Friday, May 7, 2010

The Great Trendline Experiment

Here's a fun experiment for those who believe that government regulation is the answer to all of our ills. 
This is a U.S. Census chart showing the poverty level by age group.  It goes from sometime in the past to sometime not too long ago.  I've removed the dates. 

Can you tell when LBJ began his War On Poverty?
Can you tell when the welfare state kicked in?
When did we create the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare?   

Please remember....if the programs and institutions listed above were founded anywhere near the center 75% of the chart, doesn't that mean that poverty was going away nicely on its own before government intervened and prolonged the problem? 

You can go here and see the original chart with the dates included. 

This is an experiment recommended by Charles Murray in his classic "What It Means To Be A Libertarian". 
You can do the same thing by charting workplace accidents, removing the dates, and asking when the government created OSHA.  Your audience will be baffled. 
You can chart highway fatalities, remove the dates, and have people look in vain for the 55 miles per hour speed limit, seat belt requirements, air bag requirements, and the like. 
Ditto for air quality and the birth of the EPA. 

Your government at work.  You can't see the results, but damn, they're busy. 

1 comment:

Nick Rowe said...

Nice chart and a great argument.

I clearly remember the automobile airbag becoming a popular selling point for vehicles long before the government mandated it.

And no one considers the moral hazard created by airbags - people drive less safely because they feel protected.

Now consider how much we've spent on the War on Poverty - over $8 trillion in nominal dollars. How in the world can we spend that much money on a problem and have it linger for several decades?

We fought the War on Poverty - poverty won. Why aren't liberals calling it the Poverty Quagmire?