poverty There are various competing accounts and criteria of poverty. Some have an absolute conception often in terms of *need, but there are problems with that (discussed in the entry on need). Others prefer a relative conception, but there are great problems with that too. In particular it can entail that there will always be poverty as long as there is inequality (so this definition suits *politically correct *ideologues), and that means while humans exist (which suits those *academics and *charity-workers living off the ‘poverty industry’: the overclass that needs to maintain the existence of the underclass). Also the degree of the alleviation of poverty, and to what extent it matters, might not be clear as the goal posts keep being moved.

Assume an absolute conception that is not needlessly precise: poverty is some low and desperate standard of living such that normal human flourishing is difficult or impossible. This is undoubtedly a severe *welfare problem, but one that might ultimately be solved. We can distinguish the two most important questions. What is the cause of poverty? What is the cure for poverty? A plethora of answers have been forthcoming from different academic disciplines and different *ideologies. Rather than attempt to list and discuss them all, this entry will give the answers that might be expected from *libertarianism. The overwhelming proximate cause of poverty is severe *political interference in an *economy. And the fastest and most complete solution to poverty is *free-market *anarchy.

Thus this is just an extreme example of the general point that the more political interference you suffer the more your welfare and *liberty will be destroyed; and the more you approach free-market anarchy the more that welfare and liberty will be enhanced. So it is not necessary to abolish *politics completely to, start to, solve the problem of poverty. Any moves in the right direction should help: significantly lowering *taxes, abolishing *minimum wage legislation; allowing *free trade, *depoliticizing industry, scrapping building codes that cause *homelessness; *freedom of travel and migration, etc. See the relevant entries for explanations.

Even if we take a relative conception of poverty, then poverty is alleviated by the fact that the market tends toward long-run *equality while the state tends to create an underclass that falls ever lower behind the average. So cutting welfare benefits is, ironically but utterly, germane to raising the standards of this artificial underclass.

See *aid, foreign; *democide; *famine; *less-developed countries.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism