The new film, "The End of Poverty? Think Again" had its NYC premier back in November, and is now back for a second round.
I commend it to your attention. It is beautifully filmed, and, while it doesn't provide clear answers, it raises a lot of important questions -- different questions from the ones commonly being discussed -- and considers them in light not only of economic justice, but also the sustainability of our planet.
You can watch a number of clips on YouTube ... start at http://www.youtube.com/user/CinemaLibre2 and you'll see links to many excerpts and some outtakes, interviews with the director, and a review.
The title is a direct challenge to Jeffrey Sachs' 2005 book "The End of Poverty." The film looks for the roots of global poverty, and who benefits from the current structure. It provides a lot to think about.
Here are three websites I encourage you to explore
- the film company's website, http://theendofpoverty.com This will tell you where you can find the film and provides some additional clips.
- A Georgist Perspective on the film "The End of Poverty?", http://povertythinkagain.com/
- A companion book for the film, "Why Global Poverty?" http://whyglobalpoverty.com/ available at the online bookstore at http://www.schalkenbach.org/
The solutions to poverty that most people are talking about -- microcredit, vaccines, drinking water improvements, etc. -- are not going to put a major dent in the problem. None of them, and no combination of them, goes to the ROOT of the problem, the underlying cause.
I'm actually not altogether sure that the filmmaker himself fully understands the root of the problem -- but it seems to me that he is at least on the right track. And I think his film has the potential to get the conversation going, which is a lot better than where we've been.
When I think about the other proposals that are being made to end poverty, I think of a passage from Henry George, the beginning of a chapter called "The Robber That Takes All That is Left:"
Labor may be likened to a man who as he carries home his earnings is waylaid by a series of robbers. One demands this much, and another that much, but last of all stands one who demands all that is left, save just enough to enable the victim to maintain life and come forth next day to work. So long as this last robber remains, what will it benefit such a man to drive off any or all of the other robbers?
I'm not saying that disabling or disposing of some of these other robbers isn't noble work. But we ought not to fool ourselves that it is sufficient. And we're operating in the dark if most people don't even realize the existence of that other robber, who also robs them, day in and day out.
Remember that in America, which has, most of us think, solved most of the problems these people set out to solve, has tremendous concentration of wealth:
10% of us hold 71.5% of the aggregate net worth. The next 10% have 13.5%.
That doesn't leave a whole lot for the bottom 80% of us. And recent developments, including the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, lead some of us to expect that wealth will concentrate further in America.