Darrow Miller and Friends

Haiti’s Poverty: Not Enough Money?

“CapHaitienMarche” by User:Doron

Is Haiti’s poverty about insufficient funds?

When it comes to fighting poverty, we tend to rely too much on money. We equate poverty with the lack of money, so naturally we want to give money.

This is especially the case with government anti-poverty programs. Governments have access to lots of money. “There’s the poverty, here’s the money.” With a pile of money always at hand, the “solution” to poverty is obvious. If the money we’ve spent so far has not eradicated the poverty, just spend more money.

For example, take it with Haiti, the Western-hemisphere poster child of poverty fighters. Last month was the five-year anniversary of the island nation’s infamous 2010 earthquake. Before the earthquake, Haiti’s people were dramatically poor. The earthquake exacerbated an already appalling life for most of the 10.7 million Haitians. It also shook loose lots of international generosity. Ten billion dollars, to be inexact. Yet Haiti is still poor.

That’s the testimony of Raymond A. Joseph, a former Haitian ambassador to the US. He wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal,

As the fifth anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake approaches, Haiti is in disarray, to the shame of the international community and the country’s leadership. …

Where has more than $10 billion pledged for Haiti in 2010 gone? The U.S. Congress would like to know. 

Joseph points out that corruption and bureaucratic waste have diverted billions of dollars. Sad, but true, and another indicator that piling up dollars doesn’t stamp out shortages.

Ten billion dollars over five years is $2 billion every year … $167 million every month … $5.5 million every single day.

Would anyone suggest that’s not enough money?

Maybe. So let’s move to another example, one that appears in Darrow’s soon-to-be-published book, Rethinking Social Justice: Redeeming Biblical Compassion. In 1964, US President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war. On poverty. Johnson’s War on Poverty turned 50 years old in 2014. In that time, the poverty level in the US has changed little. In an earlier post we quoted Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and one of the nation’s leading experts on poverty.

Fifteen percent of Americans still live in poverty, according to the official census poverty report for 2012, unchanged since the mid-1960s. Liberals argue that we aren’t spending enough money on poverty-fighting programs, but that’s not the problem.

Maybe those “liberals” are right. Rector disagrees, but before we weigh in, here’s the pertinent question: Just how much money have we spent fighting the War on Poverty?

The number is virtually beyond comprehension: $15 trillion.

If a number like that makes your eyes glaze over, here’s another way to measure it. $15 trillion over 50 years works out to $821.9 million every day. (And in case someone says it’s not about how much we’ve spent over 50 years but how much we’re spending now, Robert Rector points out that, “If converted to cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all official poverty in the U.S.”)

Is $15 trillion not enough? At what point does it become obvious that more money is not the solution?

Of course money is not nothing. We all use money. But money isn’t the solution to poverty because the lack of money isn’t the cause of poverty. The short-term exceptions—natural disasters, man-made catastrophes, war—don’t change the general principle that poverty comes from believing lies.

What lies?

  • The lie of overpopulation: Poverty comes from too many mouths to feed from a too scarce resource base.
  • The lie of evolutionism: Humans are merely highly evolved animals subject to the same environmental forces (read survival of the fittest) as all other beings.
  • The lie of atheism: No providential Creator is at work in the universe; no divine stamp on humans enables their imagination, creativity and productivity; no divine accountability calls them to virtue.

Poverty comes from believing lies: “Women are inferior to men.” “We are poor and there is nothing we can do about it.” “ Work is a curse.” The solution is found in embracing the truth that derives from Judeo-Christian theism, the biblical worldview.

To be more specific, the solution to poverty is bound up in a resource abundantly and universally available: human minds which have been shaped by the worldview of the Bible.

  • Gary Brumbelow

See these related posts:

The Root of the Disaster in Haiti

HAITI, AMERICA, and the Effects of Biblical Thinking

Haiti and Israel: A Study in Contrasts

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Gary is the Disciple Nations Alliance editorial manager. He manages Darrow Miller and Friends and serves as editor and co-writer on various book projects. For eight years Gary served as a cross-cultural church planting missionary among First Nations people of Canada. His career also includes 14 years as executive director of InterAct Ministries, an Oregon-based church-planting organization in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Gary is a graduate of Grace University, earned an MA from Wheaton College and a Graduate Studies Diploma from Western Seminary. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Valerie. They have two married sons and twelve grandchildren. In addition to his work with the DNA, Gary serves as the pastor of Troutdale Community Church.