Albert C. Brooks in today’s Wall Street Journal:
Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.
The irony is maddening. America’s poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.
Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.
Progressive policies achieve the opposite of what they say they set out to do. A cynic would say that the only thing they succeed in doing is trapping dependent voters for future elections. I think most liberals believe that these policies are helping and want that help to be successful. But they don’t pay much attention to outcomes. And they consistently defer doing their own analysis and instead trust people who are far more cynical — see the number of Democrats that get caught with their hands in the progressive till. Jessie Jackson, Jr., Charlie Rangel, Pedro Espada just to name a few.