Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Poverty and Solutions

When we wish to help the poor, we should first hope to find something that will actually help them. It directly follows that we should be immediately suspicious of any solution which makes us feel better. If rationalization, secret contempt, or superficial solutions are to hide anywhere, they will hide at precisely the spots where we congratulate ourselves most.

This not to preach the opposite, that all real kindness must appear at first glance to be cruel, for self-deception can as easily find a niche there. But applying the name "justice" to what is really mercy or generosity leaves both the giver and the receiver untransformed. Justice is a good thing and mercy a better. But they are not the same thing.

Solutions which encourage self-reliance may be wrong not because they are stingy but because they are too optimistic. It may be that some are unable to rise, and survive, and gain self-respect and self-efficacy, even at direst need. These may simply need to be taken care of. Yet might we not hope for more? Might we not hope that most will someday escape bondage?


karrde said...

The poor you shall always have with you...

The realization that some poor people will never do better for themselves than they can do now is sobering.

The question is, which poor people?

The next question is, does that mean we don't encourage all the poor to become self-reliant, just to see which of the poor can?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Concur. I certainly know some who will never have the ability for self-reliance, and it would be cruel to expect it. Others are in circumstances that would seem to defy any amount of white-knuckling their way through. Yet we all do better when we must, and have no choice. It is brutal but good for us.

Anna said...

That is the same conclusion that many of us from a low-class background have. There are some people who you could give a million dollars a year to and they would still be poor.

It should be obvious that the modern-day liberal squeamishness about poverty is an off-shoot of general materialism.

The always-poor people are the type who are on welfare but have fake nails, dye jobs, tattoos, rims, flat screens, etc. And the ones who do not take care of their stuff, like if you gave them a cadillac it would be trashed the next day.

Based on my background, I years ago came to the conclusion that the best way to help poor people is to give them your castoff stuff or sell it to them cheap, or pay them for doing chores or whatever. Because a) they will appreciate the thing and take care of it; b) they understand that you giving something to them is not free for you; and c) they understand that wealth comes from a time investment.

If you give the perpetual-poor something, they will be like, what a POS and trash it.

And this is not a modern invention. Ask any centenarian and they will tell you about the "old folk" who were the same way. ("old folk" being a maine expression for the long-dead ancestors.)

So based on empirical observation by a naive teenager working at a grocery store, I came to the same conclusion as the Bible (before I had ever read it). The truth usually shows up one way or another.

Anna said...

I just thought of a humorous example to back up my last comment:

I have a relative, who isn't a biological relative, she was adopted by my other relatives. She is a "perpetual-poor" despite much effort spent to ensure otherwise.

Well, she trashed her trailer.

Another relative let her rent an unused farm house.

She trashed it within 6 weeks.

Ironically, I warned the would-be landlord about renting it to her. I was scolded for "not seeing the best in people". HAHAHAHA!!!

Anonymous said...

This is only a half baked idea, but I think it is important to seperate true poverty from 'poor' as defined as modestly less than the most fabulously wealthy country in the history of the world. If we defined 'poverty' as being in the lower half of income on a global basis, there would be almost no poverty in America at all.

There are those that are simply incapable of taking care of themselves, and they should be taken care of. But the key is to make it such that all those who would simply prefer having someone else do the work not take advantage of it.

One possible solution, arising out of my experience living in NYC. I, despite being among the 'rich' that the President want to increase taxes on, had to move out of Manhattan. I simply couldn't afford it. But I am keenly aware that a large number of 'poor' people live there for free (or heavily subsidized). The biggest appartments in Manhattan are almost universally the projects. The projects on 28th street would be muli-million dollar apartments, but people who can't pay the premium necessary to raise a family in Manhattan get to.

I would propose that the government should 'take care of' people. Anyone who wants. The conditions are: Children are sent with their parents. Adults have no control over where they are 'assigned' (explained later). They have basic shelter provided (no kitchen, room, bathroom, similar to a basic motel). Communal meals are available. There is no provision of TV. Basic medical care is available, free. By basic medical, it means you don't get currently patented drugs, nor the use of the latest procedures or technology. But anything an advanced hospital could do 50 years ago, you get free. So a doctor would set a broken bone after looking at an X-ray, but you aren't going to get an MRI.

By assigned, I mean there would be complexes built in order to house those who want the government care. In cheap to live may be something like a trailer park in some places, it might be more like a multi-story dorm building in others. You don't get to pick which ones you go to. You get a bus ticket to it. You could be 'reassigned' to a new facility in 3 month intervals, but could stay at one for up to 3 years. Special cases may be allowed indefinite extentions.

Cost: You give up the right to vote for 4 years from the last day you are there. May be expected to work in the complex if determined to be able. 80% of any wages earned paid to the complex.

Those that need to be taken care of would be. It would be unpleasant enough (required to move, no TV) that most people would not mooch off of it. But those that need to be taken care of would...and we can stop a whole slew of other programs that are spending our childrens futures.

After all, it is for the children.

Anna said...

Anon, I kind of like that idea. I like the idea of poverty assistance such that the poor person realizes that there is a cost both to the giver and the receiver.

When I was in college, I did a Christian parachurch group, and one day we were handing out food in a Boston housing project. I thought it was weird to be handing out food to people who had nicer homes, cars, stuff, and opportunities than I had growing up.

steve w from ford said...

Simply bring back the concept of the "poor house" in every community. make sure it is clean, safe, spartan and open to all the mentally sound who are poor. Serve plenty of nutritious food but no snacks!
Could place them near libraries for wholesome entertainment.
Cut off all other welfare except for the permanently (and actually) disabled. Residents of these homes would then be counted as below the poverty line, others not so much.

My prediction is we would find there are far fewer ACTUAL poor people than we currently believe.