In a recent Bloggingheads.tv video, Glenn Loury of Brown University and Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute discuss Mayor Bloomberg's "cash for grades" program.
MacDonald argues, and Loury more or less agrees, that the program institutes "a caste system" since it assumes that "some of us do things because we understand it's right, or because it's in our long-term self interest, whereas the other group we're just gonna treat like rats in a Skinner behavioral science exam."
Of course, the government frequently intervenes in the lives of those who presumably don't know what's in their long-term interest. Governments do what they do mostly to protect certain segments of society from themselves. Food stamps, housing projects, Medicaid, free or reduced lunch, NCLB???these all cultivate a kind of caste system. Americans have their very own untouchables just like everyone else.
The big difference is that the directness of the cash payouts in Bloomberg's plan reeks of paternalism, while in the examples above the nanny-state scent must travel through the byzantine air ducts of massive bureaucracies before it reaches our noses. When you get down to it, though, they're both stinky government cheese.