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The World's Biggest Problem: Poverty


The world’s biggest problem is poverty, which is when people do not have enough money or food to support themselves or their families. In some countries, poverty is not such an issue—examples might be the Nordic Countries, Germany, and much of Western Europe. But for the rest of us—and the United States is included in this, because we have so many poor people—poverty prevents people from bettering themselves. We do not have a “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” world; if we did, with all children were provided for, our world we be better off.

Imagine the Palestinian or Bangladeshi people suddenly receiving the infrastructure and standard of living of the “haves” in our world. The assumption we, the “haves,” make is that the subaltern people of the earth would not take advantage of greater equality. I don’t think this is true—if everyone had a “head start,” human potential would be maximized, and our world would be such a better place. Imagine how many people are prevented from being doctors, lawyers, policymakers, professors and more because of being born in the wrong place. Of course, some people would not use largesse so well, but most people would seek to better themselves through education. The post-WWII GI Bill shows us that given the resources, people will strive successfully to a better life.

In a world set up to truly address poverty, a host of other problems would fall away like dominoes: overpopulation would slow, because the poor have so many more children; global warming could be addressed with both “third-world” and “first-world” solutions; technology would improve; urban populations would drop the yolk of crime and violence; world culture would be made richer with more artists; health care would available to those who do not currently have it, and the list goes on. Poverty is the source of so many problems—think of the war in Sierra Leone, with impoverished youth conscripted to kill as child soldiers; their exploiters chase diamonds, wealth, and power.

We could call the problem inequality, but it all starts with poverty. Most of the world lives on less than a dollar a day, while I get to drive a car and pay $2 a bag for healthy spinach, rich in iron and nutrients. Why am I entitled and others not? A counterargument would be that my culture is simply better, with people working together instead of against each other—Africans themselves have made this argument, such as Barack Obama’s father in the presidential candidate’s Dreams From My Father. But the White Man’s Burden has been based on the exploitation of subaltern people and not altruism.

Why do people live in shanty towns searching through rich peoples’ garbage? Why does a child not get the food she or he needs to grow? Why do people make bad decisions so much when placed in dire circumstances? World poverty is a moral issue whose status quo is so immoral that it requires those who are not impoverished to enable the same opportunities to the underprivileged. May we all become “privileged”—that would be justice.
No profanes - sacred
 
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