2 minutes


At times, Yes. I came across this view by Robert Weir, economist.

“It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.”

The thing to watch for is the subtle effects of survivorship.  Especially with extreme poverty, high mortality rates will be the norm.  Initially attempts to alleviate rising poverty, say, providing better access to food and medicine, will decrease mortality rates. This can cause poverty rates to go up, not down, since more are living. This actually is a good thing, as a first step.  A rising poverty rate can indicate that fewer people are dying from poverty. 

“My attitude to peace is rather based on the Burmese definition of peace – it really means removing all the negative factors that destroy peace in this world. So peace does not mean just putting an end to violence or to war, but to all other factors that threaten peace, such as discrimination, such as inequality, poverty.”

You always need to ask the big “why” question, of why the rate has increased. Both having some from the middle class fall into poverty, and having some who would have previously died now live, might look the same if you just look at the rising poverty rate metric, but they are very different things.

It is worth comparing to a related effect we see in medical statistics, where a new therapy for treating a disease can lead to an increased prevalence of that disease if the therapy does not cure, but increases life expectancy of those with the disease. So statistics read in a hurry can look bad, but are actually quite good. 

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” – Mother Teresa

The common flaw here is to think there are only two states,  poor/non-poor, or healthy/sick and fail to appreciate that there is a third state — dead — that is quite important to account for as well.

Now I leave the question open to my dear friends of HashingLife.com – Can rising poverty ever be a good thing?

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Kamal Gupta
Permanently hungry for knowledge. The kind that can be scientifically verified, tested and proven. Worked 26 years as Professional Manager, including CEO of very large Indian corporate, and in the US. Serial Entrepreneur since 2004, founding innovative, knowledge based ventures. Look after my mind and health.