There’s a book that has just come out in the U.K. that should be required reading for anybody who wants to talk about reforming entitlement programs: A Street Cat Named Bob, by James Bowen.
No, I haven’t lost my feeble mind (or, at least, I don't think I have). The book has a profound message. First, though, the story: James Bowen was a drug addict, trying to wean himself off heroin on a methadone program, barely eking out an existence busking in Covent Garden, when he returned to his sheltered accommodation one night to find a cat on the doorstep:
The thin mangy moggy seemed as lonely and hopeless as James, who took pity on the animal and began feeding him. After a local search failed to yield an owner, James took the stray in, an arrangement that filled as much a need in him as in the cat, whom he christened Bob.
James and Bob became a duo, and Bob took to accompanying James to play his guitar to try to get donations for the music. They became popular and Bob even increased the amount of money his master made.
Bob’s popularity continued when James switched from busking to selling the Big Issue, the magazine produced and sold by homeless people. This change in direction was part of James’s growing sense of a need to get his life in order, which he puts down to the responsibility of looking after Bob, and the example the cat offered of the possibility of a second chance.
It enabled James to make the final push to end his drug dependency, going through the necessary cold turkey to get off heroin substitutes, and to mend broken contacts with his family. The final result of Bob’s influence came when a literary agent who passed the duo every day and had seen them on YouTube suggested James tell their story in a book. The result is this heart-warming tale with a message of hope that will appeal especially to the many cat obsessives out there.
Most entitlement programs reduce an individual’s responsibility, but the story of James and Bob shows that it is increased responsibility that can rescue people from desperation and help them get their lives in order. Shouldering burdens, not relief from them, makes us responsible citizens.
Compare this message with my favorite bit of wisdom from Nancy Pelosi, who said the following in promoting Obamacare:
Think of an economy where people could be (sic) an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance or that people could start a business and be entrepreneurial and take risk, but not job loss because of a child with asthma or someone in the family is bipolar—you name it, any condition—is job locking.
As the saga of Bob and James shows, we should be putting forward the exact opposite message: Don’t quit your day job. We should return to values that hold people responsible, not the current values that turn people into perpetual adolescents. We should be saying, "Take responsibility for your own health care, and, if you have a child with asthma, be responsible for that child’s treatment, too." It is only by taking responsibility that we can give our lives meaning and become fully adult.
To relate the story of another recent development, would it be crazy to call the HHS contraception mandate the most anti-Bob and James rule promulgated by the government—it says you don’t even have to be responsible for your own sex life?
Now that's infantilization on a big scale.