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OTHER ITA SITES:
A Solution to Poverty?
Ask any liberal, and they will tell you that the solution is simple: The Government needs to invest in programs to help the poor help themselves; to give them a hand up — and a hand out — in order to get them through this dark period in their lives.
Ask any conservative, and they will also tell you that the solution is simple: The poor don’t need a hand out or a hand up. They need to take responsibility for their lives, and they won’t do that as long as they are living large on government handouts. Take away the free money, and they’ll earn some real money themselves .
So, who is right? What do the poor really need? What is the best solution to poverty, both short-term poverty and multi-generational poverty?
The answer is: We don’t really know.
An article in Scientific American lays out the difficulty of determining the efficacy of anti-poverty programs. Historically, doing a controlled experiment to determine which set of policies will have the greatest impact on allieviating poverty has been extraordinarily difficult, and often impossible. Recently, however, the availability of cheap, skilled labor in India has made running such studies easier and less expensive. Problems still remain however because of the inherent complexity of social interactions and the enormous number of uncontrolled variables that can affect the results.
The take-away point is this: If anyone tells you that they “know” how to solve poverty, they are lying. They may have an idea or a theory. The idea or theory may be logically sound. But until we have scientific, documented proof of what works and what does not work, nobody really knows how to solve the problem of poverty. So, does this mean we should do nothing? No. Of all the things that have been tried to fight poverty, “doing nothing” has been the most popular, and we know that it doesn’t work. What we need are more trials and tests. As difficult as conducting these trials are, this is the only way we will come up with a long-term solution that is scientifically defensible.
Once Liberals and Conservatives admit what they don’t know, they can begin to work together to find a “real” solution. And they will both have to be big enough to admit that they are wrong if the evidence shows that their theory wasn’t the correct one.
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