One of the biggest traps of our day that keeps people from prospering is their reliance upon the government.  This may be counter-intuitive, but it is broadly true.  And this is true despite the fact that the federal government alone last year spent about $700 billion on more than 100 separate anti-poverty programs, of which 70 provided numbers of direct benefits to people in lower economic communities.  And this is added to another $300 billion that was spent by various states and local governments.  So since President Lyndon Johnson began his vaunted “War on Poverty” in 1965, we have spent about $26 trillion dollars (in 2018 dollars) fighting poverty.  And what has been the result?  Poverty remains on the increase.

      So what should we do instead?  Except for those with truly special needs, instead of throwing money at people of lower means, we should concentrate upon changing the things that governments do institutionally to make and keep people poor.  First, we should reform the criminal justice system that keeps people who have made mistakes, and paid for them by serving time in jail or prison, from being able to get a job.  (The recidivism rates for former inmates who find employment are five times lower than for those who have not.)  Second, we must bring choice and competition into our public school system – which is deplorably failing children nationwide in mostly the lower economic areas.  Third, we must reduce the cost of housing.  Most estimates show that about 35 percent of the cost of a new house, condominium or apartment is spent in attempting to comply with governmental zoning and land-use regulations and policies.  And fourth, we must reduce the numbers of jobs that require governmental licenses.  Does someone really need a government license to braid hair, trim trees or work at a child care center?  Many of the present licenses also require additional schooling which is not actually necessary to do the job, but they restrict job entry.  And further, many of those licenses automatically disqualify people with criminal convictions.  How can people climb the economic ladder if they are not even able to get up on the first rung?  Instead, require workers to be bonded, which will encourage safety and reliability by bringing the private sector into the mix.   Then let customers decide whether the workers are productive or not.  Throwing money at people simply reinforces a victim mentality.  But this is not an accident with today’s politics, where results don’t really matter.  The only thing that seems to matter is providing promises that continue to get politicians elected – whether the promised approaches work or not. 

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President