Sunday, April 6, 2014

Defending libertarianism: What about the poor

One of the most common criticisms of libertarianism is "What about the poor?" It is a bizarre question. Would the person who is concerned about the poor not be willing to help the poor if the government were not forcing them too?

To meet immediate needs, access to food and monetary handouts would be necessary. These are done on a regular basis by private charities. Before government got involved, private charities were more numerous. Thanks to the New Deal, the role of charity has been significantly diminished.

 The poor also need access to low paying, low skill jobs. These are the kinds of jobs that disappear due to misregulation. When government gives special privileges to labor like mandatory benefits or minimum wages, it becomes relatively cheaper to substitute capital equipment in place of labor. Increased use of capital equipment requires more skilled labor and less unskilled labor.

The poor would be better off if voluntary employment transactions including working in more dangerous or less comfortable conditions or for lower wages were permitted. The reason anyone would choose to work until these conditions or for low pay would be because those are their best options. Making someones best option illegal does not make them better off.

As poor people gain experience, they can move up the social ladder. There will always be poor people, those on the bottom of the social ladder. We do not make them better off, however, by removing the bottom rungs.

No comments: