Poverty_foodIn a recent TED talk, Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, discussed the need for ideology to be put aside when assisting those in destitution.

Originally from Seattle, Brooks dropped out of college early in his life to become a professional French horn player. His curiosity about a 1970’s National Geographic cover led him to research the fight against poverty.

He found that “there’s been an 80 percent decline in the world’s worst poverty,” which can be defined as those living on less than a $1.25 a day. Brooks attributes the improvement of 2 billion lives to the economic power provided by the capitalist system, a “policy” that both conservatives and liberals can get behind.

In his presentation, he highlighted five main reasons why capitalism provides the best environment for growth and prosperity: globalization, free trade, property rights, rule of law and entrepreneurship. All of these aspects of a free market emphasize economic freedom in the lives of the people who live under it.

“Capitalism is not just about accumulation,” he said during his talk. “At its best, it’s about aspiration.” Most important of all, economic freedom is something that both parties can get behind and support. It was, after all, President Obama who uttered the conservative’s favorite quote: “Free markets have created more wealth than any system in history. They have lifted billions out of poverty.”

While studies have shown that liberals and conservatives focus on different political topics, their affinity for free markets should still unite them against poverty and for freedom. Psychologists have identified a phenomenon called “political motive asymmetry” where individuals think their ideology is motivated by love and the opposite is motivated by hate.

Evidence provided by a U.N. study and a Fraser Institute study indicates that poverty decreases when economic freedom increases. More specifically, the U.N. report highlighted a 25 percent decrease in the number of people in extreme poverty between 1981 and 2005. At the same time, the Fraser Institute reported a 29 percent increase in economic freedom from 1980 to 2013.

Brooks continued his speech by challenging both liberals and conservatives to embrace arguments that they might typically be opposed to hearing. “I’m asking you and I’m asking me to be the person specifically who blurs the lines, who is ambiguous, who is hard to classify,” he says. Ending the divisiveness of the party system is only possible with divergent ideological thinking.

The current political environment in the U.S. can often limit the government’s ability to fight global poverty. Bipartisanship means compromise. In order to assist millions of those in extreme poverty, the mobilization of relief must come from both sides with productive dialogue and a collaborative attitude.

– Jacob Hess

Photo: Flickr

MDG Failures MDGs
As 2015 comes to a close and the world takes a look at the progress that has been made, it is clear that while much has been accomplished — with more than a billion people having been lifted out of poverty — many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were not complete successes, and some failed outright. Discussed below are the MDG failures and their implications.

Shortcomings: Assessing the MDG Failures

One of the major MDG failures is the fact that the success of the goals was not experienced equally across the globe; this in itself is a major defeat. Consider a few of these statistics from different countries concerning the same MDGs.

Extreme Poverty 50 Percent Reduction Rate:

  1. Southeastern Asia exceeded the goal for extreme poverty reduction by 16 percent
  2. Southern Asia exceeded the goal by 12.5 percent
  3. Northern Africa scraped by at about 1.2 percent
  4. Sub-Saharan Africa was by far the most behind. It did not even meet the goal for extreme poverty reduction and was 12.5 percent away from doing so.

The extreme poverty reduction goal of at least a 50 percent reduction in those living on $1.25 a day arguably had the best statistics for each country; from there it goes steadily downhill. This trend can be seen throughout the different Millennium Development Goals. Sub-Saharan Africa was far from reaching its goals, and not one country achieved the goal set for maternal mortality rate reduction.MDG_failures

Gender inequality was also a focus of the MDGs, but unfortunately, according to the United Nations, “gender inequality persists in spite of more representation of women in parliament and more girls going to school. Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making.”

Although there were huge successes achieved through the MDGs, it is important to note that more than 800 million people continue to live in extreme poverty.

According to the U.N., “children from the poorest 20 percent of households are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those from the wealthiest 20 percent and are also four times as likely to be out of school. In countries affected by conflict, the proportion of out-of-school children increased from 30 percent in 1999 to 36 percent in 2012.”

In addition, the numbers for global emissions of carbon dioxide as well as water scarcity are disheartening. There has been a 50 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions and water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the world in comparison to 1990 statistics.

Although there have been failures in trying to implement the goals, all hope is not lost. Progress in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals is already being made.

Global leaders are regrouping, and as the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “The emerging post-2015 development agenda, including the set of Sustainable Development Goals, strives to build on our successes and put all countries, together, firmly on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world.”

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: IRIN News, UN
Photo: Flickr, Pixabay