Well yes, in a very obvious sense, when government forks out huge payments to families, and boosts public spending on childcare places, theose benefits are enjoyed only by what we traditionally refer to as "families".

Consider how the word family has a very positive connotation. The concept of "helping out families" and "helping parents raise kids" seem to be greeted universally as good and wholesome.

The treasurer and his media bandwagon perform a before/after analysis of the budget to see the change to your average family's income. The treasurer proudly boasts of how a family will receive $x per week extra in revenue. The media promote the concept that families with 3 or more children are the big winners from this budget.

So clearly, it seems like its all about families, with families being the focus and the #1 priority of our society. I myself am not going to event try to convince my readership what the priorities should be. I shall not discuss the merits of raising families. I shall only acknowledge that everyone has their own priorities and values, and they are entitled to follow them in the pursuit of happiness so long as they don't impinge on other people's rights and liberty. I shall only attempt to convince readers that individuals are the most important element. This does not stand in opposition to being pro-family. It simply states the bleeding obvious - families are made up of individuals. Individuals can take voluntary and consesual actions to create partnerships, families, affairs, parents, adoptive parents etc etc.

But the point where government becomes involved is the point where individuals stop taking voluntary actions to control their lives and relationships, and the collective starts using force and coercion.

Here is my stance summarised:
Government has no business intervening in private relationships. Any intervention destroys our valuable liberties and our rights to form personal relationships as we see fit. It is not the role of government to endorse nor discourage any form of relationship.

For some people, those liberties are not so intuitive. They think that giving tax relief to parents with children is a positive and supportive act. Children are considered expensive and challenging to raise, so therefore its a good use of resources. People wouldn't pause for a moments thought to realise that government intervention is a form of social engineering.

In China, government intervention is famously recognised as a harmful, destructive and oppressive policy becase families are punished for having more than one child. At the mere mention of this policy, our alarm bells ring because our human instincts tell us its plain wrong. The Chinese government is interfering in a private relationship between consenting adults, and regulating personal relationships. Such a policy causes emotional suffering because for so many individuals across so many cultures worldwide, the opportunity to raise a family is valued highly.

But what if the policy was reversed ? Instead of discouraging and punishing families with more than one child, a government encourages families to have as many children as possible (The Baby Bonus) and rewards them with huge transfer payments (Family Tax Benefits A,B & C) ?
For most people, the alarm bells stop ringing, and they breathe a sigh of relief. But this should not be the case, because government is still meddling in private relationships, albeit in a positive way.

Here is how the tax system works in case it wasn't painfully obvious. Taxes are confiscated from millions of individuals by force and coercion, using the threat of violence (imprisonment and fines). It is not voluntary at all. So some people settle for a 2nd best approach where they lobby the government on how to best spend the stolen money.

Some people vote for Family First if they believe spending and regulating in favour of traditional families are #1 priority. Some people vote for other parties if they believe they can spend and regulate better. Huge sections of the media voice their opinion to influence the party in power, to spend and regulate in favour of whatever priorities they value i.e the elderly, hospitals, children, the environment etc etc. And as time goes on, and new parties come to power with new priorities, society continues on this infinite merry-go-round as we all compete like idiots to get a government in power which will tax and regulate in our favour.

This destructive cycle has to be reduced. If it continues, everybody will keep paying taxes but not everybody receives the benefits. Even the families that supposedly receive the benefits are worse off, because a government monopoly is being created in childcare and education where choice is limited. Only a free and privatised market of competing schools and childcare centres will offer parents any real variety.

Middle income families who want to send their children to private schools will not be able to afford it because they have paid exorbitant amounts in taxes. The only way for people to fully reap the benefits of those taxes is to reproduce (get back some taxes from the baby bonus) and send those kids to public schools (get back some taxes through the provision of a service).

But .. heres the kicker.. there are so many people out there who, even with the "positive" regulation to favour families, do not follow the above course of behaviour. And its these people who have had their taxes confiscated, and have little benefit from it.

What if the parents, for one reason or another, wanted to home-school their children ? What if the parents didn't believe the public school suited their needs ? What if a couple couldn't even have children ? What if a couple were not "traditional" in the sense of a man marrying a woman ?

In Australia, there are hundreds of thousands of GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) people who are discriminated against heavily by this "pro-family" legislation. There may be a set of parents with very good educations and 5 children that may wish to home-school their children to save on schooling costs. There may be couples which realise they are not responsible enough to take on the serious role of parenting and raising children, and thus remain child-free.

There are more scenarios out there than I could elaborate on. It all boils down to the sane belief that people should be free to form their own personal relationships as they value, without government intervention. It is not the role of government to encourage one form of relationship (the traditional family) because it will then punish every other form of relationship.

Government is not a charity organisation unfortunately. If the treasurer was paying for things from his own pocket and doing voluntary unpaid work to help out families, then they would truly be justified in saying they are pro-family.

The best solution is to end public education, slash the budget in half and give working individuals their money back to spend (or save) on goods and services according their own priorities and values. If people value family so greatly, then they can direct their own resources to reflect this. But to direct someone else's resources and revenue in your favor using coercion is elitism of the worst kind - to suggest that you know how to spend someone's money better than they do themselves.