Enlightened Capitalism

Essays about how to harness people's natural desire to create wealth and improve their quality of life to solve global problems such as war and poverty.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Solution To Poverty Is Wealth

The Solution To Poverty Is Wealth
In this essay I enquire into why poverty persists in spite of the best efforts of thousands of dedicated people and organisations to eliminate it, and describe a way that ordinary people like you and me could actually succeed where others have failed.

What Is Poverty?
Poverty is the lack of the following human goods:

1. Security
Security is the belief in a bright future; or in other words, the knowledge that bad things are not going to happen to us.

People seek security in many ways, such as: fleeing corrupt governments, getting a steady job, storing up money in a safe place, moving away from crime, having a strong army, police force, and emergency response services, eating healthy and following medical advice, seeking education and career training, voting for incumbents, making smalltalk with neighbors, locking doors and windows, filtering the water, hiding valuables, buying insurance, working hard, planning ahead, maintaining good credit, putting up walls, fences, and barbed wire, and making sure our friends are more powerful than our enemies.

Of course, since security is a belief about the future, it doesn’t really require doing any of those things listed above. Anyone, rich or poor, can believe in a bright future, and feel safe in the knowledge that bad things are not going to happen to them. (If this sounds new to you, I recommend attending a free introduction to the Landmark Forum in a city near you – check out www.landmarkeducation.com). So there doesn’t have to be any correlation between security and government, health, friends, money, privacy, education, career, or housing.

Still, there exist high crime neighborhoods, with unusually high concentrations of people with below average security. These people typically experience higher unemployment and higher turnover at work, as tenants they are more frequently evicted, they are more likely to be laid off, denied employment & housing, attacked, stolen from, injured on or off the job, falsely (or justifiably) accused, arrested, convicted, incarcerated, drafted, and killed.

We can’t blame them for feeling insecure, even though the source of their insecurity is actually their own beliefs about the future. The simplest way to alter their beliefs about the future is to reduce the crime in these neighborhoods, boost the economy, and raise the quality of life. While this may not wholly eliminate insecurity (which exists in safe neighborhoods too), it does eliminate this facet of poverty, by neutralising the abnormally high levels of insecurity in distressed communities.

2. Health
Like security, health is something available to everyone who makes healthy choices. The government, medical associations, and other groups have had much success with advertising and educational programs aimed at raising public health and awareness. Messages about nutrition, dental hygeine, drinking and driving, smoking, and sexually transmitted diseases have successfully altered mass behavior and enhanced the public health.

And yet there are concentrations of people with unhealthier than average lifestyles, which is a condition of poverty. As a group, these people have more frequent and severe health problems, and are less likely to receive adequate medical care. Their nutritional choices are limited, compared to their wealthier neighbors, they are more likely to be injured, and they are more likely to be exposed to hazardous chemicals and extremely unhealthy lifestyles.

The simplest way to eliminate the condition of poverty resulting from a concentration of people making unhealthy choices is to directly target the community with educational and motivational messages which inspire them to make healthier choices. This will be most effective when done alongside the other actions described here.

3. Education
Commonly seen as the way out of poverty, the quality & variety of education available to the poor is lower than that available to other groups.

The solution to this is easier than it might seem, because the system of education used by the majority of wealthy people is itself still rather primitive, compared to what could be made available. What is needed is for someone with an open mind to take an interest in each child, and guide them through a course of study and training that matches his or her natural talents and inclinations. This would necessarily involve exposure to many fields and disciplines, and would produce far superior educational results than what we are used to.

The simplest way to implement such a program is to create a pilot with a handful of new teachers, and select children at random to participate. Publish the methodology along with the results not only to educators, but to every parent. Show them how they can take their kids’ destinies into their own hands.

4. Freedom
Freedom is a belief in possibilities rather than in limitations. While this in fact has nothing to do with money or politics, there is a widespread belief that it does, which is to some extent self-fulfilling.

There are residential concentrations of people who feel disenfranchised, unrepresented, and uninvolved in their government. These people often feel inequipped to stop others from polluting their air, water, land, and soundwaves. They experience less freedom of movement within and across national boundaries. And they are less likely to start their own businesses, pursue their chosen careers, enjoy high quality entertainment, or take advantage of all the transportation options available.

The simplest way to mitigate this situation is to demonstrate to the residents of these neighborhoods the realisation of new possibilities. Virtually anything new will work to inspire people to begin considering change from the status quo. The most effective demonstrations are of things that seem totally out of place in the status quo, such as people voluntarily picking up trash, and residents upgrading their houses and yards in a way not customary in the neighborhood.

What Poverty Is Not
Poverty is Not the condition of having annual income below “the poverty line”. Millions of wealthy individuals have incomes below the poverty line for various reasons (including avoidance of income tax), and many people living in poverty have incomes above the poverty line. Income is not an accurate measure of wealth and is not the determining factor in eliminating poverty.

The Solution
The difference between the amount of wealth people create or bring in and the amount they destroy or consume each day is the factor which determines whether an economic entity such as a neighborhood is getting better or worse.

To reduce poverty we must cause a shift in behavior such that people consistently create more wealth than they destroy or consume. Focusing on anything else besides causing that shift in behavior will not reduce poverty. This is why impressive efforts like those of the Department of Social Services, the St Vincent de Paul Society, United Way, Mother Teresa, and programs like Feed the World, though admirable and in many cases beneficial, have not eradicated poverty.

Now, there are many different ways to change behavior. One of the strongest motivators is the desire to look good (and avoid looking bad) in front of others. This is the primary reason people behave outwardly so well in “nice” neighborhoods (and in theatres, churches, and supermarkets). In distressed neighborhoods, to avoid confrontation, people learn to look the other way, and then those who want to behave badly can do so with no one watching. Those with higher standards of behavior are the first to leave, rather than complain without the support of the community, which creates a vicious cycle.

What is missing is people paying attention. So we do something that grabs their attention; like paint our house bright yellow, introduce ourselves to all the neighbors, and request that they help keep the street clean. As more and more neighbors follow suit and beautify their properties, keeping up appearances becomes a question of pride, and ugly behavior feels more conspicuous.

To do this on a grand scale, we take advantage of the fact that when a neighborhood changes in this way, the quality of life goes up, which causes a rise in the price of real estate. By buying into the neighborhoods we want to work in, we can pay for the whole operation with the appreciation in real estate values which we cause. Thus we are not forced to rely on volunteers, but can hire dedicated employees to systematically transform neighborhoods in such a way that eliminates poverty.

How You Can ParticipateTo be part of this solution, all you have to do is invest in real estate in cooperation with us. There are many ways to do this, from something as simple as buying a bond to something as complicated as purchasing, rehabilitating, and managing investment properties. To learn more, go to www.affinityneighborhoods.com, or email us at info#affinityneighborhoods.com (replace “#” with “@”).

Please respond and tell me your thoughts.

-dav

2 Comments:

  • At 12:38 pm, Blogger tanja said…

    Dave,

    I want to write an article on you for a Magazine! Email me at janetandchip@aol.com if you're interested.

     
  • At 3:36 am, Blogger Dr Savi Arora said…

    Looks good.
    How about a mutual Blog link?
    Good to hear from you.
    Did u get my email from my 'under construction' personal web site?
    I tried to email you direct but couldn't connect?
    The great thing about your article is that it suggests positive and effective steps, in a world where its easy to both debate and intellectualise issues.
    Best Regards

     

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