Poverty: Self-Inflicted?

Granted there are exceptions, but I personally believe poverty stricken countries do it to themselves, as do individuals that live in economically free societies.

Question: Do you think poverty is self-inflicted?

LVL 16
Who is Participating?
Rich WeisslerConnect With a Mentor Professional Troublemaker^h^h^h^h^hshooterCommented:
Let me ask how many individuals "live in economically free societies"?  And before answering, consider that an economically free society would allow someone at the end of their rope to engage in the following sorts of free market exchanges*:
  1. Selling their own organs, even those necessary to the continuance of their lives.  (And before poo-poo'n anyone's choice on that... how many parents would sell their own lungs, heart, liver and kidneys to get their children out of poverty and a guarantee access to the tools and knowledge they'd need to ensure a good life.  If my family were desperately poor, I think I'd seriously consider an offer of this sort... I wouldn't know for certain unless the situation came up.)
  2. Selling or ending their life.  Not saying it's a good option, but if it isn't a legal option... if one doesn't have rights over one's own life... can that person really be said to be free?
  3. Renting their body.  Today this would probably mean sex, but in science fiction this takes more interesting possibilities of remote control, which we may yet see in our lifetimes.
  4. Renting or selling their services for a prolonged period of time.  Indentured servitude has gone the way of Eugenics, but was once a useful economic tool that benefited the United States in it's infancy.  The one advantage a medieval serf would have over today's desperately poor is that they would not starve.  And the indentured servant has the advantage over the serf of an end to their servitude.

*and I'm not condoning any of these activities/exchanges.  I'm just listing very basic items which I believe every (EVERY) person owns, but are often not legally available to that person for economical activity.  In the cases when a person ends up bargaining with those elements, it is an illegal exchange -- and the person therefore loses out on any legal protection.  Without the possibility of legal protection, the person who is selling these elements rarely benefits to their full economic worth.

Tying back to the original premise - I believe the exception would be anyone living in an economically free society, at least in any way that would matter to the truly desperately poverty stricken individual.  

Once again, I'm left at the answer to the question "Is poverty self-inflected [by a society upon itself]?" with the answer of "yes."
For the individual, I tend to agree with AnthonyRusso... its the rare individual who would choose poverty for themselves.  (But that said, I do believe at least a sizable percentage (i.e. something that would show up noticeably on a pie chart) of individuals (outside the set including children and the seriously mentally impaired**) find themselves 'in poverty' because of the choices they have made.)

**And of course the discussion of what 'seriously metally impaired', is it's own long discussion.
Rich WeisslerProfessional Troublemaker^h^h^h^h^hshooterCommented:
It certainly can be...

On the macro level:
And perhaps it's the influence of liberal educators, but when I was in school there were lists of reasons given for the plight of the third world nations -- some of which were outside influences which attempted to mold those countries using policies and building infrastructure that didn't make sense in those regions of the world.  Other causes were greed and corruption of some of the people inside the country... so on the macro level, that certainly is self-inflicted.

On the level of the individual:
I usually attribute the majority of poverty with which I come in contact as self-inflicted.  People who make poor life choices early in life, or engage in self destructive behaviour have a greater tendency to end up living in poverty.  However: mental illness, poor parenting, destructive environments, and bad economic situations are not what I consider self-inflicted poverty for the individual.  

As example - If auto-makers produce vehicles that are not what the consumer wants to purchase, and facilities end up failing because of it... it's self-inflicted on the macro scale, but not for the guy who once made a decent living on the line.  
Worse: during economically bad times, some individuals may resort to illegal/unethical activities to improve their situation -- witness bootleggers during the era of US Prohibition/Depression, drug trafficking in US inner-cities, and Somolian Pirates.  These activities actually stimulate certain segments of the economy and could have the effect of pulling SOME individuals out of poverty.  Elimination of those activities could actually cause some poverty.

Enjoyed seeing your kind of response in this forum.

Free Tool: ZipGrep

ZipGrep is a utility that can list and search zip (.war, .ear, .jar, etc) archives for text patterns, without the need to extract the archive's contents.

One of a set of tools we're offering as a way to say thank you for being a part of the community.

Anthony RussoConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I at first thought no way but thinking more about it I can see this...but as a reverse where most are poverty stricken by situation or resources available to them and the exception is the few that do it to themselves.

Those by situation or resources also can get out of it with extra effort but it is much more difficult for them than those that do not have those limitations.

TlingitConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I think poverty is an environmental issue.  It depends on the environment on which one is exposed to.  If parents parttake in illicit acts like drugs, alcohol, or other destruction forces, then their children will most likely follow in their footsteps.  Now occasionally one lucky soul will get out of this type of environment but for the most part they stay locked in.  It is the money that they spend on these types of things that keep them in this destructive state, and it doesn't matter how much the state or federal government helps them try to get out they lock themselves in.  In fact most of the time it is the state and federal government programs that do more harm than good.

The downgrade of our society is also a moral problem.  It starts within the home.  If the home is broken through drugs, alcohol, or sexual infidelity, then society as a whole begins to suffer.  I include sexual infidelity because when this enters the home, it tears the foundation of the home apart.  The husband and wife split which breaks the home.  Children then often rebel and no longer see the parents as role models.   Crime rise as a result.  Just think if you lived in a society where all households had a father/mother figure, most of societal ills would not exist.  Of course this would depend on the fact that the father and mother figure were good parents and did not parttake in the above listed illicit acts and taught their children sound principles to live by.  But that would be only in a perfect world which we don't live in.  My point is the foundation of success starts in the home.  I say this because my parents were alcoholics and then one day they changed their lives, which inevitable changed mine.  If I grew up in that type of environment, I think I would be struggling with alcohol as well.
leonstrykerConnect With a Mentor Commented:
When dealing with poverty we need to consider it on a macro economic level and in terms of 'First law of thermodynamics'. Basically the Global economy a is a closed system with a finite amount of wealth. An imbalance of wealth enriching certain areas, by definition impoverishes overs. That is way solving economic problems by increasing exports will not solve problems globally. All countries can not be net exporters. Someone needs to be a net importer.

The other theory to consider is fractal (a shape made up of itself in some way or another) economics. Basically imbalances in wealth appear on the micro as well as macro level.

With both of those in mind, I would say that individuals can mitigate their circumstances one way or the other, but in general the environment will determines the general trend in the community.
Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.