Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Poor be Damned!?

The other day while listening to another well-meaning politician sprout foibles on the eradication of poverty, I was struck by the lack of solutions in his speech. This phenomenon is common whenever politicians or people get-together to source solutions to an ever-present, and growing, social ailment.

This lack of presentable solutions is more of an ill than the whole poverty paradox. Poverty is solvable. The problem arises mostly from the reality that solutions are money based and that in itself, will require a mindset change by the way many think about money.

Money or even the mention thereof is a taboo in most languages. Yes, most will talk freely about other peoples money, but their own is a guarded secret.

Many, when confronted by poverty, will jump on the get-a-job horse. Others will look the other way. Some will put some pennies into the begging-tin and drive off in a rush. Few will attempt to come up with short term solutions (meals-on-wheels, shelters, charity drives, etc) but find themselves alone in the fight-to-eradicate-poverty.

There have been many workable solutions put forward by thinking individuals on changing the way society views and thinks about money:

1) The National Dividend. This was invented by engineer C. H. Douglas and has been revived by Ezra Pound and designer Buckminster Fuller. The basic idea is that every citizen should be declared a shareholder in the nation, and should receive dividends on the Gross National Product for the year.

2) The Guaranteed Annual Income. This has been encouraged by economist Robert Theobald and others. The government would simply establish an income level above the poverty line and guarantee that no citizen would receive less. This plan would cost the government less than the present welfare systems, with all its bureaucratic red tape and redundancy factors.

3) The Negative Income Tax. This was first devised by Nobel economist Milton Friedman. The Negative Income Tax would establish a minimum income for every citizen; anyone whose income fell below that level would receive the amount necessary to bring them up to that standard. Again this would cost "the government" less than the present welfare systems. It would also dispense with the last tinge of humiliation associated with government "charity," since when you cashed a check from IRS nobody would know if it was supplementary income or a refund.

My take on the whole eradication of poverty is a simple one.

In South Africa we have a Lotto entity that pays out huge amounts of money in a given year (In excess of 50 Million Rand.) With an estimated population of 50 million persons, a conservative disbursement of 250 thousand Rand per person would elevate all to a liveable economic level and rid the SA society of the terms poverty, poor and the-poor-of-the-poor in an instant

From the outset, my avaricious money-based common-sense screamed louder than a wailing ambulance siren: the rich would get richer, many would stop working thus creating economic chaos, employers would loose their power over their remaining employees, politicians would not be happy, inflation would shoot sky high, the money markets would suffer, what about the work ethic (did not the ancients say that one needs to work to acquire wealth,) how would the disbursement work, who would oversee the disbursement process, etc, etc, etc.

On the other hand, would people not revert to doing what they enjoy doing, would not their creative potential rise to the fore collectively, etc?

As the global situation stands, the human race future looks bleak. To survive longer than its nose, it needs to elevate itself above clich├ęs of old, do away with wage slavery, embrace humanity and move forward to a co-operative mind-set for the good of all.

Alas, I feel that humanity will remain doomed.

(with thanks to Robert Anton Wilson)

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