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Are poor people stupid? Obviously a lot of people think so. They mean to protect the poor by denying them the ability to work for a low wage (minimum wage laws), or to live in a frugally-built house (building codes), or to force them to educate their children (compulsory schooling), and to compel everyone to pay for the education of the poor (school taxes).

If poor people really are stupid, then a different set of policies is needed than if poor people were merely poor for the moment. If poor people are stupid, then you would expect them to remain poor because of their stupidity. This could be discovered by tracking a sample of poor people, to see if they stay poor. That's been done, though, and only a small minority of poor people are poor from year to year.

The majority of poor people drift in and out of poverty. Sometimes they're young people just getting started. Can't afford a house, maybe can't even afford a car. Don't have much work experience, so they have to work at "starter" jobs. Other people might be able to earn a higher income, but are prevented by their life situation. Perhaps they're single parents, perhaps they're on probation and tied to a location with a poor job market. Perhaps they're divorced and sharing custody? Other people might have lost their old job and are temporarily poor while retraining themselves for a new career.

Policies which assume that these people are poor because they're stupid are not just philosophically wrong, they're actively harmful. A person of ordinary intelligence must be presumed to be able to make the best of their choices. If we remove choices because we don't want them to make stupid choices, we make it harder for them to pick the best choices. For example, if we force all new houses to be of a fixed minimum quality (building codes), then we force these people to live in older housing not covered by building codes. It's very presumptious to say that that's best for them. We should allow everyone the most freedom to choose, even the minority of poor people who are actually stupid. Controlling the actions of adults degrades their judgement and turns them into moral infants.
Valdis Klētnieks's profile photoJay Carlson's profile photoRussell Nelson's profile photoGhias Mohammad's profile photo
then a different set of policies is needed

That's the key phrase in your post. The problem is... needed for what?

I assume you mean "needed to fix poverty" or something like that. But I know people that have no interest in fixing poverty (even some people who spend a great deal of personal time and money helping individual poor people for various reasons). 

They don't care if you could make sure people would buy better houses, because they want people to be free to fail. 
I don't think that Russ thinks it's the government's job to fix poverty. I know I don't.
It's not the government's job to fix poverty. It IS the government's job to stop making it worse than it has to be.
Leaving aside building codes, and minimum wage - I think that compulsory education is somewhat distinct.  I believe there the objective is that children should be assured some core things - like an education - even if their parents might not consider it a priority.
I learned a lot about poverty in the last decade by choosing to work with those who live in it.  I blame our free media and their sponsors.  It's their education.  Tools and information don't appeal to them.  They want their free sugar coated dose of reality fix.  Anything else is tl;dr to their minds.  Advice is annoying.  Their reality has a very secure password and I haven't cracked it yet.
I think the converse is interesting: poverty causes cognitive load, which can feed poor decision-making. Design of, say, an airplane cockpit must consider the (retrospectively) stupid crap a pilot will do when lots of complicated things are going on around her. We do not design aircraft for dumb people to fly, yet the tactile feedback of the wheels-up lever capped like a wheel makes it less likely a pilot will raise the landing gear instead of manipulating the throttle.

I bet I can find someone who thinks TCAS and stick-shakers are paternalistic and condescending, but in general people seem to be OK with them. Picking a life-safety critical example is kinda bogus (who wants to live their life doing an instrument scan?) but it's an example of a situation where tough, smart people can do dumb things because they ran out of brain.
How you divide that line, is rather important +Dave Sill. Clearly in our society we are constantly in a fight over just how much of our freedom (particularly to be an idiot) we can take away from one another.

I homeschool my children +Frank Warmerdam, I can assure you that compulsory education actually makes education a lower priority to parents. Ask any homeschooler.

I know many rich people +duane attaway who are just as bad, or worse, than any poor person I've met in terms of quick fixes and free sugar. They simply have charitable or sycophantic people around them that enable their repulsive decent into uselessness.
+David Dickens - I'm ok with homeschooling as long as there is some sort of state approved test indicating a reasonable level of progress is being made.  I'm not ok with the (hopefully now historical) problem of fathers who don't think daughters need an education at all.  
Compulsory education was foisted on us about the same time as child labor laws. Together they made it more difficult to use kids as cheap competition for low paying jobs that could have been taken by adults.
Almost every nanny state regulation you can think of traces back to taking care of a special interest.
Jay, I don't think TCAS as a technology is unenlightened, in fact it's right spiffy. The operative question as to whether it's paternalistic and condescending will depend on the rulemaking that surrounds it and how it's used over time. 
+Frank Warmerdam I wonder what reasonable progress is and who gets to decide that. Strangely enough kids in compulsory education aren't required to make reasonable progress, they are just imprisoned for several hours a day until they turn 16 or so.

What if I educate my son and my daughter markers, but do so within the context of my religious beliefs? Does the state have the right to compel speech? Do they have the right to force Amish families not only to educate their daughters, but exactly what to educate them?

You're in for a messy fight if you start down that road because there's no bright line rule. There's plenty of evidence that even committed unschoolers (and I oppose unschooling as a matter of the bad PR it attracts) perform similarly well.

It seems to me with all the evidence pointing to how well homeschoolers perform, both academically and in life, that those who favor compulsory education have to establish an enormous burned of proof before the matter can even be entertained. 

The compulsory system is bankrupt, morally, educationally, financially... there's no excuse for it's systemic and nearly universal failure. Why in the world anyone is worried about some nutter homeschooler in the sticks does is beyond me.
I thought U.S. compulsory education was to ensure those wielding the franchise had some education to make informed decisions.

I don't remember where I learned that, probably from some dumb civics class.  (Is that naive?)
Compulsory education was a Prussian inspired social experiment to control the masses by putting proto-industrial principles to work in child-rearing. Where it can't enforce conformity it either marginalizes or adopts potentially disruptive elements. You either rob the poet-rapper of all credibility by flunking him out, or you bribe the young woman into the halls of power so she is dependent in later life on the very system she might have questioned.

Literacy was higher before compulsory education. Look it up.

It is at the center of progressive (both on the right and the left) ideology and has nothing whatsoever to do with civics, be they Jeffersonian ideals or Aristotelian.
+David Dickens: I was just stating that compulsory education isn't about protecting the poor from themselves, it is about protecting children from the neglect of parents. I won't try to argue your points since we seem to have little common ground.
Ah, okay.

I guess I should have seen compulsory education being some kind of Marxist conspiracy, what was I thinking?  After all, it's very egalitarian  ;)

But seriously:  can I assume public education is part of the problem, or is it okay to have public education, just as long as it isn't compulsory?

And can I assume public universities are still cool?  Because a lot of people wouldn't be able to afford education if there weren't state systems.

I should mention that I actually do sympathize with your comments on conformity being rewarded by the antiquated system.  But that's because I'm weird, and most of what I've learned, I've learned on my own.  I just seem to do better that way.  And sometimes I wish there was an easy way to test all that I've learned to get an accredited degree.

Finally, there's been some talk about "flipping" Bloom's taxonomy...

If that catches on, we might end up with a lot more creative thinking in education.  Maybe.
Scott, if you study the learning process, you will find that the brain doesn't learn new things very well when the person is being threatened. Since compulsion is by its very nature threatening, coerced learning cannot work in theory. That is matched up with evidence that amateur untrained parents can teach children better than trained specialists. In nearly every other profession, training and specialization count for a LOT of productivity. Yet in teaching, it is correlated with LESS productivity. This is readily explained by the coercive nature of compulsory education, though.
+Frank Warmerdam Compulsory education is intended to protect the children of poor parents from the stupidity of the parents. After all, if they were smart they would educate their children. The presumption being per my thesis that the majority of voters think poor people are too stupid to educate their own children. And yet, poor people in third-world countries where education is not compulsory will scrape up money to educate their children anyway. Maybe third-world poor people are smarter than first-world poor people? I'd like to see the theory that predicts or explains that!
Sadly, +Scott Doty, yes, your comment is naive. Under what theory would you expect government schools to teach children anything which would undermine their own mission? Note that economics is not part of the K-12 education, because God forbid what would happen if most voters understood economics! The entire government would come crashing down!
+Anthony Morris, I deleted your comment because it was poorly thought-out. Leftist talking points don't make sense anywhere else; why would you expect them to make sense here? I require thoughtful comments.
In other words, you want opinions that agree with you.  You want an echo chamber.  You don't want to argue with dissenting opinions that actually have a strong argument so you censor them.  Opinions that don't voraciously cover every bit of material like my particular reply did, you can just shrug off.  That's exactly what I expected out of this thread.  Enjoy your echo chamber.  I've posted links here so others can have a laugh.
What I dearly wish was in K-12 is the mental self-defense kit: the classical list of logical fallacies, and techniques for generation and analysis of competing hypotheses.

Rhetoric traditionally covered things like name-calling as distractions from pure argument, and somewhere in science you would hope kids would have the experience of being wrong and having to figure out why. (My people call this "debugging".)
+Russell Nelson "Note that economics is not part of the K-12 education, because God forbid what would happen if most voters understood economics! The entire government would come crashing down!"

And here I thought that would be exactly why Russ would support mandatory education including a background in basic economics.  Remember Russ - Libertarianism doesn't work unless the people actually have a clue.
+Valdis Kletnieks Libertarianism at least gives people an incentive to better themselves.
+Anthony Morris I require a certain minimum perception of reality. You are living in a fool's world, where minimum wage laws actually raise wages without causing unemployment.
+Russell Nelson The minimum wage changes the pricing power between labor and capital. And there is not a fixed lump of wages to be divided up; total labor costs (aka wages) can rise as well as fall.

Consider the advent of a high minimum wage in a profitable but labor-intensive industry. If there are large sunk costs, producers may have little choice but to accept a lower return on capital, depending on the shape of the demand curve.

There are all kinds of market inefficiencies as one reaches the edges of the graph. It's not clear to me micro is much help.
+Jay Carlson *Of course* the minimum wage changes the pricing power between labor and capital using government coercion. That's the whole point. And yet, there is no magic wand. Either minimum wages do nothing, or else they both raise people's wages and make other people unemployable (because their labor is insufficiently productive to justify the new wage).

Your middle paragraph fails to take into account the french-fry loading machine. McDonald's now uses a machine which dumps french fries from a large (+15 gallon) bin into frying baskets. All that an employee has to do is take the empty basket, put it into the input try of the machine, and pull a full one out. How much time does that save? It's easy to figure it out: it saves at least as much as the minimum wage.

Minimum wage laws don't force machines to be paid as much as people, so when people are insufficiently productive, they are dismissed and machines get paid less than the minimum wage to do their jobs.
+Russell Nelson I was thinking of the french fry machine! Well, more generally how "casual dining" franchises are quite capital-intensive. One near me has an automated overhead track to hang bags from to get them from the food prep area to the drive-through window.

Adding workers to the payroll has costs beyond their simple wages, (Some do scale with wages, but not all.) So the value of the french fry machine is even greater than the minimum wage time it saves. On the other hand, there is a cost of capital, and the return on investment has to pencil out. I agree increased minimum wages tips towards increasing productivity.

As a normative matter, I think this is good. I'd rather the one janitor drive the mini-Zamboni floor cleaner than have three people doing the even more mindless mopping (btdt). Superficially, I'm affirming an increase in minimum wage costs jobs, and even celebrating it. But this doesn't happen instantaneously (sometimes gotta R&D the suddenly viable machine) and this kind of lag makes studying the matter difficult. If productivity gains purely eliminated jobs we'd all be unemployed (instead of farming).

I find modular housing construction interesting in this light. In the construction squeeze of the Naughties there was the obvious wage arbitrage of being able to use (say) rural Oregon labor to build in coastal California. But there's also the possibility of significant capital investment at the factory and R&D as well; see for an example of the latter.

The, uh, messy macroeconomic circumstances we find ourselves in makes a hash of a lot of conventional analysis. With negative real interest rates, normally this would be a great time to borrow to go buy french fry machines. But here we are. 
If you get higher productivity through voluntary capital investment, hey, that is exactly how people's wages rise. But if you try to drive that process by increasing people's wages first, you leave behind the people who really need the help. Frankly, a lot of the people who get screwed are young niggers, and equally frankly, racism isn't dead. If the young white children of the wealthy  got screwed the way we screw blacks kids, there would be no minimum wage.

I mean, the whole POINT of the minimum wage was to screw up the niggers. Go read up on the history and language that was used when the first minimum wages were passed and then raised. Black people were already working for a lower wage (because of racism), and they had a chance to improve their lot by taking over low-paying jobs from white northern workers. Oh! Well! We can't have THAT, can we?? We need to "help" these workers by insisting that everyone be paid a minimum wage. Oops, there goes their ability to compete.

Haven't we "helped" black people enough??
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