Thursday, August 4, 2011

Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction - Part I

There is no food shortage. There is enough for everyone, at least for now. The rich and influential never go hungry, not in any country in the world.

No one chooses poverty for their family, but for many, it comes anyway. None choose for their children to be fast-tracked to failure. No parent chooses for their family to go hungry and slowly die from curable illnesses. But such things come despite their attempts at escape.

Pointing at the poor in condescension, as though through some character flaw, poverty came from within them ... we miss, perhaps, an underlying truth: poverty is a class, culture, and political choice; the poor are its victims. Is that true?

There are too many occasions of deprivation where it doesn't have to happen. Equal opportunity is a goal still far in the distance.  Equal education is a dream.

Historically, the localized economy was structured for gain by the 'upper class', the nobility, the landed gentry at the expense of the 'peasants', the politically and economically disenfranchised.  That model has carried forward to today.

Friends on the far side of the world; they
work harder than I, but their opportunities
are limited by the choices wealthy
nations have made.
About half of the world’s people live in economic distress.  Is it enough to blame poor people for their own predicament? Have they been lazy, made poor decisions, and been solely responsible for their plight? What about their governments? Have they pursued policies that actually harm successful development? Such causes for poverty and inequality are real,  but deeper and more global causes of poverty are often less discussed.

Behind the increasing interconnectedness promised by globalization, we find government decisions, policies, and practices, all of which are formulated by developed countries in favor of their own success.  Of course.  The result is a continuation of the gap, a burgeoning economy that leaves much of the world behind.

"Why is it that corporations give millions of dollars to elected officials? Do you think it's simply public-spirited behavior?"  ~Walter E. Williams

The primary influence on government actions regarding the marketplace are national and multinational corporations, many of which are economically larger than countries.

In the face of such enormous external influence, the governments of poor nations and their people are often powerless. As a result, in the global context, the gap between rich and poor continues to increase.  We've seen such inequity before, and it has not been easily resolved.

As individuals, we perhaps cannot solve the dilemma, but we can make a difference for others.