Mike Bloomberg, Matchmaker


Heather Mac Donald is down on Mayor Bloomberg's pay-for-personal-responsibility plan, which would pay the poor to make what the city deems to be constructive decisions. And anyway, she has a better idea—a large-scale educational campaign encouraging the poor to make what Heather Mac Donald deems to be constructive decisions:

There is a far more effective action the mayor could take to reduce poverty in New York, one that would require violating the second-most dangerous poverty-industry taboo: promoting marriage…

The most powerful social change that would cut poverty would be to increase the marriage rate among minorities. Rather than hitting up the private sector for bribes for the poor (the mayor's proposed cash awards for good behavior will be privately funded), Bloomberg should call on private industry and ad councils to start a massive educational campaign about marriage. This would tell young girls that the most valuable gift they can give their children is a father. It would tell young boys that siring children that they have no intention of raising is cowardly and unmanly.

There are good reasons for a taboo on bureaucrats pushing marriage (even through the private sector); it has virtually nothing to do with the task of governing, it's deeply invasive, and any situation in which Mike Bloomberg gets to define manly cannot end well. Alas, as Ezra Klein points out, there is no such taboo on the right or left, and hasn't been for a long time. (If there is a taboo, someone please tell the folks at the federally funded Healthy Marriage Initiative, mavericks that they are.)

In any case, it's always amusing to see pundits skeptical of quixotic anti-poverty campaigns become suddenly enamored of… quixotic anti-poverty campaigns. Propaganda becomes magically effective in the service of socially conservative ends, and lefty campaigns are trotted out as proof that a few well-placed billboards will set society on the straight and narrow. Mac Donald's shred of proof that marriage promotion will work? The suggestion that some New Yorkers stopped smoking after the city's anti-smoking campaign. In other words, we should expect lifetime marriage commitments from a city of quitters.