“The poor will always be with us”. This statement may seem to be pessimistic, but it actually can refer to two sociological predictions. The first is that the absolute condition of individuals will never improve such that there is virtually no one who, by no choice of their own, lives a lifestyle that is not acceptable. While the definition of “poverty” might change based on one's perspective and on relative conditions, a reasonable definition would be lacking sufficient shelter, food, potable water, medical care to maintain one's health, capability to take care of one's child, better transportation to one's place of work and to one's residence, and education. If all but a tiny minority, so small as to sociologically and statistically insignificant, could afford all of these things, then poverty would be over. The second is that inequality will always occur. Unless a society absolutely affixed wages or resources so each person was absolutely equal in how they were paid, material inequality will always be a factor. Indeed, there are good reasons to have inequality of condition, as it allows for choice. But it is absolutely not the case that all societies would have to be so unequal that there is a class of individuals with markedly and consistently more or less power, wealth and influence. Thus, it is clear that “The poor will always be with us” is actually a complex sociological puzzle, and that the statement is not exactly correct.
Today, it is possible for $40 billion a year in 1997 dollars ($58.31 billion today) would be sufficient for “achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all and clean water and safe sewers for all... less than 4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world” (Annan, 1997). In fact, poverty in a meaningful sense could be obliterated with the wealth currently available to the planet. Poverty at the moment is...
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