Global issues - poverty

  1. Poverty is the state for the majority of the world’s people and nations. Why is this? 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 government? Have they pursued policies that actually harm successful development? Such causes of poverty and inequality are no doubt real. But often less discussed are deeper and more global causes of poverty.

    Behind the increasing interconnectedness promised by globalization, are global decisions, policies, and practices. These are typically influenced, driven, or formulated by the rich and powerful. These can be leaders of rich countries or other global actors such as multinational corporations, institutions, and influential people.

    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, a few get wealthy while the majority struggle.
  2. jcsd
  3. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    How are you defining poverty and arriving at that factoid? It of course depends on who you ask, but a Google for "world poverty rate" turns up a lot of numbers a lot lower. The "official" labels and stats of the world bank are:

    Anyway, using these definitions, it should be clear that poverty is almost exclusively a 3rd world problem. The conditions under which most "poor" people in developed nations live (as defined by politicians in those nations) would make most Africans and Chinese weep with joy. As a practical matter, it isn't possible to live on $2 a day in most developed countries and government support means few people even come close.
    Once you get an understanding of the definitions in use, the answer to those questions becomes very, very simple. The vast majority of those in poverty live in poverty because they live in nations that have not developed or have not developed fully. Applying the same questions to "poverty" in developed countries is much more complicated, but only because the far lower severity of the issue makes it necessary to split hairs on definitions and find more individual reasons for it.
    That is a view that is widely held and clearly false. Prosperty certainly doesn't affect everyone equally, but it does effect nearly everyone in prosperous countries. So much so that it is necessary (as I discussed above) to discuss two utterly different concepts of poverty for developed and undeveloped countries.

    And the importance of government and how prosperity pulls up everyone is shown clearly in China. With the fastest growing economy and until recently the largest number of poor people, China is almost soley responsible for the oft-cited stat that the world poverty rate has dropped by half in the last 20 years.

    BTW, the two links you cited are heavily biased and even contain some outright incorrect facts (the second link, for example, says 46% of the world lives on less than $1 a day, when actually that's $2 a day). It would be very helpful for your understanding of the subject if you would look at a broader and more moderate range of sources.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007
  4. But that "very, very simple answer" neglects the headstart then the West had, probably owing more to the philosophy of materialism and its guiding principle of reductionism that emerged during the Rennaisance than any other factor. Maybe western europeans were smarter, more motivated?

    Wasn't there, but fact of the matter, aided by this headstart, and more than sufficient willingness to exploit via imperialism whether Dutch, English, Spanish, Portuguese,(and later the US towards its indegenous peoples before looking elsewhere), every country they come across, its small wonder that there continues to be staggering differences, even where the countries in question had sizeable natural resources on which to build development. It remains so to this day, and whenever the little guy gets fanciful thinking about even getting a fair price for his goods, the heavy boot of the IMF/WB comes crushing down with usurial arrangements and insistence on privatization. When that fails, we get coups. If that fails, well look no further than Iraq.
  5. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    And other countries don't? :confused: :confused: Hitler, Stalin, Mao?
    That's an odd way to see it, since by any fair measure of the word, capitalistic countries are more free than socialistic ones...
    Those two statements contradict each other. Even the relatively moderate European brand of socialism requires that people turn over a high fraction of their income to the government. That is the opposite of freedom. In addition, by turning around and giving the money to other people, they encourage people to choose laziness, again, interfering with freedom via negative social pressure.
    Sounds great in theory. Reality is not so kind. Perhaps this is going to turn into yet another 'why-socialism-would-be-great' thread. Been there, done that - it is a useless discussion of a pipe dream.
    And that is a waste, how? People who do those things are not among the poor you mentioned in the OP. Seems to me like it works out pretty wel for them...
    Seems to me based on the above that you have it backwards (though still, it is only a small fraction who are doing anything useful - the vast majority of the poor in Africa and Asia contribute virtually nothing to the economy).
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007
  6. People are poor because they simply don't have the money to buy food, cars, homes, apartments, computers, telephones and stuff. There are not enough jobs in the labor market also and poor people don't have the necessary skills for the jobs offered.
  7. Poverty is the natural state of human beings. A better question would be "Why are some people not poor?"
  8. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    Two different discussions - I was talking immediate cause and you're talking history. At this point, I'm not sure the history is all that relevant except in discussing what each country had to work with when industrialization started. It is an interesting discussion, why China didn't industrialize before Europe, but it isn't terribly relevant. What is important is that China is industrializing and westernizing now and their economy is booming because of it.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007

  9. Once read an interesting book on the subject:

    The Secret Of Western Domination, which highlighted different philosohical leanings as being the difference. Certainly China was very sophisticated in many ways, including those of warfare.

    The economy is also blooming:,1518,461828,00.html
  10. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Thread pruned of off topic posts.
  11. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    Ok, lets try this again....

    Lets make sure we separate the two different kinds of "poor" - "poor" in developed countries vs "poor" in undeveloped ones. The difference is stark: "poor" in an undeveloped country means that your very survival is at risk on a daily basis. The poverty line in a developed country is drawn at as much as 10x the income as in an undeveloped one ($9800/yr for an individual in the US). The OP addresses both without differentiating and I really think they are separate subjects for separate threads. However....
    Well, those are circular statements: 'poor is not having the means to buy things and people are poor beceause they don't have the means to buy things'. It isn't an explanation and it doesn't offer a solution.

    Your link discusses the issue (for the US) and it talks specifically about inner-city joblessness. It cites as a major cause, the drying-up of unskilled jobs (largely due to technology) and notes that since a high fraction of inner-city blacks are unskilled, they suffer most from it. Well that explains the problem and suggests a solution: they need to become more skilled to compete better in a modern economy. The place to start is by taking advantage of the education that the government provides all citizens. It is no coincidence that the vast majority of the poor in the US have failed to do that.

    [editorial rant: how can they say a law degree is equivalent to a phd when it is only 2 years?]

    The point here is that people with a high school diploma are much more likely to have full time employment and earn a full 30% more than those without.

    Now I've heard the argument that getting the diploma won't help if the jobs aren't there, but whether or not that is true in general, it is not true individually and because of that it is not a valid excuse. Ie, an influx of an extra million high school graduates would saturate the job market, but if only you (not you, specifically, just a general "you") got a diploma, it wouldn't and you'd be just as likely as anyone else with a diploma to find a job.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007
  12. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm not entirely sure what you meant by that, but regardless, I like it and I'm going to use it for the other half of the discussion....

    denverdoc is going into the history of why it is that the West developed and China didn't when by many measures of development, China was far ahead only a few hundred years ago. To me, though interesting, it isn't all that relevant - what is important is why there exists a difference today and how do we fix it?

    I can see no other reasonable explanation of the difference between East (and Africa) and west besides government/economic philosophy. And this doesn't need to be a capitalism vs communism/socialism discussion**, really it is a capitalism vs everything else issue. Capitalism is the only system that has shown the capability of sustained economic growth and prosperity. And as I said before, China is now in many ways following the lead of western development 150 years later. A lot of the problems they are dealing with, from pollution to sweat shops, are the same issues we dealt with - we got through it and they will too - but it may take 100 years if they choose to repeat our mistakes instead of learning from them to avoid the need to learn from their own. In the meantime, though, I take solace in the fact that China is developing and their rate of development has caused a 50% drop in the world's level of abject poverty in about the past 20 years.

    In Africa, development has never had a chance due to failed colonialism and the persistence of tribalism. Their lack of coherent governments (unlike China, for example) makes the problem much tougher to fix than for China.

    **It's your thread, X-34D, so we can discuss socialism if you want, but I don't think it is really necessary here.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007
  13. As a species, we humans have spent most of our existence in a state in which there was no reliable source of food beyond the subsistence level. The invention of agriculture, relatively late in our biological history, fixed that problem and created the first wealth for a few. At the present time, half the world still lives in a state where the food source is unreliable. As such, they still live in a natural state. But how do you explain the fact that the other half (constituting 3.5 billion people) knows where its next meal is coming from? In other words, how did we get from a state in which only a tiny percentage of people ate regular, to one in which 50% do?
  14. In Nazism, Stalinism and Maoism it was government who was main cause of poverty and oppression. Government can be oppressive by enacting laws that limit access to the labor market, limit emigration, and implementing policies that harm seccessful development such as curtailing the right to education. Giving that education is the main road toward wealth, the uneducated have a much harder finding a well-paying job.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2007
  15. Vast tracts of arable lands with great climate in some priveleged locations to start. Tehn, lots of petrochemicals to sustain, most recently GMO's to push yields higher. What happens when the petrol runs out?
  16. If we had to go back to 19th century methods of farming, then I doubt 3.5 billion people could be provided with three squares a day. But I also doubt that we would go back. Humans are too ingenious for that. That is why so many of us eat so well now.

    I agree with you that improvements in farm technology are the ultimate reason that so many people are wealthy (if that is what you are saying). The idea that technological progress has left people hungry is untenable. How would you feed 7 billion people, 3.5 billion of them well, without it?
  17. Hey no doub't. I guess, maybe I misread something in the post. But you still need lots of arable land, with enough water. Many countries aren't so blessed as the US.

    As an aside, if the US hadn't been discovered, there may be a whole lot fewer people on the planet--neutral comment here, we got what we got. How to feed the planet when the oil runs out is a big problem. Thats one good reason why we need to preserve the oil we have, even if climate isn't getting warmer, IMHO.
  18. I think you mean that it's not getting warmer because of CO2, it certainly is getting warmer.:smile: and I think you kind of got it by bringing over European disease and some other very dubious methods, but hey that's colonisation of the imperialists for you.

    Since we have sattelite technology now, I'm sure someone would of found it eventually, and with England's spirit of exploration and Portugals and Spains and Frances and the Dutch and others, it would be unlikely if we never found it, after all the Vikings got there first.

    Remember Erik The Red and Lief Erikson?
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2007
  19. Sure who could forget those intrepid seafarers with the horned hats. Landed right there in Minnesota. Some might argue that it had already been discovered what 30000 years (really don't recall) prior, by the first wave of several mass migrations coming by way of siberia, and later spreading both eastward and down into SA.
  20. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    Agreed, but does a lack of oppression automatically lead to prosperity? IMO, no - the government needs to be set up in such a way as to encourage, or at least get out of the way of, the economy.
    Agreed, but since in most developed nations, education through high school is provided by the government, doesn't that make the education gap an individual problem?
  21. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    Ok, that's more or less what I figured you were after.
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