* Re: head start
10 Jul 1993
> > We are not even arguing about whether or not HS is cost effective.
> > [ only whether it does anything at all ]
> [ Other social programs cost a lot more than Head Start. What would
> you do instead about the permanent underclass? ]
Utopia is not an option. There will be poor people and crime in
Libertaria too. The question is do any of the government programs
relieve the situation? The answer is no. The most help we can
give people is by letting them keep their money and use it to create
I don't feel like looking up the stats for the whole range of
foolishness the government is involved in. If there is some particular
program that you think works, we can discuss it in particular.
In brief, welfare went from $2.1K per capita constant dollars in '70
to $3.8K in '89. Poverty went from 12.6% to 12.8% in the same period.
That's a *negative* correlation. That doesn't prove welfare *causes*
poverty, but it does cast serious doubt on the efficacy of welfare.
For '89, we spent $956G on welfare. I'm using the widest range
of dates available in my statistical abstract. I'm not cherry picking
the data. If we distributed all of the welfare money to every person
below the poverty line, it would be $30K/year each!
So, that answers the first half of your question:
Eliminate welfare, medicaid, food stamps, etc. They just don't work.
I will grudgingly admit that crime is in some instances an
externality for which government intervention is appropriate.
Show me a government program that actually reduces crime and I'd
think about supporting it (depending on what it costs).
The usual claim is that:
(1) poverty causes crime
(2) welfare prevents poverty
therefore welfare prevents crime
As I have just said, I don't believe (2) is true so the answer is
that we will just have to tolerate a certain amount of crime.
Utopia is not an option.
I have serious doubts about (1) also. For instance, poverty was much
worse in the depression but crime was not much different (I don't
immediately have the stats though), if anything, crime was less.
Total theft in the U.S. is around $10G/year. That does not begin to
compare to the $2000G the government takes. Of course, there are other
less tangible costs to crime.
As for crime per se, as I have said many times and nobody believes me,
most crime is created by the government. The FBI estimates 70% of
all crime is caused by drugs. Well, I can fix that. Nibbling at the
edges a few percent by spending billions on food stamps is absolutely
preposterous in the face of being able to lower the crime dramatically
by being willing to tolerate a few more people destroying *their own*
Beyond that, most crime is caused by the government making it illegal
or economically infeasible for people to work and leaving them with no
alternative. Repeal Davis-Bacon, minimum wage, Family Leave, FICA,
worker's comp, 'no permament replacements', and all of the rest.
Capitalist Taiwan has 2% unemployment. Socialist Europe is hovering
around 10%. As far as I am concerned, that's causal.
I'm reminded of the cop in NYC who was busted for taking bribes to
permit building code exceptions. He said on the stand that everyone
takes bribes. If people didn't, nothing could ever get built because
the code is impossible to follow. He's right. The point being that
to the extent that criminal behavior is based on societal values, the
government aggravates the problem by creating numerous laws that
people cannot help but break.
Structurally, people to need to keep the money they earn so they can
invest in productive enterprises and spend it on consumables that produce
real permanent jobs. Every tax dollar the government takes simply bogs
down the economy that much. The government cannot make wiser investment
decisions than entrepeneurs. The former is guided by buying votes
(or buying lobbyists dollars). The latter is guided by trying to produce
as much as possible. Steady growth of 5% / year would do more to
eliminate poverty and crime than all of the government welfare ever
conceived. If the government stopped taking 57% of the national income,
these kinds of growth rates would be readily sustainable.
Government is the problem. Libertarianism is the answer. It won't be
perfect, but it will be better.