Poverty: Who’s to Blame? promises to be controversial. As he has argued in lectures he has given on the book’s themes, we can blame third-world governments for lousy policy and first-world governments for immigration restrictions. So far, so good. The most controversial part of the book will be where he argues that if someone could have taken reasonable steps to prevent their plight, then they themselves are to blame. I expect this part of the book to be just as popular with the “personal responsibility” right as it is unpopular with the “you’re blaming the victim!” left.
Chapter 1: The Home that Wasn’t There. Here I explain why the supply-and-demand story for rising housing prices, though true, is deeply misleading. Why? Because regulation is strangling housing supply, especially in desirable locations. In a free market, housing would be very affordable throughout the country because building up and in is easy. We have the technology; what we lack is permission to use it.
Chapter 2: The Manufacture of Scarcity. Now I go over the empirical work that measures the effect of housing regulation on housing prices. Standard estimates of the effect are massive. It is very plausible that U.S. housing would be 50% cheaper under laissez-faire.
Personal Unemployment Insurance Accounts (PISAs) were pioneered by Chile in 2002. The accounts are financed through a payroll‐tax contribution from both the employer and employee and are individually owned by workers. During spells of unemployment, idled workers can make withdrawals to compensate for the loss to their incomes, but when employed they continue to build their balances. At retirement, workers can use the balances in these accounts to bolster their retirement income or transfer the funds to their heirs. The program includes a solidarity fund — a public safety net — financed by employers and the government. Unemployed workers can receive payment from the solidarity fund when their own savings are insufficient to cover their period of employment.
These accounts provide insurance while keeping strong incentives for people to return to work. Several studies have confirmed that under this system, workers are motivated by a desire to keep their own savings for retirement, so they are careful about tapping into this money during their working years. On net, workers seem as well off with PISAs as they were under the old UI system.