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Poverty Alleviation

When the human or revenue cost of coercion to maintain that system of access and distribution becomes unacceptably high and threatens to destabilise the system of governance, that mix of coercion, compulsion and consent called social contract, and destroys the level of consent and bonds of compulsion, or the human or cost to production and market due to poverty threaten to erode profitability, or a large enough section of society achieves a sufficiently secure status and freedom beyond survival (middle class), which allows them the luxury of participation in the production and consumption of culture beyond custom and folk-culture, and in civic affairs beyond a narrow pursuit of class interest, then in case of the former the old system breaks down and revolution occurs or in all cases throughout history private and public efforts are being undertaken to alleviate poverty, through welfare and developmental activities and programmes.

How come that no political system or society, with the exception of a few odd small homogenous cases — usually rural religious communities or isolated tribes — has been able to solve the poverty problem? The threat of socialism and communism, combined with capital’s need for consumption of more manufactured consumer goods, brought welfare capitalism about, but little welfare in the communist countries. Even the richest nations maintain at least 10 percent of their total as marginalised fringes of their welfare economy, besides the mass of poverty in the world economy. Even today with a much larger population, there are enough natural resources and agricultural production capacity, to provide for a living standard for everybody on earth above what has been set as the poverty line, even environ- mentally sustainable standards. It is the unequal distribution of productive assets and consumption, which pushes one fifth below that line.

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If the expulsion from the Garden of Eden cannot be undone, the fear of pain, hunger and death to perpetuate the pathological drive of greed and ego, on what human factors are we to rely in our search for a solution? Is the principle of life the survival of the fittest, whatever that means, or is there also compassion, the interpersonal bonds, the reenactment of maternal love, the love of creation? Or can we hope for, after the population pressure of the 20th century subsides in the latter half of the next century, a conversion of the need for a worldwide consumer market of environment-friendly products with the compassion of human brother- and sisterhood? It may have existed once, as anthropological theory tells us of prehistoric matriarchical societies, the rule of women, that is of mothers.

Anyhow, the topic is not about poverty elimination, but alleviation, I hope that you do not really mean what it says, merely the mitigation of poverty; not to fight it, but to make it bearable. Intellectually I am able to concede a need to move away from the hedonism modernity breeds, value the beauty of sharing a simpler life, tolerate even pain and death, overcoming the hubris of the notion that we can conquer all that, but sorry, my senses have been stirred, and I enjoy, I need excitement and I have little tolerance for physical pain, and am thus ganghoed like most others to the make-easy system. And as there are no chances for a world of saints, future means within this world. To ask from such position for mere alleviation of poverty for others would thus be a cynical game-plan, some cookies for the needy. That’s why I ask for poverty elimination, even if as an utopian target.


Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.