Thursday, April 3, 2008

new thinking about an old problem

The problem is poverty.

The reason, when you boil it right down to essentials, is human behavior.

People mostly don't do what it takes to get out of poverty. Make moves, take chances, apply for jobs, clean up, stop drinking and drugging, follow better examples. Most poor people just don't do what it takes.

For whatever reason. Dems have long said it's because of right wing racism, but that doesn't explain the majority of the poor who are not black. There are also a large number of people who cycle in and out of poverty, sometimes doing what it takes and sometimes slumping back into misery and depression and inactivity.

The human spirit is complex and difficult to understand, but there are some market responses which are consistent and timeless.

Penalize a behavior and it will decrease; reward (or subsidize) a behavior and it will increase.

Somewhere in the obscure metaphorical arguments made in this article linked on Instapundit is the absolute gem of a solution--


For people who get jobs, give government payments related to the earnings from the job. The harder they work, the more then earn, the more 'welfare' payments they receive. In this way the taxpayer dollars are blending with actual human productivity and thus, for once, have the potential to actually be an economic net plus for everyone-- rather than the temporary and ultimately wet-blanket 'fix' for the economy that taxpayer funded relief so often turns out to be.

Poverty is real, poor people need help, and I do not pretend otherwise. But I've always been rankled by the certainty that the vast majority of those receiving government subsidies are able to care for themselves but choose not to, for whatever reason. Maybe it's depression, perhaps it's a lack of hope rooted in their particular realities of crime and danger and addiction, and of course maybe they're just taking the easy way out, as is human nature.

I am deeply, fundamentally opposed to this 'taking the easy way out', this lazy acceptance of other people's money, and have long demanded that government find a way to separate the needy from the lazy.

While this idea I've linked to does not inherently do this, it does work around it by incentives to work-- which will leave only the needy and the TRULY lazy in the position of receiving subsidies for doing nothing, and which perhaps actually stands a chance of at least offsetting the wasted taxpayer dollars which support the lazy with a real productivity gain that stimulates economic activity and lifts a community up.

We have 4.8% unemployment in this country, a .1% increase from the past several years due to the recent speculative foolishness in the property market. An English newspaper has proposed that we are now in a depression.

But of course, in the real Depression the unemployment rate was almost 25%, a rate five times higher than today. In fact anything under 5%, historically, is magnificent, and means employees can be selective and find the best job.

English leftists are no less dedicated to the end of America than our own; they trumpet disaster in the press as a way of convincing people that disaster is what we have, so we'll start behaving like victims and their prophecies will be self-fulfilling. Radical change is what they want, and massive public dissatisfaction is their means of getting it. If capitalism breeds failure and misery, the public will want socialism. It's their standard assault tactic.

But the reality in America is so, so different. And the world still wants that American life for itself, even as it claims to be anti-American.

There is no country in the world more receptive of people who want to work.

So if incentives to work are not effective here, they won't be effective anywhere.

No comments: