Monday, July 11, 2016

Lazy Poor People

The 'Lazy Poor People' argument is one of the arguments given for why people find themselves in poverty. We don't point to studies to prove this belief, it just feels right. If we give money to people, the will just drink it or smoke it away. They most certainly won't use it in the way we feel best. It is very hard to step away from a hierarchical view that people outside poverty understand how to get outside poverty. Without experience of the actual process of getting out of poverty. Without seeing people, one approach is to turn to aid - deciding what they need, or 'teaching them how to fish'. Pointing out that years of aid haven't helped, many people just feel helpless, rather than questioning how the aid was given.

Rutger Bregman (Utopia for Realists) tells of a study in Liberia with counter-intuitive findings. They got a group of the most suspect individuals (alcoholics, addicts and petty criminals) and gave them each $200. Three years later, it turned out they had spent the money on food, clothing, medicine and small businesses. The people who understand the poor the best are the poor.

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