Senator Jim DeMint on Dennis Miller

December 21, 2009

I listened to the podcast of Dennis Miller interviewing Republican Senator Jim DeMint.  DeMint was plugging his new book, Saving Freedom.

While I enjoy Dennis Miller’s show, some of his beliefs remind me of a younger, more naive version of myself.   He said a few things that I would take him to task on.

First, he said that he doesn’t mind giving up some of his money to help the poor.  It’s the clueless he doesn’t want to help.

DeMint responded well in stating that he understands his desire to help the poor, but that government is an ineffective way to do that.  If Miller didn’t have to pay as much money to government, then he could voluntarily give it to the poor how he see fit.

Miller then responded that if he didn’t give some money to the government, then he would be giving the poor money through bars because they would wind up in prison.

Miller should read more from Walter Williams.  He explains how government programs and intervention have unintended consequences that hurt the poor.  He actually explained this rather well in a PBS video series circa early 1980s.

I don’t think Miller has developed the appreciation for the positive outcomes of voluntary activity that I have.  Many good things come from voluntary activity be it voluntary trade in the purchase of goods and services or voluntary contributions to charity.

Voluntary activity encourages profit and non-profit activity alike to run better.  Poorly run businesses and charities will not sell or attract donations and they go away.  The well run organizations that  truly deliver valuable and positive results stick around.

Government is ineffective because it doesn’t have that natural incentive structure of rewarding the outcome.  Government rewards intentions.  Well intended, but poorly run government organizations often stick around and grow so they can “be fixed”, when the best fix of all is to get rid of the poorly run organization.

But, that rarely happens.  It’s easy to sell why well intended program must not be abandoned.  In fact, it’s tempting ever so tempting for politicians to use these very same sales pitches to remind us of all the good they are doing.  The populace buys it.

“We  must have public schools.  We can’t abandon the kids.”  Most people buy that.  They don’t bother to look around at all the goods and services not provided via government that don’t have the problems of public education.

What people don’t consider is the problems with public education are caused by public education – the system.

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