Our author, Peter Cove, does have a dog in the hunt as founder of America Works, the first for-profit Welfare-to-Work company in America:
‘But the government’s unprecedented expenditures failed to bring about the decline in poverty that Johnson had promised. Instead, they made things worse.’
A true-believer in helping the poor changes his thinking:
‘My experience with long-term welfare clients has led me to propose a radical solution: that we abolish all cash welfare, as well as food and housing assistance-expcept for the elderly and the physically and mentally disable-in order to move from a dependency culture to one of work-first.’
Cove traces how his work, and the broader politics and culture have intertwined.
Of course, reasonable people recognize that they have moral obligations to other people, but they’re skeptical of who decides what those obligations are, and who has the moral authority to make such decisions. Reasonable people recognize that a more open, free economy has downsides, and can lead to greed and excess, winners and losers, and can never cure poverty. But they also recognize that it is the engine which gives the poor in America one of the highest standards of living in the world.
Just as most wealthy men and politicians seek to maximize their own power and self-interest, so too do bureaucrats. A belief in one’s ideals does not immunize one from human nature, and in fact, such utopianism is cause for greater skepticism. Forced transfer payments from people who work to those who don’t, overseen by bureaucrats and politicians no matter how strong their beliefs, is merely a less sustainable economic and social model. It doesn’t necessarily create more of the behavior such true-believers want to see, it leads to unintended consequences, and sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.
‘In public policy, we should deduce our theory from practice. Unfortunately, most people in the business of helping the poor turn that principle upside down, proposing theories first and then basing programs on them.’
Here’s a quotation sent in by a reader. Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization’
The people who promise solutions to poverty and homlessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’…
Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’…Walter Russell Mead says the Great Society is over: A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”