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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The hand that pays the hand that rocks the cradle

Today’s edition of Britain’s Sun tabloid features five readers who demand: “End our childcare misery, Mr Blair“. That so many middle and working class people in this country turn to the state to solve any challenges they face in life is, if depressing, unsurprising when one considers the prevailing British attitude towards government’s role in individuals’ lives. This comment from PM Tony Blair sums it up succinctly enough:

Some mothers will want to stay at home and look after their children, and that’s fine. But if they don’t we have to support them.

Actually, Mr Blair, we do not have to support financially any person who chooses to have children and then chooses to rely on others to look after them while they go out to work. (You may feel you need to ‘support’ them in order to be re-elected, but let us not confuse what you do in the interests of your career with what is right.)

I understand the dilemma – one may want to have children but not be able to afford to do so without earning a certain income, which may require full- or part-time work – but one makes such choices and then deals with the consequences. I doubt seriously that any of the women in the Sun asking Mr Blair to ‘end the misery’ of having to struggle to raise children on limited budgets, whose ages range from 31 to 39, went into parenthood without realising that making ends meet would be a concern. Kids are expensive, and although there are ways to make them less expensive (even the wealthiest parents I know buy and sell baby gear and other children’s stuff on eBay or in consignment shops or at NCT sales), people decide to have them with the full realisation that this life they are creating will need to be looked after and cared for. With that comes expense, and the need to work out how to meet that expense. All pretty basic stuff, one would think. But reading the complaints of parents who think that the state should be easing their burdens – brought about by choices they have made – with other peoples’ money, it becomes clear that we have in this country bred a population of adults who think and behave like children. I will do what I like – it will be fine! (But somebody better be there to rescue me and kiss my boo-boos better if it is not.)

Perhaps it is a shame that life is not so easy that we cannot always have everything our hearts desire (children, enough money in the bank, personal fulfilment outside of stay-at-home parenthood, trendy, slightly politically subversive t-shirts for our babies), but that is not a situation that the state can change with any amount of money they may take fom you and me.

“But think of the children!” comes the usual plaintive wail. To do so is terrifying: a nation of babies raising babies can only end in tears. How much will we be expected to spend on cleaning up this spill before the idea that individual choices matter ceases to be answered with a “Yes, but…” and a tax demand?

13 comments to The hand that pays the hand that rocks the cradle

  • Ian Bennett

    //I doubt seriously that any of the women … went into parenthood without realising that making ends meet would be a concern//
    Actually, I disagree. I suspect that they all blithely assumed that ‘the State’ (ie, ‘other people’) would happily cough up to feed, clothe, entertain and educate their offspring, just as we’ve always had to do. Overwhelmingly there are two types of whining parent; those who are happy to go to work but want the rest of us to pay their child-care costs, and those who prefer to stay at home but want the rest of us to pay for everything. Either way, our tax goes into other people’s pockets simply because they succumbed to the urge to have children that they cannot afford.

  • GCooper

    We need to consider the source. The Sun is ‘New’ Labour’s lickspittle poodle, so the chances are that the genesis of this article was with Labour’s spin machine.

    I agree with everything Jackie D says – and the added thought that what this really represents is a trailer for the next Blairite manifesto is appalling.

  • Ron

    I suppose that if you have a person with excellent qualifications that the country needs, who takes a highly paid job that pays more tax than the cost of the childcare necessary to allow them to take the job, there is little cause for complaint.

    But if the policy is to shovel hundreds of thousands of poorly-qualified mothers of young children into crummy admin jobs that no-one would miss if they weren’t done, who don’t pay the full cost of the childcare personally or through their taxes (and also help bung up the rush-hour transport system), it’s not surprising if you end up with a generation of deeply fatigued couch-potato parents and alienated street thug children with no sense of community.

  • Guy Herbert

    There’s an interesting coordination between this synthetic plea, and the Government’s announcement this morning that it is considering extending primary school hours “to help working families”. The ideal is adults supervised by employers (according to state directives), children supervised by teachers (according to state directives).

  • Verity

    Don’t worry! I see Tony Blair’s just had another BIG IDEA. They are going to keep schools open for 10 hours a day so working parents can divest themselves of the trouble of having to find someone to look after their children while they’re at work. The teachers can do it! At the taxpayer’s expense, so cheaper than paying for child care! Less trouble than staying home and raising your own children!

    And the children can be indoctrinated and propagandised with NuLab poison for 10 hours a day.

    As to having an actual family life, well, with school for 10 hours a day, plus drive time, plus sleeping for around 10 hours a night, that still leaves children 3 1/2 hours for watching TV and munching on the pizza that mum sends out for. And maybe a video game before hitting the pillow.

  • Patrick W

    I am fully on board with the general Samizdata philosophy of ‘the less state the better’. On the other hand, countries that fail to reproduce will ultimately disappear or lose their identity as the population gets replaced with immigration. And the state does have a role here – to remove all obstacles to child rearing that come from the state itself. My view is that, whilst not paying for other people’s kids, we should definitively abolish all taxes on baby things, baby food, nursery care, nannies, au pairs, prams, private school fees, etc .

  • toolkien

    A couple of random thoughts:

    The price of daycare (at least in the States) is much higher than it needs to be due to government regulation. It is one example of the cycle of government interference breeding more interference.

    The State, through its fiscal and monetary policies, has made it necessary for both parents to work to maintain a household, save for retirement, and pay for education. One income will not suffice, hence – daycare.

    I think a point missed so far is that the government has an interest in daycare in that much of it is subsidized and State controlled – the sooner they get their hands on the minds of children the better.

    It is so distressing that State transfer is now wo squarely intrenched in the middle class. The middle class apparently has no problem paying upwards of 50% of their income in taxes and then magically get transfers in return as if from nowhere. All the while individual choice is slowly wrung out as the cycle continues. There is no ‘disadvantage’ (whatever that is) here, it is a desire to shift responsibility. When it is the middle class that desires to do so, you know a torpor has set in a society and individualism is on its sick bed.

    As a new father I’m faced with the puzzle of how to raise a child free from the suffocating leftism of the average daycare and yet provide enough income to cover daily expenses, retirement, and education. My wife makes sizably more than I do, and we could easily cover a household, but we’d have to sacrifice elements of the other, if I were to stay at home. All the more resentment that Statism has made us all dependent in one way or another, either today or tomorrow. The cumulative total of what we’ve had to sacrifice to others by Force has led us to be unable to fully take care of own affairs.

    On the other hand, countries that fail to reproduce will ultimately disappear or lose their identity as the population gets replaced with immigration.

    I guess as a fairly strict individualist, what would I care if a country disappears? I’m not defined by the fact the U.S. exists, as is, two hundred years from now. Is the answer State interference in procreation to serve its own continued existence? A proper State is disinterested in the birth/death rate. If it got the hell out of the way, it would likely take of itself regardless.

  • Shannon Love

    Another criticism of this policy is that it subsidizes those parents who work but does nothing to help those who choose to sacrifice income to provide direct care for their own children.

    Effectively, the State provides a financial incentive to have all available parents working and a disincentive for parents to care for their own children.

  • I want the government to solve all my (not yet existent) child-care problems. Get rid of the planning laws, thus lowering house prices, thus making it possible for my wife & I to afford a house without us both working. Cut taxes, so we’ve got some money to spend on a child.

    I can see the point of shouting at the government to provide child-care. We all know they’re never going to cut taxes or give any of the tax money back, and it looks like the Tories wouldn’t either, so the only practical course of action is to try to change the way they spend the money.

  • Ian Grey

    Somewhat off-topic, but the trendy, slightly politically politically subversive T-shirted nipper linked to appears to have a penis on his/her right hand rather than a thumb. It has to make urinating easier but puts a whole new meaning on twiddling your thumbs.

  • veryretired

    My wife used to have a family day care operation in our home while our own kids were small. She did it very well, had many multi-year, multi-child clients, and finally quit when our youngest went into school full time. Then she went back to school and started working outside the home.

    During this period, we had numerous conversations about the whole idea of day care, and its legal, economic, and political ramifications. On one particular occasion, we were at a very nice restaurant celebrating our anniversary, and we were talking about our respective types of work.

    I made a comment to the effect that her clients were going to be surprized and upset in a few decades when their kids put them in a convenient facility as soon as they were any type of problem, because that was what they were teaching the kids to do. She told me later that a couple at a table right behind me obviously heard my remark, and the woman who was facing my wife went white and almost spilled her wine.

    The problems that will result from the relentless push to put small children in day care will not be merely financial, but will stem from the disastrous “side effect” of further eroding the already fractured relationship between parents and their children.

    For better or worse, every competent study of children’s attitudes has shown that parents have an enormous influence on their children’s lives, a position that cannot ever be replaced by “hired help”.

    The fallacy of “quality time” has tried to bandage over the problem, but nobody really believes it, and, intuitively, any parent knows that it is not the exceptional that matters, but the clarity and reliability of the routine that assures the child he or she is in a knowable, secure universe with someone who cares about them more than anything else in the world.

    Now that I’m retired, I do the house stuff, and my wife goes out into the world of work. She enjoys herself tremendously, and I get to make lunches and drive the kids to school, and soccer practice.

    Men used to spend more time with their children. I like spending as much as I can with mine. When I’m an even older fart than I am now, maybe they’ll let me spend some time with their kids. I make really good lunches, and I know how to get the worm on the hook, and the fish off. Some things can’t be replaced with staff, and computers.

  • A_t

    On the subject of daycare/social change, through the ages, those who could afford it would get ‘daycare’, & possibly night care too, for their kids.

    Children of kings, aristocrats & rich industrialists traditionally had wet nurses/nannies when they were young, tutors or private boarding schools when they were older. Now that more people are prosperous, more are adopting this approach, made more affordable thru’ disposing of the one-on-one approach of the past. Does this mean we’ll have a whole generation of people as weird & screwed up as many of the old school aristocrats were? We shall see!

  • Zigi Goldberg

    There’s quite a bit of information on the History of Daycare on the “Daycares Don’t Care(Link)” website.

    It also contains a very large collection of information on the types of problems with daycare described by veryretired’s September 8th post.