Poverty

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Wissing
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Poverty

Post #1

Post by Wissing »

How can we alleviate poverty without causing harm in the process?

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ElCodeMonkey
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Re: Poverty

Post #2

Post by ElCodeMonkey »

[Replying to Wissing]

Can you give examples of how alleviating poverty would harm? This almost sounds like asking how we can eat a sandwich without making forks. Perhaps the real question is how to alleviate poverty as opposed to responding to its existence by giving handouts? Giving someone $5 isn't alleviating poverty. Having something reproducible to sell that others actually want or else being self-sufficient is how to alleviate poverty. So if we can figure out how to provide those things and make it self replicating so that others don't also become impoverished... Now that's a difficult task. One worth discussing though. Perhaps build a Walmart and McDonald's everywhere :-)
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Re: Poverty

Post #3

Post by Danmark »

[Replying to post 2 by ElCodeMonkey]

Wissing started this topic as a follow up to a debate we were having at
http://debatingchristianity.com/forum/v ... 871#655871
"1st Church of Jesus Christ, Atheist," where we agreed that simply giving away money might be harmful due to unintended consequences, one of which is that it provides an incentive to avoid work, or at least makes it possible for one to avoid employment, productivity, education or self development.

What I think he and I agree on is that we want to help the impoverished but to do not want to create a culture of dependence. This thread is an effort to discuss how best to help the poor without encouraging unwanted and negative unintended consequences.

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Post #4

Post by Wissing »

Hey, I can in fact provide examples of how attempts at poverty alleviation cause harm. All you have to do is read the book "When Helping Hurts" by Brian Fikkert, in which he enumerates plenty of examples, and provides solutions. It's actually where I got the idea for this thread.

But it looks like you already answered your own question... giving handouts is one way to cause harm - in certain contexts. Fikkert, in chapter 1, describes in elaborate detail the error he made while on a mission trip in Uganda. He saved a woman's life by paying for her medical treatment. He says it caused harm in the long run, because the onus is on the local community to care for its people. He shouldn't have given her the money, he says - although he did save her life, her neighbor could have done that task instead - and would have, if he hadn't been there.

I've seen that first-hand. I myself approved and oversaw a home repair project that I still regret to this day. We spent a lot of money repairing a home, and the family there was basically just using us. We wasted a lot of money that could have been used elsewhere. The bigger problem was that, had we not been available, the guy there would have been forced to do the work himself - he had both the means and the knowhow to do it. Instead, he did nothing but sleep and watch TV the whole time we were there. Last I heard, he's still knocking on the door of that organization, trying to milk it for all it's worth.

So yes, job creation is part of it, I suppose... but again... how? There are a lot of unappreciated details that I'm not sure people really get, until they actually try to solve the problem. What's your experience? Got any ideas you've already tried? (I don't want to envision a world where our subsistence depends on McDonalds and Walmart)

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Post #5

Post by Danmark »

[Replying to post 4 by Wissing]

It would be helpful to say who you are addressing with this post.

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Post #6

Post by Wissing »

Sorry, I was responding via phone, and it only showed ElCodeMonkey's post for some reason. I was replying to his. But yes, I agree that the goal is to help the impoverished without creating a culture of dependence.

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Post #7

Post by ElCodeMonkey »

I've given this a lot of thought, personally. I once spent 40 days pretty much doing nothing but hanging out with the homeless people in our area in order to understand their true needs. It was enlightening, but all together disappointing. Most of them simply didn't have the mental capacity to do much else. It was almost like high school for old folks. Tons of drama for retarded junk. Perhaps poverty brought them to that point over time, but I'm not sure there was much left to do but the bare minimum of keeping them alive. Others were legitimately clinically insane and yet running our streets. Still others were indeed capable it would seem but were merely mooching off the system.

In the end, my take-home lesson was that we can't alleviate poverty with some kind of program. We can't just make an organization and expect to band together and "give" something. What these people need are friends and family. They need to be individually taken in, cared for, and mentored. They need examples of good and happy people. They need to learn what it is to live a good life. For many of them it will all be in vain. For others, it might help a little. I put forth effort into one of the hundred or so homeless people in our area. I befriended him. I took him places. I did stuff with him. Eventually, I dropped him off at a friend's house who decided he could stay with him and help them with their garbage pickup business. I have no idea where he is now, but hopefully it helped.

Did I dent poverty? Hardly. But I did dent a single person's life. Two if you count my own. Alleviating poverty is going to take a heck of a lot of time to accomplish and it's not going to be the idea of one or two people. It's going to be the collection of people in the world with a mental shift toward loving one another and caring for one another. We can each only help a few. So personally, I would put forth effort into determining how to encourage others to do likewise. To help those in need. It's a difficult task to even do it, let alone get others to do it. But to me, that's the only way. People need to care. And the only way I can think to encourage people to care, is to start caring about them without the expectation that you're going to change them. We need to make friends. Close friends. And then go and do that stuff with them. We need to befriend people and teach them to befriend people. That's all I can ever seem to come up with.
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Post #8

Post by Danmark »

ElCodeMonkey wrote: I've given this a lot of thought, personally. I once spent 40 days pretty much doing nothing but hanging out with the homeless people in our area in order to understand their true needs. It was enlightening, but all together disappointing. Most of them simply didn't have the mental capacity to do much else. It was almost like high school for old folks. Tons of drama for retarded junk. Perhaps poverty brought them to that point over time, but I'm not sure there was much left to do but the bare minimum of keeping them alive. Others were legitimately clinically insane and yet running our streets. Still others were indeed capable it would seem but were merely mooching off the system.

In the end, my take-home lesson was that we can't alleviate poverty with some kind of program. We can't just make an organization and expect to band together and "give" something. What these people need are friends and family. They need to be individually taken in, cared for, and mentored. They need examples of good and happy people. They need to learn what it is to live a good life. For many of them it will all be in vain. For others, it might help a little. I put forth effort into one of the hundred or so homeless people in our area. I befriended him. I took him places. I did stuff with him. Eventually, I dropped him off at a friend's house who decided he could stay with him and help them with their garbage pickup business. I have no idea where he is now, but hopefully it helped.

Did I dent poverty? Hardly. But I did dent a single person's life. Two if you count my own. Alleviating poverty is going to take a heck of a lot of time to accomplish and it's not going to be the idea of one or two people. It's going to be the collection of people in the world with a mental shift toward loving one another and caring for one another. We can each only help a few. So personally, I would put forth effort into determining how to encourage others to do likewise. To help those in need. It's a difficult task to even do it, let alone get others to do it. But to me, that's the only way. People need to care. And the only way I can think to encourage people to care, is to start caring about them without the expectation that you're going to change them. We need to make friends. Close friends. And then go and do that stuff with them. We need to befriend people and teach them to befriend people. That's all I can ever seem to come up with.
That's refreshing. And it dovetails with my own experience. 40 or so years ago our various State, local and Federal governments made a conscious decision to cut down on the number of people who live in various institutions. That resulted in more people [the same people] being either in jails or homeless.

As you say, many of these folks at best have marginal personal resources. They are too difficult to supervise as workers, to justify employing them. But, as you say, there is a percentage that benefit from individual assistance. The difficulty is sorting out who is who. Years ago the social scientists agreed that approximately 2% of the population will be impoverished no matter what we do. We need to accept that, and simply give them assistance while expecting nothing in return except their health and a slightly elevated comfort level. Above that 2% we need individualized programs, including volunteers, who lead them to self sufficiency.

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Post #9

Post by ElCodeMonkey »

[Replying to post 8 by Danmark]

I couldn't agree more. It's a shame, however, that most organizations create all-encompassing rules and prevent that kind of individual selection process. Seems like we really need to get insane asylums back though just to keep the people off the streets. I would also not be too offended by a selective euthanasia, but I might worry about abuse as to who really needs it :-P.
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Post #10

Post by Goat »

ElCodeMonkey wrote: I've given this a lot of thought, personally. I once spent 40 days pretty much doing nothing but hanging out with the homeless people in our area in order to understand their true needs. It was enlightening, but all together disappointing. Most of them simply didn't have the mental capacity to do much else. It was almost like high school for old folks. Tons of drama for retarded junk. Perhaps poverty brought them to that point over time, but I'm not sure there was much left to do but the bare minimum of keeping them alive. Others were legitimately clinically insane and yet running our streets. Still others were indeed capable it would seem but were merely mooching off the system.

In the end, my take-home lesson was that we can't alleviate poverty with some kind of program. We can't just make an organization and expect to band together and "give" something. What these people need are friends and family. They need to be individually taken in, cared for, and mentored. They need examples of good and happy people. They need to learn what it is to live a good life. For many of them it will all be in vain. For others, it might help a little. I put forth effort into one of the hundred or so homeless people in our area. I befriended him. I took him places. I did stuff with him. Eventually, I dropped him off at a friend's house who decided he could stay with him and help them with their garbage pickup business. I have no idea where he is now, but hopefully it helped.

Did I dent poverty? Hardly. But I did dent a single person's life. Two if you count my own. Alleviating poverty is going to take a heck of a lot of time to accomplish and it's not going to be the idea of one or two people. It's going to be the collection of people in the world with a mental shift toward loving one another and caring for one another. We can each only help a few. So personally, I would put forth effort into determining how to encourage others to do likewise. To help those in need. It's a difficult task to even do it, let alone get others to do it. But to me, that's the only way. People need to care. And the only way I can think to encourage people to care, is to start caring about them without the expectation that you're going to change them. We need to make friends. Close friends. And then go and do that stuff with them. We need to befriend people and teach them to befriend people. That's all I can ever seem to come up with.
I know some people who 'mooched' off the system, I know a couple of more that , well, they have disabilities you can't see on the surface, so many think they 'mooch' , when actually they don't have the capacity. I know more than a couple that just had bad circumstances, and a bit of help got them on their feet and at least able to take care of themselves.

What do you do with people who , no fault of their own, do not have the mental facility to take care of themselves? What do you do with the people who are mentally ill? They are more than just discards.. they are people.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

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