by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
A recent column by Stephen Moore opens this way:
For all the obsession in Washington and in college faculty lounges over income inequality, why isn’t there more outrage over government policies that exacerbate the problem? There are hundreds of programs that make the poor, poorer and increase poverty in America.
It’s a fantastic question. Lack of outrage aside, why do so many advocates for the poor actually favor those policies?
Years ago I marveled about it, in the light of empirical evidence of free-market policies that make things better, which they reflexively oppose:
I don’t have to tell any reader here that those empirically proven policies are also loudly denounced by media and ad-hoc “morality” scolds. They have, by now, a solid revealed preference for policies that outwardly seem beneficial but aren’t.
(Why they make that choice, and make it so stridently and consistently, is an open question. Perhaps they value the illusion for its own sake, not because they are fooled themselves, but because they wish to profit politically from others being fooled.)
While there’s an impressive queue of hollow noteworthies vying for the distinction, was there a worse example of advocates “for” the poor pushing harmful policies than the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity?
After all, other academic centers have shown through their examples how much good that center could have done. Both the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University have produced good scholarship on issues on poverty, work, and opportunity.