The 2016 Rio Olympics Games will attempt to avoid before spinning the most shocking and degrading living conditions in the slums, or favelas, of Rio de as charming highlights of Brazil’s rich and diverse cultural experience. The inability of Brazilians to overcome desperate poverty is, however, a sign of crippling dysfunction that is far from unique to Brazil. Latin countries like Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela are worse off in terms of overall economic output and crime, but the more than 11 million living in Brazil’s favelas face the same struggle, which can only be addressed by recognizing and understanding the dysfunction of poverty.
The views of the higher socioeconomic classes on poverty are built on a series of intellectual exercises, thus they understand economic disenfranchisement only in pieces and lack the intuitive understanding needed to offer a comprehensive vision of how to address the issues of those who are limited by their circumstances and the thinking their circumstances instill. As such, the Middle Class and affluent do not comprehend the psychological of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised well enough to comprehend the limitations the growing poor classes must overcome. This means they alone cannot develop solutions that actually address these roadblocks, which includes roadblocks that seem trivial to the more advantaged.
Brazil is an example of a welfare state that is both struggling to overcome poverty and, now, pay for a massive national budget deficit. Social welfare spending helps sustain the poor, but it is not enough to spark business and job creation. Although reforms to welfare can shift a social safety support net from a straightforward subsidy program to include, what a businessman might call, a “budget-enhancing” mission, social welfare spending is no substitute for economic development nor is it an adequate solution to the environmental and behavioral dysfunction that deeply entrenched poverty and excess reliance on government spending breeds.
Jobs exist, because employers have work that needs done and they have the money to pay workers. In turn, businesses exist, because consumers, with sufficient incomes, demand the services and products of those businesses. In an economically dysfunctional environment, adequate demand does not exist, demand is addressed by outside labor, i.e. outsourcing, imports, nationally sourced businesses etc, and/or the interests of the employees are not balanced with those of the employers, e.g. too low of wages. As poverty is often a geographical problem, the solution to addressing poverty and ending dependency on government support must revolve around fixing the growing number of economically suppressed regions, such as Rio de Janeiro.
Unfortunately, the economies of the world have been engineered to cater to global interests by creating a lower bidder economy where cost-cutting measures, including suppressed wages, tax cuts, etc, are prioritized. Instead of building national economies to serve the needs of the People first, then using the excesses of the local and national economies to participant in the national and global economies, economies are designed to enrich the few living in concentrated areas of the world. That said, simply cutting people off from social welfare programs will not make the need go away. Doing so will damage the economy by decreasing demand for basic goods and services of the business that do exist while driving people to crime.
Regrettably, those who push a nuclear option for social welfare spending also tend to support “market solutions” that erroneously assume incentivizing the poor to get jobs and increasing demand for jobs by cutting the safety net will somehow lead to job creation. Because job seekers are not job creators, the problems of the unemployed and impoverished employed cannot be solved by some “rationale choice” model that is used to justify punishing the poor and avoiding the problem. Poverty must be solved by fostering sufficient business and job creation.
Until dysfunctional environmental factors are addressed through better tax, trade, and economic policies, poverty will remain a persistent problem that only a minority can overcome by seeking education and moving to regions that are more prosperous. On the other hand, the dysfunctional behavior of individuals also contributes to poverty. The word choice, for example, is a powerful term, which can be grossly misleading and is not well understood by the advantaged, who often use it as an excuse to avoid their positional responsibilities as social leaders.
People of privileged backgrounds have the ability to make near instant and direct choices; whereas, the less affluent must correctly make a series of smaller choices to achieve the end result of the one choice that the more affluent individuals had the opportunity to make. Because choices cost in terms of resources, including money, time, missed opportunities, energy, and emotion, the disempowered can quickly become exhausted when dealing with seemingly minor barriers. In other words, the poor are essentially set up to fail by their circumstances and the effect those circumstances have had on them, thus they will most likely fail.
Unfortunately, the destitution and impoverished do not necessarily know how to intellectualize the limitations and psychological issues that come from their circumstances. That is, they do not know how to explain what they intuitively know to be their needs in terms that would allow them to help policymakers develop effective anti-poverty strategies. After all, the poor tend not to be adequately trained in law, economics, accounting, business, psychology, etc. Even if they do have a grasp of these subjects, they likely lack the resources and opportunities to overcome seemingly nonsensical barriers to in order to simply voice their views.
From bad habits to mental health issues, poverty both results from dysfunctional behavior and encourages dysfunctional behavior. Certainly, education can help people learn to be more functional, which is something schools and colleges often do, but emotional and psychological issues must be addressed as well. This is not to say the poor should be criticized to death for all of their quirks and offensive behaviors. After all, overanalyzing simply overwhelms an individual and makes them defensive. What the poor need is help identifying what critical issues are preventing them from achieving financial success and help addressing those issues.
Moreover, poverty can be more adequately addressed by tackling the environmental and personal issues that prevent people from achieving financial success. It is, however, important to remember poverty is the result of many factors; therefore, dealing with the issue of poverty requires solutions that address all factors that come into play. As such, it is most important to recognize when a solution is applicable to an individual’s situation and when it is not. The wrong diagnosis will never lead to the right cure. Meanwhile, the right solutions must be applied correctly or they will fail as well. Finally, governments need to be smarter in how they address poverty and social welfare spending in order to actually address poverty.
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