Monday, November 10

Does Religion Make You Nice?

Paul Bloom writes,
In his new book, Society Without God, Phil Zuckerman looks at the Danes and the Swedes—probably the most godless people on Earth. They don't go to church or pray in the privacy of their own homes; they don't believe in God or heaven or hell. But, by any reasonable standard, they're nice to one another. They have a famously expansive welfare and health care service. They have a strong commitment to social equality. And—even without belief in a God looming over them—they murder and rape one another significantly less frequently than Americans do.
Denmark and Sweden aren't exceptions. A 2005 study by Gregory Paul looking at 18 democracies found that the more atheist societies tended to have relatively low murder and suicide rates and relatively low incidence of abortion and teen pregnancy.
Yeah, but believe it or not, not everyone believes that an expansive welfare and health care service and a strong commitment to social equality are necessarily good things.

Monday, November 3

Helping the Poor?

With reference to Obama's mooted taxes:
All our wars on poverty have been lost by failing to help the poor help themselves. Higher business taxes, which ultimately can only be paid by individuals anyway, will simply export more economic activity to the world economy. Higher capital gains and income taxes will primarily reduce savings and investment at the expense of greater future productivity, which is at the heart of cross-generational reductions in poverty. A dozen countries, including the third largest economy, already have zero taxes on capital gains, and eight of them score high on the Economic Freedom Index and high in gross domestic product per capita.

I favor making all individual savings and direct investments deductible from income for tax purposes. In that world there would be no need to make any distinction between ordinary income and capital gains. By adding a negative feature to such a net consumption tax, the poor would not only receive redistribution benefit, but have an incentive to save and accumulate capital. Some poor will see this as an opportunity to help themselves.

Saturday, November 1

Low voter turnout would be a good sign

Specialists in public opinion have exhaustively documented the average voter's shocking ignorance about the main issues of the day, the names of their local candidates for office, or the policies the candidates support.

The flakiest voters -- the ones least motivated to show up at the polls year in and year out -- also tend to be most poorly informed. So when turnout drops, it tends to leave the pool of remaining voters with an improved average level of political knowledge and policy know-how. If well-informed voters have a better picture of the candidate or party most likely to promote the general welfare, then especially high turnout can actually tilt an election away from the better choice, leaving everyone a bit worse off. And that's not very civic-minded.