Why Charity Can’t Eliminate Poverty?

GoodpalStarred Page By Goodpal, 14th Jan 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/6_gne1i7/
Posted in Wikinut>Money>Economics

Charity is a noble thing, a symbol of selflessness and altruism. However, it is not an effective anti-poverty for widespread poverty. By focusing on the symptoms, it only sustains poverty and the unjust system that created it.

Charity is not An Effective Anti-poverty Tool

Charity is certainly the best side of humanity; altruism, goodwill, selflessness and solidarity. But it is utterly wrong as a strategy for eliminating poverty. By not taking account of the structural causes of poverty, it only serves to sustain the system that caused it in the first place.

Implicitly, charity promotes the notion that the structures of our social, political and economic systems are sound and with a little bit transfer of money from the rich to the poor we can end poverty. The ground reality, however, is stark opposite. Not only the socio-economic system is high distorted the inequality has actually worsened significantly in the recent decades. A recent report from Oxfam calculated that “The top 100 billionaires added $240 billion to their wealth in 2012 – 4 times what is needed to end global poverty. And the top 1% further increased their share of income”

This is not a temporary aberration in the system; growing inequality has been an inevitable feature of the free market capitalism as we practice it. Charity not only obscures the true causes of the maladies which it attacks, it has become another commodity and is marketed as such. People regularly receive high quality glossy booklets with pictures of starving children often carrying a popular food supplement. Charity also serves the strategic purpose of warding off criticism and bad publicity. The super rich socialites often hold extravaganzas by connecting them to some social cause.

The problem with charity as an institution is that it discourages constructive-criticism. It shifts focus away from what actually causes poverty. Instead, people are urged to simply reach their pockets and shell out the cash. On the one side there are people with pockets of unlimited size and on the other there are the poor or ordinary people who have nothing to put in the pocket. For sake of completeness we need to think critically, not just about poverty but also about capitalism as we practice it today.

Philosopher Max Horkheimer once said, ‘Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism.’ Today, we can modify his argument and say: if you are not willing to talk about capitalism, then remain silent about poverty. It is nothing but a sick comedy that a tiny fraction of people control so much wealth that poverty can be made to vanish in no time. Yet, the system makes it impossible.

It is impossible because rather than focusing on the system and making it more equitable we promote the idea of charity. It provides both the “face of generosity” to the rich and diverts attention from the root of the problem – distorted form of capitalism.

Shouldn’t the Government Promote a System that attacks poverty at its root?

There are researchers who feel that tax incentives to charities do harm by reducing public revenue; the government has less funds for social projects. Granting tax exempt status to charitable organizations also does the same thing. Such incentives often go towards increasing inequalities rather than decreasing it. Since the tax benefits don’t discriminate on the nature of charities, there is a possibility that donations to private schools, for instance, can indirectly hurt public schools and increase disparity by reducing public fund.

Since donors have the freedom they donate to a cause that appeals them. They are not expected to have consideration of urgency of need from a larger perspective. For instance, a donor might choose to give for an art museum rather than for natural-disaster relief.

Therefore, if the tax benefits are withdrawn except for anti-poverty charities, the extra revenue can be utilized by the government to create necessary infrastructural facilities to help the poor stand on their own. For example, microfinancing has emerged as a good tool to help the poor set up micro-enterprises. Promotion of “social enterprises” is another good long term option to lift people from poverty.

Governments are politically more accountable than private donors. So funds are better spent for people’s needs through the government channels.

Changing the Current Economic Model

Since inequality, and hence poverty, result from the nature of capitalism as practiced today – the shareholder capitalism. A handful of big investor control the business for the sole idea of “maximizing their profits.” It necessarily goes against the interests of other stakeholders such as the society, employees and the environment. This promotes high inequality and creates an exploitative atmosphere – all for the purpose of profit maximization for the rich few. Therefore, the concepts of profit and success need changing so that companies don’t go on with the rat-race of profiteering only. Adopting “stakeholder capitalism” is the first step in the right direction.

A much more radical idea is to change the system altogether and redefine the very concept of development. Currently, development only means “economic growth” where people are mere tools to expand the GDP till eternity – which is clearly unsustainable. Why not focus on human development by putting people at the center of attention, rather than economy. The UNDP’s human development model offers the road-map to sustainable progress which is measured by human development index (HDI). It is a composite measure of human well-being; much better than using per capita GDP as a proxy of progress.

The theoretical foundation for the human development approach comes from the capability theory of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. The capability approach of Sen defines development as expansion of people’s capabilities. So, development revolves around people; economic growth and other things are important but only in the context of “expansion of capabilities.” Issues such as gender equality, social exclusion, all forms of discrimination etc become important in this model because they adversely affect people’s capabilities. Such vital issues that are often at the root of poverty are left unaddressed in the current development model.

Exploring Further

If you liked this page you may also be interested in the following pages:

4 Reasons Why Charity Can't Eradicate Poverty
Creating A World Without Poverty: Turning The Poor into Entrepreneurs!
Is the World really Becoming Safer and Better?





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Tags

Charity, Justice And Charity, Poverty, Poverty And Development, Poverty Reduction, Whats Wrong With Charity

Meet the author

author avatar Goodpal
I am a keen practitioner of mindfulness meditation for past several years. I firmly believe in "goodness" of people, society and world. I regularly write on personal growth and social topics.

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Comments

author avatar Stella Mitchell
14th Jan 2014 (#)

Extremely interesting and so true .
Bless you
Stella

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
14th Jan 2014 (#)

so much wonderful wisdom here...many thanks...blessings..

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author avatar Goodpal
15th Jan 2014 (#)

Thanks Stella and Cnwriter, for reading.

Charity is a wonderful human virtue everyone should have. It is a sign of a developed human-being and a person with human values.

However, if done at the institutional level, as is the case today, it only sustains injustice that created poverty at the first place.

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author avatar Ptrikha
16th Jan 2014 (#)

Charity does needs meaningful use and constant monitoring to check any pilferages and misdirections.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
14th Jan 2014 (#)

karma also plays a place here for those who have and those who do not...

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author avatar Goodpal
15th Jan 2014 (#)

Certainly, the driving force behind any suffering is karmic. Evolved people keep this fact in mind also when there is good phase of life. Wisdom lies in keeping the law of karma in mind but continue to do what needs to be done. Else, it easily turns into hatred against those who live in comforts. And Hate means generating another bad Karma with assured future misery!

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author avatar Ptrikha
15th Jan 2014 (#)

Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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author avatar Goodpal
15th Jan 2014 (#)

Ptrikha, share your ideas too. Thanks for reading.

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author avatar Ptrikha
16th Jan 2014 (#)

We need "humanism" - a movement which asks people to shun excessive greed, avoid big wasteful consumption, respect environment and conserve natural resources.

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author avatar Goodpal
16th Jan 2014 (#)

Certainly, all problems come because people are losing contact with ethics and morality. They are reduced to mere "consumers" and "tools" to expand the economy.

We need to find ways to make people better "humans" who are responsible not only themselves but also for the society and environment.

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author avatar Retired
1st Feb 2014 (#)

Much food for thought here! I agree that charity itself will not end poverty.

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author avatar Goodpal
2nd Feb 2014 (#)

Charity is a wonderful personal virtue but large parts of societies can be sustainably run through charity alone. There has to be some sense of justice and fairness in the socio-economic system.

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author avatar James Phillips
1st Nov 2015 (#)

In Canada the CRA has ruled that charities are not allowed to prevent poverty. They are only allowed to treat the symptoms (otherwise the non-poor may benefit).

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