Thursday, March 06, 2008

Digging your way out

By way of Kim du Toit comes this story of a college educated man who left home with $25, and without using his diploma or personal contacts wanted to see if he could wind up with an apartment, a car and $2500 in the bank within a year. He quit the experiment two months early due to a family illness, but he had already exceeded his goals. He had a credit card to fall back on, but if he used it the experiment was over and he had failed.

"This proves that anyone can do it".

Well, no, not exactly. He didn't use his diploma, but he couldn't avoid using his education. He was hired as a day laborer which lead to a job with a moving company--Chances are he stood head and shoulders above the other day laborers, and it was more than just the work that he accomplished that got him hired.

It isn't just being willing to work, it is knowing where to exert the effort. He understood basic economics--that he couldn't afford to eat in restaurants, smoke, drink or do drugs. He understood that hard work would eventually be rewarded, but not instantly. He knew that homelessness isn't normal, and had confidence that his efforts wouldn't be wasted. He could read well, knew how to research and find solutions.

On the other hand, his reward was not nearly as great as someone who was in that position naturally--He had a decent life to go to whenever he felt like it, while the people in that situation naturally have decades of the same life to escape from. I would say it is worth quite a bit more effort to permanently escape that sort of situation.

Unfortunately, there are too many places in our system where the system makes short-term decisions with adverse long-term effects. Any wonder that many of the recipients do the same?

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