Walter Williams Nails It

Discussion in 'Too Hot for Swamp Gas' started by QGator2414, Aug 4, 2013.

  1. Minister_of_Information
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    Minister_of_Information I'm your huckleberry Premium Member

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    Yes, as a society we have been doing something about it for a long time, but those kinds of considerations have no bearing on the current and future choices of individuals. Every economic hiccup does not provide a fresh excuse for the poor to perpetually sit on their hands and continue waiting for someone else to remedy their situation.
  2. Minister_of_Information
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    Minister_of_Information I'm your huckleberry Premium Member

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    So it has nothing to do with the legacy of white supremacy.
  3. asuragator
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    asuragator Well-Known Member

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    That's obvious...by definition. But that's only part of it. Externalities independent of individual decision factor in. Heck, to go back to the earlier discussion of welfare, legislation is but one, environmental conditions, another.

    Also, economic forces have effects on individuals that are independent of any individual decision and actually work to inform decision-making which is why economic forces are examined as entities/factors unto themselves. Researchers can use nested models or other hierarchical models to look at both.

    First off it has to be recognized that there is no singular cause of poverty. Second, it is complex. Third, I wasn't necessarily stating the superiority of aggregate forces over individual decision-making (both are important for various reasons and in various ways), but pointing out that poverty does beget poverty and that there are important factors external to individual decisions. Being born into poverty necessarily means having far less/none of a multiple of different forms of capital for which ones "share" per capita decreases across generations.

    Well actually, given how few poor actually escape poverty, comparatively, yes it does. Is it absolute (as in zero can escape), no. But the probability of moving into the middle or even upper class if one is born into poverty is low.

    Individual decision-making plays an important role but decisions made by the poor, just like decision made by those in the middle and upper classes, are informed and affected by the their conditions and surroundings, economic and vicissitudes of life. Bad decisions made by the poor can work to keep them that way just as all these other forces can effectively prevent even 'dogged' poor folks from escaping. Not only that, one of the more insidious things that occurs to the poor is that their bad decisions are often much more magnified in the harm compared to those with affluence, as affluence can mitigate a great many bad decisions for the affluent.

    Being born with middle class (and certainly upper class) advantages makes it easier to be dogged. Heck it makes it easier to dream big and have the courage to go after big thing. When you have affluence, you have more of the various types of capital and mechanisms that help you succeed.

    Being poor means having so little of multiple types of capital to start that even well intended hard working poor never actually escape poverty or at least never move beyond the "working class." Poverty is a force that works against the poor in ways that block opportunities for which others have just by having affluence.

    I get the Horatio Alger rags to riches pick yourself up by the bootstraps mentality. It's a great value. And hard work and determination often pays off (so much more often though when start out with affluence, however). But it misses so many things about the complexities of poverty and disadvantage that it serves more as bumper sticker than anything else.
  4. MichaelJoeWilliamson
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    MichaelJoeWilliamson Well-Known Member

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    Complianing? Not so. I think you might be projecting.
  5. Minister_of_Information
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    Minister_of_Information I'm your huckleberry Premium Member

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    jdr, it's not so much that you are mistaken as it is that your emphasis supports a helpless and fatal attitude among the poor. People escaping poverty are not limited to Nelson Rockefeller tycoon types, there are many people that leave poverty for middle income. Yes, no one person can create a functioning economy, but it is possible for most people to gain employment, increase their qualifications and prospects particularly with the programs in place (government aid being both useful and debilitating), save a portion of their income and, by embracing the principle of deferred gratification, to work their way out of poverty. Are some people too mired down by circumstances to make it without significant help? Perhaps, but if you delve down through the statistical cumulonimbus, you will end up finding that most of these circumstances are a product of individual choices. If someone chooses to have 11 children while living in poverty, they are going to have a hard time. I'm just giving an example. Yes there are cases of medical bankruptcy etc., but unless someone is disabled permanently and forced onto SSI, for the most part that kind of thing does not permanently consign them to indigency. Expectations and what we are willing to accept from ourselves and others, however, have major impacts upon a person's destiny.

    Yes it is true that people with more resources have better prospects and more margin for error. Is that supposed to excuse a failure to try, because there are difficulties and other people are better off? Life is difficult for everyone. It is a long road full of suffering and ending in tragedy. Assisting the poor is necessary and noble, despite the parasitism thereby engendered among some; telling the poor that they are not part of their own problem is not necessary and it is not noble. In fact it is part of the problem. But, telling the poor that they must change their behavior and attitudes doesn't have to be done in a way that is accusing or judgmental, it can actually lead to an affirmation of their dignity and autonomy as individuals. Indeed I exonerate the poor for their behavior for the most part, without translating that into the conviction that they are entitled to more from society because they don't like the results. Only a minority of people have the fortitude to transcend the effects of their upbringing. But to be conscious of the reasons one behaves as one behaves and to understand the consequences is to create the possibility of choice. So I think our greatest responsibility to the poor is to speak the truth.
  6. wgbgator
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    wgbgator Sub-optimal Poster Premium Member

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    Actually, I think they enhance and expand the choices available to individuals. If a certain amount of risk is managed/subsidized/contained, then that frees up resources to improve your condition, school, job training, starting a business, etc. It's not just the poor either, something like Medicare means I don't have to put aside even more money to take care of my folks in their old age. That risk is in part shared by society, and that gives me more money now to improve my own situation and prospects.

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