[FoRK] The bee sting theory of poverty

Russell Turpin russell.turpin at gmail.com
Tue Jun 29 06:03:08 PDT 2010


On Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 6:59 AM, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
> The argument still applies:  you cannot define some baseline of poverty
> that will be generally acceptable at any given point in time and construct
> a general non-coercive method for insuring that all people remain above
> it. ...

Or: the homeless will be with us always. The guy who sleeps down by
the creek isn't going to go get an ID, fill out a tax form, or step up
for any program that improves his lot. In all likelihood, he'll keep
on doing what he is doing until he wrestles some personal demon, or
some illness or injury takes him to the ER. The latter is more likely
than the former. I have no doubt some of my neighbors wonder about the
"socially responsible" thing to do for him. Or maybe how to get the
cops to run him out of the creek. (I walk the creeks more than any of
my neighbors, and know there are more folks who sleep near them than
the one or two who show up in the neighborhood.)

Motivation, the capacity for independent action, distractibility, and
other characteristics that so largely determine our course in life are
odd things. My intuition based on personal observation is that they
are largely set by the time one is twenty. It was easy to see when he
was twenty that Jeff was going to do interesting things, and not end
up sleeping under the bridge. One twenty year-old I know now I wish I
could light a fire under.

Recognizing that homo economicus is largely a myth throws a monkey
wrench into a lot of political philosophizing. The one thing it does
not do is undermine the importance of maintaining a healthy
capitalism. Though it may change how we see that.

I hope I got my quotees right this time. ;-)



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