Via Ed Driscoll

Thomas Sowell

There’s something Eric Hoffer said: “Intellectuals cannot operate at room temperature.” There always has to be a crisis–some terrible reason why their superior wisdom and virtue must be imposed on the unthinking masses.

It doesn’t matter what the crisis is. A hundred years ago it was eugenics. At the time of the first Earth Day a generation ago, the big scare was global cooling, a big ice age. They go from one to the other. It meets their psychological needs and gives them a reason for exercising their power. Many intellectuals’ preoccupation with the poor is very much the same thing.

The thing that gives it all away is that after they say, “We must have this program because the poor can’t afford medicine, or can’t afford housing,” they will splutter if you say, “OK, let’s have a means test so it really goes to the poor.” If they were really concerned primarily about the poor, they would agree to it. But they are bitterly opposed to that, because the poor are a lever to reach other, political, goals.

Walter Williams figured out some years ago that the amount of money needed to move the poor out of poverty would be trivial compared to the amount of money that’s spent on these damn programs that are supposed to help the poor but usually don’t. But the poor are being used as human shields in the political battle. You put the poor up in front of you as you march across the battlefield and enemy troops won’t fire, so you can expand your power, and raise taxes, and so forth.