Poverty Every Day Term Paper

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Poverty

Every day, according to the United Nations, about 30,000 people die because they are too poor to stay alive. Through its Millennium Development Goals, the U.N. pledged to help halve world poverty by 2015. Yet, is this possible? Hasn't the world always had those who were poor at the expense of those who had more? Scholars such as economist John Galbraith have argued that change is doable with a variety of different approaches. Poverty can also be reduced considerably if not eliminated entirely if there is a united effort. The question is what will it take to mount this united effort?

According to the economist Adam Smith (1790), poverty is the lack of necessities that a country's custom renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. For Nobel laureate Amartya Sen (1981), poverty is a state when people cannot participate appropriately in communal activities, or be free of public shame from failure to satisfy conventions. Given these definitions, poverty is nothing new to humankind in the past or present day.

From the earliest of times, some people were without the necessities or shamed because of their impoverished condition. Thousands of years ago, the Bible stated: "...there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised" (Deuteronomy 15:4-6): Yet, even this religious text admitted: "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land" (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). These words were written 1450 B.C., over 3,500 years ago.

Poverty in great numbers naturally came with the development of larger communities. Although people began living together in towns and cities for their overall betterment, this also aggravated poverty. Agriculture, itself, created a division of have and have nots of people with wealth, extravagance, and bureaucracy vs. those who were enslaved, deprived, and impoverished. Today, despite the fact that many claim that poverty is lessening, such as the statistics noted in the World Development Indicators 2008 this still leaves an estimated 985 million people living in extreme poverty. These numbers vary considerably depending on the part of the world. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 298 million people were living in extreme poverty in 2004, about the same number as at the turn of the century. The report also finds that over the past ten years, poverty reduction was not always commensurate with income growth. Inequality worsened in some countries and regions worldwide over the past decade, as poor people did not enjoy the impact of economic expansion due to limited or a lack of job opportunities, education or health.

Poverty cannot be eradicated until there is agreement on the underlying causes of the problem. Yet, it is easy to see that there is no overall concurrence among scholars or agencies dealing with poverty concerning the basic reasons. The causes of poverty vary from the lack of sharing of the wealthy with the economically poor to blaming the poor themselves for not doing enough to better their lives. Some feel that poverty is the result of inadequate global resources as land, food, and building materials. Others point to the unequal resource distribution of resources. There are those who blame war, which time and time again has been shown to lower the quality of life for the inhabitants. Still others say that the differences are geographical or environmental, where the external environment supports or diminishes the chance of success.

In the early 1950s, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who was either recognized as a guru or a renegade not to be believed or trusted, taught one of the first university classes on economic development in the United States. The course was motivated by."..the considerable number of students at Harvard from poor countries who were studying the sophisticated and, for them, often irrelevant models of the modern advanced economy" (Galbraith 1994, p.161).

For Galbraith and others of the original institutional economics tradition, a shortage of natural resources was not necessarily the leading cause of uneven development and poverty. This was exemplified by the rapid expansion of the poor economies of Japan and Taiwan and, in contrast, the relative poverty of the rich area of West Virginia. Instead, he said, one cannot point to one leading reason for poverty of individuals and nations. It is the result of many causes -- perhaps the lack is in public administration, education and healthcare accessibility, the reduction of growth of agriculture by feudal landlords, inadequate or inappropriate investment, or even, most likely, a combination of all these factors and even more. Thus, to reduce poverty takes a number of different measures.

Galbraith believed there existed no foreseeable escape from the equilibrium of poverty and saw the benefits of acting as quickly as possible. Development, he argued (1962, p.18), "becomes easier the farther it proceeds." He envisioned a world where the more developed nations are continually widening their advantage over those that follow behind. True to Galbraith's words, recently, in the U.S., studies show that the division between the upper and lower class has been widening. A Forbes (Miller, 2006) article warns: "The widening chasm between rich and poor may well threaten our democracy." Why is this so? Galbraith (1962, p.18) stressed that without public administration, it is hard to develop, and without teachers, it is hard to launch an educational system. "Saving and accumulation are exceedingly painful in a poor country."

For Galbraith, education and other investments in human capital were a necessary prerequisite to other investments. Modern industry requires a well-educated and well-trained workforce. "Literate people will see the need for getting machines. It is not so clear that machines will see the need for getting literate people. So under most circumstances, popular education must have priority over the dams, factories, and other furniture of capital development" (1964, p.42-43).

Galbraith also noted that agriculture was a dominant factor in the poorest of nations. Across the world, extreme poverty is rural poverty. Changes cannot be made without widespread educational opportunities: "...nowhere in the world is there an illiterate peasantry that is progressive. Nowhere is there a literate peasantry that is not." Thus, for Galbraith and others, such as Charles Ayers, eliminating poverty required different strategies in an especially diverse community of nations.

In the Theory of Economic Progress (1962) Ayres noted that the pace of a society's advance is motivated by cumulative technological evolution. Technology is much more than tools; it encompasses human skills and ideas necessary to make these tools for instrumental purposes and on the flexibility of the institutional setting. The amount of institutional opposition is based on five ceremonial features: social stratification; a system of conventions, or mores; the potency of magical beliefs or ideology; the emotional conditioning of socialization; and the mystical rites and ceremonies that codify and intensify the institutional patterns of behavior (p.viii). In his most well-known words, Ayres wrote, "Thus what happens to any society is determined jointly by the forward urging of its technology and the backward pressure of its ceremonial system" (Ayres 1962, ix).

More recently, Stephen Smith's book, How to Help the Poor out of Poverty (2005), also includes scenarios on how poverty can only be eradicated by a variety of different approaches. He stresses the important role that the government, the private business sector and the citizenry need to play. He also emphasizes the importance of nongovernmental organizations and private corporations, in addition to the need to empower poor nations as they attempt to embark on… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Poverty Every Day.  (2008, June 8).  Retrieved December 13, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/poverty-every-day-according-united/550836

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"Poverty Every Day."  Essaytown.com.  June 8, 2008.  Accessed December 13, 2019.
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