Is Poverty a Choice?

The rich and the poor

Being broke is a choice; poverty is not. What’s the difference?

Being broke means finding yourself incapable to support your lifestyle, despite the fact that you have the education, resources, and know-how to pull yourself out of that situation.

Poverty, on the other hand, is the inability to provide yourself or your family of your basic needs because you are deprived of access to the education, resources, and opportunities that will allow you to rise above it.

To get rid of being broke, one just has to maximize all the available opportunities at hand. To get rid of poverty, widespread changes in policy and society need to take place.

The poor are poor because they have fewer choices, or none at all. It’s not because they choose to be poor–that’s an absurd notion because no sane person wants to be poor, miserable and starving–it’s because what’s available to them are way limited, even in the most mundane matters.

If you’re rich, you have all sorts of choices (Paris or Italy this summer? That avant-garde painting, or this ancient vase? Buy this company, or that one?…) You don’t even have to demand it, others make it available for you.

As you go further down the socioeconomic ladder, your choices downgrade until there’s none. Middle class: (A house and lot, or a new car? Insurance, or mutual funds? Pizza, or burger?) Poverty line: (Who among my 5 children do I send to school? Where will I get tomorrow’s fare to work? …)

Poverty is a vicious cycle that feeds on ignorance, hopelessness, and lack of opportunities (given or self-made). That’s why education is very important – to raise people’s awareness, and lead them towards self-empowerment. This is what is meant by poverty being a state of mind. Material poverty is awful, but mental and spiritual poverty are a lot worse.

Poverty is the unavailability of real, humane choices. A country is poor if it can’t provide the majority of its citizens the freedom to choose in even the most basic situations.

So I’ll only believe that poverty is a choice when I see that the government has done everything to give the basic services and education to its people. And again, I don’t mean short term cash dole outs either, because these send the wrong message to poor people, and this solution isn’t sustainable as well.