Not To Be Trusted With Knives

{October 15, 2008}   Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day:

Global issues like poverty are extremely complex. There is no simple, clear answer. By asking thousands of different people to give their viewpoints and opinions, Blog Action Day creates an extraordinary lens through which to view these issues. Each blogger brings their own perspective and ideas. Each blogger posts relating to their own blog topic. And each blogger engages their audience differently.

What I want to talk about is a comment that Stephane Dion1 made in the party leaders debate (English) in response to Harper’s “tough on crime” stance.  Dion talked about how we need to fight the root causes of crime by fighting poverty.  The Conservatives “get tough on young offenders” strategy attacks a symptom (crime) and ignores the root cause (poverty).  Similarly, I work in the area of addictions research and something that my colleagues find time and time again is that stable housing, specifically lack thereof, is a major problem in the lives of many people living with addictions.  But instead of dealing with the housing and poverty crises, we get “tough on crime” and “war on drugs” attitudes that ignore the root causes of these problems.

I don’t have any solutions, but I’m am putting these thoughts out there.  Hopefully raising awareness, getting people thinking and talking. Which is the point of BAD2008, right?


1I know I said I’d stop talking all about politics after yesterday’s election. But it’s Blog Action Day. I promise tomorrow will be a non-political blog posting, k?


thanks for devoting your blog and giving your time to this issue today. good for you.

i do hope your readers are moved to donate to the charity of their choice.

Raul says:

That is a common problem here – trying to solve a problem by tackling the symptom, not the cause.

Awesome Blog Action Day post! 🙂

adam says:

Poverty is the root cause of crime? I’m not sure that’s a fair entry point. After all, not all poor people are criminals (and I would hypothesize that MOST poor people are NOT criminals, but I can’t back it up with stats).

I guess my point is that there is a root cause of crime that is deeper than poverty. But that’s another topic.

A more appropriate question might be what is the root cause of poverty? That would be an interesting discussion.

Deb Acle says:

You know, I disagree that the reasons for poverty are ‘extremely complex’. That sounds to me like a typical comment from people who don’t want to look themselves in the eye and ‘fess up to their own part in it.

Security and equality or lack of are root causes of poverty. Rich people selfishly not allowing others to share in such. We continually elect leaders who perpetuate this selfishness and greed.

I completely agree, poverty is not at the root of crime. Badness is.

We really do need to ditch all this post-modern over-complication of particularly difficult-to-swallow phenomena and get back to sound common sense.

Well done for evoking some activity in my half dozen neurons!

Alex says:

Great post, Thank you for sharing, I myself wrote about it here: and got a huge respond from readers and other bloggers. Would you please honor us and share your thoughts by leaving a comment on our post? I am trying to come up with something new tomorrow and I will include and encourage readers to visit your blog back so we can all unite to fight poverty.

day... says:

go to Free Rice! (a way to take action against poverty on Blog Action Day)

Kalev says:

I would not say that poverty is the root cause of crime…

I think the issue is inequality, and so the pointed finger needs to be aimed at the system, not the symptoms of the system. And which system that pervades all our lives is inherently shot through with inequality? That basically is the reification of inequality?

Yep… capitalism. But it’s so insidious and ubiquitous that we can’t think outside it, generally, and (quite unsurprisingly) we’re encouraged not to. Because everyone “knows” non-capitalism “doesn’t work.” Except honestly if you ask me, the biggest difference between capitalism and communism is that capitalists developed WAAAAAAY better PR machines. Or got really good at having a lot of relative deprivation gloss over (a lesser amount of) absolute deprivation.

But basically, resources, especially material ones, are a zero-sum game, and you can’t have people being rich without others being poor.

Kelly says:

Y’know when you get a cold?…You take medicine to treat the symptoms. You don’t bother messing around with the root problem that caused the cold in the first place. Who cares where you picked it up? It doesn’t matter as long as your cough syrup gets rid of it.
I think the whole “root cause” thing is over-rated.

Demonweed says:

I slipped in under the wire an hour ago with my own humble contribution to the effort. I’m not nearly as plugged in to Web culture as I was in the first decade of it, but I’m not averse to being trendy when worthwhile substance is part of the package.

As far as the debate here, I wouldn’t say that crime is entirely caused by poverty. However, most physical thefts and a large portion of violent crimes are driven by economic deprivation. Also, proper social services could do much to cut down on the impact other causes (mental unbalance, extreme interpersonal conflict, etc.) have. Toss in alternatives to criminalization as means of dealing with problems related to vice activities, and the worst sorts of violent crime would be reduced to freak anomalies.

For a while now, I’ve been of the belief that any ideology is the equivalent of training wheels for political thinkers. The most ineffective minds settle for simple slogans. More developed lumps of gray matter will embrace some sort of theoretical perspective. Yet the ideal in political though, especially in an area like economics, is a perspective that never lets the actual outcomes of policies in practice take a back seat to their expected outcomes as dictated by theory.

Because even the typical national politician only operates at that middle level, mechanisms of compromise still often fail to embrace crucial realities. Until the vaunted greats of economics and business education are as soundly repudiated as most of America’s venerable investment banks recently were, whackadoo theories filtered through mediocre minds are likely to continue to shape legislative work product around the world.

Comments are closed.

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