Ethika Politika: Materialism and Poverty

David Mills writes over at Ethika Politika:

Those who refer so happily to creative destruction are never themselves among the creatively destroyed. It’s the ideological free-marketer’s version of “Let’s you and him fight.” It speaks of the end in a way that makes invisible those who suffer from the means.

Duly noted.

I have always wondered about the “preferential option for the poor” in Catholic social justice theory as somewhat constrained by the materialistic notions of poverty.  Certain those in a monastic setting are poor, yet we would never define such a condition as poverty.  Mills notes further that:

Who is the poor is a difficult question, but I’d suggest that these days and in these discussions it includes much of the middle class, whose jobs can be taken away by people who restructure companies for efficiency.

There is a line that is frequently mention that the poor man lying on a reed mat in India has more wealth than the middle class family riddled with mortgage and a debt.  To some degree, this is true — though I would imagine that most anyone would trade the reed mat for the welcome mat.

It is perhaps noteworthy to remember that poverty is not a condition per se, but rather a series of choices — past, present, and future.  It is why a coin in the collection plate never resolves poverty, because alleviating the material forms of poverty never addresses the material substance of poverty, much less the social responsibilities involved with alleviating poverty.

As for the social responsibilities of private equity investors conducting smash and grabs, I’m sure some Schumpeterian “creative destruction” perhaps speeds up an otherwise inevitable process, one that is terribly uncomfortable for those caught in the gyre of such changes.

Indeed, our culture is attuned only to creative destruction as it benefits private equity, not the common good.  Yet if one were to make the argument of workforce development as “creative destruction” for the working class, I’m sure many private equity firms would express nothing but revulsion for the concept — perhaps rightly so.

Sadly, the American worker gets caught — risking specialization for the creature comforts of hearth and home.  Such is the Hobbesian world we live in, and expecting mercy from the Leviathan State is perhaps a more precarious condition than our friend on the reed mat.

Yet when wants are kept closer to needs?  Poverty has an amazing way of dissipating… as the billion people who wonder at our own spiritual poverty have been lifted from their own material poverty over the last 25 years.

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