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Ramesh Ponnuru

Free-Market Bashers Aren't Helping the Poor

Is the government better at fighting poverty than the free market? 
Both government and markets are needed to help the poor. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Both government and markets are needed to help the poor. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republicans in Congress are trying to convince Americans that conservatism offers better answers than liberalism to the problems of poverty.

Larry Bartels , a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, is having none of it. In the Washington Post, he makes a provocative argument: The free market that Republicans laud "has done nothing at all" to help the poor over the past 40 years. Government programs have alleviated poverty, he argues, but our free-enterprise economy has "failed abjectly" at that task.