Monday, October 05, 2009

The Power of the Poor Essay

Big Problem: The poor of the world have a big problem. We who are not- so-poor should understand this problem before meddling in their affairs lest we make things worse.

The Big Problem is this: Poor people are human beings yet the institutions that attempt to intervene in poverty often ignore their nature.

Being human, poor people share the same nature as the rich. They are not less human for their poverty. The rich people are not more human for their wealth. All humans are equally human because they are human.

If the rest of us care about the plight of the poor and wish to give them a hand up, we should begin with a realistic understanding of human nature. A clear understanding of human nature makes it easy to see the needs of people as people.

If we make serious mistakes in our interpretation of human nature; we risk damaging the people we wish to help. In the past, serious mistakes concerning human nature have, at times, led to policies that robbed the poor of the consciousness of their soul and devastated their innate love of life.

To make this short, I will jump to some conclusions.

Human beings, by nature, have a physical body and an intellectual soul. Each human's intellectual soul, in some manner, lives on after the body dies. Both the body and soul are important and their basic needs should be met. However, the soul is more lasting and comes first.

Through their soul, humans have the talent to love the Truth, to seek and develop knowledge, to reason well, and to make wise choices. To do this easily, people need a balanced education and a healthy body. A helping hand should come to the poor with good books in one hand and physical provisions in the other. Good ideas alone will not do it, Food alone will not do it. They need both.

If the poor of a country must resort to extra-legal means to conduct useful commercial activities, something is seriously wrong with the legal system. In this case the best help for the poor is to correct the injustices in the legal institutions that excludes their commercial activities.

A legal system that excludes a significant number of people probably got out of joint in the first place because institutions involved failed to keep a balanced view of human nature. Such programs become burdened with self-serving trivia and fail in their primary mission.

The original founders of the USA, who had a fine tuned understanding of human nature, desired to keep government as small as possible and as local as possible. Perhaps we could learn something by revisiting their ideas and appreciating their wisdom in regard to the nature of humankind.

I am looking forward to the October 8th airing of Power of the Poor hosted by Hernando de Soto. This PBS special will explore the vast, yet unrecognized wealth that exists in poor communities. The show is scheduled for 10 PM Eastern Time (or check your local listings). The YouTube video below introduces the show:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Motivations for Power - Helen MacInnes 1968

I have been rereading The Salzburg Connection [1968] by Helen MacInnes. Through the medium of the novel, she addresses serious issues the West faced in her day and still confronts today. The whole passage is worth reading with care but the conclusion is most compelling. Anton, the dedicated Nazi, saw himself as working for universal peace. He believed the world reaches peace through radical manipulative domination. It is a clear, ringing example how even the best goal can be fundamentally abused

This novel begins at a remote mountain lake in Austria, about 1966. Anton is a younger Nazi, part of a group staying organized in hope of regaining their former power. On page 42-3. Anton, after he murders an opponent, explains his ideas and his motivation while talking to himself. He reflects.

"We may be few as yet, but that's the way every real power group started. Not in huge masses—that's something to be used later. Not even with popular approval—only democracies think in terms of the majority, and they are not model for us. They waste themselves in talk talk talk and self-indulgence. We have better brains than most of them and a sense of realism they never possessed. One thing East Germany showed me and that was the fat-cat weakness of the West. The Communists have more to teach us; we can learn something from them. They have the right idea about power and how to get it and how to keep it. Look at Russia today [1966]. Eleven million Communists, that's all, controlling more than two-hundred million non-Communists. China is the same: nineteen million Communists as the elite group over seven hundred million people. Popular approval? That's a laugh. Just give us all newspapers and radio stations and TV channels, and we'll give the people all the five-year plans they want; and we'll see. – Crazy, are we? It can be done. Because it has been done. And we will do it better. Better than any Russians or Chinese. And we will be clever this time. The way the old Germany handled the Jewish problem was worse than a crime, it was a blunder. We'll handle the Jews the way Russia does—a few for a showcase, the rest nothing-men. Yes, we'll succeed where the old Germany failed; we'll use all of its greatness and repeat none of its mistakes. And it was a great country. Our enemies could destroy our homes and our nation, but we still have our brains and our courage and our perseverance. We don't give up, we don't compromise. And we have a cause. Universal peace through world domination. Why should we let the Communists have that plumb?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Health Care Loans

People who are interested in exploring new ways to improve health care in the USA can use the internet to expand their understanding.

I especially recommend a new web site, Medical Savings and Loan. The plan seeks to create individually based systems for financing care in lieu of pool based systems.

I am frustrated with the political process surrounding health care. When we are legislating issues as important as health care, we do not need to be in a big rush.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's the Ideas, and not the amount of money

A primary problem that I am exploring in my work is the question we have been unable to achieve goals that we as a society truly want to achieve. One of the most admirable goals of the last 50 years is the betterment of our nation's minorities.

The video below by Walter Williams explores the same issue:

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Art of Measurement

I just finished reading an article by Ian Welsh on "The Art of Measurement". He is writing about measuring the productivity of people in the work force. He points out that some kinds of measurements are very helpful. He also shows ways that measurements can be misused. Poorly designed measurements can turn against the very objective that people aim to achieve. He mentions that the larger the group involved the more obstructive ill designed measurement can become.

A the present, the USA is concerned with rewriting regulations to control productive activities of Americans with special emphasis on financial matters. Some of Welsh's idea's of what to do and what not to do could be very helpful. His article is well written, not too long, and has the optimum number of examples. I added it to my list of things worth keeping.

I am eager to read more of Welsh's web site to see if there are other articles I like.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Science and Ethics

This morning I was cajoled into editing a piece by my son on ethics in science. The piece argues that ethics is not simply a side concern of science, but that ethics is the beating heart of the discipline.

My view is that at every stage of scientific development, the genuine scientist holds and maintains high rational values as standards. These rational values are the underlying ethics of science. They establish what a scientist should do. And to a large extent, this is what most actually do do.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

New Image

Coco, the dog, recently jumped up and down and asked me to help edit her blog: The Wisdom of Coco.

This blog contains the philosophical musings of a canine.

To help in this task, I upgraded my old blogspot blog to the new Google Account style blog and gave this blog a new look.

You can read the philosophical musings of a human on the site