Sunday, March 21, 2010

On Poverty and Philanthropy

Brittany Liebenow

21 March 2010

On Poverty and Philanthropy

My opinions about poverty and philanthropy are probably obvious. I believe that poverty is a horrible thing, and that everyone capable should help the effort to rid the world of poverty, but I do accept that poverty is inevitable. I also believe that while philanthropy should be practiced fairly consistently, it should be practiced in moderation. Both of these opinions are, in my opinion, at least fairly qualified assertions. I also feel, however, that both of these positions require explanation to prevent them from seeming self-centered or overly bold.
Few moral people would consider poverty a good thing about society; poverty leads to suffering and desperation. Because of this, I, as a fairly moral person myself, consider poverty to be one of the world’s most basic problems. I believe that people, who have the economic means necessary, should donate to the cause of ridding the world of poverty. I do not believe, however, that this should be mandated. I feel that people should be intrinsically motivated to donate their efforts because they feel a moral push to do so. If people view helping fight the war on poverty as more of a personal choice and less of an obligation, they will be more willing to continue helping in the future and less likely to find ways to avoid fighting poverty. I also personally have a serious problem with overeducated yet seemingly ignorant intellectuals running around forcing people to donate their money or efforts towards poverty when these same intellectuals would not even dream of contributing the same amount of their own services.
The statement that poverty is inevitable is seemingly more of an excuse than an opinion. I am not sure about others who use this phrase, but, for me at least, that take on my opinion could not be farther than the truth. Just because something, in this case the complete absence of poverty, is presumably impossible does not mean that we should give up on that something. All that it means is that we have to keep trying harder and harder to fix the problem. Forever? Yes, forever. This idea is not as far-fetched as it seems. Consider the following scenario: an athlete, aware that she will never be able to achieve perfection in her sport, continues to train, striving to achieve as close to perfection as she can. She will, presumably, achieve great things, though probably not perfection. This is the way I believe we should approach the world’s problem of poverty. We should strive to get rid of as much of it as possible, but we should take pride in mass deductions of poverty rather than always believing our war on poverty is failing because it is not yielding perfect results.
Philanthropy should be practiced in moderation; it should be practiced enough to lend aid to those hardworking individuals that are going through rough times, but it should not be so unconditionally provided that it becomes the way people consistently provide for themselves. There is a delicate balance regarding the amount of philanthropy that should be provided to reduce poverty. Too little and there will be no means by which to reduce poverty. Too much and it will fuel the cycle of poverty.

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