Poverty versus Prosperity

No amount of government spending will ever “eliminate poverty” because poverty is not actually caused by a lack of money; it’s caused by a lack of ambition and productivity. There are some exceptions, of course, but in the vast majority of cases, poverty is a choice.

I’m not discounting the often significant obstacles which can exist to make achieving success difficult, but I guarantee that there are folks who have faced hurdles more challenging than yours who have still managed to prosper. People of every color, creed, and financial status have achieved success through hard work, determination, and drive. I don’t believe that poverty is truly inescapable for anyone.

The most significant impediment to prosperity—especially in the western world—is government. Taxes, regulations, zoning laws, building codes, licensing and certification mandates, education requirements, and a host of other insidious demands make ‘hanging out one’s shingle’ far more burdensome than it needs to be. The government further limits opportunities for success by slapping people with fines, jail sentences, and criminal records for victimless acts. Additionally, the state dispenses cronyistic handouts to its friends and allies which serve to create an unequal playing field. Were government nonexistent or reduced to a truly minarchist state, achieving success and acquiring wealth would be far more straightforward. The barriers erected by the state are the chief obstacle to human flourishing.

There are other obstacles that may exist for some people in addition to those imposed by the state. Nature can certainly create hurdles. One’s family can serve as either a help or a hindrance. Local customs, opinions, and prejudices may also be a factor. Admittedly, achieving prosperity is more difficult for some than it is for others, but the fact remains that many people don’t actively seek success; they settle—and far too often blame others for their hardships.

Please understand that I’m not just talking about laziness or indolence. Some people are just very risk-averse. Others might be timid or fearful. Some might be disheartened by past failures. Some might even prefer free time to wealth. There are many reasons why one might choose not to strive for greater prosperity. In the end, the choice is left to each individual. The odds and obstacles may differ, but there are always opportunities to be grasped and new paths to be forged.

Unfortunately, many people choose to accept their current conditions and not strive for anything more. Some people just get used to receiving a government check and don’t want to upset the apple cart. Look at any community, though, and you’ll find a few ambitious entrepreneurs. There will be those who have accomplished much despite the obstacles. The path may be long and arduous, but if you want it bad enough, and you commit yourself to achieving success, it is possible. Does government make it harder? Absolutely. Will other challenges stand in your way? Most likely. Do these facts negate the reality that people still make choices and ultimately control their own destinies? I don’t believe they do.

By Parrish Miller

This is my personal website where I discuss issues of philosophy, politics, and survival from a libertarian perspective.

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