Give a Man a Fish: Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion

Or not, as the findings of the Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2010 report by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggest. According to the report, over 58% of all UK cases of poverty are children, with 2.1 million children in poverty having working parents. Although the number of children in poverty from working households has risen, the report finds that the number of children in poverty among ‘out-of-work households’ has fallen to its lowest level since 1984.

Co-author of the report, Tom McInnes, told the BBC: “with more than half of all children in poverty belonging to working families, it is simply not possible to base anti-poverty policies on the idea that work alone is a route out of poverty”. He claims the rise in benefits since 2008 has prevented a growth of child poverty in ‘out-of-work households’ by half a million.

So can we imply that giving people money is better than giving them jobs? The president of the Ayn Rand Institute, Yaron Brook would find this difficult to accept. As a disciple of Objectivism, Brook subscribes to rational selfishness; a system which claims an ethical action is rational if, and only if, it maximizes self interest. When talking to the Yale Political Union, in 2008, Brook exclaimed, ‘If you don’t want to be poor, think!’ Brook sees the imposition of the welfare state on the poor as an example of how they are kept in poverty. He suggests the possibility to work for less than the minimum wage presents opportunity for people to work their way out of poverty.

Therefore, we are left with two distinct ethical views. One altruistic, proposing to give money to help alleviate poverty; the other self-interested, recommending people can ‘think’ their way out of poverty by working for less.

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