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Social Darwinism for the 21st Century

[ 344 ] July 29, 2012 |

Bryan Caplan is a terrible person. Now you might say that I am too mean to the Koch-funded George Mason economist. After all, he might not beat his dog. But that doesn’t really matter here. Because Bryan Caplan is a terrible person. Why is Bryan Caplan such a scourge on the human race? This article arguing that the poor are to blame for their own poverty and thus shouldn’t be helped is Exhibit A. Here are a couple of “highlights”:

I’m not merely saying that “bad behavior is bad for you.” I’m saying that bad behavior is a major cause of poverty. If I’m right about this, there is a great, neglected remedy for poverty: Poor people should stop engaging in bad behavior. If this seems flippant, that’s not my intention. Poverty: Who To Blame will largely be a work of economic philosophy. Part of my project is to provide intellectual foundations for what I perceive as Americans’ justified frustration with welfare recipients. (Another part of my project, by the way, is to destroy the intellectual foundations for what I perceive as Americans’ unjustified frustration with Third World immigrants).

….

I think such meritocratic moral intuitions are sound, and ought to guide public policy as well as private conscience. If people are poor because they’re behaving irresponsibly, they should be far down our queue of people to help – if they belong on the queue at all. That said, I also happen to think that reducing the generosity of the welfare state and making assistance conditional on good behavior will (eventually) reduce bad behavior. Whether I’m right or wrong on this point, though, the fact that poor people are often the authors of their own destitution is morally significant and sadly neglected.

Why I’ve never run across these arguments before and certainly not made with such care! Gilded Age theorists like William Graham Sumner made essentially these same arguments over 100 years ago. Hacks like Sumner served the plutocrat class of the first Gilded Age; hacks like Caplan serve the plutocrats of the second Gilded Age.

And in case Caplan wasn’t enough of a throwback to the worst period in American history, he managed to find a way to blame women too.

As women’s labor market opportunities improved, their interest in low-status men with stable jobs declined. This in turn led many low-status men to either give up on work and women, or try to impress women in other ways. Some of these “other ways,” strangely, are self-destructive behavior like non-remunerative crime and substance abuse.

If only those damned strumpets respected a working-class man who brought in a single-family income (never mind that Caplan completely opposes paying working-class people decent wages), we’d still have good hard-working men in this country (never mind all the jobs outsourced to other countries).

Question: If you are a job candidate in the Economics Department at George Mason University, do they give you some kind of test to make sure you have a small enough heart. Do they just call it the Scrooge Test? In admiration of course, not critique.

I don’t know why, but somehow writing about Caplan made me want to dedicate this song to him:

H/T to Jamelle Bouie’s twitter feed (@jbouie) for this, though I’d feel better about the future of the world if I hadn’t seen this.

[SL]…Related.   And see also.

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  1. DocAmazing says:

    Koch-funded George Mason economist

    Such a way with words…

  2. john says:

    This guy’s a peach. Be sure to follow the link to “stigma dogmatics”. Holy crap. NIce comments too.

  3. Patrick Pine says:

    Notice he does not say how we should deal with rich people who behave badly – nor does he refer to those who get rich by behaving badly.
    Nor does he mention that many people are poor because someone in their family encountered difficult circumstances – like being bankrupted by the cost of health care for a loved one – or having a premature delivery of a child with a cost of care exceeding $500,000.
    But when your chair is endowed by the Kochs, you need to do something to keep in their good graces I guess.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Rich people are rich precisely because they are our moral superiors. Do you not understand that?! Charles Koch says so!

    • Bruce Baugh says:

      That was my first thought too. Maybe we could deny tax credits to firms with CEOs found bearing false witness against their neighbors, for instance.

      • Cody says:

        Obviously, if you’re rich and do something bad (e.g. you oversee a loan derivatives that bankrupt the whole US economy) the only proper response is to make you a poor person.

        The fact that you are not currently poor while engaging in bad behaviors is a glitch, and should be remedied by Bryan Caplan’s system. If this money goes to the State, I foresee a great increase in tax income.

        Next up… Mitt Romney lied about being CEO of a company. Add that ~$250 million to the taxes this year!

        • timb says:

          If only it were that simple. Sure, we could then take Romney’s money, but, given how hedge funds work, Rommney would just bill several million dollars in consulting fees to the “Mitt Romney for President” campaign, write an impassioned autobiography (or have someone else do it), and then settle down to a wonderful right-wing sinecure at the Heritage Foundation.

          He’d still be able to afford a car elevator, but his grandchildren might actually have to get jobs

          • Cody says:

            True, assuming any of his conservatives friends would have money left after they tangled with this new “fee based” social construct!

            Of course, we all know they would just corrupt whatever system was in charge of overseeing their social behaviors.

    • DrDick says:

      Those who get rich by behaving badly would pretty much include all of them who do not become rich through sheer dumb luck.

      • Murc says:

        Nah, that ain’t true.

        I know plenty of rich guys. My Dad is one, as are a lot of his friends. A bunch of my Professors, guys who never married and invested their paychecks for being senior engineers at Xerox well over the years and then took fat buyouts, qualify. Some of’em are real dirtbags, but most of them got rich the same way; a combination of skill, luck, government aid, social capital, and ambition.

        Of course, it depends on what you mean by ‘rich.’ The people I speak of clear 150k a year and/or have assets that are worth more than a million dollars, sometimes both. This puts them, what, in the 95th percentile of Americans? Likely higher? And that in turn puts them high in the top 99th percentile, globally speaking.

        If that doesn’t count as rich, the term is meaningless.

    • gmack says:

      Having studied these folks (though not Caplan directly), usually the argument is that consistency would require subjecting rich folks who behave badly to similar requirements. However, that’s not politically viable at this time, so they just leave the matter aside. Lawrence Mead, who advocates for a “new paternalism” in welfare policy, makes this argument explicitly. (The new paternalism is basically just like the old paternalism: poor people are incompetent, which is why they are poor, so we need to link any benefits they receive to forms of surveillance and behavior modification so as to re-train them. Caplan appears to be more from the Charles Murray tradition, where the goal is not so much “soul crafting” but to stop providing incentives to the poor to behave badly and to subject them to the discipline of the market).

      • Kurzleg says:

        I was going to bring up the Murray comparison. Basically, they’re both scolds.

      • bradp says:

        Having studied these folks (though not Caplan directly), usually the argument is that consistency would require subjecting rich folks who behave badly to similar requirements. However, that’s not politically viable at this time, so they just leave the matter aside. Lawrence Mead, who advocates for a “new paternalism” in welfare policy, makes this argument explicitly. (The new paternalism is basically just like the old paternalism: poor people are incompetent, which is why they are poor, so we need to link any benefits they receive to forms of surveillance and behavior modification so as to re-train them. Caplan appears to be more from the Charles Murray tradition, where the goal is not so much “soul crafting” but to stop providing incentives to the poor to behave badly and to subject them to the discipline of the market).

        While I do think poverty has a lot to do with impulse control and immediate gratification, I hate the “libertarian paternalism” nonsense that is going around.

        If find it absurd to think that welfare contingent on behavior modification is somehow less an encroachment on individual and social liberty than just footing the bill for irresponsible behavior.

        • Malaclypse says:

          While I do think poverty has a lot to do with impulse control and immediate gratification

          Citation needed.

          • mark f says:

            When a poor person’s washing machine breaks, does that person patiently save up $300 for a replacement, or does he frivolously waste $25 at the laudromat every week to immediately gratify himself with clean clothes?

            • David M. Nieporent says:

              Or did he save up money for a replacement in advance? Or use a family member’s washer until he could save up for a new one? Or wash clothes the way people did for dozens of years between when God created the earth and the invention of the washing machine?

              $25 weekly at the laundromat? How many clothes do these poor people own?

              • Malaclypse says:

                Enough to do 5 loads a week, which is far less than my household does.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Or did he save up money for a replacement in advance?

                Ah, yes, let’s just assume a can opener! For that matter, why didn’t they ensure that they have a trust fund?

              • jmack says:

                Nieporent stopping by to remind us that nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself. I guess just take however many goddamn hours a week it takes to beat your clothes against rocks.

              • Gus says:

                So you’re suggesting they go down to the nearest river and wash their clothes there if they don’t have the income to save for a new washer or relatives who own washers? I live just blocks from the Mississippi, but washing my clothes there would leave them much dirtier and smellier afterwards.

              • DrDick says:

                Or did he save up money for a replacement in advance?

                What color is the sun on your planet? You really should come visit us here on the planet Earth sometime. It is an interesting place and radically different from your world.

              • (the other) Davis says:

                Oh good, a living, breathing exemplar of the fundamental attribution error.

              • mark f says:

                That’s a stupid answer, David.

                Everyone knows the smart play would’ve been to buy a $1200 top-of-the-line washer in the first place, thus setting the need of replacement far into the future (or at least until the ol’ ball & chain decides to change the color scheme in the laundry room again, amiright?). Only my hypothetical poor person’s irresponsibility prevented him from doing this.

    • Bill Murray says:

      I think when Caplan says bad behavior, he means not acting like a standard member of homo economicus. Rich people are always acting to maximize their economics defined utility function, thus are A-OK in his view. Poor people sometimes don’t and should be forced to get with the program

    • njorl says:

      Choosing the wrong parents is bad behavior. Spending money to prevent the deaths of loved ones is bad behavior. Having “Loved ones” in general is a poor idea. You’re much better off investing in more practical relationships.

  4. mtraven says:

    They just use the Voight-Kampff test with the polarity reversed.

    I’ve written a bit about Caplan, eg here which includes this stellar quote (which is actually from Steven Landsberg, but he might as well be the same person as Caplan):

    Suppose a guy with no health insurance and no assets shows up at a hospital emergency room with an urgent life-threatening condition. Should you let him die? Ordinary compassion says no. The heightened compassion of the economist says, at the very least, maybe.

    • Kurzleg says:

      Doesn’t he mean “lowered compassion”?

    • R. Porrofatto says:

      Holy crap. That quote comes from this Landsberg post, which is an approving libertarian economist’s defense of the “let him die” GOP debate audience. These Hayekers are beyond caricatures of themselves at this point.

    • mds says:

      Suppose a guy with no health insurance and no assets shows up at a hospital emergency room with an urgent life-threatening condition. Should you let him die?

      Ordinarily, no. If he’s Steven Landsburg or Bryan Caplan, however, I’d at least have to think about it.

      • mds says:

        Whoops, I misspelled “Landsberg.” It’s supposed to be spelled “Pompous intellectually-bankrupt twit.” He was a mendacious asswipe about Sandra Fluke, too, requiring the president of the University of Rochester to make a statement clarifying that such flagrantly dishonest misogyny was not the university’s view. Mysteriously, Landsberg’s job is safe, as he has inexplicably accepted the tenure which insulates him from the market forces he supposedly holds in such high regard.

        • mds says:

          Hang on, it is Landsburg. My criticisms of him are thereby refuted, and all thanks to inadequate caffeination. Now I’m doomed to a life of shame.

          • R. Porrofatto says:

            Sadly, I, too, misspelled Landsburg. I could blame mtraven above, but Steve Landsburg reminded me of the great comedian Steve Landesberg, who would never have written this shit. However, it’s no surprise that reading this asshole’s efflatus would result in a vowel movement.

          • timb says:

            And, apparently, poverty due to your poor moral choices.

        • Davis X. Machina says:

          It’s supposed to be spelled “Pompous intellectually-bankrupt twit

          .

          It’s pronounced “Throat-warbler Mangrove”, though.

    • Matt McIrvin says:

      Was the cost-benefit calculation made for man, or man for the cost-benefit calculation?

  5. J.W. Hamner says:

    Not so surprising given his belief that women of the Gilded Age were freer than they are today. He is a living breathing libertarian caricature.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Oh for Christ’s sake.

      Well, at least I have a follow-up post for tomorrow…

      Tighten those corsets ladies! Your crushed organs are the sensation of freedom!

    • (the other) Davis says:

      For FSM’s sake, that was him?! I still remember libertarians falling all over themselves in blog discussions trying to defend that piece of crap.

    • Heron says:

      As a sort of side note to his larger subject, David Graeber makes an interesting argument in Debt that the libertarian concept of liberty is founded on old Roman concepts of “dominion”; the “liberties” a home-owner(and thus for the Romans, a slave-owner) has in the running of his household and the treatment of those who live in it(which is to say his human property, since children and slaves were all legally the property of the pater familias).

      If we acknowledge this, then it becomes easy to see how an ideologue like Caplan can think this, then attempt to build a rational argument around the claim. Gilded Age women were legally more under-the-thumb of the men in their lives than women today, thus they came closer to fulfilling their role within the libertarian ideal, and thus they were necessarily “freer” in a moral sense to his mind.

      This knowledge also explains why libertarianism runs into so much trouble when its proponents try to apply it to the experiences of women, labor, children, and other classes historically considered property under Western legal traditions; the libertarian concept of “liberty” and wider world-view was never meant to apply to anyone other than white property-owning males in the first place.

  6. Nutella says:

    My “meritocratic moral intuition” is so sound that I say this should first be applied to the rich. Random drug and alcohol tests to prove they’re moral enough to deserve a tax break, for instance.

  7. angry bitter drunk says:

    Fuck Caplan, but who cares? The really sad and scary part is all the everyday rubes who aren’t on the Koch payroll that buy this. Poor people in New Orleans should have hopped a bus out of town ahead of Katrina. Poor people crashed the economy by forcing defenseless banks to give them loans they couldn’t pay off. Poor people vote for Obama because he gives them welfare and food stamps.

    So not only do poor people behave badly, they’re like this huge, powerful constituency. So yeah, they must be stopped…

  8. bph says:

    This blog is getting hard on my liver.

  9. (the other) Davis says:

    Why do people who make these sorts of arguments never bother providing evidence to back up their claims?

    Oh, right. Duh.

  10. Aaron says:

    Why do you just quote the summary of his argument to mock instead of actually arguing it? All that tells me is that he’s, somewhat refreshingly, quite explicit about his reactionary, plutocrat-serving views. But if you don’t actually refute him, you’re just engaging in ad hominem attacks.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Do you really need me to lay out an argument against this?

      This blog isn’t a fucking debating society. If you really aren’t convinced his argument is completely insane, then I don’t know what to tell you.

    • Anonymous says:

      So you’re saying that somebody needs to make a counterargument that, in fact, we shouldn’t just let poor people die because fuck ‘em they clearly deserve it?

      Some “arguments” don’t deserve a response.

    • DrDick says:

      How about the fact that he presents no evidence for his bullshit assertions for the simple reason that the data actually refute him?

    • R. Porrofatto says:

      No argument can or needs to be made because Caplan is so patently correct — bad behavior is a major cause of poverty. One has only to look at the 25% unemployment currently in Spain (50% for young people) which is throwing masses of people into poverty. What caused this? The indisputably bad (even criminal behavior of the banker parasites whose fraudulent actions have led to world-wide economic collapse and suffering for millions of people. If this isn’t a textbook example of how bad behavior can cause povert… what? Oh. Never mind.

  11. M. Bouffant says:

    (Another part of my project, by the way, is to destroy the intellectual foundations for what I perceive as Americans’ unjustified frustration with Third World immigrants).

    Yeah, if only Americans would wise up & see how eminently exploitable Third World immigrants are, how open to the American Dream of being worked to death by their colonialist betters they are!

    By the way, just how are the “First, Second & Third Worlds” defined today? G-20, China, everybody else?

    And if you want to call someone an asshole musically, shorter, faster, louder! Or even shorter.

    • Manju says:

      Yeah, if only Americans would wise up & see how eminently exploitable Third World immigrants are, how open to the American Dream of being worked to death by their colonialist betters they are!

      I call Bullshit on this. To characterize low-skilled immigration to the US as exploitation is perverse.

      I know you people are just dying to go back to the New Deal Coalition, where (often racist) restrictions on immigration helped buoy the wages of low-skilled natives, but could you please make your argument without pretending you’re doing us third world immigrants a favor?

      The idea that such immigrants are worse off is so detached from reality that I won’t even bother to post data like I usually do. However, if you are so deluded as to doubt any of my assertions (1- immigrants are better off or 2-that low-skilled immigration drives down the wages of those already here) feel free to ask for a reference.

      btw, I don’t think I’ve ever cited a RWinger here and I don’t plan to start now.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        I think I speak for everyone here when I say that I wish Robert Byrd was president right now.

        • Manju says:

          Even I think that’s ridiculous. Everyone knows you’d prefer Russell Long.

        • Uncle Kvetch says:

          I think I speak for everyone here when I say that I wish Robert Byrd was president right now.

          We wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years.

          • timb says:

            Didn’t a conservative Democrat turned Republican say that about another conservative Democrat turned Republican?

            Why, it’s almost as if party labels weren’t relentlessly ideological back in the day….

            • Manju says:

              Didn’t a conservative Democrat turned Republican say that about another conservative Democrat turned Republican?

              As did a lib-Dem to another lib-Dem:

              I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great senator at any moment,” Mr. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said while praising Mr. Byrd last week on the occasion of the eight-term Democrat’s 17,000th Senate vote.

              Mr. Dodd continued: “He would have been right at the founding of this country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution. He would have been right during the great conflict of Civil War in this nation.”

              • Malaclypse says:

                Amazing how none of the first 20 google hits to that quote are to an original source, so that we could see context. While I would love to take the fine posters at the Free Republic at their words, perhaps you can provide the original source?

              • timb says:

                So, a liberal Democrat complimented a moderate Democrat and you find symmetry with Trent and Strom….while never (and I mean NEVER) acknowledging the difference bettwen Byrd, Lott, and Thurmond is Byrd’s renunciation of racism (prior to the attainment of higher office) and Lott and Thurmond’s public careers are predicated on their support of the thing Byrd renounced

                • Manju says:

                  the difference bettwen Byrd, Lott, and Thurmond is Byrd’s renunciation of racism (prior to the attainment of higher office)

                  Could someone else please do the takedown here? WTF!?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Could someone else please do the takedown here?

                  Of course. Timb, please refer yourself to Manju Dead Horse #1, aka Robert Byrd!!!

                • Manju says:

                  Of course. Timb, please refer yourself to Manju Dead Horse #1, aka Robert Byrd!!!

                  Malaclypse,

                  timb just tried to pass off a Senator who filibustered the 1964cra…by alleging that the bible condones segregation and that black brains are smaller than white ones…as someone who renounced racism “prior to the attainment of higher office”.

                  This particularly rancid horse is alive and well here at LGM.

                  If you liberals would stop

                • timb says:

                  So, just for the record, the fact Byrd did those things and then apologized and renounced them and Strom and Trent did not means….
                  The fact that Byrd eventually voted for the Civil Rights bill of 1968 and received a 100% rating from the NAACP means….

                  What does it mean, Manju? What are you trying to prove by bringing up Byrd at every convenient moment?

                  I confess to finding you hysterical, which is why I baited you, but figuring out how you place the nexus of blame of party affiliation instead of ideology is a mystery.

                  Why just this weekend, Scott posted a link to a Mississippi church which refused to marry a black couple. Mississippi with two Republican Senators, a Republican Governor, 3 out 4 Republican congressmen, and both houses of the state legislature with Republican majorities. Nothing has changed in Mississippi except that the racists vote Republican, since the Dems chased them out of theirs

                • Manju says:

                  The fact that Byrd eventually voted for the Civil Rights bill of 1968

                  Byrd opposed the 1970 Voting Rights Act. That should tell you that his vote on the 1968 Fair Housing Act is not what it appears to be.

                  Since you just learned today that Byrd filibustered the 1964cra, and did it in a manner so vile that he managed to distinguish himself from his fellow maggots, I’m not going to go into how one can vote “Y” on a CRA while simultaneously opposing it.

                  You need to digest the facts first and then I’ll explain the nuances to you.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Make that eighty bagillion and one floggings of this particular dead horse. Still not tiresome, not at all.

                  How did that hunt for the original source for your quote work out? You seem to have inexplicably forgotten to follow up with that.

                • timb says:

                  So, Manju is ignoring the fact that conservatives in Mississippi are still racist and that Byrd, after making the denunciation and apology which Strom, Trent, Haley, Rand Paul, and Jesse never made (they did, however, join the Republican Party), received a 100% rating from the NAACP

                • Manju says:

                  Byrd, after making the denunciation

                  Byrd publicly repented in 2005. The Dodd quote is from 2004.

                  Byrd’s earlier apologies were about the Klan. His apologists conflate the two.

                  The 2005 apology is fraught with red-flags, but for our purposes the point is moot.

                  Strom never apologized. Either did any of his fellow Senators who filibustered (other than arguably, Byrd).

                  None of the other Senators in question became republicans…despite your racist and ahistorical assertions to the contrary.

                • timb says:

                  Byrd publicly repented in 2005. The Dodd quote is from 2004.

                  Ah, spectacularly untrue

                  http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2002/12/what_about_byrd.html

                  He renounced all of that in ’93, if not prior.

                  PS The cute thing? “Besides the leaders who switched parties AND the states who switched their affiliations beginning in 1968 and continuing through 1980 AND Richard Shelby and Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour…

                  BESIDES THOSE GUYS, no one else switched.

                  Manju’s argument is basically “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

                • Manju says:

                  Byrd publicly repented in 2005. The Dodd quote is from 2004.

                  Ah, spectacularly untrue

                  http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2002/12/what_about_byrd.html

                  He renounced all of that in ’93, if not prior.

                  timb,

                  As I said earlier:

                  Byrd’s earlier apologies were about the Klan. His apologists conflate the two.

                  Now, from your source:

                  Q: What has been your biggest mistake and your biggest success?

                  A: Well, it’s easy to state what has been my biggest mistake. The greatest mistake I ever made was joining the Ku Klux Klan. And I’ve said that many times. But one cannot erase what he has done. He can only change his ways and his thoughts. That was an albatross around my neck that I will always wear. You will read it in my obituary that I was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

                  As you just learned yesterday, after leaving the Klan, Byrd became essentially the equivalent of Strom Thurmond, a segregationist. His first known public “apology” for that occurs in 2005, after the Dodd quote in question.

                  Strom Thurmond never joined the Klan. Indeed, he fought them and even fought the poll tax. So the Noah piece is a false equivalence. Oddly he even appears to acknowledge this:

                  Past membership in the Klan is heavier moral baggage than past advocacy of segregation. But Byrd, unlike Thurmond, renounced his youthful participation in a racist cause.

                  Perhaps, like you, he was ignorant of the fact that Byrd stood with Thurmond & Co and opposed Civil Rights?

                  Could be.

            • Manju says:

              Why, it’s almost as if party labels weren’t relentlessly ideological back in the day….

              Democrats, including their White Supremacist faction, have long been to the left of Republicans:

              http://voteview.com/images/polar_house_means.jpg

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Maanju, my friend, you need to look at what segregationists did as committee chairs, not just the votes on the merits once legislation got to the floor.

                • DrDick says:

                  Asking Manju to look at the actual data instead of just looking at random, meaningless lists in Wikiopedia is sooo unfair.

                • timb says:

                  For Christ’s sake, the most relentless Cold Warriors and protectors of the rich lived in the South and were members of the Dem party. Those people were not leftist, no matter how many procedural votes they voted on, because they were a minority of their own party.

                  Hell, someone tell Manju I will buy and loan him Master of the Senate and he can listen to the entrenched power of these conservative Southeners

      • Spuddie says:

        After all its nice that they are able to work for below living wages performing menial jobs under conditions which can be actively hazardous. We are doing them a favor by treating them less than human.

        Its also telling that the people who most benefit from illegal immigrant labor are the same ones who bitch and moan about “protecting US jobs” and “enforcing the immigration laws”. The more draconian our immigration laws become, the easier it is to keep such immigrants in the underground economy. Thus making it easier to depress wages.

        So yes, your assertion that immigrants lower domestic wages is only a half truth. Immigration plus nativist policies to allegedly “protect the American worker” depress wages. The nativist lobby (an integral part of the conservative movement these days) is about the most plug-ignorant, bigoted, self-destructive bunch out there. They gladly support measures to make their conditions worse.

        Your second point is also bullshit because its not just our low skilled immigrant laborers who are being exploited. Skilled labor brought in under employment visas (except athletes and performers) are to a man, paid far below their market wages and subject to harsher work conditions than their domestic counterparts. Since employment visas are not portable for the worker, they are dependent on the whim of their employer to stay in the country.

        • Manju says:

          So yes, your assertion that immigrants lower domestic wages is only a half truth. Immigration plus nativist policies to allegedly “protect the American worker” depress wages.

          The relative depression of low-skilled domestic workers and subsequent increase in income inequality correlates to the decrease of the very nativist policies of which you speak.

          In contrast, income inequality shrank during the height of the New Deal Coalition. After the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it started to increase.

          You appear or believe that we need both mass immigration plus nativist policies in order to get this depression of wages. This makes almost no sense since those very policies will keep most potential immigrants out in the first place.

          According to Paul Krugman, the issue is much more straight forward:

          immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand:

          http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/notes-on-immigration/

          Krugman cites George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard (not in that column). He says this is the most authoritative study on the matter. here it is:

          http://www.aeaweb.org/assa/2006/0108_1015_0302.pdf

          I don’t think think it backs up your theory.

        • Manju says:

          Your second point is also bullshit because its not just our low skilled immigrant laborers who are being exploited.

          According to Paul Krugman, “…migration from Mexico to the United States…helps very poor people find a better life“.

          Skilled labor brought in under employment visas (except athletes and performers) are to a man, paid far below their market wages and subject to harsher work conditions than their domestic counterparts.

          Krugman explains why:

          “When a country receives a lot of immigrants, the wage paid to immigrants reflects the marginal product of the last immigrant, which is less than that of earlier immigrants.”

          But at the end of the day, immigration produces “…large gains to the immigrants themselves…”

          He cites the Borjas and Katz paper I referenced earlier. You cite nothing. I fail to see why I should believe you over the world’s most influential Left-wing economist.

          http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/notes-on-immigration/

          http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2006/03/paul_krugman_no.html

          • Malaclypse says:

            It is possible to be better off, even if you are being exploited at the same time. The two are not even kinda sorta mutually exclusive.

            • Manju says:

              Yes, I thought of that. You guys rely on vague opinions, whereas I use well-defined metrics from top-level academic sources.

              This is obvious in regards to our debate over the ideology of the Segregationists, but apparently it flows over to the political economy too.

              • Malaclypse says:

                Yes, I thought of that.

                Not from your comment, you didn’t.

                You guys rely on vague opinions, whereas I use well-defined metrics from top-level academic sources.

                Okay, Nieporent’s “wash clothes in rivers” comment was funnier, but this is a close second.

                How did the hunt for an original source work out for you?

                • Manju says:

                  You guys rely on vague opinions, whereas I use well-defined metrics from top-level academic sources.

                  Okay, Nieporent’s “wash clothes in rivers” comment was funnier, but this is a close second.

                  Because Paul Krugman, Poole & Rosenthal, and Nolan McCarty are not “top-level academics” who use “well-defined Metrics”.

                  ooookaay.

                  How did the hunt for an original source work out for you?

                  You asked me for “an original source” and I gave you the NYTimes.

                  Are you looking for video or something?

              • Malaclypse says:

                You asked me for “an original source” and I gave you the NYTimes.

                You gave me the NYT doing a follow-up about an apology. The actual original quote, with context? Still waiting.

                • Manju says:

                  I just have the NYTimes follow-up, so you’re point is taken that there is an outside chance of context changing things.

                  Given the hilarious correction, regarding Strom Thurmond, embedded within the Times pice in question, I concede that the NYTimes is the worst source I’ve produced on this thread.

    • Manju says:

      the most relentless Cold Warriors and protectors of the rich lived in the South and were members of the Dem party.

      timb, the data that I just posted, from the finest scholars in the field, indicates that you are wrong. That graph is the most comprehensive data availabe, but perhaps looking at specific data points is easier to understand.

      Lets start with your “protectors of the rich lived in the South and were members of the Dem party” assertion. Lets take the War on Poverty.

      23 Southern Dems, including Byrd and Hayden (borderline states), vote against cloture for the 1964CRA (more important than the final vote…I’m trying to increase you sophistication on the subject). Here they are:

      AL Nay [D] Hill, Joseph [D]
      AL Nay [D] Sparkman, John [D]
      AR Nay [D] Fulbright, James [D]
      AR Nay [D] McClellan, John [D]
      AZ Nay [D] Hayden, Carl [D]
      FL Nay [D] Holland, Spessard [D]
      FL Nay [D] Smathers, George [D]
      GA Nay [D] Talmadge, Herman [D]
      GA Nay [D] Russell, Richard [D]
      LA Nay [D] Ellender, Allen [D]
      LA Nay [D] Long, Russell [D]
      MS Nay [D] Eastland, James [D]
      MS Nay [D] Stennis, John [D]
      NC Nay [D] Ervin, Samuel [D]
      NC Nay [D] Jordan, Benjamin [D]
      ND Nay [R] Young, Milton [R]
      NM Nay [R] Mechem, Edwin [R]
      NV Nay [D] Bible, Alan [D]
      SC Nay [D] Johnston, Olin [D]
      SC Nay [D] Thurmond, J. [D]
      TN Nay [D] Walters, Herbert [D]
      TN Nay [D] Gore, Albert [D]
      VA Nay [D] Robertson, Absalom [D]
      VA Nay [D] Byrd, Harry [D]
      WV Nay [D] Byrd, Robert [D]

      LBJ looses 1 of these assholes: Strom Thurmond.

      Oddly, the centerpiice of LBJ’s War on Poverty, the Economic Opportunity Act, immediately followed the 64cra. How did the remaining 22 scumbags do?

      AL Nay Hill, Joseph [D]
      AL Nay Sparkman, John [D]
      AR Aye Fulbright, James [D]
      AR Nay McClellan, John [D]
      AZ Aye Hayden, Carl [D]
      FL Nay Holland, Spessard [D]
      FL Aye Smathers, George [D]
      GA Nay Russell, Richard [D]
      GA Aye Talmadge, Herman [D]
      LA Nay Ellender, Allen [D]
      LA Aye Long, Russell [D]
      MS Nay Eastland, James [D]
      MS Nay Stennis, John [D]
      NC Aye Ervin, Samuel [D]
      NC Aye Jordan, Benjamin [D]
      SC Aye Johnston, Olin [D]
      TN Aye Walters, Herbert [D]
      TN Aye Gore, Albert [D]
      TX Nay Tower, John [R]
      TX NVt Yarborough, Ralph [D]
      VA Nay Robertson, Absalom [D]
      VA Nay Byrd, Harry [D]
      WV Aye Byrd, Robert [D]

      They go 11-11 on the subsequent legislation. They are about perfectly moderate.

      The next biggie is Medicare in 1965:

      AL Aye Hill, Joseph [D]
      AL Aye Sparkman, John [D]
      AR Fulbright, James [D]
      AR Aye McClellan, John [D]
      AZ Aye Hayden, Carl [D]
      FL Nay Holland, Spessard [D]
      FL Aye Smathers, George [D]
      GA NVt Russell, Richard [D]
      GA Aye Talmadge, Herman [D]
      LA Ellender, Allen [D]
      LA Aye Long, Russell [D]
      MS Nay Eastland, James [D]
      MS Nay Stennis, John [D]
      NC Nay Ervin, Samuel [D]
      NC Aye Jordan, Benjamin [D]
      SC Aye Russell, Donald [D]
      TN Aye Bass, Ross [D]
      TN Aye Gore, Albert [D]
      TX Nay Tower, John [R]
      TX Aye Yarborough, Ralph [D]
      VA Nay Robertson, Absalom [D]
      VA Nay Byrd, Harry [D]
      WV Aye Byrd, Robert [D]

      Theses psychopathic maggots go 13-7 (2 no votes)

      As you can see, the anecdotal roll-calls correlate with the comprehensive DW-Nominate data. In short, they end up as moderates who lean left.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Shorter Manju: Manju Dead Horse #2, aka DW-Nominate!!!

        • DrDick says:

          And still is stupid enough to think some random meaningless list is dispositive proof of his point. The boy would flunk out of any freshman social science or history class.

        • Manju says:

          Also, let’s look at how Republicans voted, shall we?

          Your link, the wiki entry for the The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, makes my case.

          It shows that Northern Dems supported the act and Republicans opposed.

          Southern Dems in the Senate were split 50-50 and in the House they leaned in favor.

          this anecdotal roll-call correlate with the comprehensive DW-Nominate data. In short, the biggest maggots top ever infest the US Senate were ideologically moderates who leaned left. This partiallyt explains why so few of them became Republicans.

          Ergo, the popular liberal meme that civil rights was about ideology is wrong.

          • timb says:

            They ALL became Republicans, just not in 1968.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Manju will point out, correctly, that some died first. He’ll just phrase this more deceptively, and take 12 paragraphs to do it.

              • timb says:

                They died, but their aides and children all called themselves conservatives and all converted to the Republican party. Richard Shelby was never a liberal, nor was Strom or Helms, or Lott or Barbour (whose freakin’ brother was in the CCC) or even Robert Stacy McCain, but they all called themselves Democrats once and Republicans long before they died.

                The idea that “these maggots” were actually liberals ignores what they called themselves, for Christ’s sake

              • Manju says:

                timb falsely asserts:

                They [southern Dems in the House and Senate in 1964] ALL became Republicans, just not in 1968.

                Love the capitalized “ALL”. Malaclypse corrects:

                Manju will point out, correctly, that some died first.

                This is a whitewashing. Manju would point out correctly that a tiny minority of US Reps and Senators who voted against the 1964cra become Republican. (Only 1 Senator and a single digit amount of Reps…not sure of the specific number for the House).

                timb backtracks but spews out another demonstratively false statement:

                They died, but their aides and children all called themselves conservatives and all converted to the Republican party.

                Lets take a look at some prominent politicians (Senators and Governors)

                White Supremacist Sen Harry Byrd Jr was the son of Sr and never became a repub. Howell Heflin’s family had a long segregationist background and he was chosen to replace Adlai Stevenson’s White Supremacist running mate in 1979. Lifelong Dem. Zell Miller had a segregationist background and became GA Gov in 1991.Lifelong Dem.

                New Dealer and White Supremacsit George Wallace put his wife in the Govenors seat and shedid not beome a repub. Albert Brewer worked for Wallace and replaced his wife and he also died a Dem. Jimmy Carter swore to bring Wallace to GA and Wallace endorsed Carter…Carter, Lifelong Dem.

                Al Gore Sr’s son never became a Repub. Liberal Icon and lifelong unrepentant segregationist William Fulbright mentored Clinton and I don’t recall Bill becoming a repub.

                I could go on….

            • Manju says:

              They ALL became Republicans, just not in 1968.

              shorter timb: I was caught saying something really stupid and racist:

              “the difference bettwen Byrd, Lott, and Thurmond is Byrd’s renunciation of racism (prior to the attainment of higher office)”

              so I will try to save face by saying even stupider things.

              • timb says:

                If you want to imagine things, go ahead. Hasn’t stopped you from being ahistorical….

                I made a number of points and you are distracted by a parenthetical.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Yes, there were ideological differences between the two geographic bases of the Democratic Party. And both were more economically liberal than Republicans.

          Thank God you have only needed to make this point eighty bagillion times. It is not tiresome at all.

          • timb says:

            They weren’t economically liberal; they economically populist. They hated unions and civil rights and any host of things we recognize as liberal.

      • timb says:

        So, the entire history of segregation is boiled down to three votes over 2 year? I mean, geez, Maju, couldn’t you have picked up something from the New Deal to show us how all those guys were liberals? The leader of the conservatives in 1940′s and 50′s and the man who was LBJ’s kingmaker was Richard Russell. Are you saying the most important Southerner in the Senate the the middle of the 20th century was a liberal?

        Ever hear of Leland Olds? Here’s something to get you started. He wasn’t accused of being a reactionary when Southerners master-minded his failure to be re-appointed.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leland_Olds

        Hell, Johnson’s foe on Civil Rights prior to 1957 was Humphrey and his Northern Democratic friends. Johnson counted on conservative Midwestern senators to back him…

        Arguing a bunch of reactionary segregationists were liberals is possibly the stupidist thing ever accomplished on the internet. that’s why sane people leave it to the home of stupid, the NRO.

        • Manju says:

          So, the entire history of segregation is boiled down to three votes over 2 year?

          I used those 2-3 votes in order to illustrate to you how the most comprehensive research on ideology can place Segregationists to the left of Republicans.

          First for the House:

          http://voteview.com/images/polar_house_means.jpg

          Now for the Senate:

          http://voteview.com/images/polar_senate_means.jpg

          I mean, geez, Maju, couldn’t you have picked up something from the New Deal to show us how all those guys were liberals?

          Since you asked:

          1933 National Industrial Recovery Act – NIRA. Every known vote for the 22 Senators from the 11 fully-confederate states.

          (Scotus struck this down as unconstutional, so its a good // to Obamacare. Needless to say, Southern Repubs vote on Obamacare doesn’t exactly look like this:

          AL Aye [D] Hugo Black
          AL Aye [D] John Bankhead
          AR Aye [D] Hattie Caraway
          AR Aye [D] Joseph Robinson
          FL Aye [D] Park Trammell
          FL
          GA Aye [D] Richard Russell
          GA Aye [D] Walter George
          LA Aye [D] Huey Long
          LA Aye [D] John Overton
          MS Aye [D] Byron Harrison
          MS Aye [D] Hubert Stephens
          NC Aye [D] Josiah Bailey
          NC Aye [D] Robert Reynolds
          SC [D] Ellison Smith
          SC Aye [D] James Byrnes
          TN Aye [D] Kenneth McKellar
          TN Aye [D] Nathan Bachman
          TX Aye [D] Morris Sheppard
          TX Nay [D] Thomas Connally
          VA
          VA

        • Manju says:

          Arguing a bunch of reactionary segregationists were liberals is possibly the stupidist thing ever accomplished on the internet.

          luckily I didn’t argue that. I said they were moderates who leaned left.

          You said:

          the most relentless Cold Warriors and protectors of the rich lived in the South and were members of the Dem party.

          One more datapoint for you…just for the cold war thing:

          All known votes for the 22 Senators from the 11 former Confederate states.

          Dec 01, 1954 S. RES 301 : Censured Joseph McCarthy

          AL Aye [D] John Sparkman
          AL Aye [D] Joseph Hill
          AR Aye [D] James Fulbright
          AR Aye [D] John McClellan
          FL Aye [D] Spessard Holland
          FL
          GA Aye [D] Richard Russell
          GA Aye [D] Walter George
          LA Aye [D] Allen Ellender
          LA Aye [D] Russell Long
          MS Aye [D] James Eastland
          MS Aye [D] John Stennis
          NC Aye [D] Samuel Ervin
          NC Aye [D] William Scott
          SC Aye [D] Charles Daniel
          SC Aye [D] Olin Johnston
          TN Aye [D] Carey Kefauver
          TN
          TX Aye [D] Lyndon Johnson
          TX Aye [D] Marion Daniel
          VA Aye [D] Absalom Robertson
          VA Aye [D] Harry Byrd

  12. James E. Powell says:

    Anyone who uses the phrase “generosity of the welfare state” without being sarcastic is, among other things, an asshole.

    And with that bit about women in the work force Caplan might be revealing more about himself than he intends to.

    But, seriously does anyone take this stuff seriously? It isn’t meant to convince anyone. It just tells the followers what to repeat.

  13. Bexley says:

    As women’s labor market opportunities improved, their interest in low-status men with stable jobs declined.

    Translation: When I tell women I fellate Charles Koch for a living they suddenly lose interest in me!

  14. JR says:

    I have no problem with assistance being based on good behavior. It’s the definition of “good behaviour” that people get hung up on. He was careful not to include ALL poor people when he said this, which is more of a distinction than most righties make. So I can’t get worked up on this like others.

  15. JLV says:

    Caplan is why Economics as a discipline needs better aspie control: we need to keep the aspie-est of aspies locked away doing pure theory (where at least the damage is mitigated by no one else understanding what they’re talking about) and not doing policy relevant stuff.

  16. DHgate says:

    The point is that he will do nothing to the rich with terrible behavior. It is a world of money, so the everything the rich do “deserves” the tolerance.

  17. UserGoogol says:

    I don’t think it’s really necessary to ascribe ulterior motives to Bryan Caplan’s “peculiar views.” That sort of reasoning is extremely common among a certain kind of comparatively privileged and vaguely autistic nerd, most of whom are not financially tied with the Koch brothers. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, and having “controversial” views can be justified as showing how much of an independent critical thinker you are.

    • elm says:

      Yeah, I think Erik got the causation wrong on this: Caplan doesn’t think the way he thinks because he gets Koch funding, Caplan gets Koch funding because he thinks the way he thinks.

  18. Warren Terra says:

    Do they just call it the Scrooge Test? In admiration of course, not critique.

    Surely this should be the Marley test. Old Jacob stayed true to his principles until the end of his life; Scrooge, that backslider, was not so steadfast.

  19. Jeffrey Kramer says:

    The Thwackum Test? In Tom Jones, Parson Thwackum visits Tom’s bedside after Tom has broken his arm to say

    That he ought to look on his broken limb as a judgment from heaven on his sins. That it would become him to be daily on his knees, pouring forth thanksgivings that he had broken his arm only, and not his neck; which latter, he said, was very probably reserved for some future occasion, and that, perhaps, not very remote. For his part, he said, he had often wondered some judgment had not overtaken him before; but it might be perceived by this, that Divine punishments, though slow, are always sure. Hence likewise he advised him, to foresee, with equal certainty, the greater evils which were yet behind, and which were as sure as this of overtaking him in his state of reprobacy. These are, said he, “to be averted only by such a thorough and sincere repentance as is not to be expected or hoped for from one so abandoned in his youth, and whose mind, I am afraid, is totally corrupted. It is my duty, however, to exhort you to this repentance, though I too well know all exhortations will be vain and fruitless. But liberavi animam meam. [“I have satisfied my soul.”] I can accuse my own conscience of no neglect; though it is at the same time with the utmost concern I see you traveling on to certain misery in this world, and to as certain damnation in the next.”

  20. bradp says:

    I don’t think the statement: “Bad behavior is the leading factor in poverty, and the best way to fight poverty is to stop bad behavior” is particularly controversial.

    And I would like to get an opinion or two on this:

    If people are poor because they’re behaving irresponsibly, they should be far down our queue of people to help – if they belong on the queue at all.

    Is this sentence on its own evil, or is it only evil in the greater context of Caplan’s opinions on what leads to poverty?

    • Malaclypse says:

      It is evil because it begs the question, in such a way as to bring affliction to the powerless.

      • bradp says:

        I don’t get you.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Let us just say that the very first “if” you quote is doing more heavy lifting that Caplan has himself ever done.

          And even if that if is justified, that does not actually show that, say, Paris Hilton behaves at all less reposonsibly. Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.

          • Malaclypse says:

            As another example, had Mittens been a poor black child on scholarship back when he assaulted his classmate, does anybody think he would be the Republican candidate now?

            • bradp says:

              That all seems besides the point.

              I think Caplan would agree completely.

              • Malaclypse says:

                I think Caplan would agree completely.

                Why, exactly, do you believe that a person who wrote “If people are poor because they’re behaving irresponsibly, they should be far down our queue of people to help – if they belong on the queue at all.” would agree completely? Because Mittens is evidence that the rich can easily escape the consequences of irresponsible behavior. And if that is indeed the case, then poverty is not the result of irresponsible behavior at all, but from a lack of social capital, and then the whole rotten edifice of blame-the-poor bullshit collapses upon itself.

                • Bexley says:

                  Well said.

                • bradp says:

                  1. I believe Mitt Romney would fall as close to the bottom of Caplan’s “people to help” list.

                  2. Your example merely shows that the wealthy can get away with being irresponsible. It doesn’t show anything else.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Your example merely shows that the wealthy can get away with being irresponsible.

                  Okay, small words: 1) Wealthy people can get away with being irresponsible. 2) Poor people cannot. Therefor, 3) the changed outcome is not due to irresponsible behavior, but due to the resources brought to the situation.

                • bradp says:

                  Okay, small words: 1) Wealthy people can get away with being irresponsible. 2) Poor people cannot. Therefor, 3) the changed outcome is not due to irresponsible behavior, but due to the resources brought to the situation.

                  You do not need to prove that poor people suffer irresponsible behavior more than wealthy people.

                  We are asking whether irresponsible behavior would be responsible for poverty, and it is not sufficient to say that wealthy people can be irresponsible without adverse effect.

                  People with high metabolisms can consume higher amounts of calories and not gain weight, but that doesn’t mean that diet isn’t a leading factor of obesity.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  People with high metabolisms can consume higher amounts of calories and not gain weight, but that doesn’t mean that diet isn’t a leading factor of obesity.

                  If Cthulhu loves me, Campos will read this.

                • bradp says:

                  If Cthulhu loves me, Campos will read this.

                  Maybe he can point out how terrible your “syllogism” is.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Maybe he can point out how terrible your “syllogism” is.

                  Maybe. You still have not, so maybe someone can.

                • bradp says:

                  Maybe. You still have not, so maybe someone can.

                  The vast majority of the population depend on responsible behavior for their well-being, and a person born into moderate wealth can easily die a pauper through irresponsible behavior.

                  If your “syllogism” actually deserved the term, then how do you explain the common result of a middle class individual becoming poor through irresponsible behavior and the poor person being poor through irresponsible behavior.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  how do you explain the common result of a middle class individual becoming poor through irresponsible behavior and the poor person being poor through irresponsible behavior.

                  Because they lack resources. Also, for example, “Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.” is an example of a difficult choice, not an irresponsible one.

                  Being poor is a very expensive problem to have.

                • timb says:

                  My friends with money never pay for anything. The company pays or they get comped in the hopes they will pay attention to something.

                  Poor people pay for condiments at McDonald’s, whereas rich people get free mouthwash and napkins so think they could keep an orphan warm in a blizzard…

                  Mal’s right, being poor is expensive

                • OlderThanDirt says:

                  +10

                  I also want to apologize to you for thinking you were exaggerating about Manju’s Byrd thing. Obviously nothing of the kind, I just hadn’t been reading here long enough.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Actually, a better example – if Scalzi had assaulted someone while at Webb (and anybody lucky enough to know John, who is a genuinely good and kind person, knows how utterly implausible him doing that would be), then would any of us have ever heard of him?

              So the irresponsible bullying is not a sufficient cause to change the outcome. The preexisting social capital, however, is.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      I assume that “bad behaviour” here includes things like “irresponsible choice of parents” and “foolish decision to be alive in a time and a country when jobs are being disestablished”.

      Otherwise one is led to the conclusion that the human propensity for bad behaviour somehow shoots up during major depressions, and times like the Industrial Revolution when existing jobs are vanishing.

      • bradp says:

        I assume that “bad behaviour” here includes things like “irresponsible choice of parents” and “foolish decision to be alive in a time and a country when jobs are being disestablished”.

        I am fairly certain Caplan would acknowledge external causal factors behind “irresponsible behavior”.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Textual evidence please.

          • rea says:

            The following remark seems to negate any external causal factor–no, it’s just that the Amercian poor are uniquely evil:

            In any case, have you considered the possibility that countries with relatively prudent low-income populations can afford to have more generous social welfare systems?

            • bradp says:

              There is a big difference between these two statements:

              1. Poor behavior is the leading factor for poverty.

              2. Poor people are the cause of their own poor behavior.

              • Malaclypse says:

                1. Poor behavior is the leading factor for poverty.

                Except it is not (see the comment about begging the question that you did not get). See Mittens above. A lack of resources is the leading factor for poverty.

                • bradp says:

                  A lack of resources is the leading factor for poverty.

                  I don’t agree, and as I said earlier, your Romney example is a fallacy.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  your Romney example is a fallacy.

                  Surely you can explain what, exactly, is fallacious about it. I did a handy syllogism, so that should make your task easy.

                • Joshua says:

                  How is the Romney example a fallacy?

                  The fact that rich people can get away with “irresponsible behavior” is in fact a death blow for Caplan’s theory. It means that the problem isn’t the bad behavior, but the resources of the person. If you can get out of the consequences of bad behavior by writing some checks, then bad behavior isn’t the problem.

                • bradp says:

                  It means that the problem isn’t the bad behavior, but the resources of the person.

                  It says nothing about the problem, it says that rich people don’t have to worry about the problem.

                  If I ask the question: “How dramatically will we improve outcomes by improving incomes?” Mitt Romney is completely irrelevant. Unless you are arguing that more money does not make people more responsible, which would seem to support Caplan’s arguments.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Unless you are arguing that more money does not make people more responsible, which would seem to support Caplan’s arguments.

                  Small words: I am arguing that the big problem for poor people is not having enough money.

                  And unless you want to make a coherent argument that rates of irresponsible behavior change over time, and are remarkably coincident with changes on governmental policy, then all you are doing is fucking the same chicken.

                • bradp says:

                  And unless you want to make a coherent argument that rates of irresponsible behavior change over time, and are remarkably coincident with changes on governmental policy, then all you are doing is fucking the same chicken.

                  From what you link, it sounds like it is also coincidental with economic trends. That seems like that would be a very likely common cause.

                  Honest question here: Do you have a study that shows a where government policy caused a downward shift in poverty in the middle of an economic downturn?

                • Matthew Stevens says:

                  Malaclypse: A lack of resources is the leading factor for poverty.

                  bradp: I don’t agree

                  How in the world could you not? It’s true by definition!

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Do you have a study that shows a where government policy caused a downward shift in poverty in the middle of an economic downturn?

                  The entire fucking New Deal would like to point mockingly at you right about now, Brad.

                  And an aside – when did Noon post at EotAW, and when did he stop?

                • bradp says:

                  And unless you want to make a coherent argument that rates of irresponsible behavior change over time, and are remarkably coincident with changes on governmental policy, then all you are doing is fucking the same chicken.

                  And do you actually believe, especially under our current economic conditions, that irresponsible economic behavior doesn’t ebb and flow?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  And do you actually believe, especially under our current economic conditions, that irresponsible economic behavior doesn’t ebb and flow?

                  Remarkable how closely the ebbs and the flows correlate with government policies and macroeconomic conditions. Must be one hell of a series of unrelated coincidences, I suppose.

                • timb says:

                  Fuck the Romney example. Look at W. He was and is a screw-up for his entire adult life and yet no failure (going AWOL from the National Guard, cratering several businesses) changed the fact that his last name was Bush and allowed him to borrow (more social capital) and buy into a scheme where the public money and power was used to enrich Bush and his cronies (the Rangers).

                  Poor people get in drunken fights at family dinners too, but, in the end, they can’t count on their last name being worth several million dollars as a figurehead)

                • bradp says:

                  Remarkable how closely the ebbs and the flows correlate with government policies and macroeconomic conditions. Must be one hell of a series of unrelated coincidences, I suppose.

                  Not remarkable at all when you consider macroeconomic conditions are extremely causal to both government policy and personal behavior.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Not remarkable at all when you consider macroeconomic conditions are extremely causal to both government policy and personal behavior.

                  So, 150 or so comments in, you are admitting that macroeconomic conditions (which are influenced by gov’t policies, but let us not muddy the waters further) exert more causative influence than personal behavior? So, at long last, I’m right?

                • sparks says:

                  not as long as there’s a chicken to fuck will he admit that.

                • bradp says:

                  So, 150 or so comments in, you are admitting that macroeconomic conditions (which are influenced by gov’t policies, but let us not muddy the waters further) exert more causative influence than personal behavior? So, at long last, I’m right?

                  Do you mean microeconomics?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Do you mean microeconomics?

                  No. You might notice that I was quoting you, and if you pay attention to context, it is clear neither of us could possibly have been talking about microeconomics.

                • bradp says:

                  No. You might notice that I was quoting you, and if you pay attention to context, it is clear neither of us could possibly have been talking about microeconomics.

                  My apologies.

                  Yes, macroeconomic economic conditions effect rates of irresponsible behavior and government policy effects macroeconomic conditions.

                  But I usually think of that effect being more of an aggregate change in risky/irresponsible behavior, Austrians and Keynesians both have a model for that.

                  I didn’t think of macroeconomic conditions have much of an effect on rates of irresponsible behavior inbetween classes.

                  And talking about behavioral economics, welfare policy outcomes, and the like, one is usually dealing with micro, so please forgive the loss of context.

                  If you can briefly explain the path from policy -> improved behavior, what sort of policy would you propose, for my curiosity?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I didn’t think of macroeconomic conditions have much of an effect on rates of irresponsible behavior inbetween classes.

                  Then why do rates of poverty change based on policy changes? Oh, yea, because your “irresponsible behavior” trope is tiresome bullshit.

                  If you can briefly explain the path from policy -> improved behavior, what sort of policy would you propose, for my curiosity?

                  I would improve outcomes for people who don’t have enough fucking money by giving them more fucking money. What part of “Mal is a socialist” did you forget?

                • bradp says:

                  Then why do rates of poverty change based on policy changes? Oh, yea, because your “irresponsible behavior” trope is tiresome bullshit.

                  Improving macroeconomic trends can improve economic outcomes even if the individual behavior does not change.

                  Thats kinda the point. I look at the data you posted and it looks to me like when times were good, government was more active and less people were in poverty. Whenever times are good, there are always going to be less people in poverty. The question is whether or not the good times were a result of government policy or not.

                  In the end, it seems a logical conclusion to good economic times would be lower poverty and more government spending, so another vantage point would be necessary to help show causation betweent the government spending and the lower poverty.

                • DrDick says:

                  If you can briefly explain the path from policy -> improved behavior, what sort of policy would you propose, for my curiosity?

                  Raise the minimum wage to over $10/hour, provide universal single payer comprehensive health coverage, free high quality daycare readily available to low income families, raise the top marginal tax rate to 80% on income over $1 million, and insure free high quality education to all children from pre-school through college.

                  Of course the problem is that the significant bad behavior is on the part of the capitalists and not the poor.

              • gmack says:

                There is a big difference between these two statements:

                1. Poor behavior is the leading factor for poverty.

                2. Poor people are the cause of their own poor behavior

                Just to make clear Malaclypse’s accusation of question-begging, the issue, Brad, is that if you drive wedge between these two claims, as you do, then the first claim becomes an empty tautology. People are poor because of bad behavior. What bad behavior? Well, anything that makes them poor (bad parents, substantive abuse, unfortunate decisions made as teen-agers that they didn’t have the resources to overcome, no available jobs, no available child care, lack of transportation, illness often due to poor environment, etc., etc.). If this is what the statement means, however, then all you’re saying is that poor people are poor because they are poor.

                Caplan’s clear argument is that the bad behavior he has in mind is not just any unfortunate circumstance that makes people poor; rather, it is immoral behavior, or what he would deem economically irrational behavior. His argument is therefore not an empty tautology; rather, it is, to put it as mildly as possible, not terribly insightful.

                • bradp says:

                  Thanks, gmack, please note the way I stated it originally.

                  I said:

                  I don’t think the statement: “Bad behavior is the leading factor in poverty, and the best way to fight poverty is to stop bad behavior” is particularly controversial.

                  There are examples of poor people escaping poverty through frugality, forgoing consumption and other economically rational behaviors. There are people who are poor despite behaving in rational manners.

                  But through that, it is hardly controversial to say that outcomes are largely a result of personal behavior. It is also not controversial to point out that, for just about every self-destructive behavior (smoking, drinking, crime, etc) the poor deviate far more from what we would consider rational economic behavior than anybody else.

                  What I really wanted to know is how people felt about the poor who failed to improve their situation when and where they had the opportunity.

                  If someone could afford health insurance if he were a non-smoker, do we subsidize the price increase or what?

                  Most responses seem to imply those people don’t actually exist.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  If someone could afford health insurance if he were a non-smoker, do we subsidize the price increase or what?

                  Interestingly enough, I do health insurance censuses (censi?) annually where I work. And in 7 years, I have been asked how many people smoke exactly zero times. And we have been quoted smoker/non-smoker rates exactly zero times as well. The insurance companies also do not ask about exercise or diet.

                  The concept is called “pooled risk.”

                • bradp says:

                  The insurance companies also do not ask about exercise or diet.

                  The concept is called “pooled risk.”

                  And what about the difficulties the insurance market has because of that lack of accounting?

                  We certainly don’t want a welfare system that spirals its way into complete impractability.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  And what about the difficulties the insurance market has because of that lack of accounting?

                  You think insurance companies have pricing difficulties because of a lack of information? Seriously? Do I need to start linking to P&Ls?

                • bradp says:

                  You think insurance companies have pricing difficulties because of a lack of information? Seriously? Do I need to start linking to P&Ls?

                  Well, I thought the problem was an information assymetry. Perhaps customers have too much info?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Well, I thought the problem was an information assymetry.

                  No, the big problem is an irrational approach to cost pooling, but now you are trying to change the topic from this.

                • DrDick says:

                  You think insurance companies have pricing difficulties because of a lack of information?

                  Thus by ignoring over 200 years of actuarial data collection and analysis, Brad is able to prove libertarianism is a mental condition.

                • herr doktor bimler says:

                  it is hardly controversial to say that outcomes are largely a result of personal behavior

                  Numerous comments on this thread suggest to me that it is in fact controversial.
                  Primary attribution error.

            • delurking says:

              Or — you know — uniquely dark.

          • bradp says:

            I don’t read Caplan near enough to provide his exact thoughts on the issue, but he is almost obsessive in his research of behavioral economics and ethnography.

            In one of the few articles I have read by him, where he argues against the perverse effects of the welfare state, he argues that improving income would be largely ineffectual because the leading factors of success are parental qualities.

            • Malaclypse says:

              the leading factors of success are parental qualities.

              So, let’s assume you are a kid who is among the 5% (yes, 1 in 20) of Americans who lives in a household with no income at all beyond food stamps. You know what “parental quality” most impacts your chances of success? NOT HAVING ANY FUCKING MONEY.

              • bradp says:

                The author that Caplan cites on this, Susan Mayer, has a paper here:

                http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/focus/pdfs/foc272e.pdf

                A part of her conclusion:

                If we are asking
                specifically about the relationship between parental income
                and children’s outcomes, a fairly clear answer is emerging:
                parental income itself has a modest effect on children’s outcomes
                and this effect is not necessarily greater for children
                from poor families compared to children from rich families.

                I’ll let you decide what to make of her evidence.

                • DrDick says:

                  There is a very large literature showing the reverse.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I’m stunned to see a freshwater economist buying in to bullshit libertarian ideas. That changes everything!

                • bradp says:

                  I’m stunned to see a freshwater economist buying in to bullshit libertarian ideas. That changes everything!

                  Why is that “bullshit libertarian ideas”?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  If you don’t understand yet why it is bullshit, I’m genuinely baffled as to what to say. “Keep fucking that chicken” is really all that comes to mind at this point.

                • bradp says:

                  If you don’t understand yet why it is bullshit, I’m genuinely baffled as to what to say. “Keep fucking that chicken” is really all that comes to mind at this point.

                  Are the studies she summarizes invalid?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Are the studies she summarizes invalid?

                  The radical socialists running the Federal Reserve seem to think so.

                  Yep, “keep fucking that chicken” is the only appropriate thing left to say…

                • bradp says:

                  The radical socialists running the Federal Reserve seem to think so.

                  Yep, “keep fucking that chicken” is the only appropriate thing left to say…

                  I don’t get this either. Are you referring to the relationship between education and income?

                  That piece by Mayer references multiple studies that indicate that parental income has very modest effects on the educational acheivement of children.

                • DrDick says:

                  The radical socialists running the Federal Reserve seem to think so.

                  As does pretty much everybody else studying intergenerational mobility in the US. The largest single factor in determining your future class status is that of your parents.

                • JMP says:

                  “Why is that “bullshit libertarian ideas”?”

                  Uh, they are libertarian “ideas”; all libertarian “ideas” are bullshit.

              • David M. Nieporent says:

                Let’s assume you’re actually stupid enough to believe that “1 in 20 Americans lives in a household with no income at all beyond food stamps.” What policy implications would that have for whether you should be allowed to reproduce?

                1. One cannot survive on just food stamps.
                2. If one cannot survive, one dies.
                3. There are not 15 million Americans (“1 in 20″) dying in the streets.
                4. Therefore, the datum is faulty.

            • DrDick says:

              the leading factors of success are parental qualities.

              Most specifically parental income and educational levels, not parental industry, thrift, or morality. In other words, as Mal has said, it is social capital, not morality.

    • DrDick says:

      “Bad behavior is the leading factor in poverty, and the best way to fight poverty is to stop bad behavior” is in fact highly controversial and basically false. It actually inverts causality. The existing research shows that poverty causes the behaviors he is referring to.

    • Vardibidian says:

      “Bad behavior is the leading factor in poverty, and the best way to fight poverty is to stop bad behavior”

      I think this is absolutely true.

      Of course, people behaving badly and causing poverty are not, on the whole, the poor.

      Thanks,
      -V.

    • (the other) Davis says:

      I don’t think the statement: “Bad behavior is the leading factor in poverty, and the best way to fight poverty is to stop bad behavior” is particularly controversial.

      If it’s not particularly controversial, then you should have no trouble at all linking to some empirical evidence in support of this proposition. Please do so, as I for one would be curious to evaluate it.

  21. Kurzleg says:

    Does bad behavior include trying to unionize your workplace?

  22. Jon H says:

    He may not beat his dog (or wife, or clone-child), but he’d come up with a sick rationalization for why it’d be perfectly okay to do so.

  23. joe ro says:

    I don’t want to be perceived as defending his positions — but I was struck by the vitriol against Caplan here. How exactly are these views out of the mainstream of conservative criticism of welfare that go back at least to the 1980s (in scholarly circles as well as the broader conservative movement)? His views seem boilerplate right wing attacks. I would like somewhat to explain what in particular sets his views apart from say Charles Murray? The reason I ask is I want to know whether this is primarily an attack on Caplan or in reality an attack on right wing thinking on poverty in general.

  24. timb says:

    Again, I am reminded of the scene in So Long and Thanks for all the Fish where Ford runs into a prostitute who doesn’t sleep with men, per se. She just tells rich men it’s okay to be rich and makes bank.

    That’s what Bryan is: a whore for the rich.

  25. BrianB says:

    I question whether the reference in the title to “Social Darwinism” is appropriate. Social Darwinism is a racially or genetically based deterministic assumption that superior peoples will naturally rise. If that was true, then the “bad behaviour” would be inevitable, and not a choice of the poor. Thus, they could not be chided or expected to improve.

    None of which excuses the atrocities that this philosophy leads to – slavery, eugenics, segregation, xenophobia…Let’s call it what it is: Nazism.

    • bradp says:

      I’m not sure about that. From what I read from Caplan, the charge seems more apt than it has been against other common recipients.

    • Left_Wing_Fox says:

      Social Darwinism has always been a pseudo-intellectual argument to justify the existing social structure. It does so by a) begging the question, and b) misunderstanding Natural Selection.

      Our society is superior because the fittest succeed and the weak fail. Who are the fittest? The ones who succeed. Who are the weak? the ones who fail.

      Of course, natural selection is all about fitness in relation to the environment, and human beings change the environment to suit themselves. So the true statement of social darwinism is actually “An environment where the accumulation of wealth is the key indicator of success will promote behaviours which maximize wealth accumulation.” Putting it that way reveals the fundamental premise which the Social Darwinists ignore: does the accumulation of wealth represent the best measure for “fitness” in a society?

  26. [...] not just morally bankrupt, they’re also incredibly lazy. Their whole raison d’etre is to figure out how to justify cruelty…so they won’t have to lift a finger to help people who are less fortunate. If it [...]

  27. herr doktor bimler says:

    The following remark seems to negate any external causal factor–no, it’s just that the Amercian poor are uniquely evil:

    In any case, have you considered the possibility that countries with relatively prudent low-income populations can afford to have more generous social welfare systems?

    So Caplan believes that human nature is highly modifiable… a view normally associated with Progressives?

    Also he seems to have written himself a get-out clause allowing him to ignore any other factors that (according to the evidence) are more associated with poverty… ultimately those other factors are in turn caused by bad behaviour (details of the occult causal links to be filled in later).

    Now there’s a surprise.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Let’s try that again:
      The following remark seems to negate any external causal factor–no, it’s just that the Amercian poor are uniquely evil:

      In any case, have you considered the possibility that countries with relatively prudent low-income populations can afford to have more generous social welfare systems?

      So Caplan believes that human nature is highly modifiable… a view normally associated with Progressives?

      Also he seems to have written himself a get-out clause allowing him to ignore any other factors that (according to the evidence) are more associated with poverty… ultimately those other factors are in turn caused by bad behaviour (details of the occult causal links to be filled in later).

      Now there’s a surprise.

  28. Tracy Lightcap says:

    Let’s admit his points. I do; I see plenty of bad behavior in poor people and, unlike the rich, they can’t afford it. He’s right: bad behavior when you have limited resources is dangerous and only leads to deeper poverty.

    But here we need a more astute analysis. Caplan wants us to divide the poor up into the deserving and underserving poor and reserve state interventions for the deserving. Problem = the deserving poor aren’t the source of the problems associated with poverty. No, the difficulties that poverty leads to in our society are almost surely the result of bad behavior by the undeserving poor. This means that, pace friend Caplan, we should be pushing for larger state programs aimed at changing the behavior of the underserving poor. If we don’t want the government to be a Paul Pry into everyone’s lives and we don’t like the idea of trying to judge who’s deserving and who isn’t – I’m betting Caplan wouldn’t like the government or anyone else doing that – then the answer is simple: large scale programs aimed at transforming the environments of all the poor, regardless. That won’t get rid of all the bad behavior, of course, but it surely will reduce it to a social minimum that we can handle more easily. If the Finns can do it, why can’t we?

    I never understand why conservatives don’t see the point on this. I expect it’s that “bourgeois morality” that Alfred Doolittle – the prototype of the underserving poor – complains about.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      If we [...] don’t like the idea of trying to judge who’s deserving and who isn’t – I’m betting Caplan wouldn’t like the government or anyone else doing that

      Caplan explicitly says he wants to make “assistance conditional on good behavior”, so I’m sorry, he does want a government agency monitoring the lives and pasts of the poor, deciding who has behaved well enough, in a secular version of the Last Judgment.

      Such investigation generally costs more than simply assisting everyone regardless of moral virtue, but providing Caplan and his employers with that warm glow of superiority from meting out selective charity would make it worthwhile.

  29. herr doktor bimler says:

    If [...] we don’t like the idea of trying to judge who’s deserving and who isn’t – I’m betting Caplan wouldn’t like the government or anyone else doing that

    Umm, how much are you betting?

  30. [...] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}This discussion thread reminds me that I didn’t get to Jason DeParle’s atypically weak NYT piece about [...]

  31. Hogan says:

    Shunting off into “responsible v. irresponsible behavior” is giving Caplan way too much credit. His terms are “good behavior” and “bad behavior.” My economics training is rudimentary, but I’m not familiar with the technical definitions of those terms. Lacking any, it would seem that his claim is either a tautology (“Poverty is caused by bad behavior, and bad behavior is that behavior that causes poverty”) or an ill-designed black box whose label carries great emotive value for certain audiences but that doesn’t actually explain anything (“Bad behavior causes poverty, except when it doesn’t”).

    So yes, Caplan’s statement is uncontroversial in that there’s no substance to have a controversy about.

    • DrDick says:

      It is simply a reformulation of the Protestant ethic that God rewards the just.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Except that was not what Weber wrote about under that title, but is rather the modern American “prosperity gospel” that would make Calvin, much less the Good Rabbi, puke.

    • (the other) Davis says:

      At the risk of becoming a one-trick pony in this thread, Caplan (like Nieporent above) seems to be guilty of the fundamental attribution error: “They are poor because they make bad decisions. I am a third-rate economics professor at a second-rate university because the captains of industry haven’t yet recognized my genius.”

      Even your reformulation doesn’t avoid the problem is that Caplan focuses on behavior, while ignoring all of the obvious situational causes of poverty. I.e., even the tautological version you present is not entirely tautological.

      • David M. Nieporent says:

        The problem is, you seem to assume that because you don’t attribute your position in life to your own efforts, that other people don’t do so with their lives. Caplan may have made the first point, but he in no way argued the second (even without the pejorative characterizations) — and without the second, it isn’t an example of FAE.

        Caplan does not claim that there are no “situational causes of poverty.” Indeed, that’s the whole premise behind dividing the world into the deserving poor/undeserving poor, which he does.

        This, “Poverty isn’t caused by choices. What about this woman I know who got Lou Gehrig’s disease and then her husband left her with two young children” is like the old “My grandfather smoked and lived to be 95, while my non-smoking friend died of a lung cancer at age 40, so therefore all this talk about smoking being unhealthy is nonsense.”

  32. [...] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}I guess Bryan Caplan isn’t the only member of the plutocracy channeling Gilded Age Social Darwinism. See Mitt [...]

  33. [...] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Erik’s posts (here and here) on the seemingly Darwinian politics of modern conservativism aren’t wrong about the [...]

  34. RhZ says:

    I just want to point out that, like most conservative arguments, it boils down to, “if only people would act the way we want them too. Oh well.”

    He makes a comment that someday, somehow the behavior will change, but you can tell he doesn’t believe it himself.

    And that’s it, nothing can be done, so let’s just cut food stamp programs.

  35. graven image says:

    This guy was on this argument back in 2004.
    Way ahead of the curve, really.

  36. [...] like Sumner served the plutocrat class of the first Gilded Age; hacks like Caplan serve the plutocrats of the second Gilded Age.”“Mitt Romney’s tax plan would be a boon for the wealthy, but a tax hike for 95 [...]

  37. [...] not just morally bankrupt, they’re also incredibly lazy. Their whole raison d’etre is to figure out how to justify cruelty. . . so they won’t have to lift a finger to help people who are less fortunate. If it [...]

  38. [...] even if they talk to you, you have to get approval to use the quote. •Yet another conservative explains poverty is the fault of the poor. •One writer points out the difference between white violence [...]

  39. ざろざご says:

    If you dont mind, where do you host your web site? I am searching for a great host and your blog appears to be extremely fast and up almost all the time

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