Libertarianism and the Poor

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Two different friends in two different contexts recently asked me about Libertarian approaches to helping the poor.  Here’s what I had to say on that question in my  2012 collection of campaign essays, “Less We Can.”

Libertarianism and the Poor

We know free markets produce more prosperity, and we know government spending is often ineffective or worse.  But many are nonetheless reluctant to embrace libertarian ideas because of their commitment to social justice.  Without the welfare state, how would Libertarians take care of the poor? Read the rest of this entry »

Liberty Quotation of the Day: Eisenhower on Military Spending

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Eisenhower“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower, from a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 6,1953

Liberty Quotation of the Day: Schall on Poverty and the State

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James Schall“How often do people who talk of helping the poor, in the logic of their complaint, demand that something be done about it.  The next thing we find is that they are really demanding governments to do something.  Yet, it is precisely governments that are often the most irresponsible agents, the ones that dry up the sources of wealth production.  Governments are often the one agency most responsible for poverty in the name of getting rid of it.”

Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., “Poverty and Ultimate Riches,” Religion & Liberty (Summer 2013)

Who benefits from minimum wage legislation?

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Standard-min-wage-graph1The primary case against minimum wage legislation is well known, even if many choose to ignore it:  raising wages for unskilled workers discourages employers from hiring and therefore tends to destroy jobs.

But here’s an interesting observation from the folks at AEI.  According to their calculations, if the minimum wage goes up to $10.10 per hour, the federal government actually takes more from that $2.85/hour raise than the minimum wage worker herself gets!

So let’s say you want government to adopt policies that help people climb out of poverty (as most of us do).  And let’s say that, for some reason, you just don’t believe that employers will hire fewer people if the cost of hiring people goes up.  Wouldn’t it be a lot better for governments to reduce the amount they skim off the top for programs that are ineffective (or worse) and help the poor by letting them keep more of what they earn?

Liberty Quotation of the Day: Milton Friedman on Minimum Wage Laws

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Milton Friedman“Minimum wage laws are about as clear a case as one can find of a measure the effects of which are precisely the opposite of those intended by the men of good will who support it.  Many proponents of minimum wage laws quite properly deplore extremely low rates; they regard them as a sign of poverty; and they hope, by outlawing wage rates below some specified level, to reduce poverty.  In fact, insofar as minimum wage laws have any effect at all, their effect is clearly to increase poverty.  The state can legislate a minimum wage rate.  It can hardly require employers to hire at that minimum all who were formerly employed at wages below the minimum.  It is clearly not in the interest of employers to do so.  The effect of the minimum wage is therefore to make unemployment higher than it otherwise would be.”

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom [1962]

Liberty Quotation of the Day: Compassion and Coercion

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Penn Jillette“It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion.  Helping poor and suffering people yourself is compassion.  Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.  People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered.  If we’re compassionate, we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right.  There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.”

Penn Jillette