Tag Archives: poverty

Not every act of kindness is good

It’s tempting when reading these two pieces

  1. Community fridges pop up in Toronto neighbourhoods during COVID-19 pandemic–
  2. Councillor blasts group building shelters after altercation at Dartmouth park

to say, “at least they’re trying”. Or to ask “what’s the alternative”. Or even to think “you don’t support these ideas because you are “heartless, bourgeois, selfish,” etc.

First off, let me say the impulse of these initiatives are good. And the alternatives — lack of food and shelter — are terrible. So in that way these are good ideas. Some food and some shelter is better than none.

But in comparison to any other initiative involving food and shelter these ideas are poor ones. These shelters are good because they are shelters and nothing else. And the idea of having a community fridge is a disaster waiting to happen.

I’m glad that these initiatives provoke the comfortable to make a better effort to help the poor and homeless. But I will never think these are good works for any reason other than the basic ones.

Not every act of kindness is good, and sometimes a small act of kindness allows a bigger problem to fester.

To improve society, you need governments to want to improve society


To improve society, you need governments to want to improve society. This seems obvious, unless you see government function as either wasting money or punishing the worst off in our society. But governments can function very effectively to improve society, and these two articles illustrate this:

  1. Trudeau’s Child Benefit Is Helping Drive Poverty to New Lows – Bloomberg
  2. Jobs, Houses and Cows: China’s Costly Drive to Erase Extreme Poverty – The New York Times

In both countries, poverty isn’t declining by magic or the invisible hand of capitalism. It’s being driven down by specific policies and programs with an aim to eliminate poverty.

A better world is possible. Progress is possible. We just need people and their governments to want it to become possible. Never believe that progress is impossible or an illusion.

(Chart above from here. The downward line is people living in extreme poverty, while the upward line is people not living in extreme poverty.)

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How living in a poor neighborhood changes everything about your life (and this was before the pandemic)


This is a really good explanation piece on how living in a poor neighborhood changes everything about your life (Vox).

It is focused on the United States, but is not unique to it. Well worth reading. It can also explain why people who live in poorer neighborhoods are more likely to suffer the effects of the pandemic.

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Falling

We don’t talk much about poverty anymore. We talk about the middle class a lot. We don’t talk about the upper class or the rich anymore: instead we talk about them in terms of percentage points. And we don’t talk about the poor as much as we talk about those who are homeless. But there are still poor people in our society, and one member of that group wrote about it here: Falling.

He has a home, he was middleclass, and now he is poor. The story is sad but not exceptional.

I don’t know why we don’t talk about the poor so much any more. Perhaps we see poverty as shameful, not for the people who are poor, but shameful for people who don’t see themselves as poor. I don’t know. I think we do need to talk about it and the spectrum of financial status, and I think we need to work towards a fairer and more equitable society. First, we need to look and talk about it more clearly.

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Can homelessness be reduced?


Definitely yes. Here’s how two cities are doing it:

  1.  New Orleans
  2. Helsinki

It can be done. These cities are showing how it can be done. Other cities need to strive for similar or better results.