An older discussion, but relevant to my current studies, Right Wing News (I was linked to this, I’m not a subscriber!) has an interview with Thomas Sowell.:
John Hawkins: One thing you’ve said that I found intriguing was that,”if you gave every poor person enough money to stop being poor, that would cost a fraction of what our welfare state programs and bureaucracies cost”. Do you have any numbers on that and in your opinion, even if that’s not a good idea, would it be a better idea than what we’re doing currently?
Thomas Sowell: Professor Walter Williams of George Mason University has done the calculations of the cost of raising every poor person above the poverty level by directly giving them money and found it to be a fraction of the cost of the numerous programs ostensibly aimed at helping the poor.
Anyone have a link to this work by Williams?
Why do the programs exist? If we can make the poor better off, and do it most efficiently by simply instituting a wealth transfer, why don’t we do it that way? Why not make every one in Cary earning over $100,000 give 50% of the extra to a poor person living in Durham, in CASH?
Obviously, someone wants to hold the poor people accountable for how they spend their money. Does anyone else recognize the audacity of this claim? The poor need more money, but they don’t know how to spend it right, so we’re going to give it to them in the form of costly, inefficient programs instead of in cash, just to show how much we care.
From my parents or wife I expect a meaningful Christmas present. If the government or a corporation want to send me one I prefer cash.
I don’t want an emotional attachment to my government, and I don’t want to be accountable to the government for how I spend my money.
This is all a very basic conclusion of economic theory, known as the Lump Sum Principle (I’m gleaning from Nicholson’s Microeconomic Theory here) which says, “For the same amount of taxes collected, taxes on an individual’s general purchasing power are superior to taxes on a specific good.”
In English: I’d rather be the one who decides where the money for my taxes comes from, because the government might have different ideas about what is most important to me. The root of all this talk is the question of subjective valuation.
(Gavel bang to Amateur Economist)