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#3 reminded me of Terry Pratchett. He has a form of early-onset Alzheimer's, and can no longer write longhand or type. Such a waste.

7. Some economists, e.g. Shiller, Cowen, etc., seem to have perpetual smirks.

Re: Hero of Alexandria's inventions of steam gadgetry and binary state tape also went unfollowed-up for a millenium and a half.

Hero's steam engine was miserably inefficient. It took a millennium an a half of inremhtal improvements in metallurgy and so forth before steam engines were ready for prime time.

The Romans did do quite well with wind and water power, the first civilization to put both to effective use.

Charity is a private matter, so the idea of the poor just being given money raises the question: Whose money given by whom?

"Just give the poor cash."

Incentives matter. Giving the poor person cash or food stamps or subsidized housing or whatever transfers socialists can imagine does one thing without question: it removes or reduces the incentive to provide for himself.

Number 1 John Dewy Comment

Only a real poor person can understand real poverty.

It is naive to say that the can just provide for

themselves and only someone from a rich prosperous

country would say it. It is not an incentive issue

they don't watch their children starve to death out

of laziness or choice. The aid mistake is giving money to

the governments. If you want impact do something small

and direct. I like the simplicity directness and smallness of the

solution and its belief in people. If you have no faith in people

then of course your view is different.

PS I am not a socialist.

Absolutely everything new, I mean every single thing, is troubled and mediocre when it starts, ranging from the Web to the computer, no doubt to the wheel. The first wheel was probably square or something. The first computers took lotsa$$$ to build, could only do what it was built for, and were always breaking. The start of the Web was text only, really slow,, and only had physics content. Slowly, people find problems by trying and fix them. Of course, the aeleopile would've been the same if there'd been a continuousish cultural thread of development. Instead we started almost from scratch, far, far, later.

I agree with you that Rome was innovative - but got the slows after the Republic.

@John Dewey

"Incentives matter. Giving the poor person cash or food stamps or subsidized housing or whatever transfers socialists can imagine does one thing without question: it removes or reduces the incentive to provide for himself."

How much incentive should we provide?

Rather than just let poor people starve as an incentive, wouldn't they have even more incentive if the government collected all the people who made less than a chosen minimum in the last year and euthanize them?

If that isn't enough incentive we could torture them to death.

Or maybe a better incentive would be to sell them to perverts who would slowly torture them to death. Then they could raise some revenue to help pay for the cost of assessing their income.

Of course we want to give lazy people an incentive to succeed, but how much incentive is enough?

#1 - just give cash to the poor

speaking as a development worker and shedding my classical liberal bias i can assure you this is not a right-left issue, or even an efficiency-v-equality. handing cash to the poor proves only one thing: that given increased wealth, individuals improve their livelihoods and can make their own decisions.

what it does NOT do is provide sustainability over time - it does not change the broken system in which poverty is created and/or sustained. thus, it will never work in the long term. fixing these systems enables people to create their own wealth so that they can increase their standards of living.

interesting, the aid community does neither of these things. we do not hand out cash, but nor do we fix the system. we instead implement small scale projects (building a well, building a school) that help improve living standards but rarely address why living standards were low in the first place. this is because efforts to fix structural problems were unsuccessful, poorly designed, poorly implemented, and did not address corruption.

J Thomas,

During the Great Depression, an entire generation of young people learned why it is important to be self-reliant. For the next 20 to 30 years. That generation put aside savings for a rainy day, invested in education and training, and generally became as self-reliant as any generation in America has done. That generation much more than others since then were reluctant to take on personal debt other than mortgages.

What has happened since then? Government safety nets have removed the incentives for self-reliance. Government-sponsored lending organizations have made it much easier for low income families to take on mortgage debt. Extended unemployment benefits have enabled households to remain unproductive for much longer periods. Government minimum wage laws have prevented labor wages from adjusting to market-clearing levels.

Government removed the incentives for self-reliance, Mr. Thomas. Until those decisions are reversed, a large part of the population will remain dependent on government transfers and other forms of "charity".

Tough love will be hard on bleeding heart liberals, which I suspect you to be. But it works.

J. Thomas,

The nation United States does not compete with the nation China. Rather:

1. some manufacturers in the U.S. compete with some manufacturers in China.

2. some manufacturers in the U.S. partner with manufacturers in China who supply them components.

3. some service companies in the U.S. contract with manufacturers in China for essential supplies.

4. some retailers in the U.S. contract with Manufacturers in China who supply goods for the retailers shelves - goods which U.S. consumers enjoy.

Those who mistakenly claim that the U.S. competes with China seem to be concerned with only those companies in situation 1 above. They ignore the enormous benefits realized by consumers, by service companies, by retailers, and by purchasers of companents.

The U.S. has been benefitting from the comparative advantage of foreign suppliers for decades. While that has happened, the wealth of U.S. households continues to rise. True, such wealth has risen faster for some households than for others. That's because returns to education and specialized training have increased.

If an unskilled American worker wishes to compete in the modern labor market, he can either accept the market clearing wage for his services or he can acquire more skills.

Your assertion that the market clearing wage in the U.S. is $2,000 a year is ridiculous, and not worthy of my time to debate it.

J. Thomas,

A person who believes that a market clearing wage for unskilled labor can be predicted by an elected official - clearly does not understand economics.

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