“The Personal Is Political”: A Dystopian Past

One of the more interesting challenges facing the advocates of the welfare state is the effort to reconcile the desire to provide for everyone with the fact that resources are finite. As ever, in a world of finite resources, something is going to act as a rationing mechanism, whether it’s the market (via price) or government intervention (e.g., WW II), or some combination of the two (as is the case these days). At present, we attempt to preserve the fiction that the State could provide for everyone by claiming some people aren’t paying their “fair share”, or by claiming we can borrow the difference ad infinitum.

But of course, there is another way of controlling the expense of a State that provides for everyone: Make sure there’s less “everyone” than there used to be. And that brings us to a disturbing history lesson from The Charlotte Observer.

Wallace Kuralt was in charge of  welfare for Mecklenburg County for nearly 30 years. By all accounts, he was genuinely devoted to the cause of improving the lives of the people who were his charges. Unfortunately, that old devil of limited resources came into play, as it always does.

“When we stop to reflect upon the thousands of physical, mental and social misfits in our midst,” he wrote in The Charlotte News in 1964, “the thousands of families which are too large for the family to support, the one-tenth of our children born to an unmarried mother, the hoard of children rejected by parents, is there any doubt that health, welfare and education agencies need to redouble their efforts to prevent these conditions which are so costly to society?”

So, logically enough, he led an aggressive sterilization program. Mecklenburg County’s sterilization rates led the state (a state now notorious for its eugenics programs.) It was only reasonable, after all — there are only so many resources available. As the Observer reports:

[…]Kuralt had no regrets. In writings and interviews throughout his life, he described sterilization and birth control as the key to saving tax money and rooting out poverty among the “low mentality-low income families which tend to produce the largest number of children.”

After all, when it’s your job to provide for your pets, you have them spayed or neutered, right? It’s kinder than putting puppies into a sack and chucking them into the river, right? Well, when you allow the State to provide for you like I provide for my Boston Terrier, there are certain … corollaries. We can’t take care of all the puppies.

Ask Mr. Kuralt, or just visit the building named after him. It’s where the current generation of his clients queue up, while we maintain the fiction.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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5 Responses to “The Personal Is Political”: A Dystopian Past

  1. Withywindle says:

    But it would be worth examining whether he succeeded on his own measures. You could do a statistical study to see if it did save tax money and help root out poverty, compared with other counties in the state.

  2. dave.s. says:

    …a pride of lions, a murmuration of starlings, a game of swans, murder of crows, a hoard of children…?

  3. To bean counters, everything’s a bean.

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