Friday, June 25, 2010

The Humanitarian Definition of Poverty

“The humanitarian definition of poverty shows it to be relative. This means that nobody can be content with what he has because someone else has more. We should all be consumed with envy, it says, and seek ways to have other people’s possessions. What kind of definition of the good life must lie behind the conception that one is oppressed if he only has meat twice a week, if his plumbing does not come up to the modern code, or if he does not have a color television set or a car? He may be oppressed with or without those things, but the fact that he is without them gives no information about the presence or absence of justice or guilt. Being poor is the greatest evil, in humanitarian thinking, because having material possessions is the greatest good. It is fitting that the war on poverty should come at the same time as the apogee of materialism. Modern materialism is not only an ethical philosophy that says that human relations are determined by material factors. Social pathology, in this thinking, requires a material cause, and that sets the stage for finding culprits on whom to inflict guilt. The readiness of humanitarian politics to exploit that philosophy leads the British historian C. Northcote Parkinson to conclude that all modern politicians are Marxist in orientation, inasmuch as they believe that all problems are primarily economic.” (Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, p. 61).
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