What Would a Real War on Poverty Look Like?

Main St. Agenda by from The Federalist, May 23, 2014

Is it strange that pro-capitalists and individualists—even hard-core Ayn Rand fans like myself—should take up the mantle of fighting poverty? Only if you accept the cartoon caricature of the pro-capitalist as a lackey of top-hat-and-monocle-wearing plutocrats. Which is to say, if you subscribe to the New York Times. In reality, advocates of capitalism are advocates for the self-made man, for the person who rises up through talent and hard work. (As for Ayn Rand, the ultimate worshipper of the self-made man, notice that at least half of her heroes came from poverty or endure poverty at some point during the course of her novels, while most of her villains are rich. But clearing up those misconceptions is a topic for another day.) We love stories of people who start from modest beginnings and create enormously productive businesses—and we want everyone to be able to do the same thing on some scale. That is what capitalism is all about.

Of course people aren’t going to have equal outcomes. People have unequal abilities, come up with unequal ideas (one guy comes up with Amazon, another with Pets.com), and make different decisions about what they want out of life, choosing to go into more or less lucrative fields of work. But unless you have a pathological obsession with comparing your income to that of others (paging Professor Krugman . . .), the only thing that really matters is that you are free to rise by your own effort, to climb up the ladder of economic advancement.

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