Saturday, March 04, 2006

Looking back (and ahead) with Edwards

George Will says about Edwards:

Edwards has a 1930s paradigm of poverty: Poor people are like everyone else, they just lack certain goods and services (housing, transportation, training, etc.) that government knows how to deliver. Hence he calls for a higher minimum wage and job-creation programs. And because no Democrat with national ambitions will dare to offend the teachers unions, he rejects school choice vouchers and says this: ``Give working parents who are poor housing vouchers so they have a chance to move into neighborhoods with better schools."

But the 1930s paradigm of poverty was alive in 1968 when the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, created in response to urban riots, thought this would be an imaginative cure: government creation of 2 million jobs. This, at a moment when the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.

The 1930s paradigm has been refuted by four decades of experience. The new paradigm is of behavior-driven poverty that results from individuals' nonmaterial deficits. It results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores -- punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc. -- that are not developed in disorganized homes.

Edwards, who does not recognize the name James Q. Wilson, may have missed this paradigm shift. Many people in public life, and almost all those with presidential ambitions, are too busy for the study and reflection necessary for mastering any subject. Read it all

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