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: