To increase the size of the pie or share the pie more equally?

a Guest Post by Nigel Branken of Hillbrow, South Africa [Nigel and Trish Branken live together with their 6 children in the inner-city suburb, Hillbrow, in Johannesburg, South Africa.] A friend of mine once did a study which found that your income level is the greatest predictor of your economic view. He found that people who earn over a certain amount per month almost exclusively believed the key to dealing with poverty is to increase the size of the pie, while people who earned under a certain amount almost exclusively believed that in order to address poverty, the pie needs to be more equally divided. In other words, our view of solutions to the economic challenges we face is more likely determined by self-interest than hard facts. I have found this very interesting in my informal conversations with friends from the suburbs. They keep telling me that the key to dealing with poverty is to create economic growth. My friends on the margins, however, are often quick to complain about how much bosses earn and wonder why they can’t just share some of their wealth. Theologian Robert McAfee Brown once said “where you stand will determine what you will see; whom you stand with will determine what you hear; and what you see and hear will determine what you...

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They’ll probably just waste it, or use it on drugs…

  A constant concern I seem to hear about charitable giving is about what poor people will do with economic assistance once they receive it. Won’t poor people just waste the money or benefits? Won’t they use it to buy unworthy items like cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs? A second line of criticism has more to do with self-sufficiency. Won’t receiving economic assistance just make people dependent? Won’t it show people that they don’t really need to have a job, or to strive to be self-sufficient? An organization called GiveDirectly (and others like it) have challenged these assumptions recently by giving what are called “unconditional cash transfers” to individuals living in poverty. Basically, they locate impoverished people and communities overseas in need of assistance, and then they give individuals large amounts of money with no strings attached; the recipient can use the money however they want, for whatever reason they see fit. This approach has received lots of criticism, for all the listed reasons above. Surely the recipients, not having to answer to anyone about their spending choices, will squander the money in all sorts of different ways! However, in October, researchers at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT published their findings on the effects and outcomes of unconditional cash transfers. Surprisingly, their findings suggest that very little of the money was...

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fishrich

Blessed are those with things…

            I sometimes follow a cartoon strip called Buttersafe and this week as I was doing a bit of catchup of older strips, I came across these two that are both so simple and yet powerful: This is a perfect advert for Common Change, the non-profit I work for, as we are all about using the resources you have [while joining together with a group of friends to do so] to meet the needs of those you care about [those people who are in and around your life – the problem in this particular cartoon above]. And the second is like it [and hopefully a reminder for us to take a long hard look at the things we own and how we spend our money, time and energy and see if there are not some changes that perhaps need to be made while we still have access to the feelings]:  [For an interesting post taking a deeper look at the relationship between Poverty and Inequality, click here] [To take a deeper look at the question of giving poor people a hand up or not, click here] [To look at the possibilities of  living a waste-free life, click...

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poor

How to be poor with a lot

One phenomenon of the modern economy is affluence that doesn’t feel like it. You work, earn and spend quite a lot, yet it seems you’re getting nowhere. That opening paragraph begins the interesting article I read recently titled ‘The ‘Wealthy Poor’ replace the Middle Class’ …spending every dollar of regular income — even if it’s a high income — can leave affluent families as vulnerable to an economic shock as those who have no wealth at all. The problem comes when a major portion of net worth is tied up in illiquid assets such as homes, cars and other such items that can’t be translated easily into cash when necessary. [As an aside, this last paragraph describes where the non-profit Common Change has been seen to work so brilliantly. Many families are living close to the line and it can just take one unexpected happening, such as a car crash, appendix operation or pregnancy to be the thing that pushes them over the line.  As someone who is part of a Common Change group, that would make a perfect need to share with the group and save that person or family from crashing over the edge] While debt-inducing expenses such as tuition and mortgage payments may be easier to justify that some others, for many people who find themselves in...

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povertyporn

are you into poverty porn?

‘Generally, the objectification and exploitation of human beings in the media bothers us. At least to some degree, we are bothered when media simplify humans, women and men, down to the characteristics that can be used to prove a point, elicit a high emotional response and generate profit. We see this in advertising, movies, pornography. There is a similar problem with the way we represent the poor in our media, exploiting their condition and even their suffering for financial gain. As we often do with the objectification of women, we need to pause and ask ourselves whether it is ethical to depict the graphic qualities of a human being to Western audiences for the sole purpose of eliciting an emotional experience and ultimately, money. It is a practice called poverty porn, and it does almost nothing to address the real structural problem of poverty.’ And with that introduction, starts this article titled, ‘5 reasons poverty porn empowers the wrong people’ by Emily Roenigk, which you can read on her blog, ‘Emily from Charm City’. Emily breaks down her reasons into these 5 but take a read of the article to see them in greater depth: 1. Poverty porn misrepresents poverty 2. Poverty porn leads to charity, not activism. 3. Poverty porn misrepresents the poor  4. Poverty porn deceives the helper...

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