Poverty and individual responsibility

In the book <When the Iron Lady Ruled Britain> (reprinted 2012), author Robert Chesshyre, picked up on a thread of Victorian thinking seemingly prevalent during Thatcherite Britain – the poor had themselves to blame.

But what if the poverty was injected from outside forces?

Corruption was something that hemmed people into continued poverty. In one example, then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, created companies to enforce a monopoly of the sugar sector. He severely restricted the prices of sugar sold to his Philippine Exchange Company. He went on to take hold of the shipping firms for sugar. Finally, he pre-empted the minimum wage for the 500,000 sugar labourers. These workers thence earned below $1 a day. The comprehensive magnitude of corruption made the escape from poverty next to impossible. In this case, the poor can hardly be blamed indeed.

Natural disasters also play a part. Such events destroy entire homes, businesses and roads – leaving people with a shadow of their former prosperity. The 2011 Fukushima tsunami and earthquake caused 15,880 people deaths and the meltdown of the regional nuclear power station. The spectre of radioactive contamination on fishing; agriculture; and tourism led to an economic downturn. Some farmers killed themselves as they lost their means of economic survival. Similarly, the 2010 Haiti earthquake hit road, government offices, hospitals, and almost 300,000 homes. (Worse still, there was a cholera epidemic later on in the same year.) Many Haitians have to sell their things to access medical treatment; some conceivably have to borrow and fall foul to debt bondage. It would be unfair to pin the responsibility of disaster affected peoples for their poverty.

Over the longer run, external forces in both these examples should bear the blame. The reconstruction funds have somehow not reached the needy Japanese and Haitians… One can do further research on the obstacles…


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