We shouldn't care about poverty

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Jammy Duel
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But that's not to say that we shouldn't care about the poor. Poverty is a completely useless measure, both absolute and relative. No measure of poverty actually gives you any meaningful information, we should look at peoples needs, and I mean needs, not wants, rather than some arbitrarily drawn line.

Extreme poverty is the worse of the two since it is completely arbitrary. Supposing we redistributed the world's wealth in such a way to bring everybody above the absolute poverty line as it is today, would that remove poverty? No, because somebody would just redefine the poverty line to be $2 per day instead of $1.30 or whatever it is atm. Will those people be better off? well, that's debatable and is entirely dependent on circumstance, but let's just say for the sake of argument: no, ultimately they're no better off. So, congratulations, you just ended world poverty but people are no better off for it, not to mention that they will go back into poverty as soon as it's redefined.

Relative poverty is not much better, especially when looked at on a national scale, after all, somebody just below the national relative poverty line in the North East or Scotland is almost certainly better off than somebody just above it in London or the South East. Even within a region it's not exactly great, if you only consider London, somebody just below the line in the poorer parts of London are probably slightly better off than those just above in central London. All poverty does is measure inequality and this is largely pointless.

Suppose everybody's pay/benefits double overnight, would the poor be better off? Well, that relies entirely on what happens to prices, but for the sake of argument let's say prices remain the same. Is everybody better off? Yes, without a doubt. Are there fewer people in poverty? No. In reality the prices would go up rather significantly, so instead consider the same scenario over the course of a decade or two, wages will almost certainly double based on historic figures, but prices won't be doubling so everybody will have more disposable income. Are people better off? Yes. Is there less poverty? No, probably not significant enough to say that there is.

The figure also changes completely if you add or remove benefits. Just looking as some old projections (since I cba to go look for actual figures) from a few years back, if you run the figures without benefits about 20% of working Britons are in "poverty", but if you throw benefits in (based on actual figures) that dropped drops significantly to, at most, a few percent.

"We should stop worrying about 'poverty'". Discuss.
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Mistee M
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I agree with all your points in this argument, but suppose if humanity in the 'rich north' did stop worrying. Wouldn't that just widen the development gap? Charities are motivated by the poverty in the world. If we stopped worrying then charities would stop bothering, any humanitarian aid would be at its minimum, ect. Any form of aid would be so little it wouldn't make half the impact it is making now.
Despite agreeing with your points, I believe that the word 'poverty' pretty much motivates humans to be humans.
Let the poverty line rise, at least then we know we are making some progress, whether it slow or not.
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Jammy Duel
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(Original post by Mistee M)
I agree with all your points in this argument, but suppose if humanity in the 'rich north' did stop worrying. Wouldn't that just widen the development gap? Charities are motivated by the poverty in the world. If we stopped worrying then charities would stop bothering, any humanitarian aid would be at its minimum, ect. Any form of aid would be so little it wouldn't make half the impact it is making now.
Despite agreeing with your points, I believe that the word 'poverty' pretty much motivates humans to be humans.
Let the poverty line rise, at least then we know we are making some progress, whether it slow or not.
For extreme poverty, yes, it is a motivator and will actually motivate those that don't actually think very hard about it (but then you have to consider actually just how little impact it has), but for relative poverty it's totally meaningless, you should tackle what it means to be poor and not to have enough rather than tackling a meaningless metric. And either way, people will still give. I reckon most who give lots would do so irrespective of whether the term "poverty" is used, and those who don't give a great deal (especially when they could so easily give so much more) just give a little bit here and there as an attempt to alleviate the "guilt" of having such a good life in comparison (see "**** the poor" by Tim Minchin which I would embed, but strong language, warnings post deletion and all that).

Related to that closing comment, it's also interesting to note that, for the most part, if you stand in the street with a sandwich board that says "**** the poor" giving out leaflets you will get abuse, if you do the same thing but have it say "help the poor" and sit there with a pot collecting money people just walk by. People seem to act as if "taking offense" to something bad alleviates the guilt just as much as giving money to fix that bad thing (even though that money will have a net effect of doing nothing).

The post is more about poverty as it is defined rather than as a concept. We define it in very solid, fixed ways that make it ultimately meaningless, rather than in a more dynamic, meaningful way. In a meaningful manner, I would say poverty in the developed world is, for all intents and purposes, 0. Especially in countries with a "good" welfare system it is possible to get by with what you earn and/or government support in the vast majority of cases, the times you can't is where the support isn't available or if you're being irresponsible.
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