How the Left and the Right Talk about Inequality

If I were to reduce to a bumper sticker the way the left thinks about the world these days, it would read:

Inequality happens

If I were to reduce to a bumper sticker the way the right thinks about the same subject, it would read:

Inequality happens for a reason

This is not a small distinction. For President Obama, inequality is the public policy issue du jour. And like lemmings, left wing editorial writers and bloggers can think of nothing else to write about. But here is something that may surprise you. The most interesting analyses of the problem are on the right, not the left. For the most part, all the left does is deplore. They seem to have no interest in understanding why we have a problem. (I have a theory on that below.)

By contrast, both Charles Murray and Tyler Cowen argue that problematic change is occurring: the middle is disappearing and people are gravitating into the upper and lower strata of society. For Murray the reason is behavioral.  For Cowen, it is technological.

It isn’t that left-of-center scholars are ignoring these things. Work is being done by economists at the Brookings Institution, for example. But you are more likely to learn of this work in a David Brooks column than in one by Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristof or Robert Frank — three other New York Times columnists who write about inequality frequently.

 Let’s start with Murray, who says we are experiencing an ever widening cultural divide. As summarized in a previous post:

Upper-middle class professional types may pretend that they are cultural relativists, accepting of whatever lifestyle their fellow human beings happen to choose. In reality, they live by old fashioned puritan values, however. They get married and stay married. They work hard and work long hours.

Not so for the blue collar, never-got-beyond-high-school class, however. A shocking number aren’t even working at all. Many are not getting married in the first place. Of those that get married, the divorce and separation rates are soaring.

What about happiness and well-being? About 65% of the upper middle class professional types say they are in happy marriages. That number has been dropping steadily for the past 40 years for the working class types; and today it stands at 25%!

And Murray’s study leaves out blacks, Hispanics and other minorities — just so you don’t think the fundamental problem is racial or ethnic. His study focuses only on the white community.

Tyler Cowen has a completely different approach. Are your skills a complement to the computer or a substitute for it? If the former, he predicts that life for you is likely to be cheery. If the latter, life is likely to be dreary. “This is the wave that will lift you or that will dump you,” he says.  As I wrote in a forthcoming review in the NABE journal:

Cowen finds examples everywhere of intelligent machines substituting for human labor. Robot arms are doing the work of doctors in the operating room. Computers spend more time flying our planes than the pilots do. Smart software is being used to spot phony reviews on the Internet, to detect liars at online dating sites and to profile passengers in airports. Computers are creating music, playing chess and drawing pictures of human faces.

The growth of “mechanized intelligence” is likely to continue for two reasons: (1) Moore’s law and (2) the fact that it is an area of life that is basically unregulated.

So what can be done about any of this? Virtually no one has a compelling solution. And there may be no solution.

The only new idea the left seems to have is universal preschool. (They don’t know how to reform any existing programs, so why not throw money after one more?) But the more common tactic (e.g., Paul Krugman) is to use inequality as an excuse for enacting the traditional liberal agenda — deficit spending, minimum wage increase, more unemployment compensation. If you think any of that is going to solve the fundamental problem, I know a bridge in Brooklyn that is for sale.

For the scholars, behavioral remedies are paramount. From the Cato Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis comes the observation that if you do these four things, it’s almost impossible to remain poor:

1.     Finish high school,
2.     Get a job,
3.     Get married, and
4.     Don’t have children until you get married.

Those who do these things have only a 2 percent probability of remaining in poverty and a 75 percent probability of joining the middle class.

From Elizabeth Sawhill at the Brookings Institution comesa similar observation:

…[A] significant number of kids stay on track through the early years, but then fall off the rails as teenagers. Sawhill set a pretty low bar for having a successful adolescence: graduate from high school with a 2.5 G.P.A., don’t get convicted of a crime, don’t get pregnant. Yet only 57 percent of American 19-year-olds get over that bar. Only one-third of children in the bottom fifth of family income do so.

One suspects that for Paul Krugman and others on the left this counts as “blaming the victims.” In any event, I have never seen a Krugman column discussing how the solution to inequality is for those at the bottom of the income ladder to change their behavior. Instead, we find the ever-present hint that those at the top are somehow to blame.

Background: for know-nothings on the left there has always been the belief that the reason there is poverty is because there is wealth. That the high income earned by some is the cause of the low income earned by others. I’ve never seen Krugman say that. He’s too good of an economist to go that far.

But his columns give aid and comfort to people who harbor those beliefs. A Krugman column the other day entitled “The Undeserving Rich” had not one word to say about how a single billionaire had undeserved income. It made not a single connection between one person’s wealth and another person’s poverty. But it would be easy for an uncareful reader (especially a non-economist) to finish the column with the impression that there is a connection.

If your goal is class warfare — to inflame the passions of those who have less by making them angry at those who have more — writing about the behavioral causes of poverty does not advance your cause.

Comments (46)

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  1. Perry says:

    The Left seems to think that if someone is getting richer, by default someone must get poorer. It is also interesting how many Democrats in Congress are at least millionaires, do they deserve what they have?
    The only solution the left can think of is to re-distribute, but by the same token, many of the top 1% are very benevolent in their giving and establishing charitable works, as are many of the upper middle class.
    If there is constant re-distribution, where is the incentive to work harder to go up the ladder, just to have it taken away by the government?
    I heard a great joke about the difference between a liberal and conservative. The two were walking down the street when they encountered a citizen down on his luck. The conservative pulled out a $5 and treated the fellow to a meal. The liberal remarked how nice a gesture. Later, they encountered another poor fellow, so the liberal reached into the conservative’s pocket, removed his wallet and gave the guy a $10.

  2. Studebaker says:

    From Elizabeth Sawhill at the Brookings Institution observed: …[A] significant number of kids stay on track through the early years, but then fall off the rails as teenagers. Her idea of a successful adolescence: graduate from high school with a 2.5 G.P.A., don’t get convicted of a crime, don’t get pregnant. Yet only 57 percent of American 19-year-olds get over that bar. Only one-third of children in the bottom fifth of family income do so.

    People blame bad schools for poor achievement. But, I think that parents have to teach their kids these things. Parents have to beat into their kids that they will not tolerate certain behaviors and lack of achievement.

    • Linda Gorman says:

      If a kid comes from a chaotic home, school may be his only refuge. When schools are chaotic, as they are in many areas, that kid has two strikes against him.

      Public policy can’t, or won’t, do much about the parents. It can do something about the schools as the successes in Harlem, Houston, and the Catholic schools in tough neighborhoods make clear.

      But blaming parents is so much easier than running a disciplined school.

  3. James M. says:

    1. Finish high school,
    2. Get a job,
    3. Get married, and
    4. Don’t have children until you get married.

    I don’t believe these bars that are set so high that only 57% of high school students should be able to achieve this. This is completely a work ethic and lack of common sense problem, qualities that are taught by the families they grow up in. The government will not teach the youth how to be a hard worker and stay out of poverty. They are only pushing the idea of the poor being entitled, providing absolutely no incentive to pick themselves up out of poverty.

  4. Andrew says:

    “For the most part, all the left does is deplore. They seem to have no interest in understanding why we have a problem.”

    The left seems to have no interest in providing real solutions to the inequality issue in America. You can’t keep putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound and expect it to heal.

  5. Ken says:

    Great piece.

  6. Thomas says:

    “Are your skills a complement to the computer or a substitute for it?”

    In the future, this will be the determinate as to whether anyone can find employment. Eventually, all jobs are going to require some sort of skill, as all of the jobs for unskilled labor will soon be replaced.

    • Jay says:

      Imagine what the divide in income inequality will be after there are no more low wage jobs.

      • Matthew says:

        The high end of the distribution will have all of the high paying jobs, the low end will be on government transfers and the middle (if there is one) will be screwed.

  7. Buddy says:

    Great health alert post, John.

  8. Xinyuan Zou says:

    Although the behavioral causes do have impact on poverty, we probably cannot ignore some other factors such as terrible school environment, limited social network, and peer pressure. These elements may let teenagers fall off the rails leading to poverty.

  9. Walter Q. says:

    “The only new idea the left seems to have is universal preschool”

    Will this be treated as public schools, without parents paying out of pocket? If the belief is that the youth need to be more educated, why not improve the quality of the school system instead of spending more money to just start kids in school sooner?

    • Thomas says:

      I don’t think lack of education necessarily starts from students being behind at the age of 5, but to keep them from falling behind once they enter their pre-teen and teen years.

      • Xinyuan Zou says:

        I agree. We should improve the existing environment rather than duplicating the existing one. Starting kids in a school with poor quality sooner is not of great benefit to them

  10. BHS says:

    This was great. And especially the end – “If your goal is class warfare — to inflame the passions of those who have less by making them angry at those who have more — writing about the behavioral causes of poverty does not advance your cause.”

    And the very title of the Krugman editorial makes me want to scream!

    Last night, Obama said, “Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success.”

    Color me skeptical.

    • Dupree says:

      Well, in fairness, it is the people who experience smaller successes that it seems he wants to crush (small business). The people achieving “incredible success” seem to be doing just fine. (Big business – eg. QE keeping large corporate stocks unrealistically high and ACA is corporate welfare for large businesses that pay slave wages)

      • Centrist says:

        “… it is the people who experience smaller successes that it seems he [Obama] wants to crush (small business).”

        According to the SBA, 84% of the 13 million firms and establishments in the united States have fewer than 50 employees, and therefore are exempt from the ACA madate … but may qualify for numerous credits to help them. So, just how is Obama ‘crushing’ small business? Please stop the unfounded rhetoric.

        • Dupree says:

          By enacting policies that benefit only the largest corporations, at the expense of the middle class (small business owners and their better paid employees), the playing field is substantially tilted against small business. Almost nobody actually reaps a substantial benefit from the small business tax credit because of the way it was designed. It was only designed to be a talking point, as you have illustrated.

  11. Greg Scandlen says:

    I find Cowan’s analysis offensive. Most of the people I know are tradesmen (plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, HVAC repairmen) or small business owners (restaurants, hair salons, dog kennels). Yes, they employ computers in their work but only as tools, not as substitutes for their initiative. The elite always seems to overlook people like these, yet these people are reasonably prosperous and lead happy lives. They remain the great middle between the Manhattan elite and the dependent class. Cowan’s life would be much poorer without them, but he doesn’t seem to know they exist.

    • Devon Herrick says:

      The problem is that the conventional wisdom in our society pushes people into college (or denies the college for lack of money and aptitude) but does little to point them towards the trades.

      The last time I had a plumber come out, I think I paid him $300 for a job that wasn’t very taxing. I got bids from HVAC repair shops and the cheapest bids was $2,000 for a day’s work replacing an A-coil. My handyman charges a good rate — I’d hire him for more work if he had a willingness to do more complex projects. The dog kennel we take our dog to bills itself as a “resort” and charges more per night than Motel 6!

      Why are these alternatives not taught to our young people?

      • Vince says:

        This is one of the major problems of our educational system. Not everyone should go to college. The more we promote this the higher college costs go, the more we tax payers pay to fund college loans, the more students go into majors that do not set the student up for jobs once they are out. If High schools would promote trades and functional education the better we would be. We need to make sure that these are available to the kids that do not want or are not ready for college. The supply of good trades people would increase and we would have much larger population making a good living doing good work. The left always seems to go back to their belief that college is the road to a better life but whatever your educational system is, it should prepare you for being a productive member of society not just to have letters after your name.

  12. Ron says:

    It is no longer productive to debate the reasons why many have never experienced or lived the American Dream of upward mobility. Instead, too many Americans have been told it is unavailable to them.

    It is now critical to create a broad-based recognition and belief that in a “Citizen-Centered Community” the American Dream of upward mobility is alive and available to all. In a “Citizen-Centered Community” individuals matter and respect of others generates respect for self.

    Upward mobility is less about providing ever expanding “government centered “ welfare programs that lock people into poverty, and more about supporting and promoting social programs that improve the three basics of maximizes success and minimizing poverty.

    1. Graduate from H.H.
    2. Don’t have children until at least 21 and married
    3. Get a job, any job

    This “Citizen-Centered Community” solution to poverty highlights the difference between “government centered” programs of false compassion for the poor and needy and real solutions. Past programs have mainly promoted dependency, a reduction of support available for those truly in need, and political power for the “elected elite” versus a “Citizen-Centered Community” anti-poverty program that advances the human condition.

    If a “Citizen-Centered Community” anti-poverty strategy is fully implemented the entire nation will benefit with lower demands for government spending, which will allow more funds available to help those truly in need. It will also result in lower taxes and lower national financial deficits. It will put America back on a glide path for success and prosperity for our people versus the current path of deficits and economic stagnation.

  13. Breck says:

    Excellent discussion, especially when combined with John’s earlier post on the reason’s behind inequality, such as having two workers in a family. Of course, my liberal friends observe, “see, things have deteriorated so badly in America that it takes two incomes to survive.” But what about a woman’s need for a career and all that?

    Charles Murray is, IMHO, the keenest observer and student of social issues in America. “The Bell Curve,” “Coming Apart,” and “Real Education” should be required reading for anyone involved in politics. He even offers solutions, for example “In Our Hands.”

    The left will never acknowledge that they help make it so much harder for young people to avoid pregnancy; by promoting “free love” back in the 1960s or the fact that nearly every sitcom you turn on involves hip young people sleeping around indiscriminately. With all social stigma removed from unmarried women having children — what should we expect?

    The problem is not going away so long as the left has any influence over our political and cultural climate.

  14. Centrist says:

    Two sides to every coin … “If your goal is class warfare — to inflame the passions of those who have” **more** “by making them angry at those who have” **less** “ — writing about the behavioral causes of poverty [this particular article] does not advance your cause.”

    Let me pose a question regarding minimum wage. If someone finds that the job they have (working long hard hours) does not pay enough to support their (graduate/married) family’, aren’t they eligible for several low income government programs? Wouldn’t it make more sense (for those who want to reduce deficit spending) to shift that cost burden to the private sector in the form of a higher minimum wage? Unless your ‘cause’ is to let the family expire on the streets, then either the government assists them with our money (higher deficit) … or we assist them with our money (lower deficit).

    • Breck says:

      Trouble is, minimum wage jobs are not held predominantly by married folks raising a family. The minimum wage goes mostly to high school kids who live in relatively affluent homes, so you are only making the income gap worse by raising the minimum wage. And few work minimum wage for long. It only requires a few weeks of demonstrated job skills — showing up on time, doing what the boss tells you, being dressed properly etc. — before a higher level of productivity merits a raise.

      The other side of the argument for a living wage is this: Do we really want menial, low productivity jobs to pay enough that folks will want to keep these jobs for a lifetime? Let’s say flipping burgers paid $40k a year. Once a person got such a job they would have no incentive to go to college, take a technical job training course, or improve their skills and productivity.

      I lived in Louisiana during a previous oil boom. Boys right out of H.S. could make good money — much more than $40K in today’s dollars — working on oil rigs in the Gulf. So thousands of them — fueled by visions of tricked out pickup trucks and many girlfriends — avoided college and took these jobs. It was good money while single, but limited their career earnings potential.

      Once the minimum wage is $25 an hour, the next thing we’ll be hearing is how little ambition our young people have — they just flip burgers and have babies instead of going to college.

      • Centrist says:

        According to 2011 DOL stats, only 5.2% (3.9M) of all hourly workers are paid at or below minimum wage, so this doesn’t seem to be of great concern to most of America. However, nearly 3/4 of that group (3 million) are not the affluent high schoolers you assert. They are 20+ high school graduates (or higher) who are trying to make a living, and who also qualify for your tax dollar support programs. I say pay an extra 25 cents for your Big Mac and reduce the need for support programs and deficit spending. Let us be the answer instead of government.

        • Vince says:

          The problem is, the market may not want to pay an extra 25 cents for the big mac. The consumer may opt to buy another item for less so his bill is the same as it was prior to the higher minimum wage. The overall income for the owner is the same, the payroll is higher so that worker instead of only getting a small supplement now loses his job and the tax payer is now on the hook for a bigger costs of his whole income.

          • Centrist says:

            Vince, the ‘lay-off’ argument comes up every time a state or federal minimum wage increase comes up for debate, and has historically had little, if any, negative impacts on commerce … anywhere. Review states with higher minimum wages than federal.

            As far as the ‘market’, I suppose, if given the option, the ‘market’ would favor even lower prices if we eliminated food safety regulations, fire and building safety codes, removed fair trade practices, and eliminated minimum wage all together, but we as a nation need to set ‘reasonable’ minimum standards to protect the public, don’t you think?

            • Greg Scandlen says:

              Hi, Centrist. There are consequences to every action. Building codes, for instance (which are not federal, btw) banished what we used to think of as “cold water flats.” I would suggest that is a major cause of homelessness. People sleep under bridges because they are no longer allowed to reside in cheap bare bones apartments. Do you think that is an improvement?

              • Centrist says:

                No one said that building codes were federal. They are, however, primarily based in national codes (see International Code Council)

                And yes, for every action there is a reaction (see Newton)

                And yes, there are abandon building ordinances in place for the ‘improvement’ of health, safety, and social issues … to name a few, and yes, to the dismay of some.

                Now, back to the point. We as a nation have set, and continually need to revisit, ‘reasonable’ minimum standards to protect the public (I believe you would refer to it as life, liberty, property,. and/or the pursuit of happiness. Question: Why was the minimum wage even put into law and how was it found Constitutional by SCOTUS?

                • Vince says:

                  I know that most people who advocate raising the minimum wage like to say that the layoff argument historically does not pan out. I am here to tell you that as an employer in the health care filed that this would in fact take place. I employ a great deal or part time college kids looking to get into the field, get experience and move on to grad school. I pay them above the current minimum wage but less than what many feel a living wage is. I cannot raise my prices because they are set by others- insurance companies, government etc. If the wage would increase I would need to hire less of these kids, the service to my patients would diminish potentially causing me to lose reputation and business. I am way to regulated now to run my business purely the way I want to now so please do not advocate more.

                  • Centrist says:

                    The current proposal on the table is a 95 cent per hour increase over three years, starting at $7.25 and capping at $10.10 per hour. Do we hear a conservative proposal or do they simply say NO again? Since you already pay above minimum wage, any increase wouldn’t impact you in the short term, if at all. It would, however, positively impact the economy and millions of others and I, as a consumer, don’t mind paying a little extra.

                • Greg Scandlen says:

                  “Reasonable minimum standards” are one thing, but government often goes overboard and needs to be curtailed. See —

                  “How California legalized selling food made at home, creating over a thousand businesses. “A government official appears at a man’s door. The man has been breaking the law: He has sold bread baked at home. This isn’t a page from Kafka—it happened to Mark Stambler in Los Angeles. For decades, Stambler has followed traditional methods to bake loaves of French bread. The ingredients are simple: distilled water, sea salt, wild yeast and organic grains. Stambler even mills the grain himself. To make it easier to steam loaves, he built a wood-fired oven in his own backyard. Stambler’s loaves came in first place at the Los Angeles County Fair and the California State Fair. Soon after that, Stambler got the idea to expand his hobby into a home business, which became Pagnol Boulanger. Word of mouth spread. In June 2011, The Los Angeles Times profiled Stambler and his bread in a full-page feature. Unlike his bread, that profile was bittersweet. He was busted the very next day… An inspector from the health department even showed up at his doorstep to make sure “no bread baking was taking place.” For the next 18 months, Pagnol Boulanger was forced to go on hiatus. That’s when he “became an activist,” Stambler said in an email interview.”

                  Happens all the time, every day, in every location. Bureaucrats are power mad.

                  • Centrist says:

                    Weren’t many citizens burnt as witches after succumbing to rye fungus toxin (from bread baked in their neighbor’s kitchen) in the Middle Ages? Haven’t the incidences of food poisoning greatly diminished since the advent of food safety laws? Your bureaucrats are simply doing what we demanded they do. Enforce minimum safety standards. If Mr. Stambler baked and ate his own, great. When he sells to the public … yes … his ‘freedom’ to make others sick has been denied him. He needs to step up and play with the rest of the kids.

                • Allan (formerly Al) says:

                  “Question: Why was the minimum wage even put into law and …?”

                  If I remember correctly it was a protectionist law to protect the northern textile worker from the cheaper labor of the south. It may have also been racist since that labor force in the south that might have replaced that of the north was black. Thus the latter (a blacker population) was left with fewer job opportunities than the white population.

        • Allan (formerly Al) says:

          All societies are moving from labor to automation. I think Spengler said that 1% of our population at present productivity rates could feed the entire world. Most of the worlds population farms. This is true in every industry. As the wage increases the movement towards using non human labor or cheap labor abroad increases.

          If one agrees with Spengler’s thesis (and others), then one recognizes that raising the minimum wage is not a solution rather leads to more unemployment especially among those that need the work experience. Forcing industry to accept minimum wage means they are forced to utilize non human labor or otherwise get rid of the job. The low salary of menial jobs that can be replaced by non human labor is an incentive to become more educated and thus more productive which creates job opportunities at higher pay. That is (productivity) what maintains our future standard of living.

  15. suzette says:

    The right write blogs about opinion articles from undergraduate interns, and then quote them as if they are writing about articles written about in-depth analyses. Research methods and statistical classes teach people how to understand that just because they read about something that agrees with how they feel that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s based in fact. I appreciate a good debate on how we can raise people out of poverty, but there are some debates I won’t enter, including those that are based on how one feels about something, and by authors who use “article citations”–that he knows no one will visit–which expose his lack of integrity around the science of research and analysis. But hey, it looks like you are doing pretty well based on your comments.

  16. charlie bond says:

    Dear John,
    Foolish me, thinking this was a health care blog . . . .
    Leaving aside all of the cultural and ethnocentric assumptions in the message, there is simply one point to be made:
    Health care is a universal need. Injury and disease strike without running a credit check beforehand.
    Our current health care financing system has the power to financially devastate families.
    Health care costs can thus be one of the reasons for inequality in our society. Is that acceptable?
    If health care were ruinous to your sister and her family, to your children or their families, would it be acceptable that they would have to bear the burden–not only of their sickness or injury–but the enormous stresses of financial struggle as well? I believe that the parable of the Good Samaritan, which most Americans (regardless of religious affiliation) accept as a moral guide, addresses issues of the “equality” of those who pass by on the other side, as well as the “equality” of the Samaritan and the beaten man.
    Health care is not only bankrupting our country. It is bankrupting individuals and families across the land. We do not need to do this to ourselves. We can organize our delivery system far more efficiently to coordinate care and reduce cost; we can insist on cost-based pricing; and we can mobilize patients and the public to volunteer to address health care in our communities like an old-fashioned barn-raising. If we do this, there would be one less “reason” for inequality in our society and one less risk that “inequality” might happen to you or someone you love.

    PS. The constant “right”-“left” references are not advancing the discussion here. Just as health problems don’t check the patient’s wallet first, they don’t check voter registration rolls or NSA’s profiles of political isms that the patient might adhere to. Injury and sickness befall all of us and those we love, regardless of our party affiliation. The problem is that health has now reached the proportion that it is “too big, we cannot fail”. Right, left and center need to put down the cudgels and start volunteering community-wide to seek apolitical, collaborative solutions.
    Time is running out.

    • Allan (formerly Al) says:

      Charlie, it seems your argument centers on the failed argument of Himmelstein’s medical bankruptcy conclusions. I’m not against correcting our healthcare system or necessarily any solutions you might suggest, but based upon your arguments wouldn’t disability insurance, credit (card) limitations and other things to help individuals better manage their financial security do a better job at avoiding bankruptcy?

  17. Guy says:

    The fundamentally absurd notion of seeking to ascribe causalities to poverty is seemingless as infectious a disease as is silly scientism. But, since we apparently must hark overtly to “science” (think AGW) in order to take on the proper appearance of legitimacy in today’s frightfully naive and PC world, let’s reflect for a moment on the wise words of one of the modern era’s more respected social scientists in the specialized arenas of global economic development and poverty, the late Brit economist, Lord Peter Bauer. Bauer famously tried to tell us all, many years ago, that “Poverty has no causes. Wealth has causes. Poverty is the natural state when we pop out the womb!” Bauer was not waxing rhetorical. He could not have sincerely and literally meant what he so profoundly and instructively stated any more. If you fundamentally do not grasp this concept and the scale and scope of it’s import to this conversation, please consider the basic physics metaphors of light and heat. They both, like wealth, have root causalities, while their respective natural and overwhelmingly dominant state converse conditions of darkness and cold, like poverty, do not. All three of these non caused (blank slate)states/conditions can be ameliorated only via displacive actions/creation. Create light and you can displace darkness. Create heat and you can displace cold. Create wealth and you can displace poverty. Moving a flashlight from one place to another doesn’t displace darkness…it shifts it. Moving a space heater from one room to another just changes which room is cold. Nothing displaces poverty but good old fashion wealth creation…and methinks we (the U.S.) do know a thing or two about causality in that realm. At least a truly scientific examination of world history would lead one to conclude such. In due honor of Lord Bauer’s many contributions to the body of knowledge on this important topic, please don’t ever again let yourself get caught up in the nonsensical and destructively human and financial resource wasting idea that we will ever be able to resolve “the poverty problem” by ferreting out its causes and attacking them. It is the ultimate in the mindless chasing our economic tail.

    • Studebaker says:

      If you’re a cab driver, a shoeshine kiosk, a doorman, or a high-end restaurateur, you probably think having plenty of rich folk around is good for business.

  18. Rodney W Nichols says:

    Superb piece!

  19. Karl Stecher says:

    Robotic arms are doing the work of doctors in the operating room? Not really. Those robots are tools which must be guided by a doctor, a very well trained one. And if anything bad happens…and it can and in a few cases will…the doctor is sued (see Colorado), not the robot.
    On a much more basic level… a knife is used to open the skin, not your fingernail.
    That said, I fully realize that work aids (computers building cars, for instance), have and will eliminate many “basic” jobs.
    But if youth have not mastered basic education, it will be all the harder to train them for something new.

  20. Guy says:

    Government setting and enforcing of so-called “reasonable minimum standards” is not exactly the same thing as government price fixing.

    “Rent controls” are absolutely nothing more or less than a government price fixing scheme…they fix the price of the use of a person’s property.

    Similarly, “minimum wages” are nothing more or less than a government price fixing scheme…they fix the price of labor.

    Political collusion and coercion to redistribute income and wealth via government price fixing is unfortunately beyond the Justice Department’s normal enforcement purview. This is a classic example of mastermind-style political corruption and legal torturings and rationalizations in pursuit of some ostensible urge to save the world from itself. It is actually somewhat easy to see how some could rationalize government price fixing… just not in a country founded on the idea of a high degree of freedom from government coercion.

    We bolted from a monarchy over just such stuff as this. Alas…we really have forgotten. Cultural anthropologists suggest we are too generationally removed from the king’s gallows to really grasp this very meaningfully any more. That’s why Hayek penned his most famous work describing the road to serfdom. It’s such a “reasonable” and seemingly pleasant and oh so polite and intelligent path. Then all the sudden, the lulled and happy traveler looks up and lo and behold, there’s those darn gallows.

    The red coloration on Old Glory, and the shed blood it symbolizes are supposed to help us with our generational recall and awareness in this regard. But, I suppose when it was your great great great great, etc. grandpa’s blood that was shed or neck that was stretched and therefore you don’t have the coffin flag folded behind glass in a wooden case on your mantle where you see it plainly every day, it really is just too easy to forget.