Is Poverty the Problem, Or Is Wealth?


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:

6/22/2010 2:20:43 PM

It is an interesting concept, what is the problem, poverty or wealth? The Poverty Summit at the USSF in Detroit:

1/29/2009 3:48:05 PM

I think the western world should outlaw trade with the 3rd World -- much as the U.S. has done with Cuba for the past 48 years. We can't oppress or exploit them if we have nothing to do with them. Much of the poverty is the result of meddlers such as Dr. Albert Schweizer. His medical technlogy upset the equilibrium of the 3rd World's ecologies. Before the Europeans entered Africa, large-scale hunger was a rare and brief occurence that quickly corrected itself.

1/28/2009 11:09:14 PM

Google: National Maritime Museum triangular trade. There is an interactive model that depicts the movement of the slave trade in the 16th century(England->Africa->Caribbean->England) Also, if you are interested in this movie, you have to check out Life and Debt--very compelling. I watched it in a college class while we were studying the World Bank and IMF.

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