Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dysfunctional Behavior

Ah. Here we have some dysfunctional behaviors from Michael Barone and--surprisingly--from Greg Mankiw:

Greg quotes, apparently with approval, Barone's claim thqt "you can buy a little girl's winter quote at Wal-Mart for $10":

Greg Mankiw's Blog: Barone on John Edwards: Michael Barone comments on POTUS wannabe John Edwards and poverty in America:

His stump speech includes a line about a little girl whose parents couldn't afford a winter coat. Give me a break. You can buy a little girl's winter coat at Wal-Mart for $10. That's the price of taking the little girl out to lunch at McDonald's. As Juan Williams points out in his book Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It, no one in America is stuck in poverty if he or she does three things: graduates from high school; gets a job, any job; refrains from having children before getting married. Poverty comes not from any structural failure of society but from dysfunctional behaviors. Edwards's poverty shtick is a crock...

But neither Greg nor Barone shops at Wal-Mart often enough to know or surfs on over to the Wal-Mart web site to learn what girls' winter quotes actually cost:

Jackets & Outerwear - Girls - Apparel - Wal-Mart: Girls' Hooded Jacket with Fleece Lining... $31.82. Girls' 4-in-1 System Jacket with Fur-Trim Hood... $34.82. Girls' Sequined Quilted Jacket... $31.82. Girls' Hooded Thick-Lined Jacket... $19.82. Girls' Heavy-Duty Zip-Front Hoodie... $31.82. Girls' Sueded Shearling Jacket... $31.82. Girls' 4-in-1 Embroidered System Jacket... $34.82.

Dysfunctional behavior.

In Michael Barone's view--and could it be in Greg Mankiw's too?--poverty in America is not something to be worried or concerned about because the poor deserve to be poor. The poverty of the poor is a just outcome. Poverty is, Michael Barone says, "not... any structural failure of society." Instead, poverty comes "from dysfunctional behaviors."

The point that it is a structural failure of society if (some) dysfunctional behaviors by parents trap their children in poverty seems to whiz by both Barone and Greg without penetrating.

Fortunately for Michael Barone, society is so structured that his dysfunctional behaviors don't trap him in poverty. The fact that he is ignorant of the prices of winter coats in Wal-Mart yet eager to opine makes him more rather than less valuable to the Republican slime machine, and to U.S. News and World Report.

Fortunately for Greg Mankiw, there is still time for him to reverse his dysfunctional behaviors: to think about whether he really wants to trust Michael Barone's word on anything without verifying it.

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