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Is Poverty the Problem, Or Is Wealth?

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Politics, poverty, economics, global poor, The End of Poverty, Foreign Policy,

Poverty in a Trash DumpEven in the midst of the current economic crisis, few would contest the fact that humans live amidst an abundance of wealth and resources. There is plenty of food in the world, yet people continue to die of hunger every day. There is plenty of money in the world, yet people beg in the streets. The problem isn’t poverty, according to the new film The End of Poverty, directed by Philippe Diaz, the problem is wealth. 

According to the film, the global poor, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere, have been funding the wealth and greed of the global rich, concentrated mostly in the North. The film sketches out various strategies the rich have used throughout history—from colonization, to religion, to the neoliberal policies of the past few decades—which are designed, according to the films subjects, to subjugate the poor to the will of the rich. 

In this reading of history, the capitalist system is a continuation of the slave trade and the global system of subjugation that began under the Spanish Conquistadors. Moving forward, the world must reject “the religion of growth” to create a more equitable global economic system. But one of the film’s experts, William Easterly, seems to belie that reading of history in a recent article for Foreign Policy magazine.

In the past 50 years, the global economic system created “the greatest mass escape from poverty in human history,” according to Easterly. The problem is that governments, in the midst of the current economic crisis, are in danger of rejecting that system in favor of more protectionist economic strategies.

Image by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, licensed under Creative Commons.

Here is the trailer for The End of Poverty: