Mary Ruwart: How can we provide care and education for children of poor or irresponsible parents?

Mary Ruwart is a longtime Libertarian Party activist and perennial candidate for public office. The following was published in the May 8th, 2013 edition of the official publication of The Advocates for Self-Government, Liberator Online. 


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MY SHORT ANSWER: Neither the public nor the private sector will ever be able to ensure that ALL children have equal access to any type of program. Life just doesn’t work that way. Perhaps a more realistic question is “What is likely to give children the most access to what they need?”

The program you describe is well-intentioned and sounds good in theory. In practice, however, parents will use the service as free day care or baby sitting if no questions are asked and will overwhelm the system. The truly needy child will be the exception rather than the rule and won’t get the attention that they need. Indeed, they might not even get accepted or well-treated, as middle-class parents are likely to tip the social workers generously (even if it’s illegal) so that their children get preferred treatment. This is how heavily socialized programs work: they are adopted to benefit the disadvantaged, but actually end up benefiting the advantaged.

For example, about 75% of the tax dollars that are targeted to welfare programs actually go to the middle-class administrators rather than the needy. In contrast, private programs give about 75% of donated dollars to the poor. Thus, the poor get more when charitable giving is private.

If parents can’t take care of their children for economic reasons, the best solution is to slash taxes, regulation, and government spending (on anything, including wasteful welfare). Why? Studies show that inefficient government spending (such as in the welfare example above) results in job destruction, especially jobs for the poor.

When government spends less, more jobs are created and the poor benefit most. More parents can take care of their children. (For examples of such studies, see my book, “Healing Our World,” especially chapters 11 and 12. You can download the 1992 version free at my website,, or buy a copy of the 2003 version there or from The Advocates.)

The few parents who can’t care for their children will be better served by the more efficient private sector. Inefficient spending means that fewer parents and their children will be helped. Diverting money to government to spend inefficiently actually makes the problem worse.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further readings on this issue:

* “What about the Poor? What about Irresponsible Parents?” by the Alliance for the Separation of School and State.

EXCERPT: “There are already philanthropists and foundations that pay private school tuition for the poor. This would increase many-fold, in the form of scholarships and direct aid to schools so they could offer free tuition to needy students. There are also churches and charitable foundations that reach out to the poor and will branch out into the field of education with the extra money that will be available because government at all levels is no longer confiscating it for their own endeavors in the school field. …

“This is not a wishful scenario. There are already many people in the private sector working to help the children of irresponsible and of poor parents, but they’re up against the stranglehold the public schools have on the children. They are trying to undo damage as it continues to be done. Freeing the children would open endless windows of opportunity.”

* “What About the Poor?” by Chris Cardiff.

EXCERPT: “In various forms, the question ‘what do we do about the poor?’ outstrips all others as the most frequently asked question about separating school and state. The implicit assumption, only natural after 60 years of the welfare state and 150 years of government control of education, is that government is the only entity capable of looking out for the poor and educating them. Both the historical record and present conditions invalidate this assumption.”

4 thoughts on “Mary Ruwart: How can we provide care and education for children of poor or irresponsible parents?

  1. Brian Holtz

    about 75% of the tax dollars that are targeted to welfare programs actually go to the middle-class administrators rather than the needy

    Dr. Ruwart seems to be echoing a Rush Limbaugh factoid. The actual figure is under 20%.

    Divide and conquer Leviathan. Make the charity safety net as decentralized/localized as possible. Every one of America’s 3077 counties can afford to care for the poor children within its borders. Local charity is easier to make voluntary, and facilitates social pressure for self-help.

    What’s the smallest town in which you’ve ever seen a panhandler?

  2. Deran

    The fastest growing concentration of people living below the poverty line are in the suburbs, not the large cities. The large cities are being quickly gentrified.

    And to speak of “welfare” in the USA is nonsernsical. The Democrats and Republicans abolished the social welfare system in the US in 1996.

    What exists now is Food Stamps, Section 8 housing and TANF (which provides a very small stipend).

    People are living in a Rush Limbaugh dream if they actually think there is some massive welfare system that is absorbing the federal budget.

  3. Brian Holtz

    Yes, more is spent on entitlements for the middle class than is spent on any other category — including entitlements for the poor.

  4. paulie

    What’s the smallest town in which you’ve ever seen a panhandler?

    I’ve seen panhandlers in tiny towns. Granted, it’s more common in bigger ones. In small towns it usually involves trying to get a ride to somewhere bigger as well, but if they also ask for money I would count it as panhandling. Or, if they try to shake down anyone who passes through, that sort of counts too, right?

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