The Causes of Poverty
Notes from 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'* (among others)


'Laws grind the poor and rich men make the law'
                       --Oliver Goldsmith


Poverty is a disease of 'The Money (Profit) System'.
The smallest group - the rich - do little or nothing and enjoy the abundance of things made by the largest group - the poor - who live lives of semi-starvation and misery. The newspapers (just one of many devices invented and fostered by those who are selfishly interested in maintaining the status quo) are full of accounts of 'crimes' committed by the impoverished ('theft of trade' mainly).

'Poverty' writes Peter Townsend, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Bristol University, a man who has devoted most of his life to making people aware of its causes, 'is not something people impose on themselves for want of effort and community organisation. It is constructed by divisive and discriminatory laws, inflexible organisations, aquisitive ideologies of wealth, a deeply-rooted class system and policies which serve privilege in the short term and destroy society in the long term.

The Bounty of Nature - the material support which sustains the flame of our lives - has become trivialised as 'money', with the result that we are no longer allowed to use the full provision spread out around us. What is there for All to use has been appropriated by 'the Few' to fulfill their selfish ends.
Poverty is the inability to secure for onesself the benefits of 'civilization': necessities, comforts, pleasures. What are the causes of this 'shortage'? What was formerly done by human hands is now done by machines (technology). These machines are owned by the minority (the rich) and are worked by the majority (the poor) for the benefit of the minority (the rich). The minority also own the land. The majority must pay the minority for the 'priviledge' of being permitted to live in the place of their birth. Generally, the majority work hard and live in poverty so that the minority may live lives of luxury without working. Poverty is caused by Private Monopoly; landlordism, employerism, ownership.

[As Civilization has advanced, the pack-bond (the tribe, the extended family) has been broken. This is the root of the widely diagnosed "anomie" or "alienation" or "existential anguish" about which so many social critics have written so eloquently. What has happened is that the conditioning of the bio-survival bond to the gene-pool has been replaced by a conditioning of bio-survival drives to hook onto the peculiar tickets which we call "money".   --RAW, Prometheus Rising]

The Great Money Trick (or 'How the rich stay rich':
1. Take what belongs to All.
2. Make others work to produce.
3. Charge them to buy back what they have produced.
Poverty is the shortage of the necessities of life or the benefits of civilization.
There are plenty of materials.
There's plenty of labor.
There's plenty of machinery.
And still nearly everybody is going short of everything!

The True Purpose of Labor is the Creation of the Things We Need:
1 2 3 4 5
The Loafer Class:
All those possessed of 'hereditary wealth'
Exploiters of Labor:
Those Engaged in Unnecessary Work
Insurance Brokers
Those Engaged in Necessary Work - 
Producers of the Benefits of Civilzation - 
The only 
Rational Labor
The Unemployed

ALL People devour the fruits produced by the labor of Group 4, but the fruits go mainly to the people in Group 1 (note to the so-called 'working middle class': Very little of your taxes go to support the poor. Most of your taxes go to support the rich!).

The Reign of Terror -  the terror of 'the sack' - prevails on all jobs. The 'job' of the poor miserable wretches in Group 4 is not to share in what they have made, but to watch while others enjoy them. Most politicians seem to think that all that is needed to end poverty is to find enough 'work' for the poor - for the majority to work like brutes to obtain a 'living wage' for themselves and to create luxuries for the small minority of persons who are too lazy to work at all.

[In traditional society, belonging to the tribe was bio-security; exile was terror, and the real threat of death. In modern society, having the tickets (money) is bio-security; having the tickest withdrawn is terror. Welfare-ism, socilaism, totalitarianism, etc. represent attempts, in varying degrees of rationality and hysteria, to re-create the tribal bond by making the State stand-in for the gene-pool. Conservatives who claim that no form of Welfare is tolerable to them are asking that people live with total bio-survival anxiety and anomie combined with terror.   --RAW, Prometheus Rising]

Nature has not provided ready-made things necessary for the life and happiness of people. In order to obtain these things we have to work. Therefore, the only rational labor is that which is directed to the creation of those 'things'. Any kind of work which does not help us in the provision of benefits for All is a ridiculous, idiotic, criminal waste of time.

The Only Cure for Poverty is Public Ownership of Technology.
Technology has become the 'property' of a comparatively few individuals who have used it not for the benefit of the Whole, but for profit. [The PC, the Internet and the Web are just the beginning resurgence of a new 'skilled worker class'] We are poor because we are robbed of the means of production. The real reason for 'shortage' is that the raw materials which could be used for the benefit of All have been stolen by a numerically insignificant group who refuse to let them be used. Strangest of all, the people who struggle to survive, instead of trying to understand the real causes of their misery, spend all their time applauding this small group of imbeciles who mismanage the affairs of the world and pay them large sums of money to do so!

The only possible remedy is the Public Ownership and Management of the Means of Production. Never before in the history of humankind has it been possible to produce the necessities of life in such abundance as at present - and as yet millions of people are living and dying in wretchedness and poverty. The management of the affairs of the world - the business of arranging how we live - is at present in the hands of ignorant, insolent overfed imbeciles. The result of their mismanagement is that the majority of people go without and must struggle to live. And a great number die of want everyday.

[... the State is not a gene-pool or a tribe, and cannot really play the bio-survival unit convincingly. Everybody on Welfare becomes paranoid, because they are continually worrying that they are going to get cut off ("exiled") for some minor infraction of the increasingly incomprehensible bureaucratic rules. And in real totalitarianism, in which the bogus identification of the State with the tribe is carried to the point of a new mysticism, the paranoia becomes total. Real bonding can only occur in face-to-face groups of reasonable size. Hence, the perpetual attempt (however implausible in industrial circumstances) to decentralize, to go back to the tribal ethos, to replace the State with syndicates (as in anarchism) or affinity-groups (Reich's "Consciousness III"). ... Bio-survival anxiety will only disappear when world-wide wealth has reached a level, and a distribution, where, without totalitarianism, everyone has enough tickets. ... This ideal can only be achieved in a Technology of Abundance.   --RAW, Prometheus Rising]

We get what we vote for. We, the People, have become the System. We no longer recognise the power we hold (as the majority) to 'declare law' against greed and to freely produce and distribute for ourselves the necessities and comforts of life. Most people, out of ignorance or sheer worn-down apathy, would rather quietly accept the lies of the System and remain duped and poverty-stricken then take up the power that is rightfully theirs. This is why the majority of the poor would not vote for Socialism even if given the opportunity.

The System has acquired a mind of its own and we must work to change the 'brain' of the System - one cell (person) at a time. The way to change is through disseminating Information - People need to be informed. Socialism is inevitable... but it will only come as the majority of us become enlightened and Demand Action. No individual can practice co-operation by himself.

'True Democracy needs no Jeffersonian imprimatur; Thomas Jefferson's notion of liberty did not extend to his slaves. George Washington, father of the American nation, set the tone for every president save Franklin Roosevelt. 'Indians', he said, 'have nothing human except shape ... the gradual extention of our settlements will as certainly cause the savage, as the wolf, to retire; both being beasts of prey though they differ in shape.' James Madison was less crude, though no less honest, when, in addressing the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he said the aim of the new republic was 'to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority'.

True Democracy is expressed not on Georgian tablets but in Articles 23 and 25 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These say that everybody has the right to life and to a decent life: a right not only to employment, but to decent pay, decent working conditions, 'the right to form and join trade unions', the right to a proper home and the right to feel secure, 'in sickness, disability, widowhood, old age': the right to dignity. Nowadays, this is a subversive document, to be preverted and circumvented.'

--from Hidden Agendas, by John Pilger


On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say which we won't understand
"Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away"

It's a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting a shroud over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we're all alone
In the dream of the proud

On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite in a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange
And mesmerised as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away from the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It's not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there'll be
No more turning away?   -- David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd)

'In 1995, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that the military devastation of Iraq, combined with the effect of sanctions imposed by the Security Council - in reality, by the American and British governments - had been responsible for the deaths of more that 560,000 children in Iraq... this is the equivalent of the unnecessary death of a child every 6 minutes... the UN has sought to negotiate an 'oil for food' arrangement, by which Iraq would be allowed to sell $1 billion's worth of oil every three months on the world market. Half of this would go in war reparations to Kuwait and allocated to the Kurds in the 'safe havens'; the other half would buy food and medicines and basic spare parts for water and sewage treatment facilities... American representatives on the UN Sanctions Committee have used every opportunity to obstruct the plan... When US ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, later to be appointed Secretary of State, was asked whether the lives of half a million Iraqi children were too high a price to pay, she replied, 'I think this is a hard choice, but the price, we think, is worth it.'

--from Hidden Agendas, by John Pilger

'Bereft of the 'Soviet Threat', the West's challenge was to find a suitable public rationale for the new state of war. An intense period of market testing followed; and the 'War on Drugs' was invented.'... 'Drugs', wrote Gabriel Garcia Marquez, were 'a most convenient Satan for US national security policies'...While Nancy Reagan, wife of the president, promoted a 'just say no' campaign, the secret agencies of her husband's government were saying 'yes'. As the landmark work of Alfred McCoy has shown, a longstanding hidden agenda of American intelligence has been drug trafficking, which those who work with addicts and the AIDS epidemic regard as an insidious and especially effective form of terrorism. Under the cover of anti-communism, wrote Clarence Lusane, of the US Center for Drug Abuse Research, every US administration from Truman to Bush justified global covert operations that led directly to the opening and expansion of trafficking routes for illegal narcotics.'

--from Hidden Agendas, by John Pilger

I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear

You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

On the radio talk shows and t.v.
You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
and we've come to the aid of a friend

But who are the ones that we call our friends
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take anymore
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone

And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
We can't even say their names

They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same way they sell us our wars

I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die

And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire     --Jackson Browne

Anyone who is not helping to bring about a better state of affairs is helping to perpetuate the present misery. There is no such thing as neutrality - We either help or hinder. Help Us Change the World.

 copyleft 1998, all rights reversed
* The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
by Robert Tressell (born Robert Noonan)
ISBN 0 586 01811 5

First published in 1914 and has been in print ever since, this novel is about a group of painters and decorators and their families in Hastings (Mugsborough) around 1906, and describes the subjection, deception and destitution of the workman's life of that time. The book is placed 67 in Waterstone's Top 100 Books of the Century and is said to have made more Socialists than any work of its kind.