Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Town, County, Stasis

chained, West Virginia, poverty, welfare,

The savvier economists (and intellectuals like Steven Pinker) like to remind us that it is progress that must be explained; poverty is natural.

But when you see poverty settle in like an infestation of slime mold, staining a whole modern city or region, you begin to wonder. As Ron Bailey wonders in his excellent Reason report on West Virginia’s impoverished McDowell County . . .


The feeling of being trapped in your community — in your hovel, in your own blighted life — does not come, these days, from mere poverty alone. I remember the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath; my family has a history. Once upon a time, folks in America, when industry ran out, left. Traveled. Migrated — to find work where industry boomed.

And sure, McDowell used to be much more populated. Bailey’s family left two generations ago.

But the stragglers?

Almost any community has its specific enticements.

But one thing becomes clear, as you read through Bailey’s sad survey (in part memoir, since he has family ties there): government is the worst culprit.

A lot of welfare goes into McDowell, and a huge percentage of the population is retired or on disability.

“If you get public assistance to supply your needs without any effort from you,” explains one young man who came back to his beleaguered hometown, “you’ve got no incentive to better yourself or your situation.”

Government subsidizes poverty. Sure, it prevents destitution. Utter misery. But it also traps people, robbing them of their wherewithal to get up and go and achieve something.

Modern government is in the stasis business. Our assistance programs don’t just assist.

A modern American nightmare.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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chained, West Virginia, poverty, welfare,


By: CS Admin


  1. Bob Waldrop says:

    The most insidious thing the government does to the poor are not the assistance programs, they are the regulations that prevent people from working. Here in Oklahoma, to become a hair braider requires hundreds of hours of training, costing thousands of dollars, and most of the training has nothing to do with hair braiding. Republicans love to claim they are opposed to business regulation, but somehow their concern for deregulation is concentrated on those regulations whose repeal benefits big business. They routinely ignore all the many regulations that prevent people from working. And it’s not just the poor who are hurt. If nurse practitioners weren’t indentured to doctors, we would have a whole new and less expensive entry gateway into the medical system. But we can’t do that, because it might impact the revenues of doctors who are reliable donors to politicians. Etc ad nauseum.

  2. John F. Brennan says:

    When charity becomes entitlement the fluidity of the labor market becomes that of molasses. Again the issue of unintended consequences. 

  3. Pat says:

    Doesn’t home ownership, the quintessential “American Dream”, work the same effect as entitlements? Weren’t many of these programs designed with the intent of NOT dismembering communities and allowing people, particularly retirees, to stay in their homes?
    It gets harder to move when it means finding a new home (your old home may not be worth much, but it’s still a roof over your head) and new doctors and friends. Face it. Not everyone has the ability to just pack up and go west. We’ve given people a stake in their communities and we act surprised that they don’t want to give it up?
    As for the fluidity of the labor market, what good does it do to be mobile when there are no jobs to be had for an aging coal miner or a fifty-something former engineer?

    • John F. Brennan says:

      Life today is so much easier than the past, which was much closer to subsistence level, that we forget where we came from and the hardships endured and taken advantage of. There is employment for the aging and fifty something engineers if the market were allowed to freely function. 
      Single employer careers are recent and rare in human history in the past and will again become the aberration in the ever more rapidly evolving future. 
      Progress requires moveable, flexible, skilled and productive labor. All that discourages that is counterproductive and denies reality, which always prevails. 

  4. Mike says:

    It is interesting that rearranging the letters in “assist” yields “stasis”.

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