Saturday, November 28, 2009

Impoverished Reasoning in Anti-Poverty Activism

This is an extract from an article on poverty in Switzerland that appeared in the Swiss Review of December 2008:
But what's the "official" poverty threshold? In Switzerland, the poverty values of the Swiss Conference on Social Welfare are the most commonly used. These values factor in decent living conditions and social integration. The poverty threshold for single people is CHF 2,200 a month [US$ 26,268 per year], ... and CHF 4,650 [US$ 55,524 per year] for a couple with two children.
Sincerely, how can anyone take these values seriously? A large proportion of people I know would be considered poor according to this definition (and they're obviously not poor). These values are higher for example than the nominal per capita income of most countries in the world. In reality, their choice of poverty level for a couple with two children is almost as high as Switzerland's per capita income itself, in other words, the per capita income of one of the richest countries in the world!

Naturally, public choice economics predicts (correctly) that anti-poverty activists, acting as rent seekers, will try to include in their poverty definition as many people as possible, so they make their jobs and salaries appear to be more justifiable than what they really are.

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