Over the weekend Mike visited me from Chicago, where he works on his MBA from U-Chi, the bastion of free-market, "supply side" economics. At a party we had in Detroit, Mike railed against vouchers, the "problem" of people accumulating wealth and passing it to their kids, and the "unfairness" (which he wants to correct via govt actions) of people with more money having more access to resources such as better schools.
I argued that: the biggest problem that poor people have today in the US is themselves: they fail to make the best choices, and to seize the best opportunities, available to them. The best role for govt, I said, was to get out of the way, and to permit these people to benefit from such choices as:
- Living a crime-free life, in which they refrain from: assaulting, burgling, raping, shop-lifting, and vandalizing.
- Respecting the homes and neighborhoods that they have, no matter how modest, keeping them as clean and as well-maintained as they can, throwing their trash in designated garbage cans, and even dispatching the litter of others.
- Finding spouses and refraining from pregnancy until they have done so.
- Dressing and conducting themselves in accordance with the standards of self-sufficient, productive people. This means pleasant dispositions and polite behavior in public.
- Reading books, obeying teachers, completing school assignments, graduating from high school.
- Seeking, accepting, and holding the best job that they can find, with no "standards" against any type of work, such as "being too good" to work at McDonalds.
I further argued that as long as the productive, self-sufficient portion of society is going to fund some resources for "poor" people, the best sources for taking those dollars and providing resources to these "poor" people are private enterprises making a profit. I pointed out that where this happens -- such as in the case of the food and housing paid for by taxes -- these "poor" beneficiaries get much higher quality goods and services than where tax spending is restricted to government sources, such as for schooling. Thus I claim that govt education dollars should take the form of free-market vouchers, just as govt dollars do for other programs, such as food stamps, WIC cards, and Section 8 vouchers.
Here are some articles that I want Mike to read, in addition to my comments:
Poor getting richer, rich getting less rich (Tom Sowell)
Old Americans are rich, not poor (Tom Sowell)
Stop Making a Difference (Tom Sowell)
Health care: Govt vs Private (Walter Williams)
Economics & Property Rights (Walter Williams)
Creating Effective Incentives (Walter Williams)
Also, the link embedded in the title of this post, shows that from 1996 through 2005, that "the poor" are "getting less poor" and "the rich" are getting "less rich", exploding the claims that "the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. To the contrary, the poorest people in 1996 had their income increase nearly 100% by 2005; the richest people in 1996 were the only income strata of Americans to have their income dip during this time. Claims to the contrary involve comparing poor people today with poor people of ten years back, without accounting for people moving from one group to the other during this time.
Walter Williams has another reason to embrace vouchers: they will enable the individuals who compose the market to decide such controversial topics as school prayer and sex ed. For people bound by finances to the govt education option K-12, they must all get the same decision in these matters. With vouchers, po' black parents can send their kids to whatever school has the policies that they like, such as prayer with sex ed.