Friday, March 28, 2008

Policy by Avoidance: Why Liberals Always Get It Wrong

Obama seemed to suggest that families in America escape poverty by patiently accumulating wealth and passing it on to future generations—when in fact millions of Americans of all races leap out of poverty within a single lifetime through their own initiative, not their inheritances. We are long past the time when the legacy of Jim Crow laws and other forms of official discrimination can explain black poverty rates...Getting Poverty Wrong, Stephen Malanga, City Journal, 3/21/2008

Stephen Pinker, at times probably the most hated scientist at faculty meetings in Cambridge, has written extensively about the modern propensity to deny human nature. (See his book The Blank Slate: Modern Denial of Human Nature, Stephen Pinker, 2002) Policy wonks (the Clintons, the Obamas, the McCains) become enraged by opinions that suggest something other than Social Construction determines what lives people lead. Under this political idea, nothing good happens unless a Democrat (or pseudo-Democrat) proposes and executes a plan. The notion that human beings, at birth, contain the foundation for much of what they'll need in life, especially the will to look after themselves and their families, is deeply offensive to modern left/liberals. They still believe in the 18th century notion that human beings are blank slates, whose personalities and success in life are only written in by politically correct ideas and liberal 5-year plans enforced by an all-powerful state. It is arguable that an entire political movement over the last one hundred years has been based on what Pinker and many other scientists have demonstrated time and again is a false notion, that human beings are helpless and ignorant without the intervention of the state. When a Spitzer is on the loose, however, beware!

Reading Obama’s speech prompted me to look at his larger economic policy proposals, especially those aimed at combating poverty. Clearly, he believes that our economy is failing many Americans, and to help the impoverished, he proposes everything from tax credits for the working poor to a higher minimum wage. In fairness, on these issues, he’s not much different than his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton...Yet both candidates are largely missing the point. While they insist that strengthening labor unions or protecting homeowners from foreclosures will alleviate the hardships of the poor, the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census remind us that the breakdown of the traditional two-parent, married family is a far greater contributor to poverty in America than many of the supposed shortcomings of our economy....(Getting Poverty Wrong, Malanga, City Journal.

Shades of the late Patrick Moynihan! In a hugely misinterpreted analysis of poverty, published during the Nixon Administration, the late Senator Moynihan warned that, unless government policy was constrained by what he impolitely called "benign neglect", economic conditions among African-Americans were likely to get worse, not better. Government policy, Moynihan posited, was actually the largest cause of poverty, especially among African-Americans. Such policy did this in several pernicious ways: encouraging out-of-wedlock childbirth (for more aid to dependent children); discouraging presence of a father (presence of a working age male in the household prevented welfare assistance); and more generally, substituting a poverty-level survival income for the will to get a job. The best solution, Moynihan suggested, was to let people learn how to take care of themselves and their children. This message was greeted as treason by Democrats, another proof of the malfeasance of the Nixon Administration. Exposing a fiction, hoping to better the lives of Americans, was the late Senator's treasonous act. Liberals preferred to continue denying the truth, in order to continue ordering up policies based on lies.

And that's how liberals, by denying evidence (to protect the delicate sensibilities of their constituents), always get it wrong. Why do we keep electing these idiots? Pinker would probably say the following: because of our inborn capacity for hope, we are also vulnerable to hopeful lies. And Pinker would likely advise: to avoid being sucked in by lies, pay attention. Each of us is born with eyes and ears and the intelligence to assess what they see and hear. Use them. What's on display for anyone to see is a history of liberal plans for how we should spend our money, and the consequences to us and to the economy when we listened. The false economy of the Clinton/ era, the inflation of the Carter era, the trillions spent on "relief of poverty" from the Johnson Administration onwards, the trillions more spent on "fixing" public education -- how much evidence to do you need to realize that liberals always get it wrong? Hope and change based on what's out there can transform the world. Based on fictions and denial, they can bring chaos and ruin.


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