Wednesday, November 8, 2006

No secret formula for helping poor

Brian T. Olszewski reports in our Catholic Herald on the recent visit to Kenosha by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to receive an honorary degree from Carthage College.
Talk of mission and discipleship leads Cardinal Rodriguez to a recurring theme: The plight of the poor.

"To work for social justice in Latin America is one of (the bishops’) goals," he said, "because poverty, instead of diminishing, is growing. The lack of balance between the small group that has everything and the great, big majority of the poor is also growing. It is not only a gap -- a big, big gap, but an abyss."

Based on what I've seen and read the fundamental problem isn't that a small group has everything but how surprisingly small that everything is. Isn't there something to learn from the experience of nations that were even poorer and developed very rapidly? In South Korea, for example,
Per capita gross national product, only $100 in 1963, exceeded $20,000 USD in 2005.

Update: Colin Harding reports in The Tablet, Ortega the fervent Catholic makes a dramatic comeback,
...the distinguished poet and priest Fr Ernesto Cardenal, an adherent of liberation theology who served as culture minister in [Daniel] Ortega's government, went even further: so disillusioned was he with Ortega that he ended up advising people to vote for Montealegre, a former banker and finance minister. "I think genuine capitalism, which is what Montealegre represents, would be preferable to a phoney revolution," he said last week.

(via Open Book)

Update 2: Robert T. Miller at On the Square,
Consider South Korea and Zimbabwe. In 1970, their respective GDPs per capita were virtually identical: $290 for Zimbabwe and $291 for South Korea. By 2004, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita had hardly budged, having increased to just $351, meaning that the average Zimbabwean was only marginally better off in 2004 than 1970. In South Korea, however, GDP per capita increased to $14,266, an astonishing forty-nine-fold increase. ... Comparisons for similar pairs of nations--e.g., Singapore and Zambia--yield similar results. ...

When some people are producing a tremendous amount of wealth and others are producing little, it is fine, as a stopgap measure, to tell those producing much that they should share what they produce with those producing little. The immediate needs of the poor must be met. But any permanent solution to the problem requires that those producing little start producing more.

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