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I’ve read so many articles from those on the left and the right exploring the question, “What causes poverty?”
One of my favorite authors, Robert Heinlein said, “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man.” This is actually an inarguable fact. It is objective reality. Man comes out of the womb perhaps less wealthy than any of the ruminants that inhabit our planet. A giraffe, a cow, a zebra, a horse, are all up and running the moment they are born. They have their mother’s milk and soon after the grass lands. We humans do not graze, we must hunt and gather.
Heinlein continues to explain, “Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority…” It was the man who harnessed fire, clothing, shelter, the wheel, the plow, the spear, and the beasts that taught man what he must know to raise himself up out of his native poverty. The will of man, the mind of man, the innovation of man are what raise him up out of poverty.
The far better a question to be asking ourselves is, “What are the causes of wealth?”
Adam Smith addressed just that question in back in 1776, in his book “The Wealth of Nations” in which he says, “Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this – no dog exchanges bones with another.” The point is that man cooperates with man in exchanging things of value. It could be goods or it could be labor but each has what the other values and they strike a bargain to trade one for the other. When one man takes goods that do not belong to him it is theft, when he takes labor that does not belong to him it is called slavery.
There is a fine line between slavery and theft. It can be argued that continued theft is slavery. If a man works and the produce of that work, be it money or crops, is continually taken from him that man is in bondage, he is a slave to the person taking it.
It has become fashionable among the leftists to speak of and promote the idea of a Universal Basic Income, or UBI. The idea is simple, everyone gets a basic amount of money each month from the government. No matter what a person does they get that income. If they do not work they get the income. It is meant, according to the wide eyed leftists, as that most noble of gifts, that of time. Time for the man to pursue his passions like art, poetry, and knowledge. Things they seem to imagine no working man could ever accede to.
What UBI actually would do is make double slaves of all who live under it. Governments do not make wealth, they only take it. Never forget that much! All the money the government has came from someone else: your neighbor, a friend, a parent. Then that money, the product of their labor, is given away to you – making you the master and them the slave.
But in turn you also become slave to the whim and temper of the government. Today you laud them for the cash they send your way and you adjust to your new life as a poet. Then tomorrow they find the slave has less money for them to take so they cannot give you as much, but now you are a poet and have adjusted your means naturally.
It is the interest of every man to live as much at his ease as he can; and if his emoluments are to be precisely the same, whether he does or does not perform some very laborious duty, it is certainly his interest, at least as interest is vulgarly understood, either to neglect it altogether, or, if he is subject to some authority which will not suffer him to do this, to perform it in as careless and slovenly a manner as that authority will permit. – Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
It is true that some people may feel that Smith paints an unflattering picture of man. However, it’s hard to argue its accuracy. If we think of man as animal, a product of evolution or if we are religious and we think of man as fallen from grace in constant dichotomy with the natural man we find in either way of seeing man that his natural state is one of, to be kind, repose. Like any animal if there is no want, there is no need. A lion with a full belly and a brood of young with full bellies lays beneath the banyan tree and little more. Only when his domain is encroached upon by another lion will he arise, or when his belly is no longer full, or when his pride’s plaintiff cries of hunger motivate him. If his hunting grounds produce no game or mate only then does he move on. Evolutionists are fond of saying that man is just an animal but they seldom really treat him as such, likely because all their experience teaches them that it simply isn’t true, man is more than just an animal.
The proponents of UBI would agree with this, in fact it is the basis for their sales pitch. If man has those basic needs met. unlike the lion, he will then have time and motivation for more human endeavors like self actualization. And Smith would seem to agree (if the reader decides to miss a key word or two).
The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations.
That seems to say that man strives to better his condition, that innovation and greatness are man’s to have if only he could get beyond the need for food and shelter. UBI, they argue, is just the way to do this. Give everyone money so they won’t have to worry anymore about the physiological needs of food and water, the safety needs of shelter, health, and resources and they can move ahead in life to find love, self-esteem, and finally creativity!
They focus on security and wealth but miss the word “freedom” which Smith argued was essential for any economic system to succeed. Those pushing UBI will argue that it produces freedom by freeing man from work and the worrying about where his next meal is coming from. But that only comes by taking from someone else. Living under UBI makes everyone a looter and a slave at the same time and gives power over to the government to control the purse strings until you live at their whim.
It’s been tried before under a different name. It never works and never will.