Tag Archives: Economics

America’s abandonment of traditional values has hurt the black community

Economist Walter Williams
Economist Walter Williams

My two favorite economists are Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, who are coincidentally both black. Both have been around long enough to see how the Great Society welfare programs and the Sexual Revolution have affected blacks.

Here is Walter Williams commenting on the black community in The Daily Signal.

He writes:

How might one explain the greater civility of Philadelphia and other big-city, predominantly black neighborhoods and schools during earlier periods compared with today? Would anyone argue that during the ’40s and ’50s, there was less racial discrimination and poverty? Was academic performance higher because there were greater opportunities? Was civility in school greater in earlier periods because black students had more black role models in the form of black principals, teachers, and guidance counselors? That’s nonsense, at least in northern schools. In my case, I had no more than three black teachers throughout primary and secondary school.

Starting in the 1960s, the values that made for civility came under attack. Corporal punishment was banned. This was the time when the education establishment and liberals launched their agenda that undermined lessons children learned from their parents and the church.

Sex education classes undermined family/church strictures against premarital sex. Lessons of abstinence were ridiculed, considered passé, and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills, and abortion. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions, often with neither parental knowledge nor parental consent.

Customs, traditions, moral values, and rules of etiquette are behavioral norms, transmitted mostly by example, word of mouth, and religious teachings. As such, they represent a body of wisdom distilled through the ages by experience and trial and error.

The nation’s liberals—along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals, and the courts—have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. Many people have been counseled to believe that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of personal convenience, personal opinion, what feels good, or what is or is not criminal.

We no longer condemn or shame self-destructive and rude behavior, such as out-of-wedlock pregnancies, dependency, cheating, and lying. We have replaced what worked with what sounds good.

The abandonment of traditional values has negatively affected the nation as a whole, but blacks have borne the greater burden. This is seen by the decline in the percentage of black two-parent families. Today, a little over 30 percent of black children live in an intact family, where as early as the late 1800s, over 70 percent did. Black illegitimacy in 1938 was 11 percent, and that for whites was 3 percent. Today, it’s respectively 73 percent and 30 percent.

It is the height of dishonesty, as far as blacks are concerned, to blame our problems on slavery, how white people behave, and racial discrimination. If those lies are not exposed, we will continue to look for external solutions when true solutions are internal. Those of us who are old enough to know better need to expose these lies.

I know why Democrat leaders lie to the black community about the relative importance of “racism” compared to bad decisions about whether to finish high school, whether to have sex before marriage, whether to break the law, and whether to work rather than collect welfare. The truth is that a person cannot be poor in the United States if they make good decisions. Normally, when people (of any color) make bad decisions, they learn not to do it on their own, or they find themselves advisors to help them learn. But the Democrats are there to tell those who make mistakes that their mistakes are caused by other people. This harms the people making the mistakes instead of helping them.

What is the difference between capitalism and socialism?

Over 100,000 Venezuelans pouring into Colombia from the Venezuela in order to buy food
Over 100,000 Venezuelans cross into Colombia in order to buy food

(This photo H/T Prager University)

One country that has done a good job of implementing socialism is Venezuela.

Here is an article from March 2013 from Slate, a web site that strongly favors socialism. The headline is “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle: The Venezuelan leader was often marginalized as a radical. But his brand of socialism achieved real economic gains”. The author is “a senior writer for the International Business Times”.

He writes:

Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results. Indeed, as shown by some of the most significant indicators, Chavez racked up an economic record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.

What did Chavez do, precisely, that caused the Venezuelan economic to boom? Well, he nationalized private industry and redistributed wealth from job creators and entrepreneurs to the poor.

As The Week correctly put it, while “Chavez’s policies of redistribution and nationalization of oil assets endeared him to Venezuela’s working class” and produced many laudable results, the country’s “oil-centric economy has taken away resources from other areas that are badly in need of development.”

OK, so that’s pretty much what the Democrat party wants to do in the United States as well. Nationalize the energy sector, nationalize health care, etc. Let the government take over the private sector industries in order to eliminate “inequalities”. Raise taxes, and redistribute the money to the low income people via social programs, also known as welfare.

So, how does it work? Is socialism really an “economic miracle”?

Here is the latest from Venezuela, as reported by CNN Money. (H/T William)

Excerpt:

Venezuelans cried at the sight of fully-stocked supermarket shelves in Colombia.

Pregnant women, children and even elderly Venezuelans crossed into Colombia on Sunday after the border was temporarily reopened, allowing them to buy basic foods and toiletries — rare commodities in their home country.

Tearful Venezuelans had gone weeks without basic food items like milk, flour and toilet paper. It’s a sad but common part of daily life today in crisis-ridden Venezuela, a country that has the world’s largest proven reserves of oil. Colombian officials estimate that about 100,000 Venezuelans crossed the border.

Venezuela is expected to dive deeper into the abyss this year, according to new projections published Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF forecasts Venezuela’s economy will shrink 10% this year, worse than its previous estimate of 8%. It also estimates that inflation in Venezuela will catapult to 700% this year, up from the earlier guess of about 480%.

“Venezuela’s economic condition continues to deteriorate,” says Alejandro Werner, chief Latin America economist at the IMF. The estimates for growth and inflation are the worst worldwide.

The numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Venezuela is deep into a humanitarian crisis — people are dying in ill-equipped hospitals and many live without basic food items. Venezuela can’t pay to import goods because its government is desperately strapped for cash after years of mismanagement of its funds, heavy spending on poorly-run government programs, and lack of investment on its oil fields.

[…]It’s all even more tragic given that despite Venezuela’s oil abundance, its state-run oil company, PDVSA, is broke. Venezuela’s oil production fell to a 13-year low in June, according to OPEC, of which it’s a member.

That’s what you get when you let the government take over the free enterprise system, or even when you just stifle the free market with burdensome regulations and high taxes. That’s what socialists in Venezuela did. That’s what the Democrat party would do. They’re  two sides of the same coin.

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager put out a good video recently explaining the problems with socialism:

Why would anyone prefer a system that encourages some people to feel entitled to what other people create and earn? We want a system that is focused on serving your neighbor – not stealing from them.

Arthur Brooks

If you would like a very brief introduction to capitalism, also known as the free enterprise system or the free market system, then you can watch the videos below, featuring Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Here is the first one, which explains the myths that most Americans are taught about capitalism in school and in the culture:

An important advantage of capitalism is that it lifts people out of poverty. The poorest people in America live much better than the wealthy in Venezuela.

And the second video explains what capitalism offers to individuals for their fulfillment, which socialism does not:

Earned success makes people happier, which is at least as important as the wealth benefit.

We can compare the results of each system by looking at where it’s been tried. Capitalism lifts people out of poverty – all the people in the society who are willing to work are lifted out of poverty. Even the people who can’t work in a capitalist society enjoy the benefits of charity from their neighbors – when people do well, they give more money away. Socialism drives those who work and those who don’t work into poverty, and eliminates charity. No one has anything to share when everyone is poor.

Related posts

Thomas Sowell: does affirmative action help minorities to get ahead?

Economist Thomas Sowell
Economist Thomas Sowell – the best economist in the world

My favorite economist, Thomas Sowell has an article in Investors Business Daily that explains what affirmative action really does to minorities.

Excerpt:

Affirmative action is supposed to benefit black and other minority students admitted with lower academic qualifications than some white students who are rejected.

[…]Despite much media spin, the issue is not whether blacks in general should be admitted to higher-ranked or lower-ranked institutions.

The issue is whether a given black student, with given academic qualifications, should be admitted to a college or university where he would not be admitted if he were white.

Much research over the years has confirmed… that admitting black students to institutions for which their academic preparation is not sufficient can be making them worse off instead of better off.

I became painfully aware of this problem more than 40 years ago when I was teaching at Cornell University and discovered that half the black students there were on some form of academic probation.

These students were not stupid or uneducable. On the contrary, the average black student at Cornell at that time scored at the 75th percentile on scholastic tests. Their academic qualifications were better than those of three-quarters of all American students who took those tests.

Why were they in trouble at Cornell, then? Because the average Cornell student in the liberal arts college at that time scored at the 99th percentile. The classes taught there — including mine — moved at a speed geared to the verbal and mathematical level of the top one percent of American students.

The average white student would have been wiped out at Cornell. But the average white student was unlikely to be admitted to Cornell in the first place. Nor was a white student who scored at the 75th percentile.

That was a “favor” reserved for black students. This “favor” turned black students who would have been successful at most American colleges and universities into failures at Cornell.

None of this was peculiar to Cornell. Black students who scored at the 90th percentile in math had serious problems trying to keep up at MIT, where other students scored somewhere within the top 99th percentile.

Nearly one-fourth of these black students with stellar qualifications in math failed to graduate from MIT, and those who did graduate were concentrated in the bottom tenth of the class.

There were other fine engineering schools around the country where those same students could have learned more, when taught at a normal pace, than at a breakneck speed geared to students with extremely rare abilities in math.

[…]Mismatching students with educational institutions is a formula for needless failures.

The book “Mismatch” by Sander and Taylor is a first-rate study of the hard facts. It shows, for example, that the academic performances of black and Hispanic students rose substantially after affirmative action admissions policies were banned in the University of California system.

Instead of failing at Berkeley or UCLA, these minority students were now graduating from other UC campuses. They were graduating at a higher rate, with higher grades, and now more often in challenging fields like math, science and technology.

[…]Does the actual fate of minority students not matter to the left as much as their symbolic presence on a campus?

Now, you might ask yourself on what basis Sowell makes all these assertions, so here are a few of his academic publications about affirmative action, which are state-of-the-art:

Now, I was recently talking to a friend who has empirically false views on a number of topics. He is opposed to capital punishment, opposed to gun ownership, supports affirmative action, and so on. When I ask him why he believes these things, he doesn’t point to any evidence. I offered to give him studies showing that capital punishment has a deterrent effect on crime, that concealed carry laws reduce violent crime rates, that affirmative action laws harm minorities, etc.

If we really want to help minorities, we have to do what makes sense according the evidence. We have to aim to do good, not just feel good.

Do young Americans know how well socialism is working in Venezuela?

Two socialists shake hands: Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez
Two socialists shake hands: Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez

I’m very interested in how economic policy in different times and places affects the ability of Christians to carry out their Christian life plans. What economic policies should Christians support in order to be able to carry out their lives? Do Christians need to eat? Do they need to be safe from criminals? Do they need to be able to work or run a business without violating their consciences? Can a Christian be as charitable when he cannot even feed himself or his family?

When I talk to young evangelicals, they seem to be pretty in lockstep with the left on policies like raising the minimum wage, having government take over health care, environmental regulations on private sector energy companies to stop global warming, etc.

So, it’s worth it to look at how things work in places where socialism is actually being tried.

Here is an article from March 2013 from the radically leftist Slate. The headline is “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle: The Venezuelan leader was often marginalized as a radical. But his brand of socialism achieved real economic gains”. The author is “a senior writer for the International Business Times”.

He writes:

Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results. Indeed, as shown by some of the most significant indicators, Chavez racked up an economic record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.

What did Chavez do, precisely, that caused the Venezuelan economic to boom? Well, he nationalized private industry and redistributed wealth from job creators and entrepreneurs to the poor.

As The Week correctly put it, while “Chavez’s policies of redistribution and nationalization of oil assets endeared him to Venezuela’s working class” and produced many laudable results, the country’s “oil-centric economy has taken away resources from other areas that are badly in need of development.”

Well, what happened next?

Consider this long and detailed article from the left-leaning The Atlantic. I can only quote part of it, but you really need to read this to understand what happens when country attacks all the people who were creating wealth and jobs with regulations, taxes, price controls and property seizure.

It says:

In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in line for hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

But why? It’s not that the country lacked money. Sitting atop the world’s largest reserves of oil at the tail end of a frenzied oil boom, the government led first by Chavez and, since 2013, by Maduro, received over a trillion dollars in oil revenues over the last 17 years. It faced virtually no institutional constraints on how to spend that unprecedented bonanza. It’s true that oil prices have since fallen—a risk many people foresaw, and one that the government made no provision for—but that can hardly explain what’s happened: Venezuela’s garish implosion began well before the price of oil plummeted. Back in 2014, when oil was still trading north of $100 per barrel, Venezuelans were already facing acute shortages of basic things like bread or toiletries.

The real culprit is chavismo, the ruling philosophy named for Chavez and carried forward by Maduro, and its truly breathtaking propensity for mismanagement(the government plowed state money arbitrarily into foolish investments);institutional destruction (as Chavez and then Maduro became more authoritarian and crippled the country’s democratic institutions); nonsense policy-making (like price and currency controls); and plain thievery (as corruption has proliferated among unaccountable officials and their friends and families).

A case in point is the price controls, which have expanded to apply to more and more goods: food and vital medicines, yes, but also car batteries, essential medical services, deodorant, diapers, and, of course, toilet paper. The ostensible goal was to check inflation and keep goods affordable for the poor, but anyone with a basic grasp of economics could have foreseen the consequences: When prices are set below production costs, sellers can’t afford to keep the shelves stocked. Official prices are low, but it’s a mirage: The products have disappeared.

When a state is in the process of collapse, dimensions of decay feed back on each other in an intractable cycle. Populist giveaways, for example, have fed the country’s ruinous flirtation with hyperinflation; the International Monetary Fund now projects that prices will rise by 720 percent this year and 2,200 percent in 2017. The government virtually gives away gasoline for free, even after having raised the price earlier this year. As a result of this and similar policies, the state is chronically short of funds, forced to print ever more money to finance its spending. Consumers, flush with cash and chasing a dwindling supply of goods, are caught in an inflationary spiral.

The rest of the article has horrifying details about what socialism really means: businesses shut down, shortages of food and medicine, government waste, skyrocketing crime, failing education system, Zika epidemic, water rationing, blackouts, and so on.

There was even an article this weekend in the radically leftist New York Times about the horrifying conditions of hospitals in Venezuela:

By morning, three newborns were already dead.

The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward.

Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died.

“The death of a baby is our daily bread,” said Dr. Osleidy Camejo, a surgeon in the nation’s capital, Caracas, referring to the toll from Venezuela’s collapsing hospitals.

The economic crisis in this country has exploded into a public health emergency, claiming the lives of untold numbers of Venezuelans. It is just part of a larger unraveling here that has become so widespread it has prompted President Nicolás Maduro to impose a state of emergency and has raised fears of a government collapse.

Hospital wards have become crucibles where the forces tearing apart Venezuela have converged. Gloves and soap have vanished from some hospitals. Cancer medicines are often found only on the black market. There is so little electricity that the government works only two days a week to save what energy is left.

At the University of the Andes Hospital in the mountain city of Mérida, there was not enough water to wash blood from the operating table. Doctors preparing for surgery cleaned their hands with bottles of seltzer water.

“It is like something from the 19th century,” said Dr. Christian Pino, a surgeon at the hospital.

The figures are devastating. The rate of death among babies under a month old increased more than a hundredfold in public hospitals run by the Health Ministry, to just over 2 percent in 2015 from 0.02 percent in 2012, according to a government report provided by lawmakers.

The rate of death among new mothers in those hospitals increased by almost five times in the same period, according to the report.

Here in the Caribbean port town of Barcelona, two premature infants died recently on the way to the main public clinic because the ambulance had no oxygen tanks. The hospital has no fully functioning X-ray or kidney dialysismachines because they broke down long ago. And because there are no open beds, some patients lie on the floor in pools of their own blood.

This is not happening because of capitalism and the greedy rich. It is happening because of hatred and persecution of entrepreneurs and job creating private businesses. But, if you read books on economic policy like “The Spirit Level”, which is written by socialists, countries like Venezuela that have lower income inequality have lower infant mortality, lower crime rates and better health care. Socialism works great in academia, not so well in a North Korean work camp.

It’s not just Venezuela. This article from Investors Business Daily covers how well socialism is going in countries like France, Brazil and Argentina. It never works.

Now, in most churches, pastors are more concerned with making people feel good so that the coins continue to fall into the offering plate. Therefore, they carefully stay clear of topics like economics, business and entrepreneurship. The question that we need to ask ourselves is this: how easy is it for you to live out a Christian life in a country where poverty, crime, and government suppression of free speech and religious liberty are rampant? Shouldn’t part of being a Christian mean voting for public policies that actually help poor people have opportunities, children in broken homes and victims of crime, instead of just embracing what sounds nice and makes us feel good?

In case I need to be clearer, I mean that Christians who embrace socialism are taking us down the road to serfdom because of their ignorance of economics. And it’s not just the Democrats. Christians who support Donald Trump are embracing import tariffs, opposing free trade, raising taxes, raising the minimum wage, government seizing private property, and so on. That’s socialism, too. And we won’t escape the consequences of our economic ignorance anymore than the well-meaning Venezuelan voters did when they elected their strong man to rescue them.

Kansas enacts law to attach work requirement to welfare benefits

Kansas governor Sam Brownback
Kansas governor Sam Brownback

This story is from the Daily Signal, and it’s about a new (April 2015) Kansas law that produced great effects in the last year.

It says:

Over the past several years, the number of Americans on food stamps has soared. In particular, since 2009, the number of “able-bodied-adults” without dependents receiving food stamps more than doubled nationally. Part of this increase is due to a federal rule that allowed states to waive food stamps’ modest work requirement. However, states such as Kansas and Maine chose to reinstate work requirements. Comparing and contrasting the two approaches provides powerful new evidence about the effectiveness of work.

According to a report from the Foundation for Government Accountability, before Kansas instituted a work requirement, 93 percent of food stamp recipients were in poverty, with 84 percent in severe poverty. Few of the food stamp recipients claimed any income. Only 21 percent were working at all, and two-fifths of those working were working fewer than 20 hours per week.

Once work requirements were established, thousands of food stamp recipients moved into the workforce, promoting income gains and a decrease in poverty. Forty percent of the individuals who left the food stamp ranks found employment within three months, and about 60 percent found employment within a year. They saw an average income increase of 127 percent. Half of those who left the rolls and are working have earnings above the poverty level. Even many of those who stayed on food stamps saw their income increase significantly.

Work programs provide opportunities such as job training and employment search services. For example, in Kansas, workfare helped one man, who was unemployed for four years and on food stamps, find employment in the publishing industry where he now earns $45,000 annually. Another Kansan who was also previously unemployed and dependent on food stamps for over three years, now has an annual income of $34,000.

Furthermore, with the implementation of the work requirement in Kansas, the caseload dropped by 75 percent. Previously, Kansas was spending $5.5 million per month on food stamp benefits for able-bodied adults; it now spends $1.2 million.

So, I am doing a hunt to find the best states to live in, and Kansas is in my top 5. They have Governor Sam Brownback, and he has just done a magnificent job pushing conservative policies – not just social policies, but fiscal too. It’s a great state, but still edged out by Oklahoma and Tennessee, in my opinion. We’ll see what else Governor Brownback has in store, though.

You might think that all the news is bad, and that no one is putting into place any conservative policies. Well, of course the good red states are putting in these policies, and of course these policies are achieving the desired objectives. If you elect Democrats, you get Detroit. If you elect Republicans, you get welfare reform that lifts people out of dependency and into earned success. I’m sure that they feel better about not being dependent, too.