Freedom: the most effective antipoverty tool known to history

It is also the antipoverty tool most unknown to the UNC-Chapel Hill Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity.

The center’s fate may be up in the air, but its track record is not. My newsletter this week details the center’s history of leaders who “unfailingly promoted empirically unsound public policies, demagoguery, and most of all, themselves.”

It then briefly discusses the John Locke Foundation’s advocacy for effectively fighting poverty through freedom, excerpted below:


 

‘The greatest beneficiaries of capitalism are those at the bottom of the income ladder’

Regardless of the center’s fate, waging an effective fight against poverty would involve a healthy dose of the overlooked portion of the center’s name: Opportunity. As has been shown throughout history, what best provides opportunity is freedom. More freedom means more opportunities for the effective poverty fighters: job creators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and private charities working individually. Policymakers’ role is safeguarding and expanding freedom and opportunities.

Knowing this, the John Locke Foundation has since its inception 25 years ago advocated policies expanding freedom and opportunity for all North Carolinians. Its Founding Principles recognize that “the individual pursuit of economic opportunity benefits all.” It underlies our commitment to restoring North Carolina’s heritage of “First in Freedom.”

Ahead of JLF’s silver anniversary, then-president John Hood surveyed 25 years’ worth of peer-reviewed scholarly research on the relationship of public policies and economic growth, 681 studies with 1,389 separate findings. The survey found “strong empirical support” for our policy preferences. That is, most peer-reviewed academic studies

find that lower levels of taxes and spending, less-intrusive regulation, and lower energy prices (which often reflect fiscal and regulatory policies) correlate with stronger economic performance.

As Vice President for Research Dr. Roy Cordato wrote in introducing our most recent Agenda candidate’s guides on key policy issues,

The unifying principles of Agenda 2014 are the same as they have always been. All of our analysis and policy proposals seek to advance individual liberty, personal responsibility, and a free market economy. Whether we are discussing school choice, economic growth, or health care reform, these are the concepts that have animated the John Locke Foundation’s analysis since its founding in 1989. We firmly believe that policies that advance these goals are, happily, policies that will create employment opportunities, lower health care costs and improve access, reduce the costs of energy, and better educate our children. Both in the United States and internationally, it has been proven time and time again that liberty and prosperity go hand in hand.

On our Locker Room blog I posted a quotation from Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker:

The greatest beneficiaries of capitalism are those at the bottom of the income ladder. That’s why I favor capitalism. Were that not the case, I would not be in favor of capitalism. Milton Friedman feels the same way.

In posting that, I wrote that “This core conviction animates my work and the work of my colleagues at John Locke.” I offered copious examples and concluded with a “Case in point.” That case? Our uging John Edwards and his new center to investigate freedom’s effects in fighting poverty.

When Becker passed away last May, I revisited his observation and discussed its wisdom in greater detail, contrasting government’s costly but ineffective fight against poverty with free enterprise’s far greater results.

I took encouragement that state leaders took steps in the right direction of “bringing empirically proven ways to expand economic liberty and create more room for entrepreneurs and job creators.” Again, these are not ends in and of themselves; they are the most effective antipoverty tools known to history.

Fellow North Carolinians concerned about poverty and worried about what possibly losing the poverty center portends can take encouragement from this: We will continue to strive to expand individual liberty and economic opportunity for all. The goal to be First in Freedom necessarily includes a vision of first in effectively fighting poverty.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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