Conservatives say that if you give people food and money, they won’t work for it and they’ll learn not to work. As Milton Friedman said, if you pay people to be poor, you’ll have a lot of poor people.
Liberals say nobody wants to be poor. They don’t want to stay poor. If you don’t help them, they’ll drag on society. If you do, they won’t, and they’ll rise back up.
The more I look at longer term human patterns, the more I see the problem not with people but with a system that evolved away from a world we evolved to handle. Before agriculture, for hundreds of thousands of years, we had to get our food. I don’t know the details, but I suspect every able-bodied person had to get food for him- or her-self—out of the ground, from trees, hunting, fishing. On the one hand, if adults didn’t work to get their food, they died. We exist today, so enough didn’t die that I conclude our ancestors evolved to get food every day.
Complementing their motivation and skills, they lived in some balance with nature that there was always plenty of food.
Now we hoard. I don’t mean some people have some psychiatric disease that might get them on the TV show Hoarders. I mean, as a culture people who create products like food, furniture, books, and so on keep them to themselves unless you pay for them. Nearly everyone has no access to food except from someone else who owns it and had to work for it, so they charge you for it. To motivate you to buy it, they stick it in your face at the store and through advertising.
We are constantly motivated to want things placed in our line of vision but kept away from us. One result: we’re going crazy over material stuff. Another: while everyone used to have access to life’s necessities, like food and shelter without going through anyone, today someone stands between you and nearly everything you need or want for life. We constantly want and crave.
Humans never lived all the time craving. We didn’t keep property from each other while sticking in each other’s face that we had it.
Tough to solve but at least see a problem behind some poverty: the social world we created and natural one we destroyed. The problem isn’t people being lazy or charities being underfunded. It’s that we removed our access to abundant nature and we aren’t living in balance with it.
If we want to make welfare unnecessary, it seems to make sense to restore balance that nature once had, not so many people as we have relative to the food and other resources we can find or create. We can also not blame people lacking things entirely for their situations.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees