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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mr. Paul Goes To Washington, Part II

Here's another excerpt from the Washington Post article on Ron Paul (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/
2006/07/08/AR2006070800966_3.html
):

He often attempts to prove his political theories by pointing to how things used to be. For instance, the federal government banning drugs like heroin doesn't work for the same reasons Prohibition didn't. The IRS doesn't need to exist for the same reasons it didn't exist before.

"We had a good run from 1776 to 1913," he says, referring to the years before the modern income tax. "We didn't have it; we did pretty well."

As for Social Security, "we didn't have it until 1935," Paul says. "I mean, do you read stories about how many people were laying in the streets and dying and didn't have medical treatment? . . . Prices were low and the country was productive and families took care of themselves and churches built hospitals and there was no starvation."

("Where to begin with this one?" asks Michael Katz, a historian of poverty at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied charity case records from the early 20th century. "The stories just break your heart, the kind of suffering that people endured. . . . Stories of families that had literally no cash and had to kind of beg to get the most minimal forms of food, who lived in tiny, little rooms that were ill-heated and ill-ventilated, who were sick all the time, who had meager clothing . . .")


Michael Katz's implication appears to be that, since suffering and poverty existed in the U. S. before the advent of the income tax, social security, etc., suffering and poverty then were caused by too much laissez faire and too little socialism. But suffering and poverty exist in the U. S. today, after more than 90 years of the income tax, more than 70 years of social security, nearly 40 years of the War On Poverty, etc. Does this mean that suffering and poverty today are caused by too much socialism and too little laissez faire?

Both arguments involve the logical fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc (http://www.fallacyfiles.org/cumhocfa.html). It might be more helpful to carefully consider two questions. First, would conditions in the U. S. before 1913 have been better or worse if the income tax, social security, War On Poverty, etc. had been put in place years earlier? Second, would conditions in the U. S. today be better or worse if the income tax, social security, War On Poverty, etc. had never been put in place?

I believe there would be much less suffering and poverty in the U. S. today if the income tax, social security, War On Poverty, etc. had never been put in place. What do you think?

You might take a look at what Sheldon Richman has to say in Government Keeps People Poor at http://www.fff.org/comment/com0606j.asp.

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