India Uncut

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Perpetuating poverty

In a superb post, Primary Red of Secular-Right India writes:
[W]elfare states create dependency, not wealth. They sustain poverty, not eliminate it. In effect, they pay people to remain poor.


When the Great Society debate was raging in the 60s, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (an early neo-conservative and later Ambassador to India) pointed out the difference between a poverty of means and a poverty of spirit.

People can find themselves in poverty for reasons beyond their control, but as long as their spirit is not broken, they get up each morning and go out there to work harder than they did yesterday. They may be poor, but their poverty is resolvable.

Then, there are people with a poverty of spirit. They are dependent on the state for survival, and when the state fails (as it frequently does), they are left marooned. Such poverty is not resolvable.

The key is to make sure that we don't end up with poverty of the spirit. In India, many millions are poor, but they work just as hard as all of us slightly more privileged. They are heroes who build India's wealth every day with their sweat -- it must be India's objective to resolve their structural poverty.

Instead, what India has been doing since independence, alas, is creating a dependency society -- with poverty of the spirit -- where all manner of reservations and subsidies and artificial jobs guarantees ensure a perpetuation of poverty for many.
Dead right. It is a pity that so many people go by intent and ignore outcome when they support the concept of a welfare state. When will we learn?

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
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