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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

… is from pages 314-315 of George Will’s great 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility:

America’s poverty problem is not one of material scarcities but of abundant bad behavior. Data demonstrate that there are three simple behavioral rules for avoiding poverty: finish high school, produce no child before marrying or before age twenty. Only 8 percent of families who conform to all three rules are poor; 79 percent of those who do not conform are poor. And recent social learning includes this: The trajectory of a child’s life is largely determined in the early years.

DBx: I don’t wish to come across as self-flattering, but as I’ve written before, I cannot help but draw some lessons from my own personal experience. I was born in 1958 into a thoroughly working-class American family. My mother, Carolyn, graduated from high-school. (I, the oldest of her four children, was born when she was 20.) My father, Buddy, dropped out of school in 6th grade. When I was born he, at the age of 23, was driving a bus for New Orleans Public Service (“NOPSI” as it was called). He soon afterward got a job as a pipe fitter at Avondale Shipyards, where he worked until he retired in January 2001. On more than one occasion dad was laid off from his job before being called back.

While growing up I didn’t think of us as being poor, although I was well aware that we were far from rich. And when my parents died – mom in March 2008 and dad in April 2009 – sure enough the monetary inheritance was meager.

But my family was loving and stable. Dad was always with his family when he wasn’t at work. He and mom drank very little and took no illicit drugs. My siblings and I were disciplined in the manner of the day – which means that sometimes we got physically spanked. Yet there was never a doubt in my mind – or in the minds of any of my three siblings – that we were loved.

Most importantly, my parents instilled in us a deep belief that the world owes us nothing and that we are responsible for our lives. Excuses for bad grades or bad behavior were simply not tolerated. Ever. There was, further, no tolerance for feeling sorry for ourselves. The notion of envying other people – and we encountered many – who were materially more prosperous than us was out of the question.

My parents were loving, not harsh. They were judgmental only about deviance from acting in accordance with basic life skills and fundamental values – skills and values such as being polite, being punctual, being honest, never being boastful, working hard, and, again, avoiding envy and self-pity as if these sentiments are genuinely dangerous plagues (which these sentiments in fact are).

All four of my parents’ children today lead productive lives. None is poor by American standards. Each has raised their own productive and responsible children.

Among the absolute worst curses that can afflict a person is to grow up slathered with the belief that the world owes something positive to him or her, and not be firmly discouraged from blaming one’s current condition in life on others or on the fates.