Recently, I read a very interesting article in Foreign Affairs entitled, “How Poverty Ends.” Needless to say, global poverty is something that the caring world has struggled with for generation after generation.
This struggle has been comprised of evaluating countless factors within both nations that are thriving and nations that are suffering. During this effort, experts have examined factors such as leadership styles, types of governments, natural resources, size of workforce, tax rates, GDP’s, and on and on.
This endeavor has resulted in several working theories that have great merit and has been conceived by brilliant minds. But in the end, the world is still left with the global blight known as poverty – a blight that is not totally resolvable because the contributing factors appear to be either circular or unclear.
One View of Global Poverty
Now let’s get back to my original comment of referring to the Foreign Affairs article. Right out of the gate, we are told about the enormous number of people that have been lifted out of poverty over the past few decades. This is mainly due to the enormous growth of China and India during this timeframe.
In the case of China, they had the world’s most massive labor force during this growth spurt, but that labor force no longer exists because of the “2 child per family” limit they implemented years ago. All those workers are now deceased or retired.
So now, economists are seeking out the factors of growth in order to finish the job of eradicating poverty altogether. This is where things start getting tricky because as the article states:
“Economists, ourselves included, have spent entire careers studying development and poverty, and the uncomfortable truth is that the field still doesn’t have a good sense of why some economies expand and others don’t. There is no clear formula for growth.”
That said, I think we call all agree that it is very difficult – if not impossible – to spur growth in a nation’s economy when you can’t find its economic lever. Not only that, there are two other factors they also discovered that confound economic efforts:
1) There have been economies in the past that exploded for no apparent reason.
2) Every economic variable that exists within a country is usually dependent on other variables.
On the bright side, they do point one factor that is very significant. And that is how skilled a given nation is in allocating its resources. They go on to point out that in most cases, a society that has lower poverty rates typically manages their resources better than others.
When you consider the points made here, it seems that giving such an essay a title of “How Poverty Ends” is fool heartedly optimistic.
How can you ever hope to end poverty when 1) you can’t find the trigger that spurs economic growth in a society, 2) you can’t single out economic variables that are not confounding other variables, and 3) you haven’t identified a metric that can measure how well a nation uses its resources?
Obviously, it was apparent to me that we needed to keep searching for more authentic root causes of poverty.
A Second View of Global Poverty
So I continued my searching for some root causes of global poverty. This is when I found a second article from ConfrontingPoverty.org that is entitled “How can we understand the root causes of poverty?”
Specifically, I read Module 6 in their Discussion Guide which dealt with poverty in the United States.
This article pointed out quite sternly that American poverty exists because:
“While it is certainly true that particular individual shortcomings, such as the lack of education or skills, helps to explain who is more likely to be left out in the competition to locate and secure good opportunities, it cannot explain why there is a shortage of such opportunities in the first place.”
This is a nonsensical statement:
The first part of sentence explains why individuals do not qualify for good opportunities, and the second part says there are no good opportunities. So are there good opportunities or not? Until you establish conditions one way or the other, nothing after that makes any sense.
Let us examine another viewpoint from this article:
“Over the past 40 years, the U.S. economy has been producing more and more low-paying jobs, part-time jobs, and jobs that are lacking in benefits. It is estimated that between one quarter and one third of all jobs today in the United States are low-paying.”
This statement beckons a few responses:
1) Shouldn’t all these low-paying jobs be suitable for the people who lack education and skills that was mentioned in your earlier comment?
2) Wouldn’t the part-time jobs be a perfect match for people who are seeking higher education? Do we lack the creativity to see this as an opportunity?
Here’s another excerpt:
“And of course, beyond these low-paying jobs, there are millions of Americans that are unemployed at any point in time. In addition, there are millions of people who are working part-time but want to be working full-time, while some Americans have given up looking for work or have looked only sporadically because they feel that there simply aren’t jobs available for them.”
This comment clearly indicates a lack of current economic news. Listed below are several articles that completely refutes this statement:
United States has its Lowest Unemployment Rate in 50 Years – Thought there was no jobs …. ??
US has 1 Million More Jobs Available than Workers – Thought there was a lack of opportunities … ??
US Must Recruit Foreign Workers to Fill High Skill Jobs – Thought there was a lack of GOOD opportunities … ??
So I continued to search for a root cause behind poverty.
A Third View of Global Poverty
The third article I examined was discovered at Slate.com that is entitled “The Root Cause of Global Poverty”.
Right from the get-go, this article painted everyone as either left winged or right winged, and that all conservatives had one definitive viewpoint and liberals had another viewpoint. I suppose independents or those having mixed views were not acknowledged or considered.
The article went on to discuss the work of the International Justice Mission and its founder, Gary Haugen.
Interestingly enough, Haugen identified crime as a major reason for world poverty. While crime in the United States is at historic lows, the same cannot be said about most other nations – especially where poverty is high.
It went on to discuss how much crime takes place in places like Peru and Kenya. Sadly, sexual violence and domestic violence are responsible for more deaths of women than wars, diseases, and car accidents combined. But this is not all – the overwhelming majority of these predators are never brought to justice. In fact, law enforcement officials and political leaders are often the guilty parties.
Since these societies have no lawful structure, it is easy to see why they are impoverished. If girls even try to attend any kind of education, they expose themselves to these hideous attacks. Survival quickly becomes a priority over education in such an environment.
It would be hard for anyone to argue that lawlessness begets poverty as Gary Haugen indicated.
While this was by far the most useful and plausible of these three poverty articles, it also supports my hypothesis that solving global poverty will never ever happen.
Consider this excerpt from the article:
“Conservatives, too, can learn from IJM’s work. To fight terrorism, you have to confront police abuse in the developing world. People who don’t trust law enforcement don’t cooperate with it, and their silence allows terrorist organizations to flourish. Chaos and violence also fuel migration across the United States’ Southern border. “Central America has some of the most lawless and violent countries in the world,” says Haugen. “Families are fleeing these communities where there’s no functioning justice system.” A wall won’t solve the problem, he warns. “If you do not address the underlying circumstances of lawless chaos in countries that border [us] and that have access to the border, you will never build anything sufficient” to control immigration.”
As I read the current news – especially over the last 4 or 5 years – it is progressives who don’t trust law enforcement. It is progressives who want to allow lawlessness to cross America’s borders. And it is progressives who want to haphazardly empty the prisons in the United States.
Conservatives strive for MORE law and order.
My initial hypothesis was that global poverty will never be resolved.
1) The first article stressed that nations need to learn how to better allocate their resources to combat poverty. Yet they could not identify any metrics that measured how that could be accomplished.
2) The second article made the claim that there are no good opportunities in the United States because political and economic structures have failed. Yet current economic data totally refutes that claim.
3) The third article identified crime and lawlessness as the major cause of poverty – which I agree with. Yet it presupposes and makes a weak claim that conservatives have not supported effective law enforcement in the past.
Interestingly, it is this third article that proves my hypothesis the most. It proves that even when we agree on a root cause, we can’t agree on the context.
Unfortunately, the most damaging example of confounding variables is when one of them pertains to egos.