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Living On One Dollar A Day: A Documentary By Economic-Illiterate Hipsters

One common characteristic among those who compose emotional appeals in economics, who often cite the divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, is a macro-focus upon the wealth of the so-called financial elites —think about the fast-paced, commerce-driven montages of New York City —and a micro-focus upon the drudgery of individuals who live in that which is popularly accepted as poverty

However, a micro-focus upon those who have “made it” would unequivocally invoke relatable, emotional responses from the audience, and a more sophisticated calculation of those “have-nots” would reveal that some individuals among them are wealthier than others, in ways beyond mere monetary terms, while some simply prefer the known comforts over the unknowns which are attainable only through risk: this may entail only marginal risk, but a measure of risk nonetheless. 

This documentary, entitled Living on One Dollar, claims that these families are living on one dollar each day, yet they never even set out to define what that even means. How are they even able to live on this system? What enabled this “dollar” to sustain their lives, and if its limited quantity exists as the real source of such misfortune, why do they remain fixed to it? Why do they not instead abandon this albatross to instead replace this system with their own labor-sharing, life-maximizing strategy? 

The reality seems to be this: these persons are, beneath the emotional appeal of this documentary, simply underproductive compared to their Western counterparts who sacrifice solitary positions in the beauty of the wild to instead cooperate within fast-paced, metric-driven societies who share common family-oriented interests and luxury-, retirement-focused objectives, whereas the information problem, here the consequence of limited market exposure and impertinent skills, the latter perhaps restrained by risk-aversion to foreign institutions and environments, reveals the extant customs of primitive living as compared to the industrial and commercial might of ever-specialized labor and globalization. 

There will seemingly always remain certain persons who wish to live more independently and less globally; persons who prefer solitude to social interaction; and persons whose value-based preferences clash with the measurable norms. 

Describing any person or group of persons as “poor” or “rich” can only reduce them to a personally-held, rather meaningless conceptualization, the most popular gauge of which, commonly regarded as the poverty line, imprecisely defines a composite threshold, a convenient, aggregates-driven line in the sand, which nearly arbitrarily separates rich from poor, while encapsulating neither any specific details about the individual's life nor any of his or her personal preferences. There are surely characteristics of any person which are wildly unique and enriching. It is the surveyor's responsibility to paint that picture. 

Scene-by-Scene Reaction

Perhaps the most insulting words yet spoken throughout this documentary have been those considering a young Guatemalan boy's vision of becoming a farmer. The American seems disappointed that the boy's dreams are not of higher order, not ambitious enough. The American seems to ignore that the farmer is the one who is physically responsible for his livelihood, and he is incidentally responsible for the livelihood of those of his family and his neighbors who depend upon his production.

"It's the condition that they're in [sic] that's holding them back." Compared to what conditions? Holding them back from what? Achieving the American dream? These American tourists seem to believe that they are profits.

Oddly, the young Guatemalan children are filled with great excitement and intrigue while meeting these American tourists, while the Americans interpret them as disappointments, youths damaged and held back by their primitive families and marketplaces.

Meanwhile, these Americans haven't yet moved beyond the college phase of their lives. They have not yet endured their own personal struggles of living independent of their respective government-backed, bubble-booming, six-year all-inclusive resorts

These American tourists, one of whom is an embarrassment to economics majors around the world, fail to understand that the United States economy is built upon the foundation of labor deriving from these other, so-called primitive markets. If they were to investigate their household goods, for example, they would find the Made in China brand name, or other less-desirable, less-American countries of origin. They clearly fail to understand money, nor do they recognize that the United States' preeminence exists upon a potent, unsustainable combination of global imperialism, US dollar-denominated petrol, creditworthiness and faithfulness due to USD global reserves, and bubbles in many of the American service industries, including education, government, medicine, healthcare, automobiles, the US bond market, and the major stock market indices.

They also fail to recognize that these few people with whom they interact, especially one family, might be offering them so much charity, with charming demeanor, welcoming them into their homes, and cooking dinner for them, because they strike them as a unique investment with a shade of opportunity for a profit at a convenient low marginal cost. They might behave this way even without recognizing the reason. I doubt very much that these people are welcoming to all people in their town. The Americans have distinguished themselves by videotaping these families and offering them the illusion of fame and even an opportunity for charity. I don't doubt that these people are well-intentioned, but their intentions, just like the working thesis of the Americans' journey there, operate from a predetermined conclusion.

The American tourists producing this documentary chiefly neglect to recognize that purchasing power isn't generated on a fixed, merely-mathemetical basis, as they suggest by pulling at near-random tiny pieces of paper from a hat each day to determine their daily personal revenue, from zero to nine US dollars. Forget that these tourists are operating without the domestic dexterity of mind and body to render themselves immediately well-equipped to adapt to the town, as those townspeople surely never would have been expected to readily adapt to the Western world upon relocating. Forget also that these tourists are operating only upon an eight-week timeline. These are relevant dynamics to conveniently exclude from the totality of the economic picture here. 

Conveniently, the producers of this documentary commit to leaving not a single dry eye in the house, asking the audience to consider a choice between feeding a child or putting him or her through school. Of course, there are far more options than these two.

I find it comical how they don't place any responsibility on the parents for budgeting for their own children, to take responsibility for their own lives. Rather, it's further cause for a sob story. I personally think it's absurd to birth children into a life of uncertainty. These Americans want these huge families to enjoy the luxuries of life irrespective of their budgetary responsibility. Why not ask why these parents birth children into lives of American-described despair? My suspicions are as follows: despite their vocal contradictions in front of the camera, the natives personally harbor optimism about their futures; the natives' children take care of their parents when they retire; education in Guatemala doesn't translate well to "education" in the standard vernacular; their education system is likely unsuccessful in producing higher-minded, higher-revenue-generating entrepreneurs.

The whole narrative selectively depicts and subjects its interviewees to a biased joyless perspective, a struggle which the Americans could have captured in any American city or rural area, if only they had been so inclined. The only major distinction here: it's a plight which is foreign to most Americans. An American plight would have been less interesting to the American public, whereas the customs of the so-called Third World are more intellectually-stimulating and thought-provoking, and will thereby sell to a wider audience.

"Unlike everyone else, he can count on getting a regular paycheck." Everyone else? These American tourists have yet to more than dabble in the life of an entrepreneur, let alone work, survive, and flourish beyond college, and they want to imply that everyone ought to be guaranteed a regular paycheck. Consider those farmers who'd otherwise tend to other, more high-minded activities if their work were quantified as equivalent to the work of a janitor, even despite the variable productivity of either worker. I wonder whether the janitor takes an interest in the goods of the farmer. I wonder whether his real paycheck depends upon the productivity of the farmer. Of course.

Every person's story is an amazing plight not yet photographically captured and presented to the tune of a piano concerto, but we may each time fall victim to this cheap trick, and this documentary's producers were sure to capitalize upon this apparent sensitivity in their target audience.

Now they want to eliminate risk, in case of disease or disaster. They don't seem to understand that the reality of risk doesn't magically disappear at the bank. They want the banks to be more willing to freely, unscrupulously generate loans. Banks fail too, guys! How do you suspect banks generate their credibility to attract deposits? Why do you suspect that people are willing to deposit their funds there? Because they are accessible, they are secure, and the loan process has demonstrated diligence and care with their funds. American banks have left these tourists under delusions, due to FDIC and the Federal Reserve's unique capacity to bail them out due to its monopoly over the world's reserve currency.  Americans are potentially the worst, most out-of-touch students to survey world affairs.

I think it would have been frightening if those Americans, who have by then established no credit and no capacity to repay, would have been granted a loan. Fortunately and sensibly, the bank negotiates with parameters, such as work and household bills history, to determine whether an applicant is qualified. The Americans exclaimed, "There's no way we can get a loan from this bank!" My opinion: you think that you can just walk into this town and demand their funds? Why? Because you're American?

They have by now contended that everyone ought to qualify for loans at a bank. This is hilarious! I wonder whether they believe that I should have access to a loan of 1 million dollars, or maybe a loan amounting to the entirety of the bank's funds.

Somehow the documentary is ending with a positive vibe. Why did they wait until the end to showcase this optimism? Did this hope only manifest itself at the end of their trip to conveniently demonstrate the reach and efficacy of their heroic adventure, all the work and research they had done? 

They had to first vilify one bank over the other: the latter having lower lending standards. Read Peter Schiff's book to learn how that likely ends lol. This is so funny to me. The second, more popular bank -- as decided by the producers of this documentary -- is the one with lower lending standards. Oddly enough, the bank requires its debtors to commit to a savings account with them. The producers conveniently only touch the surface of those requirements.

I suspect that these savings are held as collective collateral against all outstanding loans.

The American tourists took out a $125 loan to "grow radishes."

How many radishes will they need to sell to cover that loan, interest, and the expenses for their survival in the meantime? I'm not understanding why they needed the loan in the first place. I want closure on this.

And now they're not even selling the radishes, only giving them out as gifts!!!

How are they going to repay those dang loans? Mom and dad back in the United States?

And now they're claiming that all of their savings will be spent on a big dinner with their favorite family!

Now they're asking, "What can I do to help?" You just drained their economy of an additional $125 of loanable funds! Leave them alone, you parasites!

Get back to America and try to contribute there before you try to claim that you know how to do it elsewhere!

"That's what we're trying to prove right here, you know, the power of partial solution." Partial solutions? What have you solved? And a solution whose costs are lefts to the future or to the unseen or are greater than the benefits, isn't a solutions. "There's more people [sic] who are not living in poverty than there are who are living in poverty." How does this American tourist know this?

All in all, this documentary is a very inspiring, well-produced flick by hipsters who haven't the slightest familiarity with the purpose, process and history of money, credit, banking, and economic development.

They never even mentioned how they paid off their loan: the American way.


  1. Oh please. The entire point of the documentary completely escaped you.

  2. Jon, a substancial contribution to the film we saw - you are more critical than I am and yet your critique is backed with sensible reasoning. I won't comment more since I will no doubt have to join some club or other to be able to say anything.

    Aha, it seems not. OK Then all I can add right now is the date: 2015 12 27 14:45 since it is the starting point for ANYTHING and it seems that this website regards it as unimportant.

    2015 12 27 12:42


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