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Steven Malanga / Clear, concise arguments and answers from leading thinkers / Eristical.com
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Steven Malanga

This is a broad question and it changes from society to society. In the United States, where you continue to have opportunity, it’s very different from a third world country where there is a lack of opportunities.

Generally, in the United States, it has been said that there are three things which a person can do to almost guarantee that poverty will be avoided: graduating from high school, marrying, and not becoming a single parent by having a child if not married. The vast majority of people who follow those three prescripts, something like 98.8%, don’t wind up in poverty in the United States. So although there are select people who are victims of circumstance, these factors are really about personal choices.

Having said this, the definition of poverty in the United States is not the definition of poverty in countries where people’s rights are constrained and opportunity is limited because their governments don’t offer proper rights, basic freedoms, or a free education system where people are universally allowed to attend grammar school and high school.

Ultimately there’s a collective responsibility on the part of government to foster a system which creates opportunities and there’s a personal responsibility on the part of the individual to take those opportunities.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga

Steven Malanga

An economy will prosper if the people in it are able and willing to innovate, to create new methods, ideas and products. From government’s point of view, a democratic system with a fair and just set of laws and a reliable courts system encourages this because people can feel confident that they can keep the fruits of their labors.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga

Steven Malanga

The impact that a minimum wage requirement has on an economy depends on how high it is set, but in general, while a minimum wage requirement might raise the wages of certain unskilled workers, because these requirements don’t come with any additional revenues for the businesses paying them, they also tend to destroy some jobs at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

While this negative relationship between a minimum wage requirement and employment is clearly established at both the federal and state level, a number of economists argue that the impact on wages is more important than the impact on jobs. So the debate is really over the trade off - whether it’s better to have fewer people employed at a higher rate or more people employed at a lower rate.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga

Steven Malanga

The government’s role in an economy should be to create an environment in which people feel as though they will be rewarded for, and reap the benefits of, their innovation, by doing things like protecting property rights, enforcing contract rights and ensuring that taxes aren’t prohibitively high. These factors help to spark the entrepreneurial spirit in people because they know that their efforts, if successful, will be rewarded. In societies were these basic rights aren’t protected, there is little spirit.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga

Steven Malanga

Private workers’ unions play a diminishing role in the economy, partly because once we move to a global marketplace, the costs that they impose through higher wages and benefits in industries where pricing is very sensitive, makes the unions a liability.

The industries where there is value in domestic production, making moving overseas difficult, are more specialized and have a more highly educated workforce which isn’t as disposed to unionization. And it’s mostly true that in these kinds of industries, the workers who possess these skills find themselves in a stronger bargaining position than that of low skilled workers who rely on the strength of the union rather than the strength of their qualifications.

Public sector unions (representing government workers) are different than private sector unions because they aren’t subject to the same competitive pressures. For example, a company may outsource jobs to India in order to reduce costs and remain competitive, but government jobs can’t be outsourced to India because those are inherently local jobs.

The government also doesn’t face the same competitive pressures because by its nature, government is not simply a monopoly, but a monopoly that never goes away. Unlike private businesses which disappear after bankruptcy, when a government goes bankrupt, the taxpayers have to bail it out because it must go on. So unionization doesn’t really disappear in the public sector because competitive pressures don’t bear down upon it.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga

Steven Malanga

The way in which taxes on the wealthy impact a society depends on how high the taxes are. At some point, if taxes become too high, they become a disincentive for people to do additional work, because the additional value that is earned from that work is diminished. The point at which this happens, however, changes over time. This principle, nevertheless, is not exclusive to the wealthy, it’s actually a basic principle that affects everyone. The only reason that we apply it more often to the wealthy is because in our graduated, or progressive tax system, they’re the ones who are most likely to reach the point where there’s some disincentive.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga

Steven Malanga

The simpler the tax system is, the better, otherwise it quickly become a vehicle for social engineering or other schemes (through the use of things like tax deductions and tax credits), rather than simply a way to raise revenues for the government.

Naturally, every government program, especially one as large as a tax system, influencing everybody, is going to have some unintended consequences because it’s impossible for the average person or even the average genius to understand and predict all of the different ways that a program will change the entire society. But a simpler tax system, by virtue of the fact that it has fewer working components is likely to produce fewer unintended consequences.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga

Steven Malanga

More and more, I find myself thinking that to a certain extent a person’s views are genetic or inherited. Some of the latest research suggests that people’s political views are in fact inheritable, at least to a certain extent, which may explain some of the gulf.

Certainly, although we inherit certain tendencies in our thinking which are thrown into the mix with our experiences and learning, it’s clear that these tendencies are not absolute because many people whose fundamental ideas about politics and life in general, have changed over time. So it’s clear that the information we take in over the course of our lives can, and does, influence these presuppositions.

So while it’s possible to bridge this gulf to a certain extent, I think that it’s fairly clear that as a species, we humans will never reach a point where we completely agree on how to govern ourselves in a society because it involves some choices made by people based not on what is learned, but, rather, attitudes that are inherited.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga