Save The Children, for real

BBC News – Save the Children urges action for poorest UK children:

The government said it was committed to eradicating child poverty.” 

For over 400 years, generation after generation of politicians have been ‘committed’ to eradicating poverty in general by the method of coercively redistributing wealth in various ways. From the Act for the Relief of the Poor in 1601, which levied a tax on property owners in order to fund poorhouses, up to today’s vast and intricate welfare, benefits and credits system, which is funded by income tax, forceful redistribution of wealth has categorically failed to solve the problem. 

Remaining committed to solving a problem is fine, but being committed to taking the same course of action over and over again with the expectation of different results is, as Albert Einstein pointed out, madness. Politicians, who have willfully ignored 400 years of empirical evidence from their social experiments, are barely worthy of the capacious brains evolution has endowed them with. The brain of a primate would surely suffice for a politician (and it would certainly make Prime Minister’s question time much more interesting).

Philosopher Ayn Rand once stated this truth: “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

The consequences of avoiding the reality that coercive redistribution of wealth through government action doesn’t solve the problem of poverty is the fact that today 3.5. million children live in relative poverty under a nation state wealthy enough to spend £39bn on maintaining an army with all the latest weaponry. 

The Save The Children’s report is entitled ‘It Shouldn’t Happen Here’, and they are right, it shouldn’t be happening in a society as prosperous as the UK. But they are mistaken to look to the government to solve the problem using the same method that has failed for over four centuries. There’s no one government law, regulation or legislation, or unique combination of these things that is going to solve the problem of poverty. There’s no magic formula, combination or way of coercively redistributing wealth that will finally solve the problem. We’ve spent four hundred years looking for these pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, but they don’t exist. 

Save The Children is wrong to urge the government to pay 80% of childcare costs for the poorest families and to ask government to ‘encourage’ employers to pay above the minimum wage. Taking more money from already highly-taxed productive people may provide short-term alleviation for poor families, in the same way painkillers for a toothache do, but it will not solve the problem in the long-term. In fact, the long-term effect can only be to reduce the general level of prosperity, which in turn can only make escaping poverty harder. The effectiveness and virtue of the minimum wage is a myth. In the long-run it only guarantees that X amount of people in society will always be unemployable. This type of economic environment only makes escaping poverty harder, not easier. 

Those in poverty have the best chance of escaping it if they have the economic freedom to work for anyone, anywhere, for any amount of hours and for any wage. Poverty is by definition a lack of wealth, and so an environment which maximises each individual’s opportunities to create and acquire wealth is the way to solve poverty. Individual economic liberty, not laws and forceful redistribution of wealth, is the only way to manifest such an environment.  

By refraining from lobbying for Governmental action and instead focusing on charity, education and awareness, Save The Children can ensure that it doesn’t make things worse for the people it has admirably taken on the task of trying to help out of poverty. Trying to help someone is good, but trying to help someone at the expense of someone else is bad. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Politicians get paid handsomely to take the same utterly ineffective actions over and over again, talk nonsense, shuffle papers, and smile for cameras, and it is this fact of society today that virtually guarantees that most of those who live in relative poverty will not escape it. It doesn’t have to be this way.

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