Life's Better Ideas

Occasional links to, and comments on, ideas that I think will make this a better world, and remarks about things that need fixing, too.

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hard Choices, session 5

I'm taking a course at Denver University, Hard Choices in Public Policy. The instructor is former Colorado governor Richard Lamm.

We covered two topics today. The first was Happiness, then Welfare.

Happiness comes from 7 factors (in descending order of importance): Family, Wealth, Work, xxx, xxx, Personal Freedom, Personal Values. Sorry about missing 2.

Victor Frankel: "Everything can be taken away from us but one thing, the last human freedom, to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."

Natural selection has planted in us a desire to be better than our neighbors. Would you rather earn $50K where your neighbors earn $25K, or earn $100K where your neighbors earn $250K?

Public policy purpose? Create more happiness. Be involved in something larger than yourself. How much is enough? Live in the present.

Welfare: 4 groups of beneficiaries - Business, Elderly, Wealthy Elderly, Poor. Social Security payback is 4 years. Then you are a welfare recipient. Welfare programs started in 1935 to help divorced women and widows. Now it's mostly unwed mothers. 25% are transient. 25% are chronic.

Charles Murray paraphrase - If the rules encourage irrational behavior, that's what you'll get. Lamm knows Murray and thinks highly of him. Murray is a libertarian, see What It Means to be a Libertarian and has, I think, done work for Cato Institute and possibly either Heritage Foundation or American Enterprise Institute.

Welfare programs: AFDC, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Unemployment Insurance, Worker's Comp, Subsidized Housing (Section 8?), Disability Insurance.

Welfare uses three mechanisms to transfer money to the poor - cash transfer, food stamps, tax credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit has lifted more children out of poverty than any other program. We've spent $5.4 Trillion on the War on Poverty (started by President Johnson in the mid 1960's) but in 93 we have 15% more poor people than we did in 1960. (not sure if this is a percentage of the total or raw increase).

The 1920's saw the highest level of education for blacks. The poorest 1/5 of population spends $2.06 for every dollar of reported income. 46% of poor get no federal assistance.

Author Fallows - when Spain invaded South and Central America, they left behind disfunctional cultures. Barbados and Haiti were populated by people from the same place, yet Barbados is successful, Haiti is not. Why? Did the blacks on Barbados become Afro-Saxons culturally?

The Divine Right of Kings was modified peacefully by the English via things like the Magna Carta. It needed to be changed via force/warfare elsewhere. Does that explain why we're successful and other cultures aren't?

Are some cultures fatalistic? Culture is the humus where people get planted.

Many poor people are work ready and their poverty is shortlived.

Carnegie - paraphrase "I wouldn't give a pauper a loaf of bread, but I'll build him a library."

President Clinton - "End welfare as we know it".

International Poverty - what to do? is it our responsibility?

Positive and Negative rights. Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness. Jobs, Health Care, Shelter, etc. More discussion next week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your account of these classes is fascinating, David. Thanks for writing about Dick Lamm's lectures. Oh -- I did notice one little thing that didn't make sense to me.

The Divine Right of Kings was modified peacefully by the English via things like the Magna Carta. It needed to be changed via force/warfare elsewhere. Does that explain why we're successful and other cultures aren't?

I'm not sure that Mr. Lamm has his historical facts quite straight here. The "divine right of kings" was basically a non-starter in England when John was forced to accept the Magna Carta, and even when Henry VIII divorced England from the Church in Rome (so he could get his own divorce). It was asserted with a vengeance in 1603, when James Stuart ascended to the throne of England and proceeded to introduce abominations like the "Star Chamber". What followed was a bloody civil war (ca 1640); the beheading of James' son, Charles I; the protectorate under Oliver Cromwell; the restoration of the Stuart monarchy; a fairly peaceful period under Charles II; another attempt to rule by "divine right" (James II); and finally the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it seems that the overthrow of the "Divine Right of Kings" was just about as violent in England as it was anywhere else. The "Glorious Revolution" was not extremely bloody, as wars go, but the period from roughly 1640 - 1660 (the English civil war, plus the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell) was a very turbulent period.

9:42 AM  
Blogger goyishekop said...

In case it helps, from the web: family relationships, financial situation, work, community and friends, health, personal freedom, and personal values.

11:08 AM  

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