Government policies that prevent poor people from prospering

Michael Tanner:

In my new book, The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor, I lay out what I believe to be an effective approach to fighting poverty based firmly on libertarian principles. It suggests that before we discuss whether or how much redistribution is needed, we should attack the underlying barriers that can prevent poor people from prospering. ,,,

Economic growth does more to reduce poverty over time than any government intervention. But that growth must be inclusive. We should also make it easier for the poor to find work today by eliminating regulations, licensure, zoning, and other laws that make it harder for the poor to find jobs or start a business.Rather than create new programs and spend more money, there is a real need to start undoing the harmful legacy of past and current government policies. Reforming criminal justice, education, and housing policy, while encouraging job creation, economic growth, and individual savings will do more to help reduce poverty than anything we are doing today. Taken as a whole, these reforms would give far more poor people the opportunity to partake in the prosperity that they seek.

Source: What’s Missing in the War on Poverty? | Cato Institute

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Democratic Socialism Threatens All Minorities

From The Atlantic, via the Soho Forum:
“Nothing better protects victims of bigotry than a system where they can pursue their needs and wants outside the realm of popular control.”

So, young leftists: Would you prefer a socialist society in which birth control is available if, and only if, a majority of workers exercising their democratic control assents? Or would you prefer a society in which private businesses can produce birth control, per their preference, in part because individuals possess economic rights as producers and consumers, the preferences of a majority of people around them be damned?

If contraception at every CVS and Walgreens sounds better than “popular control,” you may be a laissez-faire capitalist, or at least recognize why democratic socialism can be a nightmare for many sorts of people.

As the economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek put it, “Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that, if one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another.” But, he added, “if we face a monopolist we are at his absolute mercy.” Socialists are attuned to the ways individuals are vulnerable in capitalism but blind to ways that it frees us from the preferences of the majority. Nearly all of us would hate abiding by the will of the majority on some matters.

Source: Democratic Socialism Threatens All Minorities, Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic.

Friedersdorf echoes David D. Friedman in The Machinery of Freedom:

If almost everyone is in favor of feeding the hungry, the politician may find it in his interest to do so. But, under those circumstances, the politician is unnecessary: some kind soul will give the hungry man a meal anyway. If the great majority is against the hungry man, some kind soul among the minority still may feed him—the politician will not.

PDF of 2nd Edition.

 

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Pema Chödrön on theism, nontheism, babysitters, personal responsibility, & accepting ambiguity

Listening to When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the following comparison of theism and nontheism:

Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.

Had someone read me the quote and asked me to attribute it to someone, I would likely have guess Sam Harris, as I’d recently listened to his excellent book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.

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The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

coverExcellent book forum hosted by the Cato Institute:

Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler have written a book about the hidden motives in all of us: quite often, our brains get up to activities that we know little or nothing about. This isn’t just a question of regulating hormone levels or involuntary reflexes. Many of these involuntary behaviors are social signals, such as laughter or tears. Involuntary motives appear to underlie many forms of human sociability, including family formation, art, religion, and recreation. What are the implications for public policy? How can we understand politics and governance better in light of our hidden motives? Our discussion of The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life will focus on just these questions.

Source: The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life | Cato Institute

See also Robin Hanson’s TedX talk on this book.

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Alain de Botton’s lecture: How Romanticism Ruined Love (and an antidote from Ancient Greece)

That’s partly my title, anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed this very insightful and humorous lecture (72 minutes). Excellent. The summary posted at the YouTube video:

Twenty-first century depictions of love and marriage are shaped by a set of Romantic myths and misconceptions and with his trademark warmth and wit, Alain de Botton explores the complex landscape of a modern relationship, presenting a realistic case study for marriage and examining what it might mean to love, to be loved – and to stay in love.

If you want to listen to the lecture, as I did, e.g, in the car, convert the video at a site such as SaveTube.

See also:

How Romanticism Ruined Love, and corresponding video, which is a five-minute summary of the above lecture.

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Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

is-administrative-law-unlawful-coverWith president-elect Trump selecting people to head executive branch agencies that both make and enforce administrative law, it’s time to ask: Is such “law” really lawful? The Cato Institute hosted an event with author Philip Hamburger to address this question:

When law in America can be made by executive “pen and phone” alone — indeed, by a White House press release — we’re faced starkly with a fundamental constitutional question: Is administrative law unlawful? Answering in the affirmative in this far-reaching, erudite new treatise, Philip Hamburger traces resistance to rule by administrative edict from the Middle Ages to the present. Far from a novel response to modern society and its complexities, executive prerogative has deep roots. It was beaten back by English constitutional ideas in the 17th century and even more decisively by American constitutions in the 18th century, but it reemerged during the Progressive Era and has grown ever since, regardless of the party in power.

Listen to professor Hamburger discuss his book: Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

See also a series of essays: Questioning Administrative State, at Cato Unbound.

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Why we’re less wealthy than we should: Foolish government policies.

Veronique de Rugy explains how foolish government policies make us poorer and make recessions worse: Making the Most of the Next Recession.

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