Darel Rex Finley in 888

Poverty — Humanity’s Damage Control

2008.10.20   prev     next

MICHAEL Behe’s irreducible complexity reminds us that a single innapropriate change to one part of a complex machine can utterly ruin, or seriously degrade that machine’s function. Typically, a car broken down by the side of the road is actually 99% in good working order. But that doesn’t mean it can drive down the road at 99% of normal speed. It’s not going anywhere until and unless that critical 1% is repaired. Similarly, a single, tiny genetic change in the wrong place can be fatal, or can seriously degrade a human individual’s ability to function.

Rightists lean toward the idea that poverty is a choice — people who freely choose not to work wind up poor, whereas people who freely choose to be hard-working and industrious eventually wind up wealthy, or at least pretty well off. Leftists lean more toward the idea that poverty is not a choice, but a chance fate that befalls a misfortunate minority of the population.

The Left, I think, is correct on this issue. Poverty is caused by genetic mutation that robs the individual of the ability to perform work that would earn at least a middle-class income, and/or of the mental preference to be consistently productive (i.e. not lazy and belligerent).

But — the leftists are wrong about the answer to the problem. They want the government to redistribute wealth to alleviate poverty. As long as the root cause (deleterious mutation) is not cured, it is a bottomless pit into which almost any amount of wealth can be poured, never to be seen again.

For example, suppose Joe Mutation doesn’t have a car. He used to have one, but he wrecked it. After his insurance bought him a new one, he neglected to change the oil and the engine burned out before the car was even a year old. Now he doesn’t have a car at all. Not having a car is a major feature of poverty; in fact, it’s a form of poverty.

So the government gives him a new car. Poverty cured! But not for long. Soon, Joe ruins this car too. Then the government gives him another one. What if Joe just can’t do what he must do to avoid destroying cars, and he kills an average of five cars per year? You can easily see that even if this particular dysfunction resides in only 1% of the population, it will rapidly drain the wealth of the whole nation and throw everyone into poverty.

OK, you might say, so put a limit on it. Give the carless a maximum of three cars, and that’s it. Does that make the program work? No — Joe goes through his three free cars in about seven months, then, if we ruthlessly stick to our three-car limit, Joe is, once again, carless. Once again poor. Just like he was before we started this car-giveaway program. Only now he burned through three more perfectly good cars to get there.

OK, so let’s disallow Joe from driving, and have a government subsidized bus system for him to ride. That works — but now Joe is poor again. Having to ride the bus everywhere is a form of poverty. People who aren’t poor almost never ride the bus; they drive around in their cars.

Damage Control

Poverty is humanity’s natural damage control against the harm of genetic mutation. Poverty stops the harm at a certain level, confines it to the poor sap who carries the mutation, and keeps it from sabotaging the whole economic engine of humanity. As bad as it is that Joe Mutation has to endure poverty, the alternative is far worse.

Ask yourself: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you build a hut? Of course you would. But what if you lived on an island where, through no fault of your own, a high wind came about every three days and utterly demolished even your most well-built hut? Then you would find a way to live hutless. It would suck, but nowhere near as bad as building a new hut every three days.

When our government wages a “war on poverty” — and does so with no current ability to prevent genetic damage, much less repair it in its adult victims — that government inadvertently wages a war on damage control. In the vain belief that behaviorally deleterious mutations can be remedied with wealth redistribution, the government enables those mutations to run amok, causing far more economic damage than they would have caused if the government had left it alone and allowed poverty to contain it. If the government really cares about the plight of the poor, it should channel that spending entirely into researching deleterious genetic mutations and how to prevent and/or cure them — and accept the strong probability that the current generation of poor won’t live to see the benefit. That would be a real war on poverty.

You, Too

This analysis applies not just to the category of misfortune that we typically call “poverty,” but also to the relative poverty that we call “middle-class,” or even “upper-middle-class.” For example, if you earn $100,000/year before taxes (a lot more than I do), but find to your frustration that despite trying for many years, you can’t seem to find a way to make significantly more than that, then odds are, you carry some relatively mild genetic mutation(s) that prevent you from performing at the $500,000 level. Thousands of individuals throughout this country alone earn half a million per year or more — but you won’t be one of them. Capping your income at 100K is a form of natural damage control; it keeps your (relatively) low productivity from draining the economy.

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