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Why the poor stay poor

John Stossel via House of Eratosthenes:

Of the 6 billion people on Earth, 2 billion try to survive on a few dollars a day. They don't build businesses, or if they do, they don't expand them.
Unlike people in the United States, Europe and Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, etc., they don't lift themselves out of poverty.

Why not? What's the difference between them and us? Hernando de Soto taught me that the biggest difference may be property rights.

I first met de Soto maybe 15 years ago. It was at one of those lunches where people sit around wondering how to end poverty. I go to these things because it bugs me that much of the world hasn't yet figured out what gave us Americans the power to prosper.

I go, but I'm skeptical. There sits de Soto, president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Peru, and he starts pulling pictures out showing slum dwellings built on top of each other. I wondered what they meant.

As de Soto explained: "These pictures show that roughly 4 billion people in the world actually build their homes and own their businesses outside the legal system. ... Because of the lack of rule of law (and) the definition of who owns what, and because they don't have addresses, they can't get credit (for investment loans)."

They don't have addresses?

"To get an address, somebody's got to recognize that that's where you live. That means ... you've a got mailing address. ... When you make a deal with someone, you can be identified. But until property is defined by law, people can't ... specialize and create wealth. The day they get title (is) the day that the businesses in their homes, the sewing machines, the cotton gins, the car repair shop finally gets recognized. They can start expanding."

That's the road to prosperity.

An intriguing assertion.  Read the whole thing and it might make better sense.

Or you could believe what Mike at Waving or Drowning seems to be asserting in his piece titled The Theology of The Lottery of Life:

My trick knee starts to ache when I hear people refer to the 'goodness' of their life--good job, kids, spouse, house, health, etc.--as God's blessings. It's always bothered me because if we consider these things as blessings from God, then what must we think about those who lack these same things? At best, must we consider that they're ignored or forgotten by God, and at worst, are they cursed?

As I said, this concept has bothered me for a long time, but the following images really drove the point home this week.

Save the Children have launched a piercing ad campaign called The Lottery of Life. (h/t to My Modern Met)

You can see some of those "piercing" images at the links provided but if I'm reading Mike's words correctly, words coming from a bonafide Religious Leftist, one's walk in life isn't so much defined by whether or not you're blessed (or using Mike's lexicon, cursed) but by whether or not you've hit it big in the lottery of life.  In other words, it's all about blind luck.  That's a hell of a thing to be believing in my view and seems to turn traditional Christian thinking on its ear.  Here's hoping I'm misunderstanding the man.



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Comments (11)

Interesting, the key to ris... (Below threshold)

Interesting, the key to rising out of poverty is property rights. Who'd have thunk it? Oh yeah...our Founding Fathers did!

And why do you think communism wants all property held in common? Because then all are equal in poverty?

I don't know about addresse... (Below threshold)

I don't know about addresses but I DO know the overwhelming majority of those living in squalor have a criminal government to thank for their lot. Only the ruling class has wealth in Marxist dictatorships. And the American taxpayer is forced to finance the majority of them.

At birth, most of us start ... (Below threshold)

At birth, most of us start out evenly. Then opportunity of birth weighs in. You may have more options - to use or squander. The one without the opportunities will have to work harder to overcome the circumstances of their birth. At this point, the political/social environment in which they live will have a profound effect on any future advances they might or might not make.

Economics as outlined in th... (Below threshold)

Economics as outlined in the Old Testament involves four things:

1) Acknowledgment that everything really belongs to God and we are only stewards of earthly wealth

2) An essential right to property, with equitable portions given out to each family unit/tribe

3) A system for ownership reassignment, back to the original families, of any land that is sold or leased, to be done every 50 years

4) Generosity toward the weakest or most easily exploited members of society, specifically widows, orphans, and foreigners; this also includes fairness in business transactions

And that's about it.

It's interesting how the concept of property rights is so essential to this system. It's also worth noting that only land had to be returned to its original owners; any other wealth that was honestly earned remained the property of its owner, with no mandatory "spreading the wealth around" or forced participation in a communal economy.

Both liberal and conservative Christians seem to lack a basic understanding of these principles.

I should of specified in #2... (Below threshold)

I should of specified in #2 above, equitable portions of land given out to each tribe (as assigned in the census described in Numbers 1).

I think lack of education i... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

I think lack of education is the biggest stumbling block for poor nations. If one can't read than theres not much reason for a mailing address. Without being able to read one also won't be able to fill out the most simplest forms required to start a business or obtain a loan.

The poor stay poor because ... (Below threshold)

The poor stay poor because of greedy power hungry elected fools like Berry Soterrible.

michael L- that's nice to k... (Below threshold)

michael L- that's nice to know but Christians like myself are not under the Old Testament covenant, maybe you heard that Jesus Christ came, died and rose again on the third day. We now have a New Covenant.

Whatever the causes of p... (Below threshold)
gaius piconius:

Whatever the causes of poverty, the solutions available in the US Constitution and the Bill of Right's are, without a doubt, ignored by the leaders of the world's impoverished masses. And with that as a warning I think it's very fair and timely to question the direction that Barackula's boy are taking your waning superpower.

Zaugg, I also heard that He... (Below threshold)

Zaugg, I also heard that He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. None of the principles I outlined in my comment were invalidated by Christ's death and resurrection. If you disagree, then by all means explain.

I think lack of ed... (Below threshold)
I think lack of education is the biggest stumbling block for poor nations

And I think that's a dumb idea espoused by dumb liberals who can't see past their own noses, and whose solution to every problem is to throw money at it. C'mon, seriously, what the hell good is an education to you if you either can't own land or property, or the government is corrupt and arbitrary and can simply take everything you own from you on a whim? Education is great, but it's value rests upon a foundation of freedom, security, and honest government that guarantees that what's yours will stay yours. The only thing an education may give you is the desire to get out of whatever hellhole you happen to be in and go somewhere else. Of course, that really doesn't solve the problem, but then, liberals aren't very good at solving problems, only exacerbating them.






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