Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Poverty and How to Reduce It

Poverty is on the rise in France, and has been so since 2002, although the main article manages to compare this favorably with the state of poverty in the United States.

Meanwhile, Jim Klauder reports that ignorance shrouds capitalism's profound impact on reducing poverty (merci à RV).

Amazingly, the World Bank report [noting that growth in 2004 reflected "an expansion without precedent over the past 30 years" and that "the rapid growth of developing economies ... has produced a spectacular, if not historic, fall in poverty"] did not get much coverage in our mainstream media. It seems the press was more interested in covering the evils of globalization than in taking notice of how world trade — which grew by an astounding 10.2 percent this year — is driving economic growth.

…One big reason people in more advanced societies are able to enjoy a more comfortable existence is that they are able to purchase items by going into debt. Americans take that for granted. Any person living in absolute poverty would love to trade positions with any one of us and walk in our shoes — to have a job and be able to borrow money for a car or a home.

(In other economic news, the Washington Times' Andrew Borowiec reports that Europe's 'locomotive' is losing steam; Le Monde's Alain Beuve-Méry and Catherine Rollot explain how, with only an employment rate of only 63.2% (compared with 75.1% for Denmark), France is eyeing its EU partners with envy; and Gerontologist Françoise Forette speaks to BusinessWeek's Gail Edmondson about how older workers can stay productive and how France is falling behind in that regard.)

In any case, David R Henderson explains (the text below is slightly transformed from his Joy of Freedom) that the basic ways of calculating the poverty index lead to bogus conclusions;

a number of economists have said the percentages are misleading because, first of all, they come from comparisons — if a portion of the population beomes richer (because the overall economy has improved), the poverty percentage will increase, but that doesn't mean the "poor" are poorer or worse off — the individual families or the individuals don't have less wealth in real terms. They either have not moved at all or their lot has improved, but because it has improved at a slower rate than that of the rich, the percentage (and the poverty index) will seem to have worsened.

Speaking of real terms leads us to the second conclusion,which is that in any case, those who fit into the category of "poor" [in the United States] are far richer, and far better off, than the poor in Turkey or Greece — even though the percentages (i.e., the comparisons) are more "just" or "equal" [ah, l'égalité!] in those countries. The state of the poor in countries like France and Denmark will also be better than that of Turkey and Greece, although the lot of the poor in America may, in turn, be better than that of their Western European brethren.

So what, fundamentally, is the basic difference between America and France (along with Europe)?

The difference is that Americans are egoistical, treacherous, and hard-hearted, and the slightest event that can be twisted to be seemingly provide evidence of their deepest sins and sinfulness must be exploited to its fullest.

Meanwhile, the French are generous, wise, tolerant, visionary, solidaires, lucides, and any example to the contrary is simply an exception to the rule of general benevolence. Better yet: the very fact that they are willing to speak of their own weaknesses is tribute to their all-encompassing kindheartedness and humanity, to be contrasted with the blindness of people living in a capitalist system like America…

See, everything rests on the person's (I should say the people's) character, intent, and inherent goodness or lack thereof.

And evidence to the contrary will be quickly marginalized…

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