Home > Uncategorized > Graduating from extreme poverty

Graduating from extreme poverty

from Asad Zaman and the Pedagogic Blog

More than a billion people live in extreme poverty, in conditions which would be unimaginable for readers of this column. Economists say that this is due to ‘scarcity’ — there are not enough resources to feed them. The solution lies in economic growth, increased production to enable us to provide for all. This diagnosis deliberately distracts attention from the real problems. One of them is the rapidly rising inequality. In 2010, the richest 388 people owned more than half the wealth of the planet, an astonishingly skewed income distribution. Although there has been substantial growth, benefits of the growth accrue only to those who are already extremely wealthy. According to recent Oxfam reports for 2014, the richest 80 people now have more than $1.3 trillion, which is more than half of the total privately-owned planetary wealth. A tax of only 33 per cent on just these 80 would suffice to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide for the health needs of all of the extremely poor. Coincidentally, global defence budgets are of similar magnitude. We don’t have to become peaceniks; just scaling back our bloodthirstiness by 33 per cent would suffice to remove extreme poverty from the planet. Just avoiding the Iraq war would have saved sufficient money to feed the planet for 30 years.   read more

  1. October 27, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Asad, you didn’t know it, I suspect but your piece also clearly identifies why such efforts as you describe are rare and don’t often receive the support of the ultra-rich you identify in the article. You say, “This is a complex multi-dimensional intervention which requires coordination on many front.” Two words are most important in this statement – “intervention” and “coordination.” In the words of John 12:8 of the Christian Bible, “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” As interpreted by many Christians this means their focus should be in following Christ, but helping the poor where possible. But never expecting to end poverty. For most evangelical Christians in the US helping the poor is an obligation, as part of the work of following Christ. But once we leave the world of Christians we find a very different view and understanding of the poor and poverty. There the approach is generally pragmatic. For example, a government might want to move as many of its people as possible out of poverty. Use of fossil fuels is a quite common answer to this question, even in the face of the destruction such use may bring on the very poor they’re working to move out of poverty. In other words, dealing with poverty could actually make the life of the poor even more difficult and marginal. This is why most American and in fact most western companies, and large portions of the general population don’t believe it is possible to plan interventions in poverty that won’t have both expected and unexpected negative consequences for the poor. Perhaps so severe that the life chances of the poor actually decline, are harmed more than helped. Guarding against such “Frankenstein” results requires a commitment to monitoring and research, mental discipline that often is not a part of anti-poverty programs.

  2. October 27, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Techniques good for public centers, too. Will help and then post translation to any language represented on the computer assisted lists. Extreme poverty can be leveraged with this start. We must never forget that traditional indigenous agriculture produces 75-80% of humanity’s food and is more land and socially efficient than mechanized corporate factory farming.

    http://ferrocement.com/tankBook/ch14.en.html rainwater

    http://ferrocement.com/Shelter-2010/post-1_5-2010.html $5 per square foot fiber house


    Thursday, 8 October 2015 from zerowastenews.org … Yucatan peninsula : A remote Mexican village, La Mancalona, is producing clean drinking water using the power of the sun. Residents of the community, most of whom are subsistence farmers, have operated and maintained a solar-powered water purification system engineered by researchers at MIT.

    “The village has been operating it as a business, selling 20-liter bottles of water to residents for 5 pesos—a price that the community agreed upon, and about one-tenth the price of bottled water that is intermittently supplied by a centralized facility an hour’s drive from the village.

    Potable water supplied at a locally affordable price is also described as an economic model using low technology rainwater capture at ferrocement.com The chosen price of five pesos for twenty liters pays for the example 40,000 liter ferro cement cistern in four to six years in the Yucatan region.

  3. Macrocompassion
    October 28, 2015 at 8:05 am

    There is a solution for the complete ending of poverty but it needs the unpopular action of a resolute and morals-based government. The basic origin of the unequal distribution of wealth in Azad’s short piece is due to who owns and controls the right to have access and use land. Strictly land is not wealth because it is not made by human effort, but its value is created mostly by the people living in the region where the site in question is to be found. It is morally unjust for this national benefit to be in the hands of a few greedy land owners and the banks who support them.

    By taxing land values instead of labor, purchases, capital gains etc., the speculators in land values and its associated high cost for use and the resulting low consumption and unemployment can all be improved so that greater national progress is made with less privitation of the opportunity to work, to reside and to earn. Equality of opportunity will eliminate poverty.

  4. October 29, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Is this the proposal of Henry George? Are there recent re-considerations of his ideas?

  5. October 29, 2015 at 9:55 am

    From my Catholic point of view Ken’s characterisation of the problem and Christian (not just Evangelical) reponse is spot on. It is not so much poverty that is the problem as the monetary system turning it into destitution by expecting the poor to pay public taxes and private rents at rates beyond their monetary means. So G K Chesterton’s argument was for self-sufficiency – jocularly phrased in English terms as “three acres and a cow – within local communities small enough to be supportive. What Ken describes seems to be a wonderful example of Chestertonian E F Schumacher’s advocacy of “intermediate technology” in the context of “Small is Beautiful”.

    • October 29, 2015 at 10:01 am

      Sorry, Garrett. “What Garrett describes seems to be a wonderful example …”.

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