Why Poverty is Mostly a Self-Inflicted Condition

For decades Americans have been told that the way to rid the nation of poverty is to redistribute wealth to the underclass. We’ve seen an increase in wealth redistribution since the Great Society anti-poverty programs of the 1960s under Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.

The amount of wealth redistribution in America today is staggering, and yet we still have an underclass, an underclass that is growing. Human nature comes into play for every economic transaction that takes place. People will do things for money. A change in moral perception determines what people will do for money.

Governments make it easy for people to do nothing for money. If a person doesn’t have to work for money, human nature says that in most cases a person will exert the least amount of effort to get the most money.

Governments take advantage of this principle by legalizing gambling and lotteries that they control.

Government wealth transfer programs also cater to the baser side of human nature. Liberals, who now self-label themselves “progressives,” take advantage of human nature by creating programs that make wealth transfer payments easy to get and only require the recipient to do one thing – vote to keep the “benefactor” in power.

The following paragraph from Business Week caught my eye:

“Researchers who have examined the challenge of spreading Internet access throughout the world usually focus on one of three general solutions. There’s satellite access, which tends to be slow, expensive, and doesn’t function well in high-density urban areas. There’s ground-based wireless broadband, the most conventional solution, but in some parts of the world the towers where you would mount broadband transmitters would be quickly scavenged and sold as scrap metal.

“And then there’s the unlikeliest but perhaps most promising approach: sending balloons mounted with broadband antennas into the stratosphere, where they can rain connectivity down from only 20 kilometers away.”

The first and third approaches keep the expensive equipment away from people who might steal it. In the early days of cable television, it was easy to steal programming. Cable and satellite companies have since devised ways to secure their signals. Those costs have been passed on to consumers.

The second option is the least expensive but the most difficult to implement because of human nature. People will steal the equipment for a short-term gain. Deferred gratification is a necessary character trait in order for cultures to advance. Morality is as well.

The ground-based wireless is also vulnerable to political despots. The same is true with foreign aid that rarely makes its way to the people for whom it was intended.

In his book The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization Vishal Mangalwadi shows how worldviews matter, and how it was the Christian worldview that created the idea of cultural exceptionalism. He begins by describing a 1982 conversation he had with a Sikh gentleman who was returning to England after visiting his parents in a Punjab village in northwest India.

He explained to Mangalwadi that doing business in England was easy and profitable. The man could not speak English very well, and yet he was a successful businessman. Mangalwadi wondered, “How could someone who spoke such poor English succeed as a businessman in England?” So I asked, “Tell me, sir, why is business so easy in England?” Without pausing, he answered, “Because everyone trusts you there.”

Later in the same chapter, Mangalwadi tells the story of the time that he and his Dutch host went to a dairy farm to get some milk. There was no one to greet them or take their money. He and his host opened the tap, filled the jug, put the money in a jar, and took their change. Here was Mangalwadi’s reaction:

“I couldn’t believe my eyes. ‘Man,’ I said, ‘if you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money!’ [His host] laughed. But in that instant, I understood what the Sikh businessman had been trying to tell me.”

Mangalwadi pulls all this together with an astute observation:

“How did ordinary Holland become so different from our people in India and Egypt? The answer is simple. The Bible taught the people of Holland that even though no human being may be watching us in that dairy farm, God, our ultimate judge, is watching to see if we obey His commands neither to covet nor steal. According to the Bible, ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account’ [Heb. 4:13].”

If you want to see cultures change, then it’s necessary to get to the root of the problem – a person’s worldview.