"You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."This is a misguided statement to say the least. Cutting off food to underserved children won't help anyone. But even if Lt. Governor Bauer's comments are ignorant at best and malicious and racist at worst, it does highlight the tension between helping others and letting others help themselves.
Part of social investment is finding the most efficient, easily scalable programs that can help the most people. But providing inexpensive and easily-replicated solutions always comes with a flip-side of creating a reliance on those services, never allowing the social investor's work to end.
A recent post on AidWatch from Diane and Dennis Bennett illustrates how a program that ultimately failed can decrease dependency. The Bennetts discuss their program to diminish the need for food assistance in southern Sudan. They gave three goats to different villagers, hoping to receive the offspring back as payment to reinvest in other community members. Instead, two of the villagers defaulted on the loans and gave the resulting goats to other villagers to start their own herds. The project failed financially and ended. But the villagers kept the goats and are no longer dependent on external food assistance. Thus, in the eyes of the Bennetts, it was a success.
I am not trying to compare goat loans in south Sudan to school lunches in South Carolina, but I think the juxtaposition of these two programs can teach us about the relationship between dependency and effectiveness. One, the goats in south Sudan, creates less dependency, but the other, the school lunches in South Carolina, is more effective. While the Bennets say their program was successful, other villages in south Sudan (or across Sudan, or in all of Africa, or across the world) could have benefited if the program was scalable. The South Carolina lunches provide more food for more children, but because of that, more people are reliant on the program.
One does not always have to sacrifice dependency for effectiveness, or vice versa. Free school lunches can be used as a part of programs aimed at poverty-alleviation. Agricultural microloans can be done on a broader scale. And, long-run dependency might not even be a concern for you.
Ultimately, what is most effective should be the priority. But ignoring dependency will ultimately ignore end-goals. When thinking about your investments, keep the long term in mind, even if it isn't at the front.