Monday, May 24, 2010

Poverty as a Resource

Sometimes the owners of a resource do not reap the rewards of the sale of said resource. Sometimes other groups capture the 'rents' through manipulation and exploitation. This is broadly referred to as rent seeking. I never thought of poverty as a resource prone to rent seeking until I saw this clip. Its pretty damn obvious isn't it? Nothing is safe from the engine of commodification and commercialization that is advanced capitalism!

Several weeks ago many bloggers were talking about this paper by Ravi Kanbur discussing the moral qualms 'poverty professionals' have with living well by the poor. He concludes that week long "immersions" into the world of the poor by these professionals will serve as a reality check from the upper-middle class (read:sumptuous) lifestyle that they normally afford. "They are distinct from project monitoring or highly structured ‘red carpet’ trips when officials make brief visits to a village or an urban slum…” and keep people focused on the core mission at hand; helping people out of poverty.

Doesn't it seem like these trips are really only serving to palliate built-up middle-class guilt? It begs the question; are people working in poverty simply because they are on a career path? Do careers in our advanced capitalist world get in the way of other, more admirable motives? Are careerists more likely to make a living as poverty professionals than bleeding hearts? Perhaps the entire structure of careers in the poverty sector needs adjusting.

Still, the 'Enjoy Poverty' sign seems a little much for my taste. I suppose, though I understand the 'posty' nature of it, I would prefer it to read "Who Enjoys Poverty?"


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