January 19, 2007

The Welfare State for Those Who Don't Need the Welfare State

A phenomenon strikingly evident in the Chicagoland area: rich suburbs that offer The Welfare State for Those Who Don't Need The Welfare State.

For example, Wilmette is a North Shore suburb (just north of Evanston, which is just north of Chicago) that competes to attract homebuyers with children by offering extraordinary public services in return for extraordinary taxes. For example, Wilmette's high school, New Trier, is one of the most famous in the U.S. It even has its own FM radio station.

Similarly, Wilmette's Parks and Recreations department offers lavish facilities and programs. The new Park District fieldhouse in Wilmette looks like a Palm Springs health spa. In contrast, Chicago Park District fieldhouses offer whitewashed walls for easy graffiti removal and wall to wall linoleum for quick disinfecting when somebody pees on the floor. It just doesn't pay to spend at a Wilmette-level on Chicago public facilities, because us Chicagoans will ruin them through our selfish, short-sighted, non-altruistic behavior.

Thus, in Wilmette the Welfare State works because the residents are too self-disciplined to actually need it, while in Chicago the Welfare State doesn't work because it almost instantaneously corrodes the personal character of the citizenry.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

9 comments:

jallabo said...

Do you seriously consider educational facilities like a High School part of the "Welfare State"? If yes, then maybe you should look into the question if the dysfunctional relationship of the average American (especially but not exclusively the conservative) towards its own government has any relationship with the rather dysfunctional state of much of the American government compared to the rest of the developed world. :-)

Anonymous said...

Do you seriously consider educational facilities like a High School part of the "Welfare State"?

I'm sure the point is that the high school and recreational facilities in Wilmette are far fancier than they really need to be. It is this unnecessary lavishness that makes these facilities part of the welfare state.

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

mhagneto said...

I'm sure the point is that the high school and recreational facilities in Wilmette are far fancier than they really need to be. It is this unnecessary lavishness that makes these facilities part of the welfare state.

But we pay for them!

Wilmette, Illinois resident

phil e said...

Oh, I'm sure Steve knew that mentioning Wilmette would smoke me out! Just a quick note: the Wilmette Public Schools (grades K-8: I'm the dba) spend about 40 percent less per pupil than neighboring wealthy towns like Winnetka and Kenilworth. In fact, we are one of the 'bargains' by North Shore standards. Yet, our test scores (ISAT) are consistently right up near the top. For much of the town (particularly away from the lake) the taxes are not horrible, IMHO. But I'm sure there would be those who disagree with me ;-)

Now, "welfare" is a gauzy term, and we have a small number of students receiving subsidized lunches (this, btw, is the usual metric for determining the poverty rate in public school districts), but what about ELL (English Learner) programs? One of our schools has a decent number of non-English speakers. And the percentage of students with IEP's (the standard criterion for special education) is somewhere in the 15% to 20% range. Both of these represent unequal distributions in expenditures, no? In a payment transfer society these lines are not brightly drawn.

Finally: I've never been to the pool facilities, but the Park District facility is within walking distance, and Wilmette Baseball is run spectacularly.

Anonymous said...

Pretty soon, those lavish benefits will have a way of attracting the poor to the area. 5-10 families with 4-5 kids each living per house?

l. ron hoover said...

"us Chicagoans"

Have you moved back to Chicago, Steve?

Cato said...

Wilmette's spending is of a piece with a broader trend among the affluent of spending lavishly on anything that can be plausibly defended as a necessity or serving some nobler good (David Brooks fleshed this out pretty well in Bobos in Paradise). Parks facilitate exercise and "community familiarity." Copious after-school programs allow students to become more "well-rounded." Bike paths, greenways, museums, performing arts centers, tax breaks for historical preservation - all part of the "entitlements" constellation of lifestyle liberalism.

Obama Bin Laden said...

The other way of looking at this is that Wilmette, IL is an instance of a welfare state that isn't dysfunctional. There's a big difference between a place where "we pay" for nice things and where "the Man" (some mythical being somewhere far away) pays for it. I bet they don't defecate in those nice pools either, in Wilmette.

People are sick of the welfare state because of freeloaders.

Russell said...

Jallabo,

Of COURSE public schools are part of the welfare state, at least in the form they exist today (ie, funded on the state and national level). They're created through mandatory transfer payments.

I find your jibe about the "dysfunctional" US gov't as "compared to the rest of the developed world" hilarious, by the way.