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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4942/a-man-a-plan-a-flop/

A Man, a Plan, a Flop

April 24, 2006 by

Charles Murray has a preoccupation with an inferior and politically impossible idea: replace the welfare state with a grant of $10,000 per year to every American citizen twenty-one or older. what if, contrary to Murray’s assumptions, many people squander their annual grants (as people do when they win the lottery)? Would not taxpayers demand controls on spending? The bureaucratic programs that his plan aimed to eliminate would reenter the scene. In any case, a close examination of his new book shows that he is not really a libertarian at all. FULL ARTICLE


Anglo-Canadian April 24, 2006 at 9:25 am

This is quite a damning paper, yet much of it seems to be little more than lobbing assertions that Murray simply presents an “inferior and politically impossible idea.” I understand that some libertarians may be extremely turned off to an idea such as his, which is why the public needs access to well formed critiques and not a paper filled with condescending rhetorical questions. If the Murray’s plan were so obviously a flop, then lay out the counter-arguments and convince the reader. I felt like I was reading a paper that said “you’be better agree with me or else you’re as stupid as Murray.” I am generally pleased with what is written on the Mises site. This paper however, is not ready for release.

David Gordon April 24, 2006 at 9:33 am

Murray considers his own plan politically impossible and inferior to full libertarianism. Why is it condescending to point this out?

F L. Light April 24, 2006 at 9:37 am

Charles Murray’s crotchets, as they crack his mind,
Are to exciting incongruities confined.

Ohhh Henry April 24, 2006 at 10:11 am

Reminds me of Neil Boortz. People call his radio show to ask about some troubling aspect of his Fair Tax scheme. He generally fumbles a bit then comes up with, “… well of OF COURSE there would have to be a government department overseeing that part of the plan …” and by the time he has finished building government programs to plug all the plan’s holes, he has only demonstrated its fundamental uselessness.

billwald April 24, 2006 at 10:11 am

“During the 1970s, the federal government sponsored test versions of the NIT [negative income tax] in selected sites . . . most ambitiously, in Denver and Seattle.”

I worked in Seattle from ’62 to ’96 and the only possible test I remember in the ’70′s was the Seattle-King County Board of Health declaring that every wino was automatically declared to be disabled and given $230/month. Seattle became known as “the place where they pay you to stay drunk.” We had winos comming here from every state and several foreign nations. The Maimi Herald (?) published an editorial recommending their winos to go to Seattle. Hardly a fair test of a negative income tax.

Second,most of the pre depression self help societies were organized along ethnic and religious lines. Not very PC in ’06.

BillG (not Gates) April 24, 2006 at 10:15 am

I think it would be very interesting to combine Charles Murray’s approach with Henry George’s so rather than saying this is charity that is being provided make the Georgist claim that the private enclosure of the natural and social commons at some point violates the absolute right we all have to our wages and thus we need to equally (and directly) share the worth of the nature we use to UPHOLD labor-based property rights and thus self-ownership.

this could then be the bridge that libertarians and greens could walk across to merge…

Anglo-Canadian April 24, 2006 at 10:19 am

The thesis of this paper is not condescending, the language used to prove that is. There is an overall sense that both Murray and the reader are not respected. Both are painted as idiots. Murray may be wrong, but certainly not an idiot. Please, edit the paper to include fewer rhetorical questions. This paper really only convinces those who are already on your side (such as myself) and not those sitting on the fence. Those undecided minds are the key in the public debate.

Joe Calhoun April 24, 2006 at 10:50 am

I haven’t read Murray’s book, but it did make me wonder if a more politically acceptable solution might be to make charitable contributions offset tax liability dollar for dollar. That would allow the private sector to provide the services that the government would no longer be able to afford and allow individuals to control how their money is spent. Wouldn’t that provide for a mostly libertarian solution that most Americans could support?

Allen Weingarten April 24, 2006 at 10:56 am

I attended a lecture by Charles Murray at the Foundation for Economic Education. My understanding was not that his plan was intended to be realistic, or that it overcame the objections that would be raised. Rather it was a springboard for discussion, where it illuminated the contradictions of those who favored the welfare state. In particular it placed those on the defensive who advocated expensive and ineffective mechanisms, as well as pointing out that currently, those who behave irresponsibly are not penalized. (Murray in fact stated that he opposed the welfare state, but while it was not feasible at this time to replace it, the debate could be improved by his plan.)

So whereas I concur that his plan is not realistic, and will not answer various problems that would be pursued by his detractors, his proposal can be used to clarify the bankrupcy of arguments for the welfare state.

Yancey Ward April 24, 2006 at 11:15 am

Regardless of whether Murray has a good idea or not (and I don’t think he does), it doesn’t take much thought to realize that you will end up with both this transfer payment and a reborn welfare state similar to today.

Sidney Johnston April 24, 2006 at 11:16 am

Murray’s system will not work because work is the only lasting solution to poverty. Work teaches us about how slowly income rises while a windfall (whether in cash or in kind) deceives us about the pace of rising income. Gresham’s Law applies not only to the debasing of good coinage by bad coinage, but it also applies to the means by which we receive wealth. Those who received wealth through years of work and deferral of income into savings have a greater respect for the resulting wealth than do those who received it by some sort of lottery such as inheritance, transfer payments, freakish athletic skills or Hollywood’s celebrity business. Murray’s approach is informed by Catholic social teaching on the dignity of everyone in the community, but his transfer system is disrespectful of the Christian concept of free will and favors beneficent coercion as the means of providing for all. He needs to re-read Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

tz April 24, 2006 at 11:31 am

David Freedman once complained about the various denominations of libertarians that they considered each others heretics and considered heretics far worse than pagans.

So as I watch various people be burned at the stake in these electronic flame wars, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I’ve seen dozens of propoposals for far less workable or likely solutions for an anarchic society which never get this kind of criticism.

Or Stephan Molneayux’s entirely private nightmare big-brother surveillience micromanaged behavior state – it is private DROs (dispute resolution organizations – the insurance security firms of the ancap world) doing the micromanagement, but he admits you literally starve if you don’t “volunteer”.

It is condescending to point out even an admitted truth in an uncharitable way, especially making accusations and throwing insults, e.g. “It transpires that he is not really a libertarian at all:”.

The problem is how do you be a libertarian in a room where you are the only one, and everyone else is a socialist? Become a suicide bomber? Make sure you are the only one with a gun and impose freedom involuntarily at gunpoint?

That somehow the larger fraction of the population of the USA who now forms and/or supports collective robbery will overnight not attempt to recreate exactly the same thing even if some apocalyptic event happened and the state was destroyed? I don’t think so, nor do I think liberty is viable when most people surrounding me want socialism and are willing to do violence to me to obtain it. The market is still the market and can deliver socialism efficently, and will even deliver inefficiency efficiently if there is sufficient market demand for the destruction of the market. That is the fundamental problem.

Murray’s difficulty as pointed out is to not see that the same problem which makes liberty difficult to spring up in the first place (other than in a greenfield or absent a revolution that goes the way of the USA and not the French reign of terror) makes the transition proposals impossible.

People will either demand differential payments (it is not a market and it does not cost the same to deliver a stamp across the street as it does from FL to AK – different neighborhoods have a different cost of living), hence create lobbying opportunities (which is why it is extremely rare for the tax code to shrink – high nominal rates with bribes and corruption called lobbying to create low actual rates), or simply vote themselves higher payments. Why $10k, why not $20k, $30k, etc? Just like raising the minimum wage. Basically it is a minimum wage without work.

Milton Freedman tells the story of his negative income tax which got farther than Murray’s proposal is ever likely to go, but he said he had to finally testify against the proposal after Congress was done with it. For some reason he thinks/thought school vouchers would turn out better. It cannot. Just as the market can destroy itself easily, State power will corrupt anything it touches.

Anything like what Murray has suggested will obviously want to eliminate all if not a good part of the current welfare bureaucracy, and it won’t go. So we either have his thing in ADDITION to all the existing evil, or it becomes modified so that the bureaucracy administers it – and getting the payment will be like getting a driver’s license.

State Charity is a contradiction in terms. The State at best can occasionally produce criminal justice and national defense. Charity is personal and comes from the heart (as an article today at LRC going through B16′s encyclical does). Welfare is impersonal and comes from what is at the end theft.

I would simply allow anyone under vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience for 5 years to be exempt from the laws against theft and robbery. The nuns and monks can then go out and storm the cities and countryside and collect as much “charity” at they want at gunpoint or through stealth and distribute it to the poor.

I merely prevent them from doing it by government proxy, as the nature fo the act is not different, but I would allow that maybe the nuns could judge if someone is sufficiently charitable and/or poor, but the state is utterly incompetent to do that. And if they cannot reconcile robbery with charity, it is not my problem if merely removing the veil of government exposes that any such method is evil.

cynical April 24, 2006 at 11:38 am

How is it that the average person would receive $10,000 a year to fight his/her poverty when he/she is still paying taxes? Politics is about promising to give the middle class (average person) “something for nothing”. Middle class voters care somewhat about “helping the poor”, but they also care about their own “economic security”, “national security”, etc.

If you want a libertarian society, you have to talk to people about the damage government does to the average person’s life. The only thing Murray’s ‘plan’ contributes in this respect is that the government wastes a lot of money to supposedly help the poor. I’ve heard Murray give his presentation and he seems to believe in his plan… though he admits it isn’t libertarian. The question remains, however, if contriving such a plan actually furthers people’s knowledge about the damage done by government interventions. I really think his time would be better spent writing about the failure of the welfare state, instead of trying to come up with a new “neo-welfare state”.

mark April 24, 2006 at 11:46 am

Murray’s approach will result in a diminutive welfare bureaucracy with extreme gentrification.

With out section 8 housing , Murray’s approach would be adventagous to lower middle income earners who would successfully out bid existing welfare residents in high income areas such as New York.

Perhaps, this is Murray’s hidden agenda. To relegate section 8 houser’s to the cotton belt to racially purify certain areas where real estate is expensive.

Murray after all was the author of “THE Bell Curve” wasn’t he?

F L. Light April 24, 2006 at 11:54 am

Charles Murray, queering the proprieties
Of happiness, would hapless folk appease.

happyjuggler0 April 24, 2006 at 12:07 pm

“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”
-Benjamin Franklin

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. -Chinese proverb(?)

In other words, they need jobs. Abolish the minimum wage, abolish payroll taxes, and you’ll likely have made huge progress, something that can’t be said since 1973. Abolish all investment taxes like capital gains and dividends, and you’ll make more progress, at least assuming you killed the minimum wage and payroll taxes. For more progress still, abolish corporate taxes, or at least lower them to the same level as Ireland, which has shown huge drops in unemployment by doing so.


William April 24, 2006 at 12:19 pm

When in doubt force!!!!

My problem with this plan is that it is not the giving side that is bad but the getting, i.e. taxing side that is evil.

As long as the plan calls for force to extract money from those who do not want to provide it then efficiency ensues.

What percentage of funds will the plan devote to collecting taxes? Normal government goes by 1/3 beneficiaries to 2/3 bureaucracy. Normal charities go 2/3 beneficiaries to 1/3 bureaucracy.

BillG (not Gates) April 24, 2006 at 12:27 pm

Sidney Johnston wrote:

“Those who received wealth through years of work and deferral of income into savings have a greater respect for the resulting wealth than do those who received it by some sort of lottery such as inheritance, transfer payments, freakish athletic skills or Hollywood’s celebrity business”

BillG responds:

but the economic rent collected by the landowning class as a tax on the labors of those being excluded is not “wealth” because there were no labor product inputs from the landowner.

it is thus profiting without production or better yet the privatization of the commonwealth at the expense of the property rights and hence self-ownership of those being excluded.

the reason we need a welfare state is because people are being denied access (government granted privilege to the entitled) to the very thing that can provide them with sustenance via their labor (the earth itself) at the expense of their property rights.

Som April 24, 2006 at 12:57 pm

forget about the welfare state for now. The real strategy for libertarians is to cut back the regulatory state. If we cut the AMA, the 75000 pages of business regulation, all controls on food, medicare, education, and destroy all regulations and licensing, basically deregulate every aspect of the economy (and end all the regulatory bureacracies with it) then redistribution wont hold much because the cost of all “essential” goods will be a fraction of the current price (w/o inflation), thus justifying much less need for money transfers to the poor, and ending the welfare state will have alot more ground in public opinion. We just need the band all the small businesses to actively protest the regulatory state (any ideas?)

The free (At least deregulated) market: Always low prices for everyone!

happyjuggler0 April 24, 2006 at 1:25 pm


If you think that people “need” welfare because they can’t become farmers because someone else owns land, you are blind. Or because they can’t open up a business because some evil landowner won’t let them. Still blind.

Poverty is the reuslt of not earning enough to cross the poverty line. There are government obstacles in that path, like regulations and taxes that make it expensive to hire someone who is unskilled.

Welfare, and other government handouts, itself is the biggest obstacle to ending poverty. You pay people to not work. Therefore many will prefer to not work than work if their job pays less than welfare. But you can’t get out of that trap unless you work.

I suggest using your evil landowner argument somewhere that people are too ignorant to understand how mindboggling silly it is, such as Zimbabwe. Or San Francisco.

cynical April 24, 2006 at 1:40 pm

I should have added to my previous post, for the benefit of those may have thought that Mr. Gordon’s review of Murray’s ‘plan’ was too harsh, that Murray presented his plan at the Foundation for Economic Education under the title “Can a Free Society Coexist with a Growing Underclass?”.

In his speech, available online at fee.org, Murray implies that not only is there a “growing underclass”, but that this “growing underclass” is or could be somehow aided by the actions of the government through welfare policies. More importantly, Murray argues that he does not believe a “free society” can be sustainable where there is inequality of income/wealth. I think he really stumbles over his own contradictory beliefs – on the one hand, libertarianism seems good to him, but on the other hand, more equality must be guaranteed. It seems that the latter sentiment wins out most of the time with him.

Joe Calhoun April 24, 2006 at 1:43 pm

I don’t post comments in forums very often because I’ve become disgusted with all the one upsmanship in the comment sections of most blogs. I read the Mises blog and website because I consider myself libertarian and I want to keep up with the scholarship. I would also like to find practical, libertarian solutions for the problems facing our country/world.

Above, I posted a short comment stating my thoughts about this post. It simply stated that maybe a politically palatable solution could be found by making charitable contributions offset tax liability dollar for dollar. Maybe the comment is stupid or uninformed or something else (I am not an economist; just a lay person trying to understand the issues) but I find it interesting that no one else even acknowledged my proposal.

Is that because it’s not worthy or is it because no one here really cares about solutions, but would rather debate the semantics of something that will never be enacted?

Anyone care to comment?

Reactionary April 24, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Joe Calhoun,

Anarchists will tell you that nothing short of a complete abolition of the state will suffice.

cynical April 24, 2006 at 1:58 pm

Joe Calhoun,

I think your idea of “making charitable contributions offset tax liability dollar for dollar” faces two large problems:

First, most tax dollars do not go to “the poor”. Most tax dollars go to industries supplying the government with things such as military weaponry, to subsidize producer interest groups such as farmers, to the bureaucracy, to the regulatory agencies, to the average and well-to-do through universal entitlements such as medicare and social security, to etc. With this in mind, I think you can see why your idea is not going to be any more “politically acceptable” than other plans. The top political priorities are virtually never about actually “helping the poor”.

Second, even if all tax dollars were intended to assist “the poor”, your plan enables the government to control how much money should go to “charity”, using coercive means (either give it to charity or the government takes it — not a lot of choice involved in that situation). In addition, your plan enables the government to control where the money would go (the government would define who/what is a “charity”).

Joe Calhoun April 24, 2006 at 1:59 pm


I understand that, but let’s be honest — that’s not going to happen. Shouldn’t we be looking to at least move things in our direction? Would my proposal do that? I think it would, but no one here seems to care.

Will anyone out there give me a comment about my idea? Is it politically feasible? Does it make sense? Does it address any of the issues that libertarians care about?


Joe Calhoun April 24, 2006 at 2:11 pm


I agree with most of your comments and by the way, I really appreciate someone actually taking the time to think about it.

I understand that most of our tax dollars don’t go to the poor. Subsidizing farmers, funding our military adventures, medicare, social security and all the other middle class entitlements would certainly be an obstacle to my idea. I do think it would be easier to sell to voters than Murray’s plan though.

I know all the libertarian objections — taxes are coercive, etc. But as I stated above, I think libertarians are banging their heads against a wall and need to start thinking about moving things in our direction incrementally rather than insisting on the whole ball of wax. If we could move to something closer to what I proposed it would certainly be a smaller step to what we really want.

I could think of lots of ways to sell this to interest groups, too. Opposed to war? Convince your supporters to give to charity and defund the military. I haven’t thought much about it, but I bet one could come up with a similar argument for most interest groups.

Curt Howland April 24, 2006 at 2:15 pm

Mr. Calhoun, the problem with your plan for drastically cutting taxes is that governments do not base their spending on what they bring in in taxes. They base their spending on what they *want* to bring in.

Dollar-for-dollar reductions in taxes paid would be abolished the moment the effected governments felt a real squeeze, or they would just print/borrow money to make up the difference in their “budget”.

Government “budgets” are fundamentally different from any real budget as you and I understand the word. A government “budget” lists how much the are going to spend, at least. Your or my budget would list how much money we have, from which is taken our expenses. If you or I have a situation where money out is greater than money in, we must cut our expenses. Government has no such discipline.

Curt Howland April 24, 2006 at 2:18 pm

Sorry for the double post. In answer to your statement, “need to start thinking about moving things in our direction incrementally”, I agree with that sentiment but disagree completely on where to focus for effect.

Spending and regulation must be cut. We can’t stop them from coercively taking what doesn’t belong to them, but they rely on voter approval or at least apathy on how it is spent.

Incrementalism is fine. Abolish only one program today, tomorrow another program or agency or regulation. Repeal repeal repeal.

M E Hoffer April 24, 2006 at 2:29 pm

One redistribution scheme or another is completely besides the point of curing what ails us. The idea that our currency is issued without limit and with interest is what is germane, no ? The hoary compact between the FedRes and the Feds is the mechanism allowing the unchecked growth of the State and, concomitantly, Poverty, no?
Whether we solve the “redistro” problem through voluntary means or at the point of a gun doesn’t get us away from the Sisyphean slog up the parabola of compound interest, does it ?

Laurence Vance April 24, 2006 at 2:31 pm

Anglo-Canadian telling David Gordon that his paper is not ready for release and that it needs to be edited is the funniest thing I have ever read on this blog. And why should Murray be respected for proposing such a socialist program? He should be scorned.

Paul Marks April 24, 2006 at 2:36 pm

So each American would get ten thousand Dollars regardless of income?

I wonder how millionares would spend their government grant.

Still (more seriously), the left would simply say that an income of ten thousand Dollars a year is not enough to live on and buy health care cover.

An old person could not get by on ten thousand Dollars (not if they had to buy health cover).

So the left would demand the return of Medicare.

And then other people would start to point at other problems.

So the United States would end up with the government giving everyone ten thousand Dollars AND tyring to finance the various other Welfare State schemes – ON TOP OF THIS.

Remember Milton Friedman’s “Negative Income Tax” – a version of this came in (as the so called earned income tax credit – which often goes to people who do not pay income tax), but the other Welfare State schemes did not go away (as Milton Friedman wanted).

Franco April 24, 2006 at 2:41 pm


Is it so mind boggling silly that you missed the real problem which is that government (federal and state) owns 40% of the land in the USA? 65% of all land west of Denver. 88% of Nevada land. And 96% of land in Alaska.

Property rights do not exist in this country when it comes to land or labor. The evil landowner is the government.

Paul Edwards April 24, 2006 at 2:50 pm


You’re citing a problem that the Georgists aren’t necessarily proposing to fix. In fact, with a state in place with the theoretically sole purpose of controlling and taxing land use, one might not be surprised to find this state in express possession of a good chunk of land itself as well.

R.P. McCosker April 24, 2006 at 3:16 pm


Thanks for once again finding a way to worm in a reference to the pseudolibertarian proposals of George. Unsurprisingly, you find Murray’s proposed boondoggle to your liking.

Allen Weingarten:

I haven’t read Murray’s book, but if Gordon’s review is much indication, I wonder whether Murray’s springboard-for-discussion explanation for it wasn’t simply aimed at mitigating the objections that libertarians attending a FEE conference would’ve otherwise been apt to direct at Murray.

Yancey Ward:

You stole my thunder. That’s exactly what would happen. Murray, as had Milton Friedman before him (to the latter’s credit, he seems to have learned something in the end), blithely assumes that our political system — he’s aiming at reform *through* that system, after all — is capable of implementing this Gedanken experiment by repealing all these other programs that have, public choice economics-style, so many many powerful interests, vested and ideological alike, behind them.

It’s analogous with these quasilibertarian tax reform schemes that’ve been under discussion on this blog recently. Or, during the original Bush administration, Secretary of Housing Jack Kemp’s plan to give away federal low-income units to their residents — while continuing the construction of such units to replace the ones lost. Not only are such schemes dubious at best even if they could somehow be implemented ideally, but the actual manner in which they’d be co-opted would make things far worse. This is half-baked rationalism.

Didn’t Murray learn anything from the Friedman/Moynihan/Nixon fiasco around this decades ago? Why now is he wasting the time of good people by reviving this fool’s errand? Hearing about this kind of Gedanken experiment sure isn’t stimulating *my* thought.


Whatever Junior Friedman might have to say, these disagreements among libertarians are nothing to sneeze at. Misapplied libertarianism wastes the resources of well-meaning libertarians, muddles libertarian thought generally, and leads to counterproductive results — the latter in turn reducing the likelihood of converting others to libertarianism. Junior Friedman’s call for vouchers, open borders, and federally mandated inflation, all the while trying to pass himself off as an anarchist, is, if implemented, a good way to relegate all libertarianism to Trotsky’s dustbin of history.

Paul Edwards:

You just don’t get it. Georgism is always implemented perfectly according to George’s plan. The State automatically becomes angelic and always does everything right, never succumbing to the temptations of power and corruption.

BillG (not Gates) April 24, 2006 at 3:30 pm

no utopia…just equal liberty via simple justice that’s all.

Daniel M. Ryan April 24, 2006 at 3:37 pm

Actually, the political means of equilibration if Dr. Murray’s plan was implemented would be a large increase in stigmatization of those who wished to live on that grant. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that a universal grant will not be thought of as charity – it’ll be thought of as a free ride. The person who’s ticked off by such a system will immediately counter any objection which has as its basis the fact that he or she also receives a grant with: “I pay into the system! And those freeloaders don’t! And they’d better or we’re all sunk!”

This would be stage one in terms of socio-political consequences: anyone who chose not to work would face a much rougher time at the hands of his or her fellow citizens than he or she does now.

Once this is seen, stage two isn’t that difficult to forecast: an angry political movement arising in the Left similar to the welfare-rights ones which exist as of now. This new source of anger may not be confined to politics, either.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the unintended consequence of Dr. Murray’s plan will be a rise in the size of, alienation in, and seeth within the underclass. He deplored the custodial state in the Bell Curve, but this new plan of his suggests that he’s now resigned to its inevitability. A guaranteed income will make the custodial state look like a sensible compromise peace which would quell anger on both sides. It would be stage three of the unintended consequences of Dr. Murray’s plan.

happyjuggler0 April 24, 2006 at 3:38 pm


I was responding to a post (April 24 12:27pm) that said: “the reason we need a welfare state is because people are being denied access (government granted privilege to the entitled) to the very thing that can provide them with sustenance via their labor (the earth itself) at the expense of their property rights.”

I am fully aware that the government owns a huge chunk of land. But this poster’s problem was that people “illegitimately” own land, i.e. property is theft. I suppose I could’ve made the argument that since government owns a huge chunk of land, the problem is government for not using the land to aid the poor. But the problem with that strategy is twofold. 1) He would’ve simply replied that “the connected” are simply prospering from the goevernment land, and he’d be right as far as that is concerned, at least to a degree. and 2) The notion that you need land to get out of poverty is fallacious. People (in the US anyway) don’t own land until they get out of poverty, not the other way around. The connection between land and wealth in the US is tenuous at best, and just plain wrong for most wealthy people in the US.

The path to getting out of poverty is getting a job (usually), or starting a business (occasionally). Thus the best way to aid people out of poverty has nothing to do with land, and everything to do with undoing government obstacles for employing low skill workers, such as outlined in my post April 24 12:07 pm.


As far as private land ownership is concerned, it is too late to do anything about now, assuming it was ever worth doing something about. You would plunge the country into a depression to end all depressions if you tried a government takings of all the real estate in the country. Franco has a point that government ownership of land, or anything else for that matter, is a huge problem, not a solution of any sorts.

Sione Vatu April 24, 2006 at 5:02 pm


What exactly are you proposing? As I understand it you believe that all people should have the right to share in the benefits of property ownership. Does this mean all property is to be held in common? How are you proposing to extract the wealth from property and distribute it?


PS. I refer, in this instance, to Real Property.

D. Saul Weiner April 24, 2006 at 5:11 pm


If welfare spending by the government were reduced (or replaced) by charity which was accompanied by tax credits, I would see that as a big improvement over the current system. I do think that this setup might induce fraud, as it could become economically attractive to contribute to your associate’s charity, while he in turn contributes to yours (circuitously of course). Also, I think that it would be politically difficult, due to the defunding of the bureaucrats and the socialists’ concern that the charity would not go to whom they think it ought to go.

BillG (not Gates) April 24, 2006 at 8:04 pm

happyjuggler wrote:

“As far as private land ownership is concerned, it is too late to do anything about now, assuming it was ever worth doing something about. You would plunge the country into a depression to end all depressions if you tried a government takings of all the real estate in the country. Franco has a point that government ownership of land, or anything else for that matter, is a huge problem, not a solution of any sorts.”

BillG responds:

no need to go back…just insure the equivalent of land ownership, it’s full economic rental value, are shared directly and equally between neighbors in a community.

so instead of the excluded paying the excluders which violates their absolute property rights to their labor and hence self-ownership – have the excluders pay the excluded and then everyone’s property rights to labor are protected.

R.P. McCosker April 24, 2006 at 8:25 pm

BillG writes:

“so instead of the excluded paying the excluders which violates their absolute property rights to their labor and hence self-ownership – have the excluders pay the excluded and then everyone’s property rights to labor are protected.”

Got that, gentle reader? Begin paying rent to the government for any land you used to own. Of course, we won’t call it that. We’ll just say we’re paying to “everyone,” as “everyone” collectively owns the land.

Thank goodness for this blog, so that BillG can intrude this pseudolibertarian Georgist nonsense into whatever thread is here.

Keith Preston April 24, 2006 at 8:29 pm

In case anybody here is interested in what we anarcho-socialist heretics and/or pagans have to say about these and other issues, check these articles out:

BillG (not Gates) April 24, 2006 at 8:45 pm

R.P McCosker wrote:

“Begin paying rent to the government for any land you used to own. Of course, we won’t call it that. We’ll just say we’re paying to “everyone,” as “everyone” collectively owns the land.”

BillG responds:

as I said in the sentence before “the economic rent is shared directly and equally between neighbors in a community.”

this means IN COMMON as an individual right while use, exclusion, possession, transferability of land remain in private hands.

if the collected economic rent goes to the state for them to spend as they see fit then the economic rent is not owned in common as an individual equal access right but rather COLLECTIVELY.

I am not a collectivist but rather simply interested in simple justice via equal liberty by protecting EVERYONE’s absolute right to labor and thus self-ownership/

Evans Mnyemesha April 24, 2006 at 9:00 pm

Charles Murray does not see that his plan, in its essentials, does not change the current arrangement of the Welfare State. All it does is change the Executor or Distributor of wealth. And why really should wealth be redistributed by a central authority when it is obvious that, absent political coercion, wealth is naturally distributed by the differnces in our talents, ambitions, skills, geographical location,luck, etc?

Eric April 24, 2006 at 9:45 pm

The problem of poverty is one of statistics, definitions, and human nature. The poor are defined as being the bottom end of the output curve. Unless everyone is exactly equal, there must be some with less just by definition alone. It matters not that the poor of today are far better off than the rich of the past.

In the future, the poor may be defined as those that only have but one spaceship to travel to their home planet. Maybe it is possible to make poverty a non-problem but that might require some genetic reprogramming to change human nature so no one covets another’s wealth.

Throughout nature we see that parasites are a very successful strategy for getting one’s genetic material into the future. There are even parasites living off other parasites. This is my definition of a politician. Once you realize that the government and the Mafia are the same thing, everything becomes pretty clear. As the great Harry Browne used to say, the government is simply the Mafia with flags in front of their offices. Getting rid of governments, criminal gangs, and poverty is never going to happen, unless we end up in a Brave New World run by some Star Trek like computer.

Dewaine April 24, 2006 at 10:20 pm

Having not read his book yet, does anyone know if he addresses the issue of envy? Envy, along with the motivation to avoid provoking others’ envy, is a primary reason for the popularity of the modern welfare state.

If he shuns the topic altogether, I would tend to think he was just trying to provoke discussion about the errors of welfare statism.

– Dewaine

Joe Calhoun April 24, 2006 at 10:24 pm

D. Saul Weiner,

Thanks for the comment. I thought of the fraud angle too, but even if that happened I think it would be more efficient than what we have now.

As for the feasibility, I think you are right that getting the entrenched politicians and civil servants to voluntarily reduce their own power would be quite difficult. However, if we want to change the system, we need to convince voters, not politicians. And I think that might be easier than Murray’s solution or anything else I’ve seen. And it’s got to be a hell of lot easier than convincing voters to embrace a purely libertarian platform.

Joe Calhoun April 24, 2006 at 10:37 pm

Curt Howland,

I didn’t mean to imply that this is where the libertarian revolution should begin. I was just trying to spark a conversation about the potential to find incremental solutions that move us closer to the goal. And I’m just tired of the bickering in these comments, so I thought maybe I could get a real conversation going. From the looks of some of these other posts, I guess not. I’m not even sure what some of these people are debating and BillG needs to get a hobby.

The emphasis on spending might work, but frankly, it seems to me that you need to starve the beast. As long as the tax revenue is flowing, politicians will find a way to spend it and more. Anything accomplished on spending is just temporary. It’s a neverending battle that we can’t win.

Anglo-Canadian April 25, 2006 at 12:51 am

Mr. Calhoun, I think your suggestion is a good one, especially given the affinity for “non-profit” organizations by political leftists. The US has a limited system of deductions for donations that is much more advanced than what we have in Canada. For that reason, I suspect Americans are more willing to donate to universities. Maybe Canadians think higher education is purely a state responsibility, but there are rich Canadians too, only they never donate. Otherwise, Canadians are in general stingy. Given our cultural similarities, I’m not sure why.

For reference, the Fraser Institute’s Generosity Index

P.M.Lawrence April 25, 2006 at 1:08 am

The main defect of Murray’s scheme, as part of a transition, is that it has transitional problems of its own. A better first step is described by Professor Kim Swales’s work (or just look at my publications page).

The 1970s tests of Negative Income Tax were flawed because they didn’t allow for the spiilover effects involved. You aren’t really testing it when you have people side by side under two different systems, or people trying to get into one system from elsewhere. For one thing, wage levels never had a chance to adjust downwards since they were in equilibrium with people outside the scheme, and benefit levels were pitched too high since such work wasn’t available.

It is true that work must also be done. This is what would happen if the cash received was inadequate – not a Guaranteed Adequate Income but one which meant people had to work for a further wage, a top up wage lower than a living wage so they could price themselves into work. In the long run the support should reach them from private resources, say family support from family capital, rather than via government intermediation with all its flaws noted by others; nevertheless, the Murray approach could serve as a transition point, if only it could be politically achieved at all.

You should not test the merits of a scheme according to whether it fits preconceptions like being Libertarian or not. Rather, the merits should be looked at in their own right, and then either give support to your existing ideas or make you think about them again. For instance, the fall back position for people who get through their grants need not be a regular welfare state, but could easily be a small scale workhouse-like or charity assisted approach; these problems represent the transitional problems if you just start with a Murray approach, since people wouldn’t initially know how to live within it and explicit real wages would not yet have dropped to the point where people could price themselves into adequate top up work.

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