The Great Global Poverty Debate: Is Something Missing?

Over the last two decades, academics (based largely in the west) and activists have invested a great deal of energy in global poverty. This article asks: why should people not be poor? Surprisingly, this question elicits a number of answers. The pragmatically inclined can suggest that the existence of a large number of poor people poses a direct threat to the social and political order. Humanitarians are likely to argue that poverty breeds unfortunate consequences, which demoralises human beings, and violates our best-held convictions that no one should be compelled to live below the threshold of decency. The response of normative theorists might be that society is complicit in the creation and recreation of poverty. Then society is obliged to remedy the wrongs that it has visited upon the heads of the poor. This constitutes a basic code of remedial justice. These responses can form the axis of separate and distinct arguments on the reasons why people should not be poor. In this article, I argue that there is more to the question.