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Ologhai Jones

Does Relative Poverty Have Any Meaning?

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I just heard a definition of poverty on Radio 4 (the Today programme) as being earning below two-thirds of the average income.

At first thought, this relative measuring of poverty seemed a bit odd to me -- how can we ever get people out of poverty because if we bring people out of poverty, don't we raise the average income (and the poverty threshold along with it)?

At second thought, I could see ways in which poverty could be eradicated if everyone earned fairly similar salaries, i.e. everyone earns about the average... But that's hardly the world we live in.

So, with a relative measure of poverty in an essentially capitalist economy, how could we ever get rid of so-called poverty?

In a capitalist environment, would it make more sense to try to measure poverty in absolute terms, perhaps via an index-linked income threshold to achieve comfortable survival?

My head started to hurt at this point, so I thought I'd post here and see if anyone else had any thoughts... :)

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Relative measures of poverty are just social engineering. If every taxi driver worked an extra 20 hours a week to earn more money then that would make them richer but it would not make anybody poorer. It would however make them relatively poorer.

There was an absolute definition of poverty that I posted here a few months ago. Many of us didn't have / do all that was listed there (mainly by choice) so it was not thought to be a reasonable index.

The problem with these measures comes in when you start putting in words liek comfortable, reasonable (as I did!), decent etc.

If you say that no British citizen should starve to death or die of exposure because they can't afford food or shelter than few would disagree.

If you say (this was one of the measures) that you're in poverty if you don't get a weeks holiday a year, or don't have friends and family round for a meal every fortnight then it's getting a bit silly.

Edit: after many years listening I gave up on the Today programme about five years ago. I found most days I was turning it off as it gives every story a soft-left liberal spin and pretends this is the reasonable orthodoxy. Just say no.

Edited by Frank Hovis

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+1 to Frank.

We have Yvette Cooper describing poverty in terms of internet access today. More telling people that they are deprived and have no chance, more disempowering of individuals to improve their lives, more state control, more soma.

It makes me sick.

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Guest sillybear2

You can never eliminate relative poverty unless you level everyone down (a socialist wet dream) aside from doing that the politics of envy is always in place so do-gooders will always have a job 'eliminating poverty'. If you have a closed village of 100 millionaires, 99 families earning £1m a year but with a single family earning £10m a year that will be a village with huge relative poverty and income inequality, if you drive the ultra rich family out of the village everyone will suddenly become equal, but nobody will actually be better off <_<

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Guest sillybear2
some of my relatives are quite poor.

Ahh... we used to dream of having poor relatives, you were lucky.

Edited by sillybear2

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some of my relatives are quite poor.

Is that because you are Scrooge and won't give them any of your money?

Clearly the spin doctors think another campaign on poverty will get all the right headlines.

Surely we should add not being able to buy a family house to the list of what is poverty?

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Communism successfully gets rid of relative poverty by making everyone equally poor (apart from the governing elite, that is, but they don't count when it comes to measuring poverty/wealth in communist states).

Capitalism allows some to become wealthier than others. However, those who are less wealthy will always judge themselves to be poor by comparison with their wealthier peers.

Thus, "the poor will always be with us," whichever way you cut the cake.

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Relative poverty is defined relative to a peer group.

It follows that some members of our house of peers are in relative poverty. Not just now, but also back in the days when they were the real aristocracy!

Same follows for any other over-privileged group. Like, for example, the set of all people born in a developed country.

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Relative poverty is the ultimate tool in the hands of the controlling, neurotic, narcissistic, busybody, proselytizing, Fabian social engineer class. It's a meaningless term that truly makes me feel like we're living in an Orwellian nightmare.

Apparently one of the defining characteristics of the impoverished class in the UK (1 in 5, apparently) is that they are obese. I would love to explain this to some of our fellow men in sub-Saharan Africa.

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If poverty is measured in relation to the thousands of children in the thirld world who will go to bed hungry then fine.

But of course it won't.

Not until we change perceptions starting with individuals and families.

If every parent were to make a point of teaching their children to compare their personal situation with the thousands of starving children in third world countries and therefore to be grateful for a bed to sleep in and food in their belly, instead of comparing their lot with rich boy down the road, and if this were reinforced by schools, then we might get somewhere toward a more objective measure of poverty.

Just as we get the leaders we deserve, we also get, as a society, the metrics we espouse in our personal lives.

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Guest Steve Cook
I just heard a definition of poverty on Radio 4 (the Today programme) as being earning below two-thirds of the average income.

At first thought, this relative measuring of poverty seemed a bit odd to me -- how can we ever get people out of poverty because if we bring people out of poverty, don't we raise the average income (and the poverty threshold along with it)?

At second thought, I could see ways in which poverty could be eradicated if everyone earned fairly similar salaries, i.e. everyone earns about the average... But that's hardly the world we live in.

So, with a relative measure of poverty in an essentially capitalist economy, how could we ever get rid of so-called poverty?

In a capitalist environment, would it make more sense to try to measure poverty in absolute terms, perhaps via an index-linked income threshold to achieve comfortable survival?

My head started to hurt at this point, so I thought I'd post here and see if anyone else had any thoughts... :)

Absolute poverty kills the body

Relative poverty kills the mind

It's just the way we're built

Edited by Steve Cook

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Glad to see few defences of this ridiculous measure on this thread.

It's a topic I often email newspapers about when an article talks about poverty.

Poverty is the inability to afford an acceptable quality of life. People may disagree on what quality of life is acceptable but they will all agree that inability to afford this is bad.

Relative poverty is not a measure of poverty. It is a measure of wealth inequality. It is far from obvious whether a particular level of wealth inequality is good or bad.

By calling wealth inequality "relative poverty", the government and left-wing agencies can avoid engaging in a debate about what level of wealth inequality is good and appropriate. Instead it's - shock gasp - "poverty" - and must be stamped out.

Edited by Selling up

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Absolute poverty kills the body

Relative poverty kills the mind

It's just the way we're built

I do agree with you that relative poverty, in our current value-system, can induce mental illness on a large scale.

Were we built to be lazy, bitter infants who rely on government largesse to maintain our existence, or do you think we just breed people that way? There's a poverty of the spirit in this country, anyway.

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Relative poverty is the ultimate tool in the hands of the controlling, neurotic, narcissistic, busybody, proselytizing, Fabian social engineer class. It's a meaningless term that truly makes me feel like we're living in an Orwellian nightmare.

Apparently one of the defining characteristics of the impoverished class in the UK (1 in 5, apparently) is that they are obese. I would love to explain this to some of our fellow men in sub-Saharan Africa.

Makes all the champagne socialists feel better about themselves when they jet off to Tuscany for the weekend.

Fighting poverty on a six figure salary can be terribly stressful you know, just ask Polly Toynbee.

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Absolute poverty kills the body

Relative poverty kills the mind

It's just the way we're built

A snappy aphorism, but not necessarily true.

Relative poverty only kills the mind if one allows oneself to be consumed by envy.

It is entirely possible to learn to be content with what one has, and grateful for it - whether it be a lot or a little.

In fact, relative poverty has significant benefits - one does not have to be concerned about preserving one's non-existent wealth, for starters. No need for insurance policies, burglar alarms, investment advice, etc and all those other things that worry the wealthy.

There is a freedom to be found in a lack of personal property. And an inventiveness, too. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes.

All one has to do to avoid any "killing of the mind" as you put it, is to obey the 10th commandment.

“You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour's.â€

And then, follow the example of Paul recorded in Philippians 4:11-12

"....for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

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Relative measures of poverty are just social engineering. If every taxi driver worked an extra 20 hours a week to earn more money then that would make them richer but it would not make anybody poorer. It would however make them relatively poorer.

In the case of a relatively small group (e.g. taxi drivers), it might be tricky to see the effects on the economy of just their incomes being raised. However, if some people within a society become richer (while everyone else maintains their current level of income in nominal terms), then surely it does make everyone else poorer, even if it's only due to increasing the amount of money available to spend and increasing average prices, i.e. inflation?

There was an absolute definition of poverty that I posted here a few months ago. Many of us didn't have / do all that was listed there (mainly by choice) so it was not thought to be a reasonable index.

The problem with these measures comes in when you start putting in words liek comfortable, reasonable (as I did!), decent etc.

I must've missed that. It'd be interesting to see your post if you can find a link to it! :)

It's hard to get around using those adjectives intended to imply something more than just bare survival, but I think it might be possible to flesh out 'comfortable survival' to make it a little less woolly. For example, someone living in poverty shouldn't (all else being reasonable) not have to endure malnutrition. Of course, if they're spending 'food money' on gambling, alcohol, cigarettes etc. and they're malnourished, then perhaps it could be argued that it's not more money that they need?

Apparently one of the defining characteristics of the impoverished class in the UK (1 in 5, apparently) is that they are obese. I would love to explain this to some of our fellow men in sub-Saharan Africa.

As above -- someone who is obese isn't (at least in the nutrition department) presumably suffering from malnutrition. But 'bad food' is often cheaper than 'good food', no?

If every parent were to make a point of teaching their children to compare their personal situation with the thousands of starving children in third world countries and therefore to be grateful for a bed to sleep in and food in their belly, instead of comparing their lot with rich boy down the road, and if this were reinforced by schools, then we might get somewhere toward a more objective measure of poverty.

It seems as if we're living in a society where children long to be like their richer peers and bully their poorer peers. Even more sadly, this isn't even a new thing. Poorer kids were always teased and bullied about their being poor when I was at school. (Not me incidentally -- I was too busy being bullied for being a nerd... ;))

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Guest Steve Cook
In the case of a relatively small group (e.g. taxi drivers), it might be tricky to see the effects on the economy of just their incomes being raised. However, if some people within a society become richer (while everyone else maintains their current level of income in nominal terms), then surely it does make everyone else poorer, even if it's only due to increasing the amount of money available to spend and increasing average prices, i.e. inflation?

I must've missed that. It'd be interesting to see your post if you can find a link to it! :)

It's hard to get around using those adjectives intended to imply something more than just bare survival, but I think it might be possible to flesh out 'comfortable survival' to make it a little less woolly. For example, someone living in poverty shouldn't (all else being reasonable) not have to endure malnutrition. Of course, if they're spending 'food money' on gambling, alcohol, cigarettes etc. and they're malnourished, then perhaps it could be argued that it's not more money that they need?

As above -- someone who is obese isn't (at least in the nutrition department) presumably suffering from malnutrition. But 'bad food' is often cheaper than 'good food', no?

It seems as if we're living in a society where children long to be like their richer peers and bully their poorer peers. Even more sadly, this isn't even a new thing. Poorer kids were always teased and bullied about their being poor when I was at school. (Not me incidentally -- I was too busy being bullied for being a nerd... ;) )

We live in a country of bullies, depressives and con-men

This is what you get in a society where material acquisition is prized above all other things.

Fear and greed

Mostly fear

Edited by Steve Cook

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As above -- someone who is obese isn't (at least in the nutrition department) presumably suffering from malnutrition. But 'bad food' is often cheaper than 'good food', no?

It seems as if we're living in a society where children long to be like their richer peers and bully their poorer peers. Even more sadly, this isn't even a new thing. Poorer kids were always teased and bullied about their being poor when I was at school. (Not me incidentally -- I was too busy being bullied for being a nerd... ;))

I was bullied for being both poor and a nerd :) Fortunately I got over it! Ended up doing better than any of them. He who laughs, etc.

As for the unhealthy food being cheap.. true enough. But there is no compulsion for a poor person to eat bad food. Good, healthy and simple food is available in the same price range as turkey twizzlers and KFC. There is no excuse for voluntary malnutrition, which is what obesity actually is.

Edited by 50sQuiff

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Guest Steve Cook
I was bullied for being both poor and a nerd :) Fortunately I got over it! Ended up doing better than any of them. He who laughs, etc.

As for the unhealthy food being cheap.. true enough. But there is no compulsion for a poor person to eat bad food. Good, healthy and simple food is available in the same price range as turkey twizzlers and KFC. There is no excuse for voluntary malnutrition, which is what obesity actually is.

You operate on the erroneous assumption that humans are capable of making lifestyle choices based on immediate logic alone instead of on the basis of a complex interaction between social instincts and environmental demands.

Edited by Steve Cook

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Of course "Relative Poverty" has a meaning. It just doesn't have a use, other than to depress facilitate social engineering and to drain independence from people.

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Glad to see few defences of this ridiculous measure on this thread.

It's a topic I often email newspapers about when an article talks about poverty.

Poverty is the inability to afford an acceptable quality of life. People may disagree on what quality of life is acceptable but they will all agree that inability to afford this is bad.

Relative poverty is not a measure of poverty. It is a measure of wealth inequality. It is far from obvious whether a particular level of wealth inequality is good or bad.

By calling wealth inequality "relative poverty", the government and left-wing agencies can avoid engaging in a debate about what level of wealth inequality is good and appropriate. Instead it's - shock gasp - "poverty" - and must be stamped out.

I found this to be a particularly interesting reply (up against some pretty stiff competition in this particular thread! :)) Thanks for the food for thought.

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You operate on the erroneous assumption that humans a capable of making lifestyle choices based on immediate logic alone instead of on the basis of a complex interaction between social instincts and environmental demands.

A pointless statement.

Relative Poverty is a valueless concept. One might as well just stick with words like richer and poorer. It means absolutely nothing in respect of standard of living or threats to health. It's a typical socialist construct to maintain a case for state control.

Where's BoomBoomCrash to rage against it?

Edited by bogbrush

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Relative poverty makes sense if you are a relativist - sadly most people are, having been taught in state schools.

As already pointed out, it's merely a tool for more state control.

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