Monday, January 09, 2012

Noahpinion: Why Conservatives Can't Get People To Work Hard

Nice post.

A quote:
One basic idea is that hard work should be rewarded. Obvious, right? I mean, we're supposed to be economists here! People respond to incentives, and they are risk averse. A winner-take-all society is not very conducive to hard work; I'm not going to bust my butt for 30 years for a 1% shot at getting into The 1%. But I am going to bust my butt for 30 years if I think this gives me a 90% chance of having a decent house, a family, some security, a reasonably pleasant job, a dog, and a couple of cars in my garage. An ideal middle-class society is one in which everyone, not just anyone, can get ahead via hard work.

Liberals have tried hard to construct such a middle-class society. They came up with worker health and safety regulations, weekends, Social Security, labor unions, public schools, living wages, government-subsidized housing loans, grants and loans for college, earned-income tax credits, job retraining, and tax breaks for health care. Some of those ideas worked spectacularly, some failed. Many had mixed results. But the basic idea was sound: not just to give people handouts, but to make them feel as if they deserved what they were getting because of hard work.

I'd quibble with that last bit: the point was not to" make people feel as if they deserved what they were getting because of hard work;" rather, the point is to help people actually get what they deserve. Even ignoring points about fairness, people are good at figuring out things like this. Even if you're only worried about incentives and outcomes, people will figure out whether work pays off, and they'll work accordingly. They'll figure it out because it's very, very important to them, and it's not that complicated (in its gross outlines, at least.)

[Via...Drum, maybe?]


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