Are we being realistic about poverty


Suppose that you are a business adviser and you have a client who has come to you with a problem: he needs firewood to keep his office warm. Now take a look at the image and answer the 4 questions below.

1 – What is the probability of success for method A?
2 – What is the probability of success for method B?
3 – Which of these methods is the best?
4 – If your client does not have a chainsaw, will you tell them that karate chopping is there only option?


The Pursuit of Happyness, a feel-good positive-message Will Smith movie, is a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ themed story which basically pushes the idea that anybody can karate chop a tree, indeed making people feel hopeful – but hopeful about something that is very unlikely to occur. Thus it is effectively creating false hope and therefore it is a reckless message.

Notice that both method A and B require hard work. But method B offers a realistic probability of success in return for the client’s hard work.

In America a great amount of emotion and political policy is invested into method A solutions for the poor. It would be better to invest all of the ‘you can karate it, you just gotta work hard’ emotion into something with a more realistic probability of success, into grand-scale problem solving: to search for a method B.




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