The Therapy Sessions
Friday, April 09, 2004
Ending povertyCharles Krauthammer:
At the time, we really did not ``have the means to (end poverty)'' because we did not yet know how to banish poverty and hunger. Today we do.
The answer is not foreign aid, which is corrupting and often worse than useless. In many cases, it actually further impoverished an already poor country. Enriched urban elites bought luxury goods, while donated food and socialist controls drove down the local price of food, ruining the farmers on whom these subsistence economies had depended.
We now know that the secret to curing hunger and poverty is capitalism and free trade. We have seen that demonstrated irrefutably in East Asia, which has experienced the greatest alleviation of poverty in the history of man. In half a century, places like Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea have gone from subsistence to First World status. And now free markets and free trade are lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty in India and China.
This is all very true.
But as our experience in the US demonstrates, we can never eliminate "poverty."
Because poverty itself is a relative term.
In the US we have virtually eliminated starvation, drought, pestilence and homelessness. (Oh yes, I am aware that these things still exist, but they are confined to a group that is almost always either drug-addled or mentally ill. They are beyond help.)
We now define poverty in terms of access to prescription drugs and good schools.
Yes, the "poor" will always be with us.