Whenever discussing any given topic, definitions must be provided, so naturally when discussing economics, and more specifically “poverty,” it is necessary to define terms when we speak of “poverty” in order to accurately identify its cause. Sociologist James M. Henslin defines acknowledges three different types of poverty in his book, Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 1) biological poverty, 2) relative poverty, and 3) official poverty. According to Henslin, the first refers to “malnutrition and starvation,” the second to feeling relatively poorer than another (e.g. not owning as nice of a car as one’s neighbor), and the third to official poverty, which entails the falling beneath an officially defined poverty line. For the sake of clarity, brevity, and conciseness, this column will be addressing the latter whenever poverty is addressed.
In 1962, the United States developed a guideline for discerning whether people were impoverished or not by implementing a federal “poverty line,” where those whose income is lower than this line are considered poor, and those above it are “not-poor,” (Henslin 2014). Therefore, the reason why people find themselves in poverty is that they possess a lack of money. To address the issue of why certain individuals are capable of harnessing asinine amounts of wealth while others are below the poverty line would entail an in-depth study of economics and capitalism; therefore, it can be further understood that people find themselves in poverty because of economic inequality prevalent in society.
A culture of poverty is produced when it is assumed that only a finite amount of wealth exists in the world. This is the position of conflict theory, which believes that, as Henslin states, that “resources are limited and that groups compete for or fight over these resources. In each society, some group has gained control of that society’s resources.”
The natural, and unfortunate, consequence of this assumption is the hoarding of riches by the strong and the loss of wealth by the weak. With this systemic assumption in place, the rich only get richer and the poor are unable to formulate any type of wealth without realizing that wealth is infinite.
If, however, it can be realized that resources and wealth are not synonymous, then it can be acknowledged that value can be attributed to entities that are separate from resources. For example, it is unarguable that there is a limited quantity of gold and silver in the world and that these resources are very valuable. Wealth builds upon such monetary metals, but only as a medium of exchange; furthermore, productivity is a harbinger of wealth, and the cultivation of primordial elements results in a product more valuable. Diarmuid Ó Murchú , author of Quantum Theology, writes, “the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts underpins all reality.” Through cultivation and productivity, computer programs can be written from scratch, stories can be crafted, and land can be farmed to yield produce. These examples all have a purpose in addition to having intrinsic value; it is wealth, but in addition to possessing a value of exchange, it is useful. A culture of poverty, therefore, can only be alleviated by the cultivation of elements and inspired productivity among the working class.
Thus, the key to infinite wealth is directly under our noses. We must escape the mentality that if the world’s resources are hoarded by a minority, then the majority is being oppressed. Resources do not always predicate wealth, and cultivation is an outlet by which individuals can craft a source of value without necessitating a medium of exchange. If a man possesses $1 million, and I possess $1, the richer man is in no way indebted to me, but I have the opportunity to create for myself a source of wealth. Productivity is key.
The means of production, that is, the generators of economic value (non-human inputs that produce goods; e.g. “instruments,” [i.e. machinery, factories, and tools] and “subjects” [i.e. natural resources and raw materials]) cannot be seized through violent revolution, nor should they be possessed by a minority. The means of production are best owned by the people through the virtue of productivity. When a man creates for himself a business, he is creating for himself a source of wealth without predicating an abundance of resources. He is being productive, and in being so, holds the key to wealth.
Be productive. Start a small business. Seize the means of production through being productive and cultivating that which you have access to. And, most importantly, stop whining about the 1%.