Sunday, May 22, 2005

Blaming the beggars and still caring about poverty

It is consistent to think that beggars as individuals don't deserve our money and to still care about poverty. Not because of skepticism about where the money goes, but because of personal responsibility. Unless you are in a population where say 80% of people are beggars, then everyone had a certain chance of not having to be a beggar. So a given beggar is entirely to blame for his station in life. But when you compare two cities or countries and see wildly divergent rates of begging, then you realize that there are systemic reasons and so you might be interested in ameliorating those conditions that lead one place to be far worse off.

This is the same reason which says that you can hold a given minority individual responsible for having problems with getting tenure say, or into grad school, but still thinking that you should worry about the global figures: if they really worked hard and were superstars they wouldn't have a problem, they wouldn't be marginal, yet we'd prefer not to have that happen to marginal figures.

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