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by John Stossel

        Many of us will give money to charity this month. Americans give more than any other people in the world.
        Good for us.
        56 years ago, because American charities hadn't ended poverty, politicians said they would end it. They declared a "war on poverty."
        That "war," so far, has cost $27 trillion.
        Some people were helped. But the handouts also had a bad effect.
        My new video shows a moving graph of America's poverty rate. It reveals that before the War on Poverty began, Americans had been steadily lifting themselves out of poverty. Year by year, the number of families in poverty -- defined as earning less than three times what they need to feed themselves -- decreased.
        Then welfare began, and for about seven years, progress continued.
        But then progress largely stopped! That downward trending poverty line now rises and falls with economic conditions. America now has an "underclass," generations of people who stay poor.
        "Welfare taught them they didn't have to work," says Yaron Brook, of the Ayn Rand Institute. Handouts perpetuate poverty, he says, "because if you get a job... your checks get smaller."
        That's why charity is better. Charities are free to help people who truly need help while giving a push to people who need "a kick in the butt." Government's one-size-fits-all rules discourage that.
        I donate to a charity called The Doe Fund. It tries to "break the devastating cycle of homelessness" by teaching men to take pride in work. Many are helped.
        But not all charity helps. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to improve Newark's public schools.
        The money disappeared into the education bureaucracy.
        Education consultants and friends of politicians got some. Teachers union contracts grew fatter.
        "But the public schools didn't get better," Brook points out. "The performance of the students didn't get better."
        This year's booming stock prices increased America's wealth gap. Billionaires got richer while store clerks lost jobs.
        "Progressives" gathered outside Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's home and set up a guillotine. The message: "Behead the rich." They think that when Bezos makes billions, the rest of us have less.
        That's ignorant, says Brook. "All of our lives are dramatically better because of somebody like Jeff Bezos. Things just appear at our doorstep. They hire hundreds of thousands of people. They make it possible for poor people to make a living by selling me something that I want!"
        I push back. "But he has so much -- when others have so little."
        "It's his money!" Brook responds. "He created it. Once we start deciding what you can or can't do with your property, what we will get is... extreme poverty for everybody. Only one system has brought people out of poverty, capitalism."
        That's what I finally learned after years of consumer reporting.
        Consider three ways to help people: government, charity and capitalism.
        Government is needed for some things, but it's inefficient, and its handouts encourage dependency.
        Charity is better because charities can make judgments about who really needs a handout versus who needs a push. But charities can be inefficient, too.
        Oddly, what helps the most people in the most efficient way is greedy, self-interested capitalism.
        "Two hundred fifty years ago," recounts Brook, "almost all of us were earning what the United Nations today defines as extreme poverty, $2 a day or less. That was 94% of all people on planet Earth. Today, only about 8% are that poor. Why? Not because of charity, not because of foreign aid but by employing people. ... Businesses are the most efficient because they have the right incentives. They won't survive if they're not efficient. Government has no such incentives. And charities are mixed."
        So, why do billionaires and entrepreneurs now rush to donate, rather than doing what they're best at: innovating?
        "They want to be liked," replies Brook. "(But) they're buying into false ideas, both economically and morally. They are acting against their self-interest, and against all of our interests, including the interests of the poor."
        John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Thomas Sowell

        Walter Williams loved teaching. Unlike too many other teachers today, he made it a point never to impose his opinions on his students. Those who read his syndicated newspaper columns know that he expressed his opinions boldly and unequivocally there. But not in the classroom.
        Walter once said he hoped that, on the day he died, he would have taught a class that day. And that is just the way it was, when he died on Wednesday, December 2, 2020.
        He was my best friend for half a century. There was no one I trusted more or whose integrity I respected more. Since he was younger than me, I chose him to be my literary executor, to take control of my books after I was gone.
        But his death is a reminder that no one really has anything to say about such things.
        As an economist, Walter Williams never got the credit he deserved. His book "Race and Economics" is a must-read introduction to the subject. Amazon has it ranked 5th in sales among civil rights books, 9 years after it was published.
        Another book of his, on the effects of economics under the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa, was titled "South Africa's War Against Capitalism." He went to South Africa to study the situation directly. Many of the things he brought out have implications for racial discrimination in other places around the world.     
        I have had many occasions to cite Walter Williams' research in my own books. Most of what others say about higher prices in low income neighborhoods today has not yet caught up to what Walter said in his doctoral dissertation decades ago.
        Despite his opposition to the welfare state, as something doing more harm than good, Walter was privately very generous with both his money and his time in helping others.
        He figured he had a right to do whatever he wanted to with his own money, but that politicians had no right to take his money to give away, in order to get votes.
        In a letter dated March 3, 1975, Walter said: "Sometimes it is a very lonely struggle trying to help our people, particularly the ones who do not realize that help is needed."
        In the same letter, he mentioned a certain hospital which "has an all but written policy of prohibiting the flunking of black medical students."
        Not long after this, a professor at a prestigious medical school revealed that black students there were given passing grades without having met the standards applied to other students. He warned that trusting patients would pay -- some with their lives -- for such irresponsible double standards. That has in fact happened.
        As a person, Walter Williams was unique. I have heard of no one else being described as being "like Walter Williams."
        Holding a black belt in karate, Walter was a tough customer. One night three men jumped him -- and two of those men ended up in a hospital.
        The other side of Walter came out in relation to his wife, Connie. She helped put him through graduate school -- and after he received his Ph.D., she never had to work again, not even to fix his breakfast.
        Walter liked to go to his job at 4:30 AM. He was the only person who had no problem finding a parking space on the street in downtown Washington. Around 9 o'clock or so, Connie -- now awake -- would phone Walter and they would greet each other tenderly for the day.
        We may not see his like again. And that is our loss.
        Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

        I'm thankful.
        Yes, we've got the pandemic, lockdowns, a worsening deficit, etc.
        But we still live in a relatively free country at the most prosperous time in human history.
        The pandemic showed that when people are faced with crises, we adjust. Restaurants switched to takeout and outdoor dining. Grocery stores began curbside pickup. Companies mass-produced masks, hand sanitizer, ventilators and, now, vaccines. I hide from COVID-19 by staying home; yet, thanks to new services such as Zoom, I can research this column and make my weekly videos from my couch.
        That's brought benefits. I no longer have to deal with traffic congestion.
        Traffic jams are a good example of what ecologist Garrett Hardin called the "Tragedy of the Commons."
        Because roads are free, more people drive, and roads are often congested. If roads were subject to "peak-load pricing, charging higher prices during times of peak demand and lower prices at other times," Hardin wrote, then we'd have fewer traffic jams.
        I bring this up now, before Thanksgiving, because a similar Tragedy of the Commons nearly killed the Pilgrims. When they landed at Plymouth Rock, they started a society based on sharing.
        Sharing sounds great.
        But sharing, basically, is collective or communal farming, which is socialism. Food and supplies were distributed based on need. Pilgrims were forbidden to selfishly produce food for themselves.
        That collective farming was a disaster. When the first harvest came, there wasn't much food to go around. The Pilgrims nearly starved.
        Since no individual owned crops from the farm, no one had an incentive to work harder to produce extra that they might sell to others. Since even slackers got food from the communal supply, there was no penalty for not working.
        William Bradford wrote in his "History of Plymouth Plantation" that the colony was ridden with "corruption" and "much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable."
        People eager to provide for their families were less eager to provide for others. Bradford wrote, "young men, that were most able and fit for labour, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense."
        Ultimately, said Bradford, shared farming "was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort."
        The Pilgrims "begane to thinke how they might raise as much corne as they could, and obtaine a beter crope (so) they might not still thus languish in miserie."
        Languishing in misery is what people in Venezuela do now.
        The Pilgrims' solution: private property.
        In 1623, the collective farm was split up, and every family was given a plot of land. People could grow their own food and keep it or trade it. "It made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." wrote Bradford. "Women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability."
        The Pilgrims flourished because they turned to private property.
        So, this Thanksgiving, be grateful for private property, a foundation of capitalism.
        Your grocery may not have the small turkey you wanted this year, but they have much more of what you want than people in the Soviet Union ever got.
        When you're shopping for dinner or stocking up for Lockdown 2.0, be glad that you have so many options available.
        If government controlled the production of turkeys and toilet paper, this would be a very, very unhappy Thanksgiving.
        John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

      Some of the confusion in thinking about matters of race stems from the ambiguity in the terms that we use. I am going to take a stab at suggesting operational definitions for a couple terms in our discussion of race. Good analytical thinking requires that we do not confuse one behavioral phenomenon with another.
        Let's start with "discrimination." Discrimination is the act of choice, and choice is a necessary fact of life. Our lives are spent discriminating for or against different activities and people. Some people shop at Wegmans and thus discriminate against Food Giant. Some students discriminate against George Mason University in favor of attending Temple University. Many people racially discriminate by marrying within their own race rather than seeking partners of other races. People discriminate in many ways in forming contracts and other interrelationships. In each case, one person is benefitted by discrimination and another is harmed or has reduced opportunities.
        What about prejudice? Prejudice is a useful term that is often misused. Its Latin root is praejudicium, meaning "an opinion or judgment formed ... without due examination." Thus, we might define a prejudicial act as one where a decision is made on the basis of incomplete information. The decision-maker might use stereotypes as a substitute for more complete information.
        We find that in a world of costly information, people seek to economize on information costs. Here is a simple yet intuitively appealing example. You are headed off to work. When you open your front door and step out, you are greeted by a full-grown tiger. The uninteresting prediction is that the average person would endeavor to leave the area in great dispatch. Why he would do so is more interesting. It is unlikely that the person's fear and decision to seek safety is based on any detailed information held about that particular tiger. More likely, his decision to seek safety is based on tiger folklore, what he has been told about tigers or how he has seen other tigers behave. He prejudges that tiger. He makes his decision based on incomplete information. He uses tiger stereotypes.
        If a person did not prejudge that tiger, then he would endeavor to seek more information prior to his decision to run. He might attempt to pet the tiger, talk to him and seek safety only if the tiger responded in a menacing fashion. The average person probably would not choose that strategy. He would surmise that the expected cost of getting more information about the tiger is greater than the expected benefit. He would probably conclude, "All I need to know is he's a tiger, and he's probably like the rest of them." By observing this person's behavior, there's no way one can say unambiguously whether the person likes or dislikes tigers.
        Similarly, the cheaply observed fact that an individual is short, an amputee, black, or a woman provides what some people deem sufficient information for decision-making or predicting the presence of some other attribute that's more costly to observe. For example, if asked to identify individuals with doctorate degrees in physics only by observing race and sex, most of us would assign a higher probability that white or Asian men would have such degrees than black men or women. Suppose you are a police chief and you're trying to find the culprits breaking into cars, would you spend any of your resources investigating people in senior citizen homes? Using an observable attribute as a proxy for an unobservable or costly-to-observe attribute lies at the heart of decision theory.
        Lastly, is there a moral dimension to discrimination and prejudice? Should one be indifferent about whether he attends Temple University or George Mason University and thus makes his decision by flipping a coin? Is it more righteous to use the same technique when choosing to marry within or outside his race? Is it morally superior to be indifferent with respect to race in marriage, employment and socializing? Can one make a rigorous moral case for government coercion to determine whether one attends Temple University or George Mason University, marries outside of his race, or is indifferent about the racial characteristics of whom he employs?
        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

        You present to a physician with severe abdominal pain. He examines you and concludes that your ingrown toenails are the cause of your abdominal distress. He prescribes that you soak your feet in warm water but that does not bring relief to your abdominal pain. Then he suggests that you apply antibiotics to your feet. Still no relief. Then the physician suggests that you wear sandals instead of shoes. Still no relief. The point of this story is that your toenails can be treated until the cows come home, but if there is improper diagnosis, then you are still going to have your abdominal pain.
        The former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, Meria Carstarphen, last year said, "White students are nearly 4.5 grade levels ahead of their black peers within Atlanta Public Schools." In San Francisco, 70% of white students are proficient in math; for black students, it is 12% -- a gap of 58%. In Washington, D.C., 83% of white students scored proficient in reading, as did only 23% of black students -- a gap of 60%. In Philadelphia, 47% of black students scored below basic in math and 42% scored below basic in reading. In Baltimore, 59% of black students scored below basic in math and 49% in reading. In Detroit, 73% of black students scored below basic in math and 56% in reading.
        "Below basic" is the score a student receives when he is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and grade level skills. How much can racism explain this? To do well in school, someone must make a kid do his homework, get a good night's rest, have breakfast and mind the teacher. If these basic family functions are not performed, it makes little difference how much money is put into education the result will be disappointing.
        In 2019, the racial breakdown of high school seniors who took the ACT college entrance exam and met its readiness benchmarks was 62% of Asians, 47% of whites, 23% of Hispanics and 11% of blacks. That helps explain a 2016 study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce "African Americans: College Majors and Earnings." It found that black college students were highly concentrated in lower-paying and less academically demanding majors like administrative services and social work. They are much less likely than other students to major in science, technology, engineering and math, even though blacks in these fields earned as much as 50% more than blacks who earned a bachelor's degree in art or psychology and social work.
        James D. Agresti, the president and co-founder of Just Facts has just published an article titled "Social Ills That Plague African Americans Coincide with Leftism, Not Racism." Agresti writes: "Among all of the afflictions that disproportionately impact people of color, violence may be the worst. In 2018, blacks comprised 13% of the U.S. population but roughly 53% of the 16,000 murder victims." The clearance rate for murders, where a suspect was identified and charged, declined from 92% in 1960 to 62% in 2018. For example, in Chicago, the clearance rate fell from 96% in 1964 to 45% in 2018. In Baltimore, the 2019 clearance rate was 32%. In 2015, when Baltimore experienced the highest per-capita murder rate in its history, the average homicide suspect had been previously arrested more than nine times. When crimes remain unsolved, it gives criminals free range and black people are their primary victims. By the way, most law enforcement occurs at the local level. The governmen!
 ts at these local levels are typically dominated by Democrats.
        According to statistics about fatherless homes, 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes; 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father figure; 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes; 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes; and 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions have no father. Furthermore, fatherless boys and girls are twice as likely to drop out of high school and twice as likely to end up in jail. Dr. Thomas Sowell has argued, "The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life."
        The bottom line is that while every vestige of racial discrimination has not been eliminated, today's discrimination cannot go very far in explaining the problems faced by a large segment of the black community.
        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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