We Know How to Make it Worse
By Amy Willis
(So why don’t we stop?)
If the poor aren’t poor because they lack stuff, then why are they? And more importantly, what can we do about it? Michael Matheson Miller, director of the award-winning documentary Poverty, Inc., sat down with EconTalk host Russ Roberts to explore just that. He argues that we’ve been asking the wrong questions all along.
1. Has this conversation changed the way you think about any particular poverty alleviation programs (TOMS shoes, NGOs, etc.)? Which one(s), and why? What might you do differently going forward, and why?
2. To what extent are celebrity endorsements of charitable endeavors akin to social engineering, as Miller suggests? While we would all love a Russ Roberts-Bono rap video, what sort of efforts do you think celebrities could positively impact? (Russ mentioned Paul Romer’s charter city idea, for example.) Explain.
3. Toward the end of the interview, Roberts says, “If you want to trade with somebody, you have to figure out what they want.” Why does he call this the “cultural virtue behind free markets,” and how does this inform the “poverty industry,” as Miller has dubbed it?