The Mindset of the Left
by Thomas Sowell
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When teenage thugs are called “troubled youth” by people on the political left, that tells us more about the mindset of the left than about these young hoodlums.
Seldom is there a speck of evidence that the thugs are troubled, and often there is ample evidence that they are in fact enjoying themselves, as they create trouble and dangers for others.
Why then the built-in excuse, when juvenile hoodlums are called “troubled youth” and mass murderers are just assumed to be “insane”?
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The political left has long claimed the role of protector of “the poor.” It is one of their central moral claims to political power. But how valid is this claim?
Leaders of the left in many countries have promoted policies that enable the poor to be more comfortable in their poverty. But that raises a fundamental question: Just who are “the poor”?
If you use a bureaucratic definition of poverty as including all individuals or families below some arbitrary income level set by the government, then it is easy to get the kinds of statistics about “the poor” that are thrown around in the media and in politics. But do those statistics have much relationship to reality?
“Poverty” once had some concrete meaning – not enough food to eat or not enough clothing or shelter to protect you from the elements, for example. Today it means whatever the government bureaucrats, who set up the statistical criteria, choose to make it mean. And they have every incentive to define poverty in a way that includes enough people to justify welfare state spending.
Most Americans with incomes below the official poverty level have air-conditioning, television, own a motor vehicle and, far from being hungry, are more likely than other Americans to be overweight. But an arbitrary definition of words and numbers gives them access to the taxpayers’ money.
This kind of “poverty” can easily become a way of life, not only for today’s “poor,” but for their children and grandchildren.
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If our goal is for people to get out of poverty, there are plenty of heartening examples of individuals and groups who have done that, in countries around the world.
Millions of “overseas Chinese” emigrated from China destitute and often illiterate in centuries past. Whether they settled in Southeast Asian countries or in the United States, they began at the bottom, taking hard, dirty and sometimes dangerous jobs.
Even though the overseas Chinese were usually paid little, they saved out of that little, and many eventually opened tiny businesses. By working long hours and living frugally, they were able to turn tiny businesses into larger and more prosperous businesses. Then they saw to it that their children got the education that they themselves often lacked.
By 1994, the 57 million overseas Chinese created as much wealth as the one billion people living in China.
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In one short article, Sowell nails our problem:
(1) low expectations by making excuses for evil;
(2) “poverty” has a poor definition and has become an “industry”; and
(3) poor immigrants seem to thrive.
Gooferment IS the problem.
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