How Can We Really Help the Poor?

No good deed goes unpunished.

The now-famous picture of a New York City policeman giving a pair of boots to a homeless person touched hearts all across America, bringing an onset of that warm, fuzzy, Christmastime elation. Everything was feel-good about it. A selfless act of pure, unadulterated charity for society’s weakest. An officer of the law proving to be an everyday hero, implicitly assuring us that the system works, and that public servants are really good people. Everything works out if we just care a little and give a little… right?

Wrong! As it turns out, the homeless man in the picture already sold the boots, and is barefoot once more. Not only that, he is seeking monetary compensation for appearing in such a popular picture (a “piece of the pie,” as he put it). Merry Christmas everyone!

Other than killing our collective joy with a harsh dose of reality, this unfortunate story illustrates a much bigger point: wealth redistribution doesn’t work. Simply giving to those who have less doesn’t solve poverty.

So what does work? How do we really help those less fortunate? Allowing the poorest of the poor a way to get out of poverty themselves.

Lower taxes, so even the smallest wage can be enough, and so businesses have more money to hire more workers. Deregulate business, so hiring workers is easier and less risky. Both of these actions will also lower the cost of doing business, and therefore lower the prices of goods and services, allowing even a meager income to prove sufficient. Finally, instill a culture of self-reliance and hard work, so that only those either categorically unable or completely unwilling to work won’t find employment.

No problem is easy to tackle, and poverty is certainly no exception. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said that the poor will always be with us? However, that doesn’t mean we can’t reduce poverty until it’s basically a non-issue. Remember, thought, that it can’t be done without patiently building a business climate conducive to both hiring poor workers and providing them with cheap goods and services. As feel-good as simply throwing money at the problem may be, all in all it’s only good for a photo op. The poor deserve better.

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.