Caplan-Smith GMU Debate: "How Deserving Are the Poor?"
By Bryan Caplan
Date: Wednesday, February 1
Time: 6:00-9:00 PM
Location: Johnson Center Meeting Room A, George Mason University (Fairfax Campus)
My strategy, as usual, is to use an uncontroversial moral premise to show that the status quo is absurd. The premise: You are poor by your own fault if there are reasonable steps you could take – or could have taken – to avoid poverty. Karl’s position, in contrast, is that:
Why humans are suffering is of concern to us in knowing when our
interventions might be productive but it doesn’t affect whether they are
In the extreme, take the example of Fred, who is suffering because he
constantly turns on the water in his bathtub too hot. When asked why,
Fred answer I don’t know, I just do. Hot baths always seem good right
before I step in, and then I burn myself.
The key question here are
1) Is there anything productive we can do to help Fred
2) Will our resources be more productive in helping someone else.
However, the seeming absurdity of Fred’s behavior is itself not and issue.
Here’s one application of my economic philosophy of poverty, and Karl’s reply. Here‘s Karl on Beaulier-Caplan’s “Behavioral Economics and Perverse Effects of the Welfare State; I wonder if he’s made up his mind yet. Fun, fun, fun.
P.S. The Econ Club is looking into recording the debate. Stayed tuned.
P.P.S. Broken link to Bealier-Caplan fixed.