Category: Poverty

will-workNear the top of my long and ever-growing list of pet peeves is articles titled, “The Conservative Case for [Insert Proposal Usually Rejected by Conservatives Here].” It’s almost an iron-clad rule that before you even read the article you can be assured of that the case being made will use words that appeal to conservatives while being based on principles that are contrary to conservatism and/or reality.

Take, for example, a recent op-ed in the New Statesman by British Conservative Party politician Guy Opperman titled, “The Conservative case for a living wage.” In his opening paragraph he writes,

As a Conservative MP, I believe that lower taxes stimulate growth and jobs, that smaller government is invariably better government and that governments must “ensure that work always pays” by making sure those in work are better off than those on benefits. I also believe in hard work. Yet, for too many people in our society, a hard day’s work no longer means a fair day’s pay.

This sounds reasonable enough in theory. But when formulating public policy we have to have to use more precise terms. For instance, what do the phrases “hard work” and a “fair day’s pay” mean when it comes to determining a living wage? Does the difficulty of work automatically mean that the work is deserving of a set level of pay?

Opperman seems to believe that if a person is working a full-time job, that they are thereby entitled – regardless of the work they are doing – to receive a living wage:

(more…)

small bizFr. James V. Schall, S.J., in an essay for The Catholic World Report, offers some points worth pondering regarding Christianity and poverty. Entitled “Do Christians Love Poverty,” Schall insists that we must make the distinction between loving the poor – actual people – and loving “poverty” in some abstract way. For that to happen, we have to be holistic, realistic and concrete in our intentions and actions.

It would seem that our love of the poor, in some basic sense, ought to include not just our helping the poor in his immediate needs but mainly inciting his capacity to help himself. We want him not to need us to help him except in the sense that we all need an economic and social system that works for everyone. We want this system to be growing; we do not want a stagnant system which always produces the same or lesser amounts of available goods. We want and need people who do not think solely or mainly in terms of distributing existing goods, which they often conceive to have been ill-gotten simply because someone has more than others.

(more…)

One of the unintended consequences of the church growth movement was the narrowing of an understanding of how Christianity contributes to the common good by reducing what Christians contribute to the local church. While the church remains vital for the moral formation of society, there are other aspects of human flourishing that require the development of other institutions as Andy Crouch recently explained at Christianity Today.

This reduction has been adopted in some platforms that currently promote church planting. This church planting emphasis, in some cases, has led to an atrophied historical understanding of the Christian tradition’s emphasis on seeking the peace of the city through multiple institutions like schools, hospitals, professional societies, etc. While many churches are being planted in America’s most “strategic” cities, there seems to be little interest in coupling church planting with the creating of Christian schools to provide alternative education opportunities for children trapped in substandard public schools.

Let’s take New York City as an example:

(more…)

As we noted yesterday, rock star Bono is now preaching the good of capitalism in alleviating poverty. James Pethokoukis at AEI illustrates exactly what happened in China when the power of entrepreneurial capitalism was unleashed.

china

Bono spoke on the topic of capitalism and poverty at the 2012 Global Social Enterprise Event at Georgetown University:

male homeless sleeping in a streetTo adequately address the problems of the lowest economic class, Christians must agree on a holistic definition of poverty that includes relational and spiritual elements.

The best solutions for alleviating poverty, if not eradicating it, will involve collaborations among institutions that can address poverty in many different ways. World Vision president Rich Stearns says that poverty is a “complex puzzle with multiple inter-related causes.” As a result, the best solutions (and indeed, there are many) will “help a community address their challenges on multiple fronts: food, water, health, education, economic development, gender, child development and even leadership and governance.”

Broken relationships lie at the root of all of these things, so solving poverty demands that we meet more than just material needs—and that isn’t easy. Generally Christians today have engaged in one-way giving and service amounting to little more than charity in the end, which is only part of our calling. And the result? Christians and the church have been relatively ineffective at providing lasting opportunities for the poor to overcome their situations.

Read more . . .

13317570-indoor-crime-sceneEmily Badger at The Atlantic Wire posts a common sense story regarding the debate about whether or not the dispersing of poor people out of inner-city housing projects into suburban neighborhoods, through government housing voucher programs, increases crime rates. The article reflects recent research by Michael Lens, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA.

A growing stack of research now supports [the] hypothesis that housing vouchers do not in fact lead to crime. Lens has just added another study to that literature, published in the journal Urban Studies. He looked at crime and housing data in 215 cities between 1997 and 2008 – controlling for national and regional crime trends, demographic and income variables, employment rates and more – and found “virtually no relationship” between the prevalence of Housing Choice Voucher Program households and higher crime at the city level or in the suburbs. In previous research, Lens and colleagues had investigated the same question at the neighborhood level.

“Although communities with a higher prevalence of voucher households appear to be higher in crime,” Lens writes, “there is no evidence that this is due to voucher households increasing crime.”

Lens’ findings should not sound too surprising given the fact that poverty does not cause criminal behavior in the first place. In fact, immoral behavior has never been a function of class but a matter of moral fortitude. Granted, poverty most certainly introduces particular temptations (Prov 30:8) but so does wealth (Prov 22:16). Poor people do not have more moral limitations than those who are wealthy. To assume such is make human dignity a function of class and once we cross that road, the poor find themselves the victims of patronizing oppression.

(more…)

city-journal-hirschOne of the core principles of the Acton Institute is commitment to wealth creation since material impoverishment undermines the conditions that allow humans to flourish. We consider helping our fellow citizens to escape material deprivation to be one of the most morally significant economic concerns of our age. But how to do we gauge whether our neighbors are able to improve their economic security? A key metric that is often used is income or social mobility, the ability of an individual to improve their economic status over time.

Last month I noted a study that highlighted four broad factors that appear to affect income mobility:

1. The size and dispersion of the local middle class,
2. Two-parent households,
3. Better elementary schools and high schools, and
4. Civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

Saying that schools should be “better” is unhelpfully vague. But a recent article in City Journal by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., explains just what qualitative factor is most important: The key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary.

Hirsch’s article is one of the most important essays on education published this year — perhaps even of the decade. I highly encourage you to read the entire feature. But if you only have time for a bullet-point presentation, here are ten key facts and recommendations from Hirsch’s brilliant article:

(more…)

foodieFood has been an essential part of Christian culture since Jesus shared a last meal with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. So it’s not surprising that Christians — especially young Christians in urban areas — are the epicurean hobby culture of “foodies.” But as Erik Bonkovsky, a pastor in Richmond, Virginia, says, a truly great and thoroughly Christian food scene is one that blesses the privileged and under-privileged alike:

Foodie culture—particularly with a local and healthy dimension—is now ubiquitous in every major city. Farmers markets, local-sourced menus, and farm-to-table operations have proliferated. However, many of these increased food options are limited to the well-resourced. ‘Foodie culture’ has become one more way to cultivate a lifestyle-based identity. One wonders, “If I cook local-grazed free-range pork without posting it on Instagram, did I really eat it?”

[. . .]

(more…)

appalachiaTelevision evangelist Pat Robertson is certainly known for saying provocative things, and he’s done it again.

When Robertson’s co-host, Wendy Griffith, said not all families could afford to have multiple children, Robertson replied, ‘That’s the big problem, especially in Appalachia. They don’t know about birth control. They just keep having babies.’

‘You see a string of all these little ragamuffins, and not enough food to eat and so on,’ he said, and it’s desperate poverty.’

(more…)

HOPE_logo_vert_color-251x300In an interview with Forbes‘ Jerry Bower, Peter Greer, president and CEO of the the Hope International, explains why church foreign aid programs often hurts those its meant to help:

Greer: There’s an entrepreneur named Jeff Rutt, and after the fall of the Soviet Union he had a desire to go over with his church and help. So, initially they did what people so often do, which is see that people don’t have food and then send over food, and see that people don’t have adequate clothes for the harsh Ukrainian winter and then go in their closets and send things over. And all of that is good, all of that is appropriate, all of that is needed in response to a crisis. But as Jeff did that, after a couple of years it was the team in Ukraine that eventually said—“

Bower: “Your help is hurting.”

(more…)