Re: Aid to children

phil osborn (
Thu, 02 Sep 1999 20:16:17 PDT

>From: "Bryan Moss" <>
>Subject: Re: Aid to children
>Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 16:12:19 +0100
>Elizabeth Childs said:
> > Bryan, are you seriously advocating slavery here, or am I not getting a
> > joke?
>Yes, I'm seriously advocating slavery.
>As Phil Osborn said in his reply to Michaels reply to me, "if [a child]
>to form a personal trust and sell shares in himself, then he would have a
>vested interest in maintaining the value of the shares, as these would be
>his ticket to acquire further investment for going to college, starting a
>business, etc." I take this further and call it "slavery" simply because
>when the child most needs investment it is not at an age to consent. Now
>it's true that under such a scheme I could buy a child and have him work my
>sugar plantation for zero wage but it is also true that I could train the
>child to be a lawyer and make huge profits with minimum investment.
Not quite what I had in mind. What reasonable court would recognize a contract signed by a six-year-old? Obviously, for a contract to be valid, the signatories have to be capable of understanding the terms.

On the other hand, our hypothetical mutual fund local agent would tend to know who the responsible families were in the area, and the family would be drawn into the contract, I'm sure, in most cases. This might involve some kind of backing or commitment from the family in the early stage, when there would be a lot more kids than money or investors, but as competition for the kids increased, the deals would get better, until the family might itself be offered a signup bonus, and the parents, extended family, etc., made general fund members, paid in shares. Many incentives that would bring the maximum incentive to bear on the family come to mind.

The local data and expertise is fairly crucial, as the micro-loans program suggests, as is collective responsibility. The kid could not be forced to honor the contract later on, but it would probably be very much in his interest to do so, as his share value would be a bankable asset in getting loans or future investments. He would no more be likely in most cases to disallow the original contract than any corporation would be to basically commit suicide and let the share prices go to zero.

Those share values, representing his future earnings capability, are that kid's ticket to getting there. This is just simple market economics. Investment for the future based on expected return. We do it all the time. States do it when they build public schools, but they are extremely inefficient as the incentive structure is all wrong. Now we have the technology to shred it down to the individual level, for everybody.

To extend the range of discussion just a bit, one of the major problems with our society and most world societies is the utter failure to bring the family into the 20th Century, or even the 19th Century, much less the 21st. Families used to be economic units. Parents invested in children and expected a return - i.e., care in old age. That gave them a major incentive to have healthy, smart, productive, responsible kids. When the industrial revolution caused the breakdown of that economic unit, the incentives were also largely lost.

Why have a child now? So that you can become an emotional parasite on the child? Find meaning for your life - i.e., become an emotional parasite on the child? Fit in and be a real person? The child of today gets what he or she wants by pleasing the parents, as always, but the parents are no longer looking for physical rewards. So what are they looking for? When a woman provides this in return for the wherewithal to live, it's called prostitution. So we force our kids into prostitution rather than have them take economic responsibility.

I understand that the Samoans, on the other hand, expect the child to pay a fixed percentage of their income - for life - back to the family. This might seem like slavery, but not unless the child is forced to go along. In a society structured to respect and reward personal responsibility, no force would be necessary. A respectable person would pay his share. A bad person could opt out, but at the risk of being shunned by good society and missing out on a lot of benefits.

A general social contract sponsored by the net might be a route to getting to the kind of society in which that kind of responsibility would be encouraged. I would like to see parents start taking a real interest in optimizing their kid's abilities - for a change.

BTW, our family structure and psychology is based on a bastardized, corrupted vision of how the Europpean aristocracy raised their kids. Recall Mark Twain's description of the "Little Lord Fauntleroy" syndrome? This was part of the same Victorianization of America that screwed up the relationships between men and women. We didn't have a model for how to be prosperous. Common people had never been prosperous before 19th Century America. So we were connned into this stupid vision of the aristocratic model, and we have been paying the price ever since.

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