The age old question is, how can we help the poor. There are two major camps:
1) Changing how we slice the pie.
2) Making a bigger pie.
As a libertarian, I clearly fall into the second camp. Exhibit #1 is China and India’s partial legalization of free enterprise. It is impossible to comprehend the meaning of a billion people escaping extreme poverty. That’s about 3 times the population of the United States. Not a crumb, not a sliver, not a dollop of pie was taken from anyone to accomplish this most delicious result. It all happened because of the free market.
I could, but I won’t call for the end of welfare. I’ll come close, but I won’t. I call for the end of what I call “mishmash,” combining two completely different policies into one. Stop designing every public policy as if it answers the question: “How does this policy affect the poor?” There are literally hundreds of programs with a means test or a policy that alters the balance of power between different human beings. Just one example might help. The County of Cook recently implemented a new landlord tenant law. It is a gigantic trap for the unwary landlord. Over and over again it places landlords at risk of a law suit and paying the tenant’s attorney’s fees. If someone asked me where he/she should build an apartment building, my answer would be: “Anywhere but Cook County.” The government created a mishmash. It combined landlord tenant law and poverty policy. I want landlords to build so many buildings that they have to get down on their knees and beg tenants (rich and poor) to rent from them.