Michael Maiello's picture

    The Cause Of Poverty

    I can't say this enough, especially with regards to this where David Brooks tells us from up high that character defects cause poverty.  See, I know a lot of wealthy people who have character defects.  I know a lot of poor saintly types.  Most people fall somewhat in between on both matters of wealth and character.  But, here's the truth: we don't live in a world where people necessarily get what they deserve.  We don't even live in a world where we can say with certainty who deserves what.

    I know a centimillionaire who routinely stiffs her employees and contract workers.  She is actually publicly notorious for this.  She has serious character issues but they don't make her any less richer than Croesus.  If we accept that people can be rich in spite of their character flaws, we should not be so quick to say that people are poor because of them.

    Besides, I know the real cause of poverty.  Wait for it...

    Poverty is caused by a shortage of money.  Extreme poverty is caused by an extreme shortage of money.  Steve Martin once said that you can be a millionaire and never pay taxes.  "First," goes the joke, "get a million dollars."

    You can turn a poor person rich with the right lottery ticket, you know.

    But, says Brooks, when we give poor people money they just spend it and become poor again.  I am sure this happens.  It happens to people who earn money, too. Tales of fortunes won and lost are as old as storytelling. But let's not obfuscate the point.  If you want somebody not to be poor, then give them money.  If they lose all of that money and become poor again, give them money again.  Money, when present, absolutely cures poverty.

    What Brooks really means is not that he wants people not to be poor, he really means that he wants people to exhibit the character traits of workers and savers. Working and saving do no alleviate poverty.  Only the money earned and saved can do that.  So rather than worry about the character of the worker and saver, you have to worry about whether or not they are earning enough money to make saving worthwhile.

    Money.  It cures poverty.  Everything else is a distraction.




    I agree with everything you said here. However, I was taken aback by the term "centimillionaire". Merriam-Webster tells me it means "one whose wealth is estimated at one hundred million (as of dollars or pounds) or more", but as a scientist familiar with the metric system, I can't help but feel it should mean "one whose wealth is estimated at one hundredth of a million (as of dollars or pounds) or more", which of course wouldn't be very impressive. wink

    Edit to add: Of course, biologists have their centipedes (typically with "only" 30 or 34 legs), so what do I know?

    Yeah. It's more like a centidoubledecabillionaire MM. If you can't get the math straight people may think you're, sarcasm....as dimwitted as Brooks.

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