Capitalists and free-marketeers, we are told, don’t care about the poor. Capitalists and free-marketeers, we are told, exploit the poor and the weak for selfish and excessive gains, and actively work to keep them down so that the exploitation can continue. Capitalists and free-marketeers, we are told, are the biggest enemy to people’s lives improving. Capitalism, we are told “needs poverty.”

As is so often the case, when someone derides others, you’ll find that he’s projecting his own predilections. So it goes with the people who tell us that free marketeers are selfish and uncaring, and that big government, rather than free markets, is how the poor will be helped.

Today, I won’t repeat the case that capitalism is the means by which we best help the poor. That case is ably made here, here, here, here, and countless other places, easily findable by anyone willing to open his or her eyes. Instead, I want to touch on how those who purport to advance socialism and other forms of big government because they want to help and protect the poor don’t actually give a flying [redacted] about the poor, other than as voters to be conned into giving them power. Or, in the case of brown people living far away, as an irrelevance when their needs get in the way of an agenda.

As to the latter, consider:

  • Anti-GMO attitudes keep African farmers poor, cause blindness and death in hundreds of thousands of Asians every year, and make it that much harder to feed the world’s poorest.

  • Embrace of carbon caps and taxes as a solution to global warming dooms billions to remain in poverty, and will kill millions, while barely making a dent in the forecasted doom.

  • The continued ban against DDT, well after it was used to eradicate malaria from America, kills over a million a year, most of them young children.

Since these mostly affect those outside our borders, they’re easy to overlook or ignore. As radio shock jock Anthony Cumia once observed, the farther away people live and the browner they are, the less we care about them.

Harder to overlook is that America’s poor, whose lives are orders of magnitude better than those of the world’s poorest, still suffer greatly at the hands of big government types:

  • Police departments rely on policing-for-profit: imposing low-level and quality-of-life fines in poor communities. When the poor, who can’t afford either the fines or the time off work to pay them, warrants get issued, and when they don’t respond to those, warrants pile on top of warrants. They end up with criminal records as a result, and their employment prospects go into the toilet.

  • Similarly, the practice of civil asset forfeiture involves taking money and property from people, without any sort of due process or criminal conviction, and leaving those people the prospect of paying lawyers (often more than the asset taken) to try and recover what was taken. The wealthy can afford to fight to get their stuff back, but the poor? Rock and a hard place.

  • Minimum wage laws help a few, but only by taking opportunity away from many.

  • Professional licensing artificially constricts numbers, enabling professionals to charge more for services and restricting access to cheap services. Why must a lawyer draft a simple will, when a paralegal could do the job (and usually does, anyway) for less money?

  • Occupational licensing, which often involves substantial (and excessive) hurdles, similarly keeps people from gainful employment.

  • Unions work to ensure jobs and protect high wages for their members, reducing employment possibilities for the poor and making the stuff they buy and the places they live more expensive.

  • The welfare trap obstructs the poor from improving their lot in life, keeping them poor and dependent on big government and its advocates.

  • The monopolistic public education system, which prioritizes and protects teachers over students, and which opposes school choice, fails to provide quality education to the poor.

  • Corporatism protects the well-connected companies against smaller companies, against startups, against competitive pressures, and against the various factors that would offer better products at cheaper prices to the poor.

  • Opposition to the gig economy (Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, etc), especially strong in cities with big, progressive governments, takes away ways for the poor to earn money, constrains their transportation choices, and makes their lives more expensive.

  • Excessive regulatory burdens on farmers’ and craft markets similarly hurt the poor’s prospects, in making money, in buying quality goods, and in getting stuff more cheaply.

  • Rent control, rather than keeping housing affordable, creates artificial shortages and distortions that benefit a few at a greater expense to many, and keeps the market from satisfying the demands for more housing inventory

  • Economic development that doesn’t satisfy the statists’ predilections is pushed away, with governmental force. Fewer jobs are created, and consumer costs remain higher (e.g. Walmart in NYC, the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx).

  • Local governments refuse food donations to shelters, and sometimes prohibit private-sector food assistance outright, when the donated food doesn’t fit their desired profile or provenance.

Keeping the poor poor, while blaming others for their plight, is how liberals keep themselves in power.

Many, perhaps even most, of those who support the Left don’t even realize this, but that’s because they judge actions by intent and sales-pitch rather than outcome, because they embrace the falsehood that government action is more reliable than trusting people and markets, and because they fall prey to a self-perpetuating information machine that keeps the truth from them. The poor, they are told and believe, need Democrats, liberals, and socialists to care for them and look after them, because everyone else is evil and looking to screw them. As often as not, though, that care is not offered by those left-of-center folks. Instead, policies that keep the poor trapped in poverty are promoted. Yes, their system provides assistance, but the need for that assistance is both exacerbated and prolonged by that system.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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