Where does this notion come from: the idea that poverty can be eliminated? What form of insanity creates this sort of delusion? And I say insanity because that is the only way to define the belief that such delusions are an achievable reality. They are not. By definition, poverty can never be eliminated, and I will happily explain – nay – prove this to be true.
On Tuesday’s edition of MSNBC’s “The Cycle,” co-host Krystal Ball suggested that the United States implement a minimum guaranteed income for every “non-incarcerated adult citizen.” The enormous entitlement program would “eliminate poverty” completely, Ball claimed.
OK, set aside the economics and the injustice in this statement. Those issues are irrelevant to the point at hand: that poverty cannot be “eliminated.” Let’s just stay on track. First, the definition of poverty:
1a : the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions
OK, read this definition carefully. Now, put on your logic cap. Why do we need to give people more money when we can get rid of poverty simply by declaring the “socially acceptable amount of money” to be less than we currently think it should be? Here, I will now eliminate poverty and prove this MSNBC Host is actually correct:
“ANNOUNCEMENT: from now on, poverty is defined as having less than $18,000,000,000,000 in debt (I wanted to make sure I excluded the United States from poverty, as well).”
There! Poverty has been officially eliminated. Are you happy? Or don’t you accept what I just did? You should. As long as “society” agrees with my new definition, we are all “out of poverty.” In fact, I eliminated poverty – especially since no individual will ever be $18 trillion in debt.
Now, the insane may accept this trick, but those of us who live in the real world know that I didn’t “eliminate” poverty. Sadly, there is another group of insane that does not realize it is just as much of a trick to think poverty can be eliminated by going the other way. Here, once again, I will demonstrate.
“ANNOUNCEMENT: I hereby decree that, henceforth, all Americans will be given $1 million every January 1st.”
There, I just eliminated poverty again. Do you think the MSNBC host would be happy with this? She might, because she is insane. But I hope you understand that this is just as foolish as declaring poverty to be more than $18 trillion in debt. Here’s why:
If we all become millionaires, then those who are billionaires will be the new standard, and people will start to think of millionaires as “poor.” You see, “socially acceptable” is an arbitrary standard. What Bill Gates thinks is “enough” is probably a far cry from what a modest, humble and devout religious person will think is more than enough. In truth, by world standards, American “poor” are among the richest on the planet. So then, the question then is by which society do we judge? And if we go global, some other crazy will posit the millions of “assumed” societies on other planets where they are “assumed” to have evolved to some ‘Star Trek-like’ society where there is no want. In that case, everyone on earth – no matter how much money they may have – could be declared ‘poor.’ You see, this cycle has no end, and that is why you can never eliminate poverty. It is literally impossible, and anyone who believes it can be done is insane (by definition).
[NOTE: when human nature is taken into account, the notion of eliminating poverty becomes even more insane. Were money the answer, no sports star or lottery winner would ever go broke. But the Truth is, some people have a talent or passion for making money, and some do not care about money. So, if you give them both a million dollars and come back a year later, the one with the talent for making money will have most of it while the other person will have given most of their away. Thinking we can change this is where the real insanity lies.]