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The Total War on Poverty

In the history of combat, total war has been defined as the unrestricted use of weaponry, territory and combatants to achieve a political end, with a complete disregard for existing law.

The War on Poverty, officially introduced in the United States by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson in his 1964 State of the Union address, takes the same appearance, deviating only by tools, actors and optics.

In total, the two forms of combat tend to exclusively serve special interests at grave economic and personal cost borne by others who bear virtually no influence over their operation, who stand to derive little to no benefit.

As Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz promulgated, "War is the continuation of politics with other means."

The War on Poverty is scarcely any different, but its effects are far more insidious.

The mission to "end poverty" is always a false face for bureaucratic aggrandizement. The only way to produce this desirable end is by incidence, not by design. Any enterprise whose solitary object targets the end of poverty will predictably invite more of it; the evolution and object of free enterprise, however, will predictably enable such an extent of mobility to yield this reward to those who employ themselves accordingly. For the construct of free enterprise operates merely from the concepts of personal property and perceived advantage, corroborated chiefly by the productive means which enable those handouts in the first place.

In addressing the perceived problem of poverty, then, one must first declare a definition, a method of measurement, and whether to distinguish between its forms.

For example, before journeying a social solution, one must ask whether there exists a threshold of tolerance for it; whether personal or familial decision-making ought to affect eligibility; whether terms of repayment ought to apply, by satisfied benchmarks or monetary reimbursement. These questions are wholly irrelevant to the procedure as it exists today, and anyone principled enough to present them is popularly dismissed as insensitive or uncivilized. 

Ultimately, poverty, everywhere relative and dynamic, will endure so long as individuals are free to pursue, to produce or to compare.

No two persons are wholly identical, whether by wealth, geography, genetic makeup, preferences or intentions. Even when controlling for extra-human advantages, such as geography and inherited wealth, no two individuals will apply themselves in the same manner toward the same ends. Indeed, in many cases, advantages from inherited wealth have correlated with inferior outcomes, giving rise to the phrase, shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. The Scottish have their own adage: “The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.”

Ennobled forms of envy, indolence and dejection drive the majority of cases of long-term poverty. These are the factors that mitigate the disappointing costs of irresponsible behavior, which popularly dignify the caricatured plight of poverty as something worthy of a prize, which in turn effect the subsidization of new and continued self-failings.

Through this heinous and criminal procedure of involuntary cash transference, from sovereign producers to self-important swindlers, the bureaucracy serves to renegotiate the terms and coordination of capital, from a dynamic complex governed by market values to a system dictated by political profitability.

While charitable at face value, the mission to "end poverty" conclusively spares a great many of the relative agony of self-sufficiency and independence, and incidentally the most organic impulse for self-betterment; moreover, in achieving this end, it also suspends reality and projects an illusion of viable subsistence, an alternative form of employment which varies only nominally from those which comprise the administration itself: one which is recognized by those of today's working age and others who have yet to arrive there.

As such, this alters not only the dynamics of the day, but the evolving complexion of a world that is actively interpreted by the great many growing up in it. The ensuing unintended consequence eventually reveals itself as a principal driver of relative poverty, whereas it once served more modestly as a futile means to solve it.



By erecting the welfare cliff, as it has been described, the mission to "end poverty" has obfuscated the only means to its direction which admittedly has no end: enhanced capital formation to improve per-capita productivity. In other words, productive employment.

Unfortunately, administrative busybodies have made labor only more expensive by introducing the artifices of subsidies, tacitly discouraging productive employment by making unemployment so lucrative and inexpensive, considering the following costs of employment beyond the sacrifice of leisure and government aid: transportation, business attire, and the exhaustion of having to wake up early, shower and groom, show up on time and apply oneself, and then pay taxes on the return.

Absent any projection of higher earnings, one would conceivably be foolish to reject the comforts of subsidized living.

The greatest cost to such an individual, however, takes the form of deprived dignity and fulfillment which accompanies the lifestyle of self-sufficiency and independence, which lines the path toward enlightenment, expertise and realized potential.

This is the insidious nature of government, whereby myopic initiatives serve shortsighted interests and likeminded people.

Democratic government is, at best, a poor gauge of what people say, whereas free enterprise is the manifest expression of what they actually do.

Thus, it appears that the only failure of capitalism has been its incidental enabling of creative political activists to explore the labyrinths of their colorful imaginations, to survive from the profitable commercial distribution of their anti-capitalism ideas. 

One great irony of San Francisco Bay Area leftists, the unapologetic champions of the modern progressive movement, can be found in the profitable sales of their homes, especially over the past two decades of unprecedented appreciation of real estate prices and the popularization of socialism. 

While they theoretically support measures to end poverty, they never personally discount their labor, their rents or their home prices to materially assist anyone; they merely assume and profess that everyone else ought to be responsible.

This is the grim reality of theoretical socialism and political progressivism: an imaginary world of mystical abundance, devoid of personal responsibility, dictated by sophisticated and well-intentioned language backed by the brutality of intransigent agents of force and coercion.

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