There’s a children’s tale about a king who pretended to be an ordinary peasant in order to check on his subjects. Unfortunately, the story took an unexpected turn, but that prompted the king to act in the most decisive way and make changes.
It’s just a fairy tale, but it defines our present-day reality. Today I will tell you a story that teaches us that problems should always be solved from within. Politicians shouldn’t act for the camera or recognition, but should rather aim at achieving results.
While the Census Bureau reports that in 2016 some 12.7% of Americans lived in poverty, it is impossible to reconcile this poverty rate, which has remained virtually unchanged over the last 50 years, with the fact that total inflation-adjusted government-transfer payments to low-income families have risen steadily. Transfers targeted to low-income families increased in real dollars from an average of $3,070 per person in 1965 to $34,093 in 2016.
.. Compared with what they pay in Social Security taxes, the lowest quintile of earners can receive as much as 10 times the lifetime benefits received by the highest quintile of earners and three times as much as the middle quintile... The measured poverty rate has remained virtually unchanged only because the Census Bureau doesn’t count most of the transfer payments created since the declaration of the War on Poverty. The bureau measures poverty using what it calls “money income,” which includes earned income and some transfer payments such as Social Security and unemployment insurance.
But it excludes food stamps, Medicaid, the portion of Medicare going to low-income families, Children’s Health Insurance, the refundable portion of the earned-income tax credit, at least 87 other means-tested federal payments to individuals, and most means-tested state payments. If government counted these missing $1.5 trillion in annual transfer payments, the poverty rate would be less than 3%.
Want to change the world? Don’t bother volunteering—get a real, ‘boring’ job.
If you’re volunteering at shelters or working for most nonprofits, that’s all very nice, but it’s one-off. You’re one of the privileged few who have the education to create lasting change. It may feel good to ladle soup to the hungry, but you’re wasting valuable brain waves that could be spent ushering in a future in which no one is hungry to begin with.
There’s a word that was probably never mentioned by your professors: Scale. No, not the stuff on the bottom of your bong or bathtub. It’s the concept of taking a small idea and finding ways to implement it for thousands, or millions, or even billions. Without scale, ideas are no more than hot air. Stop doing the one-off two-step. It’s time to scale up.\
Don’t spend all your time caring for the sick. Prevent disease. Gene therapy, early detection and immunotherapy can change the trajectory of disease because they scale. Don’t build temporary shelters. Figure out how to 3-D print real homes quickly and cheaply. Why tutor a few students when you can capture lessons from best-of-breed teachers and deliver them electronically to millions? That’s scale.
.. There is too much talk of sustainability, the fight over slices of a pie, zero-sum games. That’s the wrong framework. You need sustainability only if you stick to one-off moves.
.. detoxifying oppression
.. Channel that energy to change the stagnant status quo through scale in education, banking and especially government.
.. listen to Bono. As he told Georgetown students a few years ago, “Entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.”
Everybody agrees society is in a bad way, but what exactly is the main cause of the badness?
Some people emphasize economic issues’
People like me emphasize cultural issues. If you have 60 years of radical individualism and ruthless meritocracy, you’re going to end up with a society that is atomized, distrustful and divided.
Patrick Deneen .. new book, “Why Liberalism Failed,”
.. democracy has betrayed its promises.
- It was supposed to foster equality, but it has led to great inequality and a new aristocracy.
- It was supposed to give average people control over government, but average people feel alienated from government.
- It was supposed to foster liberty, but it creates a degraded popular culture in which consumers become slave to their appetites.
.. “Because we view humanity — and thus its institutions — as corrupt and selfish, the only person we can rely upon is our self. The only way we can avoid failure, being let down, and ultimately succumbing to the chaotic world around us, therefore, is to have the means (financial security) to rely only upon ourselves.”
.. Greek and medieval philosophies valued liberty, but they understood that before a person could help govern society, he had to be able to govern himself.
People had to be habituated in virtue by institutions they didn’t choose — family, religion, community, social norms.
.. Machiavelli and Locke, the men who founded our system made two fateful errors.
- First, they came to reject the classical and religious idea that people are political and relational creatures. Instead, they placed the autonomous, choosing individual at the center of their view of human nature.
- Furthermore, they decided you couldn’t base a system of government on something as unreliable as virtue. But you could base it on something low and steady like selfishness. You could pit interest against interest and create a stable machine. You didn’t have to worry about creating noble citizens; you could get by with rationally self-interested ones.
.. Liberalism claims to be neutral but it’s really anti-culture. It detaches people from nature, community, tradition and place. It detaches people from time. “Gratitude to the past and obligations to the future are replaced by a nearly universal pursuit of immediate gratification.”
.. Once family and local community erode and social norms dissolve, individuals are left naked and unprotected. They seek solace in the state. They toggle between impersonal systems: globalized capitalism and the distant state. As the social order decays, people grasp for the security of authoritarianism.
“A signal feature of modern totalitarianism was that it arose and came to power through the discontents of people’s isolation and loneliness,” he observes. He urges people to dedicate themselves instead to local community — a sort of Wendell Berry agrarianism.
.. Every time Deneen writes about virtue it tastes like castor oil — self-denial and joylessness.
.. Yes, liberalism sometimes sits in tension with faith, tradition, family and community, which Deneen rightly cherishes. But liberalism is not their murderer.
a recent gathering at the museum featuring speakers who intend to “transform nations” by “igniting a holy reformation in every sphere of society,”
.. “We wholeheartedly believe the Museum of the Bible represents an ‘Ark of the Covenant’ for our nation, bearing witness to his goodness,”
.. A typical museum might invite visitors to explore the multiple meanings of the Bible and the complex history of its reception in different cultures over time. But this museum is not the place for that kind of inquiry; you’re here to celebrate.
.. The museum is a safe space for Christian nationalists, and that is the key to understanding its political mission.
.. Its subtler task is to embed a certain set of assumptions in the landscape of the capital.
.. Mr. Drollinger believes that social welfare programs “have no basis in Scripture,” that Christians in government have an obligation to hire only Christians and that women should not be allowed to teach grown men.
.. He lays out his thinking in a 2013 book, “Rebuilding America: The Biblical Blueprint.”
.. The “institution of the state” is “an avenger of wrath,” he explains, and its “God-given responsibility” is “to moralize a fallen world through the use of force.”
.. participants in his groups, however, aren’t just anybody. They include Mike Pompeo, the director of the C.I.A.; Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Vice President Mike Pence; Betsy DeVos
.. the message that national unity can be achieved only through a religious “awakening” and allegiance to conservative Christianity.
.. to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.”
.. When Steve Green, the museum’s founder and the president of the Hobby Lobby crafts chain, formed the museum’s parent organization in 2010, he informed the I.R.S.
.. the location of this museum was an act of symbolic and practical genius. If you’re going to build a Christian nation, this is where you start.
Reducing immigration is in the long-term political interest of our ruling classes. This may sound improbable, considering the stupendous assemblage of money and institutional power pushing for ever-higher levels of immigration
.. our institutions are facing a crisis of legitimacy, with an ever-larger share of the people rejecting the rightness of their leadership role. This crisis of legitimacy — which Europe is experiencing as well – is reflected in the declining public confidence in our institutions. It’s a big part of the reason for Brexit and Trump.
.. immigration was the issue that showed the widest gap between “opinion leaders” and the public.
.. immigration was the issue that showed the widest gap between “opinion leaders” and the public.
.. There are no doubt many reasons for the fading legitimacy of
- Big Business and
- Big Labor,
- Big Tech and
- Big Ag,
- Big Religion and
- Big Government,
- Big Media,
- Big Academia, and
- Big Philanthropy.
But both practically and symbolically, the elite push for de facto unlimited immigration is a key contributor, as Brexit and Trump and other anti-establishment movements demonstrate.
.. passage would be a startling reversal of direction by the political class. It would be a strong signal of solidarity of the rulers with the ruled. It would demonstrate that the “executives who give the money” don’t always get their way. The benefit to our political culture (never mind the benefits to the working poor or taxpayers or assimilation) would be enormous.
Many of those now climbing over the Democrats’ blue walls were willing to live under the original liberal governance model that existed before 1960 because it recognized the legitimacy of private economic life. The wealthy agreed then to pay their “fair share.”
.. Defenders of the liberal model argue that cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are changing into sophisticated, cosmopolitan hubs that attract a new class of young professionals who will restore urban America. Instead, many of these urban revivals are producing a phenomenon economists now call “racially concentrated areas of affluence,” or RCAAs.
An area gets RCAAed when the residents who pack themselves into it are mostly white people whose median incomes are unprecedentedly greater than the city’s poverty level. Some of the most RCAAed cities are liberal duchies like Boston, Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Today, private economic life, especially that of the urban middle class, is no longer a partner in the liberal model. It’s merely a “revenue source” for a system whose patronage is open-ended welfare and largely uncapped public-employee pensions. I’d describe the liberal-progressive governing strategy as ruin and rule.
.. Not widely noticed is that liberalism’s claimed beneficiaries—black Americans—are also fleeing its failures. Demographers have documented significant black out-migration from New York, Michigan, California and Illinois into Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. North to south.
.. They are now asking the federal government, meaning taxpayers who live in parts of the U.S. not hostile to capitalism, to give them nearly $15 billion to replace the 100-year-old train tunnel beneath the Hudson River. Why should they? Why send money to a moribund, dysfunctional urban liberal politics that will never—as in, not ever—clean up its act or reform?
Maybe we need a new default solution to the urban crisis: Let internal migration redistribute the U.S. population away from liberalism’s smug but falling-apart plutonomies.