By Michael D. Tanner
The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor energetically challenges the conventional wisdom of both the right and the left that underlies much of the contemporary debate over poverty and welfare policy. Author and national public policy expert Michael Tanner takes to task conservative critiques of a “culture of poverty” for their failure to account for the structural circumstances in which the poor live. In addition, he criticizes liberal calls for fighting poverty primarily through greater redistribution of wealth and new government programs.
Rather than engaging in yet another debate over which government programs should be increased or decreased by billions of dollars, Tanner calls for an end to policies that have continued to push people into poverty. Combining social justice with limited government, his plan includes reforming the criminal justice system and curtailing the War on Drugs, bringing down the cost of housing, reforming education to give more control and choice to parents, and making it easier to bank, save, borrow, and invest.
The comprehensive evidence provided in The Inclusive Economy is overwhelming: economic growth lifts more people out of poverty than any achievable amount of redistribution does. As Tanner notes, “we need a new debate, one that moves beyond our current approach to fighting poverty to focus on what works rather than on noble sentiments or good intentions.” The Inclusive Economy is a major step forward in that debate.
"Michael D. Tanner, a longtime poverty researcher for the libertarian Cato Institute and a National Review Online columnist, is rethinking some things. In the preface to his new book, he writes that some friends of his have 'rais[ed] my consciousness' on certain issues. Racism and the legacy of slavery, for example, are bigger obstacles to success, even in a free market, than he had truly grappled with before. In the book’s early pages he also writes that government spending on the poor isn’t totally useless. [...] despite the admissions he makes in the book’s first half, by its conclusion Tanner writes that 'the government is much more part of the problem than part of the solution' and that 'the policies we are pursuing today have failed.' I don’t think the book ever quite resolves that central tension [...] But The Inclusive Economy offers a lot that’s worth engaging with, from its analysis of why poverty happens to a set of big-picture suggestions for simultaneously (a) helping the poor and (b) limiting the government. Those who don’t share Tanner’s libertarian convictions won’t think he’s provided the best possible ways to combat poverty, but everyone should recognize he’s hit on some great ideas. [...] In The Inclusive Economy, Tanner confronts evidence he hadn’t before and tries to reconcile it with his longstanding policy views. That’s a respectable project, and even if he’s not entirely successful in it, he illuminates a lot of areas where libertarian insights could help the poor. Policymakers, even those with no libertarian inclinations of their own, should give it a read."
Lecture by Tanner on the Book
A 54-minute lecture organized by the libertarian Cato Institute, publisher of this book:
Alternatively, you may want to listen to this 18-minute podcast by Society and the State, providing an interview with Tanner on the book. Another interview with Tanner is held at this 35-minute episode of the libertarian BobZadekShow.
- "Why Are People Poor?" - OpEd by the author at National Review, 5 December 2018
- "How the government helps keep people poor" - OpEd by the author in the New York Post, 5 December 2018
Table of Contents of The Inclusive Economy
- A History of Thinking about Poverty and Policy
- The Cultural or Individual Behavior Theories of Poverty
- Structural Poverty: Race, Gender and Economic Dislocation
- The Limits of Redistribution
- Fighting Poverty through Criminal Justice Reform
- Improving Human Capital: The Importance of Education Freedom
- Reducing the Cost of Housing through Deregulation
- Savings and the Accumulation of Wealth
- Inclusive Economic Growth
- Looking Ahead
About Michael Tanner
Michael Tanner is a senior fellow with the [libertarian] Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., where he heads research on a variety of domestic policy issues, with an emphasis on social welfare, health care, and retirement. He is the author of several previous books, including Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis and Leviathan on the Right: How Big Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution, and coauthor of A New Deal for Social Security. Tanner is a frequent commentator on cable and network television, and his writing has appeared in nearly every major American newspaper.