When Capitalism Fails (Why Won’t Anyone Think Of The Children?)

The question of how to address poverty in the United States is complicated. Steven Horwitz, chair of the department of economics at St. Lawrence University, and Jeffrey Reiman, professor of philosophy and religion at American University, debate the level of government assistance that should be given to help the poor.

In this clip, professors Horwitz and Reiman discuss how children who are poor can best be helped. While adult poverty may, in many cases, be due to some fault of the adult, should children have to suffer their parents’ mistakes? Both argue in favor of improvements in the education system, especially in creating more choice. While Prof. Horwitz suggests this can be done outside of government, Prof. Reiman argues that government will still have to be involved, even if only to create the vouchers.

Prof. Reiman also turns the question on its head, suggesting that perhaps the children of successful parents should not benefit from the parents’ success any more than children of poor parents should not be punished for their parents’ failings. Should all children start out on an equal footing, financially as well as educationally? What should be done to improve education opportunities for the poor? Is the government the best provider of education? What are your thoughts?


  1. Greg Gauthier

    Again with these pointless "what about" questions. 

    It fundamentally DOESN’T MATTER what the answer is, exactly, in the free market, if Prof. Reinman cannot demonstrate that an institution that threatens people with theft, kidnapping, and murder is a morally good way to solve the problem of children in poverty. 

    When he addresses the first concern seriously, then I’ll take his objections to the free market seriously.
  2. Matt Wavle

    Jeffrey Reiman said, at 1:50 in the video, "But look, you want to have better education.  Well, it’s going to be hard to do that without Government."
    Sir, it may be harder on the outset, but very well worth it.  When has the easiest way ever been the best way?
    Steven Horwitz’s example of India’s private education that helps their poor children, was right on point.
    Reiman actually suggested stealing the inheritance of successful people, at the time of their death, so that they can’t pass their wealth down to their own children!
  3. Matt Wavle

    Well put Greg.  I find it hard to understand anyone’s moral objections to voluntary exchange and laissez faire capitalism.  I’ve never heard of a good argument against the free market that could stand up well in the face of the logical, critical thinking skills of anyone with an above average IQ.

  4. Andrei-Claudiu Roibu

    I reckon that the best way to solve the problem of a good, elitist education that can also include the poor and the disadvantaged children, is to have a mix education system, between a dominant private owned one and a smaller, state owned one. The private education system will be responsible for  all those who can afford it, either financially or intellectually, and will be dominant, and the state owned one will be responsible for those who cannot afford their education, providing a base-line education. Also, the state controlled one will be much smaller in size, having one or two schools, let’s say, in each county, and it could be more oriented to teaching a certain job to it’s students, a secure job, that will allow them after graduation to earn an honest living. 

  5. Grady Flanagan

    The horrible truth about education is that the Cronies all get into all of the other options for education as well and the government keeps getting involved in private education

  6. marty lamb

    This argument is RIDICULOUS…. education is best left to the LOCAL and STATE levels…..I am tired of sending money to Washington so they can "dole it out" as THEY see fit…. giving it to ADMINISTRATORS in GIANT school systems who make 200,000+  a year… while TEACHERS on the FRONT lines GO WITHOUT… or pay OUT of POCKET for classroom supplies….there are so many HANDS and SCHEMERS between Washington and the KIDS who NEED it, that the money only TRICKLES down to them…..

  7. borisjvandruff

    You know what they say, Marty…s*** rolls downhill…

  8. David Cohen

    Unfortunately I believe it’s a vicious cycle for most poor people.  And for the fortunate rich kids, they may receive a better education, along with a sense of entitlement.

  9. ndvo

    The guy argument is to simply take out the property of the rich children. That is completely insane. If a government can take rich children property, than it will also have to say who is rich and who isn’t. What amount should be taken and how far the state should go to take the property. Should the state imprison the resisting children? Should the state kill those who resist prison?

    Also, we should trust that the guys who take the rich children money will give it to the poor people. Well, they will need to pay for the guns, for the paperwork, for the logistics and so on. It is costly to steel from the rich. The money that is left will be given to the poor? This is silly. 
    Human kind has learned some very important moral lessons throughout. Not to rob is one of them.

Leave a Reply