The Politics Of Poverty

Could poverty be solved by politics?

A throwaway remark heard on the radio recently, suggested that if politicians in prosperous countries wanted to solve world poverty, they could. While prima facie that might seem so, with a little thought it becomes fairly easy to see why it will never happen.

Firstly I am not defining poverty in absolute terms, rather by contrast with rich western nations like America and the European nations, with poor african and third world countries. In this comparison, poverty as we think of it in the western nations, is still living in luxury compared to places like Malawi, Sudan and Somalia. These are just a few examples.

In the western nations that could solve poverty, politics could do its bit but it will not. Solving poverty will cost money. In absolute terms in relation to the wealth of the nations, probably not that much. However, it would cost enough to hit every tax paying citizen where it hurts most, in their pockets.

Politicians do not like taking money out of peoples’ pockets; it costs them votes. They are nevertheless willing to do it if it can be shown that it will give a benefit, in one way or another, to the people whose pockets they take the money from. They need to spend it to the benefit of their nations.

It gets tricky to tax people more, when a direct benefit within the taxed nation cannot be shown, as is often the case when sending money abroad to relieve poverty. This brings us right back the the original question of weather politics, or politicians can fix poverty. The answer is clearly no, because any politician honest enough to say he will do it and propose tax raising measures to accomplish it would almost certainly not get elected, or re-elected, in a democracy.

So if the people who wont pay a little extra tax to eradicate poverty wont elect a politician with the honour to try, is it really the politicians fault? Maybe it’s it our own greed, because we won’t elect a politician brave enough to try to take the necessary action, because it will cost us money we could afford but just don’t want to. It might mean we can not afford that new dishwasher, or the latest iPhone. Both of which are things we want but don’t need. Whereas what the starving need is, the amount of unused food we throw away.

Although I do not know figures to support my belief, I think that the rich, western nation of the world have sufficient resources to virtually end poverty. We’re just too greedy.

He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and
he who gives gifts to the rich — both come to poverty.
Proverbs 22: 16


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