The Political Rhetoric of Helping the Poor

The Political Rhetoric of Helping the Poor

In politics there is much lip service given to the notion of helping the poor. There are many different opinions, and schemes that are proposed by which to do this. Most of these schemes involve establishing some type of bureaucracy that will be funded through the expropriation of funds from tax payers in order to fund their schemes.

As part of this political rhetoric, anyone opposing such schemes on the grounds that political bureaucracies may not be the best means of achieving the goal of helping the poor will be disparaged as being selfish and hating the poor.

Let’s examine this whole notion of a political solution to the betterment of the poor. First off, let’s start out by examining who the poor are. Are they a homogeneous mass of people who are all poor for the same reasons? The assumption made by those who propose political solutions to the betterment of the poor is to try to make the broad claim that the majority of the poor are such due to some form of exploitation, presumably by some wealthier class.

For arguments sake let’s grant this argument that the majority of the poor in society are such due to exploitation by some class of wealthy citizens. What does the wealthy class gain through keeping people poor? If the wealthy class is the owner of the means of production wouldn’t they want more customers to sell their goods to and thus to make themselves even more wealthy? If this is the case then wouldn’t they want every ones standard of living to improve so that they could afford more of the goods and services that the wealthy control?

It is also assumed that the wealthy keep the poor indentured through their control of the political machinery. If this is true than why would we look to that same political machinery as the cure to the problem that they caused? Do we really believe that those who caused the problem are interested in bringing about a solution to it? This is the same line of thinking that believes the separation of powers will keep us free – as if one government has any interest in limiting the power of other government institutions.

Can it really be true that all the poor are poor due merely to exploitation? Isn’t it more likely true that there are a myriad of reasons why people are poor including bad luck, poor decisions, lack of education, lack of ambition, as well as exploitation by others? Seeing as how we are dealing with individuals of varying circumstances, intelligence, and ambition, how would it be possible to come up with a solution to the problem of poverty that has so many, and varied potential causes?

When politicians and bureaucrats get involved in a problem they try to create a one size fits all solution because it is all they can do. Life is too varied and complex for a group of human beings to be able to solve all the problems, and predict all the outcomes of such intervention. Often times the cure is worse than the disease. It is said that if we don’t know the true cause of a problem it is often better to do nothing, because in taking action to correct a problem which we have no idea of its cause, we actually can make the problem much worse.

We should be very wary of political solutions to complex human problems. If you really want to help the poor than get out in your community and get to know the individuals who suffer. Get to know them and their individual problems. Find solutions that help the individual and respect the individual circumstance of each person. Understand that some people will want help and others will not. Some people can be helped and others are lost. Life is complex and messy. Politics makes a joke and a cartoon of life. Don’t let emotional appeals allow you to fail to see the complexity of life and miss the very real human element of the problem.

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