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Jindal agenda appears to grasp real cause of poverty

If there’s any consternation at all about incoming Gov. Bobby Jindal not having an explicit policy on poverty reduction in Louisiana when it seems he’s got a policy suggestion for everything else, it comes from misunderstanding that in most cases in no direct away can government do anything lasting about poverty.

For about four decades now, there has been a persistent failure on behalf of many elites, borne of the invalidity of political liberalism to explain the human condition, in comprehending the causes of poverty. There are two of these, each requiring a different public policy approach in order to minimize poverty and simultaneously improve the life prospects of those caught up in it.

One cause of poverty is bad fortune, both temporary and permanent, but with the same basic solution. Say a short-term illness drives a family into poverty; in this instance, government may provide relief designed solely temporary in nature until the crisis has passed and breadwinners are able to return to the workforce. This would include people whose bad choices brought the problems onto themselves, where government policy must be not to facilitate that behavior. If it’s a long-term illness, disability, or the like, government should provide a minimal, decent standard of living at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer.

Related to this causes is misfortune in the sense that a person innately does not have the talent to contribute much beyond the minimal to society. As we know, in a free market wealth accrues to people in proportion to their contributions to society through their labor (whether it be physical or mental). Some will be very talented and thereby earn huge monetary rewards but others will be the opposite and eke out marginal remuneration. So long as the latter work hard, if they need government assistance to attain a minimal, decent standard of living, they should have it as they are contributing their maximum and trying their hardest to bring benefits to society.

The other cause, one of which far too many intentionally or otherwise refuse to acknowledge, is poverty comes from behaving according to inferior attitudes. Simply, there are people who do not have impediments such as health problems who do not genuinely want to change their stations in life through hard work, thrift, and sacrifices of pleasures of the moment for long-term benefits; they would rather focus on instant gratification and hope others subsidize this behavior than to take it upon themselves to choose to behave in ways that will make them self-sufficient in the long run. These “poor” who lack willpower far outnumber those stricken by misfortune, the latter of which government can assist directly.

Proper government policy accounting for this, realizing that only tyrannical government can (often just temporarily) force people to change their attitudes, focuses on providing incentives to persuade people to abstain from the previous inferior behavior which eventually will lead to genuine attitudinal conversion where they will willingly forsake past behaviors. Thus, good and rigorous educational programs, both during school years and after, short-term subsidies for specific recipient acts, workfare, and the like all create incentives for people to adopt for future- and other-oriented perspectives where they learn that as they increase their contributions from society and reduce their taking from it, they an society both benefit.

The problem of course, and particularly in Louisiana with its past enervating fixation on populism which blames others for problems (the presumed fixes for which covertly transfer wealth and power to special interests) and creates a sense of entitlement, has been government policy accepting the erroneous liberal belief that it is a lack of presence of money for a person, not inferior attitudes of the individual, that causes the lack of money which to it defines poverty. This is because liberalism refuses to accept the connection between contribution and wealth acquisition in markets; it blindly denies merit and desert govern these outcomes and so falls into a simplistic mode of thinking the free market is a “lottery” where all the poor are “unlucky” and thus it is legitimate simply to redistribute enough wealth from the “lucky” to them to not make them “poor.” Or, that government must intervene in the market to create “jobs” because that misdeploys resources to unproductive activities when they could be used to fund incentives such as tax or job credits that take advantage of market forces to make productive employment.

Even cursory examination of statistics – far more per person now spent on poverty programs to have essentially the same proportion of people in poverty as four or five decades ago – demonstrates the falsity of this faith. Poverty remains static even as spending on it has skyrocketed because it’s wasted, money frittered away to allow people to continue inferior lifestyles whose behavior only serves as a drain on others. Resources cannot be used as a pablum to allow indulgence to continue, but must be deployed to help the weak-willed or otherwise ignorant poor see how they can and should escape poverty.

From early indications, it would appear that Jindal’s ideas on many fronts demonstrate compliance with the notion that government policies addressing poverty must equip the capable, using carrots and sticks, to move above it, rather than declaring the situation addressed by throwing more money at it. In the final analysis, indirect prompting by government across the policy spectrum to alter attitudes and behavior provide the surest poverty reduction program.

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