Friday, May 18, 2018

Anti-poverty programs in China

This is an interesting article about how China has drastically reduced poverty through a coordinated suite of social programs.  The problem is that the poor now often have more cash money, but are no longer able to produce their own food or otherwise be in charge of their own subsistence and wellbeing.  In short, they are less poor but more dependent.  This is a problem that faces many societies; indeed it seems to me that all economic development consists to some degree in trading autonomy and resilience for a sort of prosperous dependence.  Normally the population makes this shift more or less willingly, as people become more confident that their money will in fact be good, that the grocery stores will indeed have food, that their dependence is dependence on a system if anything more robust than the weather and traditional lifeways that had provided their livelihoods before.  In the case of China, it seems like the process has been accelerated and forced by the government, such that the opportunities of new city life don't always offset what the rural poor are forced to give up of their old lives.  And the article signals some early signs of unsustainability that suggest that the government may not be able in the long term to keep up the welfare payments to the relocated poor.  If this were to happen, the poor would have lost both their old rural livelihood and their new artificial life support.

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