mirrorshard: (Default)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
There's a strong bias - at least amongst the policy-making classes - that "a handup, not a handout" is the way to go when dealing with poverty. The problem with this culture is that it's based on two three four fundamentally bad assumptions. (There are also other problems, mostly based around business interests, but that's for another day.)

First, that everyone should be middle-class, with a nice middle-class job at a desk, in a tertiary sector industry, and a car and a mortgage - so there's already a well-defined route "up".. And as a corollary to that, choosing to take a route which isn't that one is a bad thing, because other life choices are just temporary aberrations - the kind of thing you do in your gap year for the experience, or something you do for pin money, or to keep yourself busy.

Second, that "dealing with poverty" isn't the business of poor people themselves. The idea that if someone is in a bad situation they are therefore less capable of getting themselves out of it - that someone else, who isn't involved and has more resources (or more moral authority) is better able to see the route out of that situation. This is partly to do with the whole "underlying reasons for poverty" meme: the toxic & stupid idea that if someone is poor, it's their own fault - that they are poor because they are a bad person - or, in a slightly more advanced form, that they are a less competent person because they are poor, and once they become less poor (ie. once they get a nice middle-class job & lifestyle) they will rejoin the ranks of competent people worthy of respect.

Third, that the amount of effort someone is putting into solving a problem is the same as the amount that's visible, and that if they're unsupervised they won't take the problem seriously. This isn't just a fundamental failure of trust, it's a failure inherent in measurement culture - it's the same problem as measuring productivity by lines of code written, or expressing quality of life in terms of GDP per head.

Fourth, that a handout is automatically a bad thing - that it's an undeserved reallocation of finite resources. I'm not sure where these people get the idea that any significant proportion of the money in this country is where it is because its owners "deserved" it, or worked for it. For every Joanne Rowling, there's a George Osborne and a Duke of Grosvenor. We're all broadly behind the idea of social return on investment, but apparently the idea that individual currently disadvantaged humans might be able to manage that for themselves is a bit too revolutionary.
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