Saturday, September 29, 2007

Apoorcalypse

$5000 for every U.S. baby? Maybe Clinton is not so bad after all. This is the very best kind of left-liberal policy, (a) being universal rather than means-tested, and (b) offering cash rather than specifically delimited goods, and thus ceding control over the spending decision to the recipients. It's really wonderful to see this idea floated in mainstream politics. (See here for why it is such a good idea.)

It's strange to read the objections from right-wingers in the comments here. There are some real head-scratchers. (Some appear to confuse the end of poverty with the end of the world.) 'Justin', for example, mockingly asks:
If she's serious, why not pay for all basic food products? You shouldn't have to pay for things like flour!

But one of the major arguments in favour of general (cash) redistribution is that it doesn't distort incentives and price signals the way specific interventions (flour) would. We're talking about redistribution whilst maintaining a market economy. That's a pretty important difference.

'The Ghost' adds: "there's nothing you can do that would aggravate American poverty more than promise every poor kid $18,000 when they turn 18."

Yeah, there's nothing like an unconditional cash injection to keep people poor. I guess we ought to ban trust funds for rich kids too. We shouldn't want them to be disadvantaged by all that money waiting for them when they grow up, just because they were unfortunate enough to have wealthy parents. They should enjoy the same freedom from resources as everyone else.

5 comments:

  1. "Yeah, there's nothing like an unconditional cash injection to keep people poor."

    It might work for the people receiving it, but it's a Ponzi scheme, so ultimately somebody gets screwed in a big way. Not to mention that unconditional cash injections didn't help a lot of Hurricane Katrina victims escape from anything but sobriety.

    "I guess we ought to ban trust funds for rich kids too. We shouldn't want them to be disadvantaged by all that money waiting for them when they grow up, just because they were unfortunate enough to have wealthy parents. They should enjoy the same freedom from resources as everyone else."

    That money already exists, and doesn't have to be taken from anybody. That's the economic angle.

    There might be plenty of reasons to redistribute, but let's not kid ourselves about its being a tradeoff, not a win-win.

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  2. I thought the term 'redistribution' was pretty clear on that matter.

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  3. I don't think it's supposed to be an "unconditional" cash injection. As I understand the proposal, based on what Clinton was quoted as saying in the NYT, it is money that can be used only for certain purposes, such as college or technical school tuition or a home downpayment. I don't think it's money that one would be free to spend on anything one wished.

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  4. Oh, I thought those were merely examples of how she thought people might benefit from using it. But you may be right. If so, it would violate my criterion (b), which is unfortunate.

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  5. I wonder what "The Ghost" thinks an underprivilaged kid should do before he turns 18 so that s/he doesn't need a leg up.

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