Years ago I had dinner with a family of six. The family consisted of a husband, a wife, and four kids. At the time I was visiting my folks in Philadelphia, but had been living in Berkeley for years and I had seen so many “dysfunctional” families and ill-behaved brats that I assumed dysfunctionality was the norm. Now, I do have serious problems with labeling typical human behaviors as a disease, but that’s not what this post wants to be about. What utterly amazed me at the time was how well-behaved and well-adjusted all four of the kids were. They were thoughtful, polite, made good conversation, and nothing was strained as one might expect from kids who were simply kowtowed into temporary submission. They were…. naturally non-dysfunctional, if such a thing is possible.

I was sitting next to the mom, and I told her that I had never had children and probably never would, and maybe I shouldn’t have, but I pointedly asked her why it was her kids were so nice, and what she had done that was so different from what so many other people had done. We had also talked about dogs, which I had, and which this family also had. Perhaps realizing that either I could relate to her analogy or it would be safe with me, she said raising children was very similar to raising dogs. You have to start teaching good behaviors when they are very young, and this prevents “problems” from developing later. It sounded like common sense at the time, and I remember thinking that maybe prospective parents ought to try their hand at raising puppies first, and only then move on to children.

Why am I thinking of this relatively boring incident right now? Yesterday I wrote about feral kids for the umpteenth time, and commenters weighed in about children being raised by other people. This made me think about my analogy between kids and animals (I said feral kids were like cheetahs) and then this morning I remembered the lovely dinner with that great mom’s easy-to-understand dog analogy.

But perverse thoughts have a way of sneaking into my brain so it didn’t end there.

Imagine for a moment a fantasy society which treated pet dogs the way this one treats kids. Imagine if the owning of dogs were subsidized by the government in the same way that children are.

OK, right there I have said something which would offend many a leftie. You tell them that welfare (or whatever it’s called now) creates an incentive for people to have kids just to get the money, and they will become indignant. They might even hurl insults. Anything to avoid considering even for the sake of argument that there might just be some people in this world who would in fact consider the prospect of getting a monthly government check (plus food stamps and maybe free housing) if you have kids versus nothing if you don’t to be such a good deal as to be a no-brainer. A lot of lefties cannot think in those terms, simply because they come from affluent families and would never do such a thing themselves. And what they wouldn’t do, no one would do, right? So I would ask themĀ a less emotionally laden question.

If the government paid $300.00 per month to anyone who had a dog, would dog ownership increase?

I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has the slightest understanding of human nature that it would. Sure, a lot of people wouldn’t go out and find a dog. They might be too proud, or would find it too embarrassing, and they might not need the money enough. And many “reputable” dog breeders would likewise avoid the temptation to crank out welfare-ready dogs. But the fact is, a huge market would emerge to meet the supply, and millions of Americans would get a dog simply to collect their monthly dog subsidies. And even if they called it a “dog in need” program, people would see through the bureaucratic rhetoric and call it a subsidy, if for no other reason than dogs are not as emotionally charged and sacrosanct as children.

To stay with the ridiculous analogy, if the government were to subsidize dogs, naturally it would have to pay for their veterinary care — the price of which would go up accordingly. And if there was a public clamor to do something about the bloated (and unearned) dog subsidies, lazy dog owners might even be required to to go to work. This would mean doggie day care would have to be provided for the dogs. Vast government subsidized kennels would spring up to meet the demand.

How well behaved would we expect these unwanted dogs to be? I say unwanted because were it not for the economic incentive, few of the owners genuinely wanted them.

Huh? Is there a difference between genuine want and subsidized want?

What does “want” mean? (If the government subsidized gasoline, people would obviously drive more. Does that mean they want to?)

But you certainly can’t say that subsidized children were “unwanted.” After all, no civilized person calls children “unwanted” except the people who use that as an argument in favor of abortion. But that is only before they are born. Once born they are can longer be called unwanted, but become sacrosanct, and must be cared for by society. They have to be wanted, right? Otherwise, why would the mothers have had them? We cannot impugn the motives of people who take money for having children, for that would be mean-spirited and ugly and awful and wicked and probably some other distracting word best avoided.

Are dogs better behaved than children? (Maybe what I should ask is whether sincerely wanted dogs are better behaved than insincerely wanted children.)

Again, perhaps I was wrong to negatively compare children to animals.

My apologies to Coco.