State Control or Self Control

“Being responsible is a great adventure in life,” said Tom Palmer at the 2015 World Conference on Market Liberalization in Bali, hosted by the International Society for Individual Liberty.  Tom Palmer is Vice President for International Programs at the Atlas Network, and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, and author of Peace, Love, and Liberty. Tom Palmer said that freedom and responsibility are intimately connected, “When we deny freedom, we deny responsibility.” Mr. Palmer mentioned John Locke’s view that your actions are your property, “Locke said, ‘The most important thing you own is what you do.’”  Tom went through a number of historic perspectives on the theme of responsibility and liberty, including Francisco de Vitoria, Richard Overton, Joaquin Nabuco and more. Next, Tom looked at an example of the interplay between freedom and responsibility with drug use.  “Even if you believe some people are irrational — or even, many people are irrational — the worst response is to make it illegal.  Why?  Irrational people are more likely to take high risks.”  Tom explained that irrational people are the ones who go into the black market, which is more dangerous. Afterwards, Tom brought up the loss of responsibility when it comes to welfare, and unfunded liabilities.  “More people are willing to live at the expense of someone else,” said Tom of the welfare state in America.  “It’s unfair to make young people pay for those benefits.” Finally, Tom took the audience through some perspectives on willpower and self-control.  “There’s good news.  We can develop personal habits that can help us to lead better lives.”  Tom shared everyday examples of ways to develop more willpower. For the full video, click below:    

A Critical Look At a World Famous Welfare Program

Hailed by The Economist as a “much admired and emulated anti-poverty program”, the signature legislation of Brazil’s last president Lula da Silva was the Bolsa Família (Family Allowance) program. Aimed at alleviating the misery of the poorest segments of the population, the program provides financial aid to families and free education for children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school. The largest conditional cash transfer in the developing world comes with strings attached, though. The eleven million families receiving the financial aid – on average $35 per month – commit to keeping their children in school, adhering to the government’s vaccination schedule, and taking them for regular health checkups. In a country plagued by persistent inequality and poverty widely blamed on an unjust system, the popularity of a program of direct wealth transfers to the least privileged should be no surprise. Still, might the superlatives expressed by the likes of The Economist have been a little overdone? At first glance the numbers seem impressive; extreme poverty has been halved from nearly 10 percent to just over 4 percent, income inequality has fallen, and about one fourth of the population has benefited from the program. In addition, the initiative has been touted for its decentralized nature and target accuracy in reaching those in the most dire of circumstances. As Henry Hazlitt might have pointed out, however, there is more than meets the eye. It does not take a genius to understand that since the government has no money to spend it has to fund its operations through taxation, the printing press, or by going into debt. In the long term, therefore, the Bolsa Família program cannot be said to contribute to real wealth creation. Worse yet, regardless of the preferred means of funding itself these government programs necessarily extract …