REACH TO BUILD THE BEST SOCIETY POSSIBLE

January 24th, 2018

One of the most often uttered phrases in adolescence—topped only by whatever—may be What’s the point?

We humans struggle to fin meaning in a universe that doesn’t have any. Eventually we give up and just create our own meanings and move on.

Today I’m thinking about how a stoic approaches the question.

The Stoics argue that the point of life for human beings is to use reason to build the best society that is humanly possible to build. p. 48

From How To Be A Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy To Live A Modern Life by Massimo Picliucci

That works for me. The key, of course, is to use reason, reason itself a very slippery word that does not mean make shit up.

Roldo sent me a link to Angus Deaton’s The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem in The New York Times. He writes:

You might think that the kind of extreme poverty that would concern a global organization like the United Nations has long vanished in this country. Yet the special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, recently made and reported on an investigative tour of the United States.

Surely no one in the United States today is as poor as a poor person in Ethiopia or Nepal? As it happens, making such comparisons has recently become much easier. The World Bank decided in October to include high-income countries in its global estimates of people living in poverty. We can now make direct comparisons between the United States and poor countries.

So, how did we fare? Not well.

According to the World Bank, 769 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013; they are the world’s very poorest. Of these, 3.2 million live in the United States, and 3.3 million in other high-income countries (most in Italy, Japan and Spain).

As striking as these numbers are, they miss a very important fact. There are necessities of life in rich, cold, urban and individualistic countries that are less needed in poor countries. The World Bank adjusts its poverty estimates for differences in prices across countries, but it ignores differences in needs.

An Indian villager spends little or nothing on housing, heat or child care, and a poor agricultural laborer in the tropics can get by with little clothing or transportation. Even in the United States, it is no accident that there are more homeless people sleeping on the streets in Los Angeles, with its warmer climate, than in New York.

The Oxford economist Robert Allen recently estimated needs-based absolute poverty lines for rich countries that are designed to match more accurately the $1.90 line for poor countries, and $4 a day is around the middle of his estimates. When we compare absolute poverty in the United States with absolute poverty in India, or other poor countries, we should be using $4 in the United States and $1.90 in India.

Once we do this, there are 5.3 million Americans who are absolutely poor by global standards [Emphasis mine, JH].

The society that I would like to build is one where the least of us is treated with dignity and love.

You?

Previously…

Found in my electronic chapbook.

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