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July 28, 2016
Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner have written an intriguing open letter that should be widely discussed ("Beware of Blind Spots").
Gerson and Wehner offer some guidance to the Ford Foundation in response to its recent decision to direct all of its revenue to "reducing inequality among our people," which the writers call "an ambitious approach to a serious problem." If only political and cultural leaders and academics would lay aside any bias for just doing more of the same old thing—mostly spending billions on poverty and welfare programs that have not worked for decades.
They start off with a redirection:
The social pattern most treasured by those of us on the center-right side of the opinion spectrum is not equality but income mobility. A dynamic society where overall wealth is increasing and "have-nots" get opportunities to become "haves" is where human dreams are most often happily fulfilled. It's when reduced opportunities to rise are combined with stalled overall economic growth that social resentments and divisions tend to become most inflamed.
Among most Americans, there remains a fair degree of economic mobility today. Our problem is found near the bottom of the income scale, where mobility is weak and people often get stuck.
Of all the factors affecting economic stability and health, none are so important as families and education, both of which are closely related. They suggest focusing on
three problems that any philanthropist interested in increasing mobility and breaching class divisions must take interest in.
First, how can the breakdown of families be stopped and reversed; how can the positive involvement of fathers in the lives of their children be strengthened; and how can we provide practical help to single parents raising children?
Second, how do we give more Americans the education, skills, and social capital to compete in a modern economy, and reinvent themselves when industrial winds shift?
Third, how do we invigorate civic institutions in distressed communities, in order to build individual character, and provide the mentors, role models, and economic networking that a rising generation needs.
The letter should be part of any serious discussion about income and well-being. If you insist on equality, then you have to have experts to tell you what exactly equality means for each and every citizen, and that means the state dictates policy, and than means the state has to take total control. Not good. •
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