Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Regulating the Poor

Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare
by Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward

The main premise of this book is that government provides aid for the poor to control political unrest and to control labor. The book starts off by tracing the history and development of welfare in western civilization. Prior to the early 16th century, caring for the poor was considered to be primarily the responsibility of the church or of those of the more prosperous who tried to purchase their salvation through almsgiving. Leaving charity to the church meant that few received aid and those not necessarily according to their need.

This increased social unrest so governments began to be involved in providing for the poor. This was done for two primary reasons: 1.) To control social order and 2.) To extol the virtue of labor even at the lowest wages by making the treatment of the destitute so punitive and degrading that the no one wants to descend into beggary and pauperism. The book details such early government programs as workhouses, labor yards, and poor law subsidies whereby parish churches were required to care for the poor in their area.

 In the united States, welfare was addressed somewhat differently. Poverty in the U.S. was regarded as the obvious consequence of sloth and sinfulness. Relief was scattered and fragmentary-each township or county provided for its hungry in whatever manner it saw fit-giving of food, incarceration in almshouses, or indentured service. Poor relief was a local, not a state or national responsibility.

 During the great Depression, unemployment became so widespread that the government was forced to develop programs to assist the poor and the unemployed. At first the government focused on direct relief, but as imm4ediate needs were satisfied, the government moved on to work relief which, interestingly, was opposed by business leaders because it was felt that government was encroaching on areas that had been primarily reserved for private enterprise. As conditions stabilized, US policies changed to conform with the earlier view of poverty as being the rsult of sloth and sinfulness.

Relief programs excluded able-bodied men. Man-in-the-house rules excluded aid to a mother who was in any way associated with a man, particularly if the man lived in her house. Women and/or children were given aid but at the same time assigned to private entrepreneurs who were told to use them in any way possible. With the growing mechanization of southern agriculture, blacks migrated into the cities, particularly the northern cities where relief rules were not as restrictive.

Four million blacks came to cities in less than three decades-congregated in largest cities in the north-New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington. Industry required an increasingly skilled labor force just as unskilled blacks reached cities in large numbers from the fields of the south, consequently, unemployment rose. Unrest mounted among poor blacks, culminating in the Civil Rights demonstrations of the early 60's. Then was born the Great society as Democrats realized that blacks were located in states of the most strategic importance in presidential contests.

Democrats were losing traditional support in the South, so they needed the support of the northern cities. Service programs were developed for inner city as part of LBJ's "War on Poverty". According to the book, the true objective of the "War on Poverty" was to reach blacks and integrate them into urban political system. Method was to offer federal funds for the ghettoes and to use federal funds to create pressure for reallocation of municipal services.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Great Depression and The New Deal

The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Great Depression and The New Deal
by Robert P. Murphy

In this timely new P.I. Guide, Murphy reveals the stark truth: free market failure didn't cause the Great Depression and the New Deal didn't cure it. Shattering myths and politically correct lies, he tells why World War II didn t help the economy or get us out of the Great Depression; why it took FDR to make the Depression Great; and why Herbert Hoover was more like Obama and less like Bush than the liberal media would have you believe. Free-market believers and capitalists everywhere should have this on their bookshelf and in their briefcase.

We all learned in school that the 1920s were a time of unregulated capitalism that led to the stock market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Herbert Hoover was a laissez-faire ideologue who did nothing to alleviate the crisis--even as citizens starved and were forced to live in "Hoovervilles." And the interventionist policies and massive spending programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal gradually lifted us out of the Depression, until World War II brought it to a definitive end.
The only trouble with this official narrative--taught in most history textbooks, and proclaimed as gospel by the media--is that every element of it is false. Worse, this unsubstantiated myth is now being used to justify a "new New Deal" in response to today's economic crisis that could lead to a Greater Depression even deeper and longer than the first. But in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, economist Robert Murphy fact-checks the myths, shows why they're wrong, and delves deep into history to set the record straight. His "politically incorrect" conclusion? It was government, not free markets, that caused the Great Depression--and the New Deal only made it worse. The real "lessons of the Great Depression" are not what you've been taught.

* The Crash of `29 was caused not by capitalism, but by the boom brought on by the newly created Federal Reserve's easy money policy (sound familiar?)
* Hoover made the Depression "Great" precisely by abandoning the laissez-faire approach that previous presidents had followed and that kept depressions short
* The bank runs of the 1930s were caused by government intervention in the banking system
* Government efforts to prop up wages and prices led to a full decade of double-digit unemployment
* FDR's arbitrary policies toward businessmen resulted in net investment of less than zero for much of the Depression