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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Make Poverty History


There are three groups of people in this world. The Well-to-do, the Destitute, and the ones on the fence who could go either way. The quickest, easiest, and surest way to sustainably help the destitute is to prevent the ones on the fence from joining their ranks. We can shrink the problem down to something readily solvable by a handful of activists without requiring government cooperation, if we tip the mass of borderline cases to become sustainable wealth producers.

Global injustices such as poverty, AIDS, malnutrition, conflict and illiteracy stem from the ongoing behaviors of billions of people. Reducing their severity requires changing behaviors.

World leaders are elected by their own citizens and have no mandate to help foreigners. It is foolish to rely on their leadership in reducing global poverty, disease, or environmental degradation. By the same token, a small, well-organized group of dedicated individuals can successfully lead the world out of this situation.

World poverty is sustained by a combination of behaviors resulting in certain groups producing and keeping less wealth than they consume, on a daily, monthly, and annual basis. If borderline cases were tipped to the positive side, there would be more wealth to go around, and more examples for poor people to follow for bettering their situation.

Governments around the world do a tremendous amount of good, along with a fair amount of harm, making and enforcing trade policies and other economic decisions. The same goes for corporations, small business owners, and individuals. It is good to point out where things are broken, but it is also important to actually implement improvements that don’t depend on the agreement of people who may never agree until it is too late.

2006 offers an exceptional series of opportunities for us to take a lead internationally, to start turning things around.

A sea change is needed. By mobilising popular support across a unique string of events and actions, we will obviate government conservativism and create the conditions under which the problems will begin to solve themselves. This requires rethinking some long-held assumptions.

We urge humanitarians, environmentalists, business owners, and all who are concerned about the future of life on this planet to rise to the challenge of 2006. We are calling for urgent and meaningful action on seven critical and inextricably linked areas: housing, employment, food, energy, pollution, transportation, and education.

•Publish an international standard for decent human living conditions and measure all neighborhoods, villages, towns, and cities against the standard.
•Where residents do not own their living quarters, force landlords to upgrade the properties to meet the minimum standards. Offer low interest loans and loan guarantees to encourage renters to become owners.
•Where residents own their own home and it does not meet the standards for decent living conditions, fund educational programs in trades and offer financial assistance to upgrade properties to meet standards.
•Implement policies which discourage commuting long distances to work, phasing in a requirement that employers provide sufficient local housing for their employees.
•Purchase and renovate, or cause to be purchased and renovated, all unused buildings that could provide decent housing.

The first hallmark of poverty is inadequate housing, and inadequate housing has an ongoing negative impact on residents, tending to trap them in a downward economic spiral.

•Provide results oriented employment assistance centers online and within walking distance of communities with high unemployment. Pay commissions to recruitment agents based on how many people they successfully place in jobs and how long these clients remain in their position. They should also be incentivized to assist workers in switching jobs where the switch results in higher job satisfaction and longevity.
•Provide incentives to businesses for opening stores and offices in communities with high unemployment, hiring local residents.
•Provide free entrepreneurship training and mentoring in communities with high unemployment.

Until one is independently wealthy, steady employment supplies the cashflow required to participate fully in society while developing and improving one’s skills and abilities.

•A variety of healthy and appealing food choices must be available to all people. Nutritional labels should be redesigned along the lines of hazardous waste insignia, to immediately hilite for the consumer the fat, sugar, sodium, cholesterol, and dubious chemical content, as well as the vitamin, mineral, protein, complex carbohydrate, and fiber content.
•Grocery stores and restaurants should be given a grade (similar to the health department’s grade for cleanliness) for how much prominent shelf space they devote to healthy food products vs unhealthy, and this score should be posted prominently at the entrance.
•Organic, and locally grown products should be made available to all, and the fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals used in the processing of conventional foods should be disclosed prominently on the packaging and labeling.
•Fruit and vegetable coops should be instituted in all neighborhoods, starting with the most economically disadvantaged.
•The ratio of packaging material to food contents should be posted prominently on every product.

As one of the essentials of human existence, food plays a major role in everyone’s quality of life. To eliminate poverty we need to change is the way food is grown, processed, packaged, marketed, distributed, and stored, to enhance the ratio between wealth created and destroyed in this process.

•A combination of photovoltaic cells and solar water heating should be installed on the roof and south facing (in the northern hemisphere) side of every building.
•Wind powered generators should be installed wherever practical.
•Biodiesel and vegetable oil powered vehicles should be subsidized to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
•In dry places, roof water runoff should be collected and used to irrigate landscaping.
•In hot places, shade trees should be planted to reduce building cooling needs.
•Smart ventilation systems should intake cool air (e.g. from floor crawl spaces) in summer, and warm air (e.g. from attic) in winter, reducing energy usage for heating and cooling.

Energy is key to increasing wealth on a global scale. It is used to improve on our environment (e.g. a network of public transportation and communication systems increasing the reach of the individual), and also to convert waste materials back into useful products (e.g. water purification, aluminum recycling).

•All consumer products should be graded on the total emissions and dumping involved in their manufacture and distribution, and this grade should be prominently displayed on the packaging.
•All businesses should be graded according to the environmental destruction they cause.
•Gasoline cars should be converted to electric, where possible.
•Recycling, organic farming, bicycling, walking, buying nonperishables in larger packages, skylights, composting toilets, and other earth-friendly behaviors should be encouraged.
•All dumping of toxic or otherwise hazardous substances into the air or water must stop. Waste materials should be sent to processing centers to be broken down or combined into benign compounds.

Pollution degrades our environment and lowers our standard of life. It’s primary cause is laziness, and the short term solution is constant oversight and publicity. Longer term, we need to develop a culture of sustainability and respect for other people we have not met (something missing in the practice of most religions, which should be added).

•Traffic laws prohibiting tailgating should be strengthened (minimum 5 car lengths at all speeds, including stopped) and aggressively enforced, allowing cars to pass and continue moving regardless of congestion.
•All dense urban areas should become pedestrian only zones.
•Multiple forms of clean public transportation should be encouraged and subsidized.
•Areas around train stations should be zoned for mixed use high-rise where practical.
•Large employers should be forced to phase in shuttle service for their local employees.
•Shopping centers, amusement parks, airports and other popular destinations should have frequent shuttle services to rail transit hubs if direct rail service is not feasible.

Transportation systems increase our quality of life by connecting us with more options for work, shopping, education, and entertainment activities than we could achieve by walking. Most existing transportation systems have not been well thought out and could easily be improved, reducing travel time, fuel consumption, accidents, and pollution, and raising quality of life.

•Results based advanced learning systems should be made available to all (e.g. Pimsleur Language System, Hooked on Phonics, Tony Robbins).
•Curricula should be expanded to include useful things adults wished they had learned, including how to start a business, how to negotiate your salary, how to find a suitable marriage partner and how to have good relationships, how to get a good deal on airfare and hotel, how to play bridge, etc.
•Schools should be responsible for finding out what each child is best at and encouraging them in especially that area, while helping them to become well rounded by results based coaching in areas of weakness.
•Teachers should be rated (and compensated) on how well their students do in the following year, compared with how well they did in the previous one.

Childhood education is routinely given more credit than it deserves for the success of adults (studies show that children’s success levels correlate with those of their parents, not those of their school), but the opportunity remains to have a major positive impact on a child’s future quality of life, and that of the whole community, if we effectively teach and encourage cooperative wealth producing behavior.

Comments on further points in the original

Poverty can be eradicated without any increase in international aid.
The money flowing from rich countries to poor countries does not tend to significantly and sustainably change behavior.

All countries are rich. All poor countries were subsumed by rich countries and no longer exist as separate entities. Certain people are poor because they are not given the opportunities or tools with which to succeed, or the environment which encourages them to do so.

More successful countries providing a fixed percentage of their national income in aid to struggling economies does not make sense. People must mobilize around the desire to achieve a lasting goal, and invest in a process that works. The same problems we spend money on today will reappear later on an even grander scale, unless their root behavioral causes are addressed.

MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY was created by an alliance of organizations in the UK, but this document has been rewritten to be a manifesto capable of unifying people interested in dramatically reducing world poverty. To read the original document or learn about the original organization, use the following link:



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