July 16, 2012

TODAY’S SHOCKING DISCOVERY: Choices Matter In Avoiding Poverty.

UPDATE: Reader Bill Reece writes:

I had a law professor who taught the traditional business related law classes at my law school who followed the Chicago School’s “Law and Economics” Theory of Law. I will never forget my first week of Contracts Law in my first year in law school. I came to this class as a poor kid whose family had basically lost its dreams of a working-middle class lifestyle when my Dad’s job at US Steel disappeared along with thousands of others in 1981, six years earlier. I came from a pretty liberal background, and knew next to nothing about economics and business. I had managed to get to law school by earning a scholarship based on my undergraduate work while facing these tough economic times.

This professor said something that was shocking to me, and at first upsetting. He actually would go on to use the expression often in the classes I took from him (4 over three years of school). “There is a cost to being poor.” At first it seemed glib and uncaring, but as I sat through his classes and as I talked to him outside of the classroom, I realized it was said more with pity and regret than anything else. And from my family’s experience, I recognized pretty quickly and far better than any child of the upper or upper-middle class, that he was all too correct. The consequences of bad life decisions, made many times over, cost people heavily. Dependence, like addiction, begins with choice. We don’t want to admit this uncomfortable fact, but in the beginning there are conscious choices that leave people in the thralls of dependence, poverty, addiction, depression, and many other dead-ends in life. And the lesson this professor offered to me was that we make these outcomes more likely by excusing the choices that lead to them rather than confronting them. I can also pinpoint that week as the moment that I began to stop being a liberal and eventually became a libertarian.


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