Thursday, May 28, 2015


Should people feel guilty that they're better off because of the efforts of their parents and grandparents than those whose parents and grandparents couldn't, or wouldn't, pass on the same benefits to their progeny? Some liberals seem to think so. A British sociologist went so far as to claim that parents who read bedtime stories to their children should feel guilty that they're probably conferring an unfair "privilege" on their children over their peers whose parents don't or can't spend such time with their kids.

Robert Tracinski at The Federalist will have none of this nonsense and has some fine things to say about "Privilege." Here are a few:
I have two young kids. And I am working my tail off to give them as much “privilege” as humanly possible.

As if the good things you do for your own kids constitute actual harm for the children of others.

I want my kids to start their adult lives with a laundry list of advantages: I want them to be bright, literate, skilled, capable of self-discipline, athletic, with good taste and manners and grooming, maybe a little bit of money, and heck, even a few family connections—enough to get their feet in the doors of whatever careers they choose. I had some of these things, mostly a good education, and undoubtedly more than most people. I want my kids to have even more. Why? Because that’s my job as a parent: to give my kids the best start in life possible—and better than mine.
Precisely. Liberals survey society and see many parents who are essentially letting their kids raise themselves. This, naturally, puts those kids at a severe disadvantage in life, so the liberal solution is to level the playing field by criticising parents who want for their kids what Tracinski wants for his instead of criticising parents who don't do the things Tracinski does. Bringing the bottom up is hard. It's much easier to achieve the egalitarian nirvana by reducing everyone to the same miserable level. That's the liberal worldview in a nutshell.

Tracinski is careful in his essay to distinguish "privilege" from "entitlement:"
Privilege is not the same thing as “entitlement.” Entitlement means taking one’s advantages in life for granted, as if they are part of the normal order of things, and not realizing where they came from or what made them possible. Which usually means frittering away all of those advantages by failing to take the initiative to accomplish anything of your own.

In fact, one of the most important advantages you can give your kids is a lack of entitlement, the ethos of knowing that he has to work for what he wants in life. One of the great secrets of the middle class strivers is that they realize lack of entitlement is a “privilege” that will give their children a leg up on the spoiled rich kids.
There is one kind of privilege which far more parents, rich and poor, black and white, could confer on their children if they wished. It's perhaps the most effective thing they could do to insure their child has a modicum of advantages in life. It is to get married and stay married:
Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution discovered that the likelihood of a child raised by [unmarried] parents born into the lowest income quintile moving to the top quintile by the age 40 was a disastrous 3 percent. Worse, 50 percent of those children stay stuck in the bottom quintile. And the outlook for the children of those marriage-less children is equally stark....But Reeves discovered a silver lining while crunching the data: Those children born in the lowest quintile to parents who were married and stayed married had only a 19 percent chance of remaining in the bottom income group. Reeve’s study revealed that this social-mobility advantage applied not just to the lower class: The middle class was impacted, too. The study revealed that children born into the middle class have a mere 11 percent chance of ending up in the bottom economic quintile with married parents, but that number rises to 38 percent if their parents are never married.
This is not a finding likely to be trumpeted by the liberal media which, judging by the policies they endorse, seems to be more concerned with breaking families up than with building them up.

Tracinski closes his article with this:
I’ve always loved an old quote from Henry Ford: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” The same thing goes for “privilege,” which is really just a disparaging term for “opportunity.” In this white-collar era, it doesn’t necessarily come dressed in overalls any more. But it still looks like work.