Friday, April 08, 2016

How to help poor people: do the libertarians get this right?

Jeff Madrick writes in the New York Times, “Handouts are often better than a hand up”, April 7.  This comports with articles on Vox recently, that what poor people need, especially overseas, is just more emergency purchasing power, or emergency housing – which simpler charities like “Give Direct” support.

The recent film showing of “Poverty, Inc.” at the Cato Institute (April 4) might challenge this view.  Sometimes giving people goods and money interferes with systems where they learn how to take care of themselves, by providing “it’s free” stuff competing with small businesses that could provide the services all the time and that could employ otherwise poor people.  Kindness and compassion is often more about a persona touch than giving money. Where I would disagree with Vox, though, is that infrastructure overseas is very important.  Projects to provide water and fight disease should be supported.

Nicholas Kristof talks about housing people in a NYT column, “So little to ask for: a home”. I could add, that in places like Washington DC, a height limit on buildings actually increases prices for what could become moderate income housing. Kristof answers the libertarian ideas about encouraging personal responsibility in the series “A Path Appears” (TV blog, Sept. 15, 2016), where he notes that the lack of parental attention to children, and environmental pollutants (like lead) means they don’t grow up able to make choices in a free market.

Mary Ruwart's latest edition of "Healing our World" focuses on the libertarian view of compassion -- pretty much the same as in the film "Poverty, Inc."

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