How to Help the Poor


Talking with a long-time friend, she expressed to me how desperate the needs of the poor are.

For those of you reading this that are from Western Europe or the United States or Canada, let me tell you who she was talking about.

She wasn’t talking about the people I meet every day, the poor who can’t make ends meet and struggle with finding a good job. She was talking about the people in South America who have spent their entire lives in poverty so misunderstood that I don’t even know how to explain it. These people struggle with finding enough food, finding food with nutrients their bodies need just to survive, and diseases that you’ve never heard of but are easily managed with medications and treatments that cost pennies. These people have no idea what clean water really is, and they don’t have the first clue about what hygiene means nor have any means to learn.

The United States, along with the Western Powers, are doing a great disservice to the world. If you understood the conditions they are in, and their true cause, we would behave very much different. Since the United States is so democratic (the political philosophy, not the party), we have become blind to it because the people are ignorant of conditions they are not familiar with.

Let me explain, for a moment, what causes poverty and how to remedy it.

The first cause is ignorance. People are poor because they really have no idea that life can be any better. When they catch the first glimpse that it can be better, they have no idea how to obtain it. These people need training in the most basic of things, things we take for granted every day. There is no way that they can receive this training if they don’t live with people who already have it. If we’re going to be an agent of change for the poor, we must first live among them and interact with them regularly.

Once education is out of the way, really, there are no barriers left to overcome. That is, there are barriers, but with proper education, overcoming the barriers is a matter left as an exercise to the student. However, there are certain things that are done that can limit the progress of people climbing out of poverty.

The first is government interference. The government, in its “noble” quest to make life better for everyone, is often the cause of problems. On the one hand, telling people that the government can help you turns their attention away from themselves and their own means, which are more than enough to lift them out of poverty. On the other hand, when government starts “helping”, it can only do so by hurting. This is because of all the organizations that exist in the world, governments are the only organization that is allowed to use coercion rather than persuasion to accomplish its ends.

The solution is obvious. Stop telling people to look to the government for help. End government charity, post-haste.

Just because I am opposed to the government doing something does not mean I am opposed to it being done. On the contrary, it is those who deliberately involve the government that prevent the thing from being done. Imagine I wanted to build a sandcastle on the beach. Think of how hard it would be for me to do it without government intervention vs. with government intervention. Just because I don’t want the government to help me build a sand castle doesn’t mean I don’t want to build sandcastles. It means the exact opposite. If I wanted to prevent someone from building sandcastles, I would simply get the government involved and that would be the end of that.

Let’s take a step back for a moment and talk once more about education. Remember how I said you give poor people education? That’s right: You have to live with them and show them a better way. Did I say we need government programs and budgets and expenditures? No, I did not. When you have middle class and lower class people living and working together, the lower class people take upon themselves the upper class people’s attributes. That’s why you have machinists who have children who are professors. The machinist lived and worked with people who could produce professors, and the machinist took upon himself and his family some of their attributes.

Now, we have our formula. But will it really work?

Consider trade between nations. Let’s suppose you have two countries, A and B. A is super-wealthy. They enforce, strictly, free trade among themselves. B is not wealthy, because they have strict government controls but also an ignorant population who doesn’t know how to become wealthy. What is the right trade policy for A?

A could setup high tariffs and such. That’s because B is willing to do menial jobs for much less than anyone who lives in A. To the people who live in A this looks almost like slave labor. We call them “sweatshops”. But more importantly: A just wants to protect its own jobs. The effect of such a policy is very limited trade between A and B. A and B become enemies, and since hardly anyone from A knows anyone from B, it’s going to stay that way for a long time.

A could also remove all import tariffs. The obvious effect would be many companies in A moving to B. They want the cheap labor that B has an abundance of. But also, A starts importing a lot of goods from B and sending cash to B. B now has more money than it ever had before, money which they can use to make bigger factories. Along with that economic growth comes money to spend on children’s education, basic sanitation projects and infrastructure, and eventually, electricity and clean running water in every home. After about 50 years, the employees won’t be cheap anymore.


Which trade policy helps the poor? That’s right: free trade. If nothing else, embrace free trade because it helps the poor in other countries.

I can talk at length about all the benefits we’ll get for shipping our jobs overseas. But I’ll save that for another day.


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