Between April 1831 and February 1832, two officials of the French government under Louis-Philippe toured Jacksonian America. These two officials—Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont—were on assignment to research prisons in the United States and later produced a report of their findings in 1833. But while traveling through America, Tocqueville and Beaumont were also carefully observing political and social life in the new republic. Both men published works on their observations. Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America (1835/1840) and Beaumont wrote a novel, entitled Marie or, Slavery in the United States(1835).
Most Americans are familiar with Tocqueville’s work, but Beaumont’s novel is less well known.
In discussions of poverty’s ills and cures, it doesn’t take long for the subject of root causes to come up. Not everyone agrees what those root causes are, of course—or whose fault they are. But it’s often taken for granted that you can’t just tackle a presenting problem directly; you have to go for the root, whatever it is.
This certainly isn’t always wrong, but it does have a way of obscuring simple, obvious solutions.
Warren Buffett, the second wealthiest man in the world, likes to project an image of himself as a man who values responsible lending and affordable housing for people of modest means. A different picture is portrayed by Clayton Homes, the country’s largest builder and lender of manufactured housing, which was bought in 2003 by Berkshire Hathaway, the investment conglomerate controlled by Buffett. An investigation led by the Center for Public Integrity and the Seattle Times has discovered that the company engages in predatory loan practices and charges exorbitant interest rates and add-on fees, which trap many owners in homes they can’t afford that can’t be resold or refinanced (Center for Public Integrity, April 3).