Reformers talk constantly about what governments should do about poverty without first asking themselves what a specific government can do about poverty. Any relief program must be adjusted to the relative wealth of the country for which it is proposed. It would be quite impossible for India, for example, to adopt a public relief program feasible in the United States. An attempt to ensure everybody in India an income as high as the official U.S. ‘poverty line’ minimum would probably put at least nine-tenths of the Indian population on relief.
This brings us to what I shall call ‘The Paradox of Relief’ :
The richer the community, the less the need for relief, but the more it is able to provide; the poorer the community, the greater the need for relief, but the less it is able to provide.
A less paradoxical way of stating this is that an ‘adequate’ relief system is possible only in a country that is already affluent.
But this takes us back once more to the conclusion that the real solution to the problem of poverty does not lie in any government relief system, in any ‘welfare program’, in any scheme to redistribute wealth or income. It lies in increased production.
One is ashamed to keep repeating anything so obvious, but the only real cure for poverty is the production of wealth.