I agree (2nd to last paragraph), somewhat, with Google founder Larry Page: Give money to capitalists instead of charity (via Carpe Diem).
Where I disagree is that you don’t need to give them money. Rather, invest in them. Invest in entrepreneurship. Maybe get kids diddling less time away chasing college scholarships to play sports heavily subsidized by taxpayers and more time creating stuff of value.
Here’s more from me and Richard Branson on the subject.
From John Goodman’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, A Costly Failed Experiment (emphasis added):
With Sunday marking the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, it’s worth revisiting the initial purpose of the president’s signature legislation: Universal coverage was the main goal. Four years later, not even the White House pretends that this goal will be realized. Most of those who were uninsured before the law was passed will remain uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Democrats also fixated on another goal: protection for people with pre-existing conditions. One of the first things the new law did was create federal risk pools so that people who had been denied coverage for health reasons could purchase insurance for the same premium a healthy person would pay. Over the next three years, about 107,000 people took advantage of that opportunity.
Think about that. One of the main reasons given for interfering with the health care of 300 million people was to solve a problem that affected a tiny sliver of the population.
More recently, the president has had to explain why between four million and seven million people are losing their health insurance despite his promise that they would not.
Yes, think about that. Thinking isn’t something we do very much of this country anymore.
When I read that headline in the Wall Street Journal, my initial thought was that perhaps ‘the U.S.’ has been a bit too preoccupied with spying on its own people.
Here’s Mark Perry, of Carpe Diem, regarding John Goodman’s post: If you really care about income inequality, you need only focus on one thing: the inequality of educational opportunity.
As Goodman puts it:
Poor kids are almost always enrolled in bad schools. Rich kids are almost always in good schools.
As they point out, the left seems more concerned with protecting teachers unions than providing quality education.
But, I think it’s worth pointing out that the blame of bad schools doesn’t fall only on the administrators and teachers, though they are partly to blame.
As one commenter on Mark Perry’s blog post pointed out, what do you think would happen if you switched the kids in the good schools with the kids in the bad schools? Do you think the reputation of the schools would remain intact? No.
I think it’s worth considering why that is. It’s not because of inequality. It’s because different people value education differently, just like any other product or service.
Even in a country that provides publicly for education, people still get to make choices based on a number of factors. Those who value education more tend to choose to live in areas where their neighbors value it as well. Those who don’t value education as much are left in the bad schools.
Charters a good way to give more choice to the people who do value education, but happen to be stuck in the areas where their neighbors don’t value it as much.
But, charters won’t convince those who don’t value it, to value it more.
Jeffrey Sachs was interviewed on EconTalk, not long after Nina Munk’s interview that was critical of Sachs’ Millennium Villages Project. Can’t wait to hear it.
A Facebook friend liked this article about youth sports and what parents should say to kids when they play. I found that article, the article it references and the discussion in the comments interesting — especially because I’ve been coaching a youth sports team for a few years.
I find the youth sports scene interesting for a number of reasons. One reason is that cause and effect of success and failure is hard to determine, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. The articles above are good examples.
They say college athletes said their parents just told them that they like watching them play.
Is that a signal or a cause? The articles make it sound like a cause.
But, it’s likely that most college athletes were excelling in their sport from an early age due to natural physical advantages, above average interest in learning the sport, some competitive grit and/or environmental factors that may have provided them with multiple times more exposure to the sport than the average kid.
It’s easier to say “I just like to watch you play” to someone who is in the top 5% of their age group than to somebody who is in the middle or bottom.
Also, I’m sure many parents whose kids didn’t make a college or high school team said that, too. I’d guess that for every set of parents of a college athlete who said that, there are ten sets of parents of non-college athletes who said the same. Why didn’t it work for them?
My parents usually said something like that. They’d usually ask if I had fun and tried my best. I didn’t play high school or college athletics. And, I’m doing okay. As near as I can tell, I’m doing about as okay as many who did play high school and college sports.
Bryan Caplan thinks it’s inconsistent for the left to believe the poor shouldn’t be blamed for their predicament, but Republicans can be blamed for a host of things like not helping the less fortunate or ignoring evidence of global warming.
He also points out that the predatory pricing practiced by public schools yields only a 90% market share after decades, not a monopoly as folks believe.
Don Boudreaux says it well:
Here’s my summary take on this issue [income inequality]: unless someone steals from you, you have no business fretting over how much money that person has relative to how much money you have. If you insist, absent any such thievery, on fretting over such a thing, you are deeply immature, excessively materialistic, and obnoxiously antisocial – and, thus, unworthy of having your opinions taken seriously by serious people. (Envy is an unsound basis not only for government policy but also for personal ethics.) And if someone did steal from you, then what you should fret about is that person’s thievery rather than about his or her monetary wealth relative to your own. After all, if the thief’s theft raised his or her income to a level more in line with your own, you surely wouldn’t shrug and excuse the thievery on the grounds that it helped to equalize incomes – and you’d be appalled if the police did such shrugging.
I’m looking forward to reading Bryan Caplan’s follow-up to his post, Poverty: The Stages of Blame. In the follow-up, he plans to explore what that implies about government and personal behavior.
This topic baffles me. When kept in the abstract, people seem to default to an attitude that ‘something must be done to help’ because people are poor ‘through no fault of their own.’
But, when you start talking about specific people, Caplan’s logic tends to override that abstract reasoning.
But, few people backtrack and wonder how many people really fall into that abstract “through no fault of their own.”
Update: Here’s Bryan’s follow-up post, Poverty: The Stages of Blame Applied. He makes good points.
Some economists believe increases in the minimum wage will have ‘little or no effect on employment.’
That’s possible. People who aren’t productive enough to make minimum wage will still be able to find sub-minimum wage work and those people won’t show up in unemployment statistics since they are not looking for a job.
Some sub-minimum wage jobs are legal. If you are self-employed, you don’t have to make minimum wage. A buddy of mine once owned a used car lot. While he was a staunch advocate of a minimum wage, his sales people were ‘self-employed’, so he wouldn’t have to pay them the minimum wage if they didn’t sell cars.
Also, unpaid internships and grad students often make less than minimum wage.
Some sub-minimum wage jobs aren’t legal. Many drugs are illegal, but somehow they are readily available everywhere.
So, in other words, while economists use the argument that a minimum wage hike will have ‘little or no effect on employment,’ they don’t come right out and that’s because those who ignore it already will continue to do so, as drugs will continue to be sold.