This article appeared in Consent #9 (August 1989)


- Michael Emerling

{Michael Emerling is an activist, writer, speaker and motivator whose Art of Political Persuasion workshops have drawn rave reviews throughout the United States and Canada.}

In the early 1970's a group of scientists conducted an experiment called "The Pigeon in a Welfare State". They took hungry pigeons and divided them into three groups: a control group, and two test groups. One test group learned to hop on a pedal to get grain. The other test group got the same grain, regardless of what they did. The control group went hungry.

All three groups were then put into cages where they had to learn to peck a lighted key to get grain. The group that had learned to hop on a pedal for grain learned fastest. The control group finished second. And the pigeons who got fed no matter what they did finished last.

Once they had learned this lesson, they were put into new cages where they got fed when they refrained from pecking. Same results. The group that learned that their dinner depended on their efforts did best. The control group was second. The Welfare Pigeons finished last.

Of course, people are not pigeons. People are far more intelligent and resourceful. But, like pigeons, we are dramatically influenced by our early learning experiences.

Think of a young boy whose parents are on Government Welfare. What lessons is he learning? That you don't have to work for a living. You can passively wait for someone, somehow to provide food, shelter, and clothing. That diligent work, responsibility, and resourcefulness aren't necessary to get on in life. He learns to be helpless. He learns that it pays off.

There are millions of young boys and girls learning these lessons every day. Some day, they'll be parents. They will instill these lessons in their children. By example. And this legacy of learned helplessness will be passed down from generation to generation.

The Government Welfare System is undermining the Canadian way of life. We must make certain that people are rewarded for their work. And that they must work for their rewards.

Otherwise, we're the pigeons.

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