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Is poverty curable?

  1. Aug 7, 2011 #1
    Giving humanitarian food aid to a poor family in a country such as Somolia and Sudan does not cure poverty, it simply allows them to reproduce offspring which suffer in the same condition resulting in more hunger and more pain.

    While this is unpalatable and not what we want to hear, it is a legitimate point.

    What is your thought on this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2011 #2
    You can give someone food, medicine, clothes, a house, and a vehicle. But unless they have a the means to grow more food, wash the clothes, pay utilities, and afford gas and maintenance - have you really achieved anything?

    The growth from poverty to prosperity is typically not instantaneous - it requires work, savings, and building one step at a time. At this point, Somalia needs to focus more on growing food and less on guns and warfare - IMO.
  4. Aug 7, 2011 #3
    exactly. giving someone the means to get themselves out of poverty (not easy) will solve the problem. but having poor people being dependent day-to-day on food aid will not.

    it is a very complex problem, and unless there is any major scientific revelation, it will still exist in 1000 years, because that's how population growth works.

    even in the united states, this is a problem. welfare is given to poor people and they are able to have more children than they normally would (especially with child tax credits). now, a poor family can have 4 children if they can only afford 1. and then those children grow up on weflare, and they may have their children on welfare. so, it's a neverending cycle.

    same thing with breeding. having people with severe heart problems breed only results in more severe heart problems.
  5. Aug 7, 2011 #4
    It's my (casual) understanding the majority of the farmland in Somalia is controlled by a few Government officials and warlords - are you familiar?
  6. Aug 7, 2011 #5
    yes, i am. but i'm not limiting this to somolia or even talking about military/civilwar dictatorships.

    i'm talking about poverty in general.
  7. Aug 7, 2011 #6
    It's your thread, but it might be more productive to focus the discussion a bit - unless you care to accept military, war lords, and gang violence as being (basically) the same type of problem to the oppressed community?
  8. Aug 7, 2011 #7
    Now that we've been moved - let me ask this question jduster. Do you think it's appropriate to define "poverty" differently - based upon where it's located or relevant to the surroundings? Or (as I prefer) should the measure of "poverty" be more precise - like a ph scale?
  9. Aug 7, 2011 #8
    I agree that that's the case in certain countries such as the ones you mention.

    Wrt the thread title, I think poverty is curable, at least the sort of abject poverty where people are homeless and starving. Eg., there's no necessary poverty of that sort in the US.

    Curing large scale poverty requires several things that some countries might never have. Among those things are 1) the political will to do it, 2) adequate infrastructure, 3) a strong government that can keep order, 4) natural resources, etc.

    Regions of abject poverty do have lots of cheap labor which is attractive to companies all over the world.
  10. Aug 8, 2011 #9


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    I'd like to point out that humanitarian aid is not just a treatment for poverty, it is also in response to disaster. Any country regardless of how rich it is (and how well the wealth is spread) has the potential to suffer some sort of natural disaster like the famine seen in somalia.

    The reason we still have poverty is because we have not developed any kind of legal, economic, political or social system that can self-regulate wealth disparity and access to resources.
  11. Aug 8, 2011 #10
    I'm not sure what type of "legal, economic, political or social system that can self-regulate wealth disparity and access to resources" system you desire? Perhaps the UN should be held more accountable for results?

    To your point, $Billions of aid have been poured into Haiti before and after their natural disaster. Reports indicated many supplies and some equipment were stopped at the point of entry and unused. Last week, there were reports of people still living in the temporary shelters fearing the weather.

    How would you apply your system to this problem - remember the story of leading the horse to water? The government mismanagement is only part of the problem - how does one sit in a tent for 2 years waiting for someone else to do something for them?

    Personally, if subjected to the same problem set, I (most likely) would have gathered enough rubble (a handful at a time) to build myself a better structure by now.
  12. Aug 8, 2011 #11


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    The human condition.
    There are those that can and do.
    Then there are those that can but won't.
    Then those that that can't but want to.
    And those that want to but don't know how.
  13. Aug 8, 2011 #12
    Accordingly, there will always be people that don't help themselves either because they won't or can't.
  14. Aug 8, 2011 #13


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    Aid must be dispense carefully. Although, I've not studied how the aid is currently distributed to countries, I don't think it can be given directly to consumers as that just increases their income levels, and thus their demand increase, and increases in demand will lead to increases in price. I am familiar with similar effects with remittances. Remittances are capital send back from expatriates to their families in the home country. In this case, it has a similar effect of bloating the budget of local consumers, which leads to an increase in consumption without the local production being able to catch up. This disequilibrium of demand-supply may lead to a financial crisis. Note that either the consumers spend all (demand higher than production) or if consumers save a significant outside the country (the production will contract) amount may have different averse effects. This has a colloquial term known as "Living beyond its means" or for the other case is "resource flight".

    I did some search using google scholar, there are some interesting papers regarding economic growth and foreign aid effects.
  15. Aug 8, 2011 #14


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    William Easterly has done some of the most thoughtful and skeptical analysis of foreign aid and economic development

    http://williameasterly.org/media/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  16. Aug 9, 2011 #15


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    You misunderstand, I have no idea what kind of system was work and I have never been presented with one that I thought would cure poverty in a decent way. I was highlighting the fields in which I think progress will have to be made to give rise to such a system.
  17. Aug 10, 2011 #16
    I was reading recently about the many thousands of starving Somalis trying to make their way to refugee camps in Kenya.

    There's not much that can be done, because it's their own people who are brutalizing them and preventing humanitarian aid from getting to those who need it most.
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