There are lots of economists and politicians who think they understand the root cause of poverty, and most will blame it on the wealthy. But poverty is actually the natural state of man kind.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: Hey, Connor.

Connor: I want to talk about being poor. It’s never fun. We’ve all been there, especially college kids or whatever, but of course, our definition of poverty in America is very different than elsewhere. I know there are poor people in America or people who consider themselves poor, who have a Netflix subscription and a cell phone plan and a refrigerator and a microwave, and they live better literally than Kings did. Like a century ago. Through all this innovation that has been pushed down to the lowest economic levels where you can buy a refrigerator for five bucks on Craigslist, it’s just phenomenal.

Brittany: But Is that accurate?

Connor: You can. It may not be a good one. It’ll be a used old microwave, but they’re everywhere, and so they’re cheap. And so, poverty itself though, whether we’re talking about bone-crushing poverty in a third world country where they’re starving, or the poverty that we’re kind of more used to seeing in America, this poverty has always been part of the world, and as terrible, I think as it is to think about. There are always those who are going to be living in poorer circumstances than other people. That’s just because we all have different choices, different experiences, and so forth. We’re all going to have different outcomes. But I want to talk a little bit with you about what causes poverty. Why are some people poor? And of course, many politicians and economists, they think they know, and they use their beliefs or their assumptions to pass laws that are supposed to take people out of poverty. Of course, decades ago, Congress declared a war on poverty, and they passed all these laws to fix it, and of course, it’s worse than it was back then.

Brittany: I feel like every time they declare war on something.

Connor: War in terror.

Brittany: War on drugs.

Connor: War on obesity? Yeah, you’re exactly right. So, they declared war on poverty, but these government programs, they ultimately don’t do much for a lot of these people. They believe poverty exists because of the wealthy. It’s called a zero-sum game. In other words, let’s say there’s a pie, and of course, there’s only so much pie. And so if I take a bunch of pie, you feel like I’m stealing from your fair share because there’s scarcity. There’s a scarce pie. There’s only one pie. And let’s say we cut it into, I don’t know, 12 slices. And if you might think, okay, well split it six and six, but if I take eight, suddenly you can only take four. And so a lot of people see the economy this way. They see the market as a zero-sum game or like that pie. And if wealthy people are taking a lot, if they’re taking a lot of resources, they’re taking it away from people who are poor. If someone else is too rich, they must be taking it away. But that is false. That is not the right way to think of the economy. It makes sense for something like a pie. There are actually only 12 slices in that pie if we cut it that way. But it’s not true for the economy because what is the economy? It’s all of us making independent choices, working together, innovating, creating amazing new things, and discovering new resources.


There’s just making the pie bigger, so to speak, right?

Connor: Yeah, you’re making more pies and you’re making bigger pies and you’re creating more abundance. So, poverty exists not because someone is doing something to someone else. In other words, it’s not because rich people are taking things away from poor people. Poverty is actually, and I want to get your reaction to this, Brittany. I would argue that poverty is the natural state of mankind. By default, we have poverty. How do you react or respond to that idea?

Brittany: Well, the first thing that came to my mind to play devil’s advocate was, okay, well what about somebody that’s born into a king like a king, an heir of a king? Or something like that where it’s like, okay, but you were born into wealth. But then I think about the very first human or even just a baby. A baby doesn’t really have any wealth, right? A baby doesn’t have anything. A baby just has a big head it can’t even pick up yet. And these tiny little hands, and until it learns to do something, it doesn’t really have much. And if you go back to thinking about whoever the first person was, whether it was cavemen, whatever it was, they were pretty poor. There was literally nothing. They didn’t have anything. And so in that respect, I’m like, okay, that kind of makes sense. Maybe we all just start off poor, and that’s the starting point.

Connor: Yeah, that’s kind of what I think too, is that there’s clearly exceptions. Any rule that we come up with a general rule, there’s always going to be exceptions. So, of course, someone born to a king, they’re going to have a pretty easy life, but that king could be overthrown tomorrow.

Brittany: That’s a good point.

Connor: Or circumstances can change. And so even for people that you assume are just born wealthy, always wealthy, how many rich people do we see in the media that they squander all their money and then go back to being in debt and having financial problems?

Brittany: When we were young, there was a rapper, this is just a fun story, named mc Hammer. And he had the song, can’t Touch This. Remember? Wait, it was a Can’t Touch That, or Can’t Touch.

Connor: This, can’t touch This dude.

Brittany: Can’t Touch This. Yeah, this was the song, and he was like this rich superstar, and now he has nothing. He only had that one song. Really? And it’s just funny how you can go from being the most, the biggest celebrity to just having nothing. So you’re right.

Connor: Well, and I think I look at it from the perspective of how we stop poverty. What is it that actually stops people from being poor? Most people might say money, right? If you have money, then you’re not poor. But I think there’s a word that a lot of people equate with money, and I don’t think it’s actually money. That word is wealth. So, I think wealth is because if we say, oh, that guy’s wealthy, well usually means he or she. They have a lot of money. And I think wealth actually means something more significant than that. If I’m healthy and if I have a shelter like a decent home and I have maybe a family, and if I have a good job or if I have a good plan for my future, and I’m not just ad drift in life, if I have a good head on my shoulders, if I have access to good information, if I have a good network of people, we’ve talked about networking before. If I have a good group of people around me, I think all of that can be lumped into this idea of wealth. Because wealth isn’t just this piece of paper that you can use to buy things or your credit card. I think someone who’s wealthy has skills. They have talents, they’ve invested in themselves, they’ve read books, they’ve taken courses, they’ve had experiences. They’ve enriched their life to where they can create value for people. Remember, again and again, we’ve talked about entrepreneurship being problem-solving. If you see that your elderly neighbors can’t mow their lawns anymore, you can create value for them by offering to do it for them in exchange for money. They have probably more money than physical health to mow the lawn. They would prefer to pay someone else. You’re solving a problem for them. You’re creating value and that’s entrepreneurship. But it’s also for you, it’s wealth generation in the fact that you’re becoming wealthy, you’re building a network of clients and you are showing yourself that you are thinking like an entrepreneur. You’re problem-solving, you’re feeling good because you’re creating value for other people. You’re building a reputation. So, the people in your neighborhood see you as a hard worker or someone they can trust. Maybe they’ll refer you to their neighbors or their friends. And so you’re building a network. You are building a brand. Maybe you start a whole landscaping company out of this. So, now you’re securing your future. You’re creating jobs for other people. You’re maybe investing some of your money into other businesses or the stock market. All of that kind of unfolds because you decided to invest in yourself. You decided to be kind of like an entrepreneur. So, when I think of how do we stop poverty, I don’t think of just money. I think of wealth. And so much of wealth is education. It’s learning, building ourselves up to be able to tackle problems, think creatively, and come up with ideas to solve people’s problems. And so I don’t know that the solution to poverty is just to give people money or give them welfare or all this kind of stuff because it doesn’t address the broader issues that we need to build these people up. For the people who are poor, we need to build them up in a variety of ways, not just give them a handout, give them money, and expect that their problems are going to go away.

Brittany: That’s really more optimistic though. I think. I know that people scoff at that, especially socialists, people like that will think, oh, okay, so you just want to make capitalism be more prevalent and you think that’s going to help these people? It won’t. But I like that it puts the people in control more, a little bit more. Instead of saying, we’re going to take away rights from other people, we’re going to tax people more to help these other people. It just becomes like, how can we help people see that they can work their way out of it, that they cannot even just work their way out of it? Like you said, create value. So it’s not even just money. It’s having a purpose in life. It’s having something really exciting to look forward to. So to me, that’s actually a really optimistic view of poverty. But one thing that I wanted to push back on because I think this happens a lot, especially when you get college campus kids involved because sometimes they can just be the worst when it comes to social issues. But there’s a lot of, and this could be a whole different episode, but there are things that get, the reputation is being called sweatshops. These really bad factories don’t have air conditioning, and these are in places like India, and these people have to work, and a lot of kids will come over. John Stossel did a great video and say, you need to create better working environments for these people. They’re basically slaves, blah, blah, blah. But what American kids don’t understand is in places like India that are developing right now, these jobs are really good because they’re just going through their almost kind of industrial revolution. It’s not, but we’ll kind of call it that, where they’re making more than anybody in their family has ever made per day, but it’s nowhere near as much as we’re making in America. And so American kids will come over and say, and oh, you’re treating them like slaves, blah, blah, blah, blah. But these people have chosen to work in a factory that yes, it’s not the best circumstances. There’s no air conditioning. Sometimes they are really hot, but these jobs are actually teaching them a skill and taking them out of poverty which has never happened in their families before sometimes. So, poverty is very, I’d hate to say it’s relative, that it varies, but it does, like you said in the beginning, American poverty is nothing like the poverty maybe in India, but also that poverty is not anything compared to poverty was 200 years ago.

Connor: Yeah, it is interesting. I don’t think we want to say that we shouldn’t address something like American poverty if we’ll call it that, just because it’s not as bad as maybe in sub-Saharan Africa or something like that, where they’re just eating the same thing, nothing once a day, and that’s their whole meal. Clearly, there’s different degrees of problems, and a lot of this is corruption over time, and there’s certain people who are profiting and extracting a lot of the resources and things and depriving other people. This is a complicated issue. I don’t think we want to suggest that magically we can solve this. If only you just build wealth, then you just, but I do think that one reason I get optimistic is technology and innovation as a way to solve poverty. Specifically, I’m thinking of the cell phone as an example. So when I was on a mission for my church in Honduras 20 years ago, everywhere I would go throughout the city, there were phone cables all over the place, and just like a maze, it was just amazing electrical wires and phone cables and everything else. And in America, there have long been battles between these cable companies of who gets to dig the trench and lay down the wire, and all these laws get passed, and certain companies get the special contract and they make all the money, and it’s always just a big fight. It’s always a big mess. Well, then you go to places like Africa that didn’t really go through that. There are a lot of cities and villages and so forth where they never had cable internet or TV or landlines back in the day when you had to actually pick up a corded telephone. They never really had those things. But what they did get is cell phones, or even more now with Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet, you don’t need all that, what’s called infrastructure. You don’t need cables laid down in the ground. You don’t need the telephone poles and all the wires. So, you not only save a ton of the cost, but you get rid of all the government corruption and the contracts, and suddenly you can be out in the middle of nowhere in Africa and have a cell phone and be connected to the entire world. And you can read Wikipedia or all kinds of books. You can get a job on, which is a place for freelancers to, I hire people there all the time from all over the world.

Brittany: So, does my work. And we love doing it from around the world. It’s really fun to hire someone in Ukraine to do something or something like that. It’s cool.

Connor: It is great. Yeah, you meet different people. You can give them jobs, you can interact with them. And so these people are now empowered to do work that they never could before simply because technology has allowed them that option. So I’m optimistic about the future. I think poverty’s never been better in the sense that poverty has declined and all this innovation, going back to the refrigerators and the microwaves, and even the poorest among us often have a lot of a standard of living, a way of living that is better than it ever has been. We have a lot more work to do. We got to solve a lot more problems. But it’s not just giving out money. It’s not just passing a law or declaring war on poverty and Congress, right? It’s a complex issue. But a lot of that comes down to education and entrepreneurship and creating these opportunities where these people can really work hard because there’s dignity in work. In other words, it’s good to want to work. It’s good to produce something with your own hands. No one likes a handout. It crushes your spirit, your soul. People want to work hard. They want to build something for themselves. They want to create wealth for them and their family. That’s how we get out of poverty. And so a lot of ways to look into this, a lot of YouTube videos, a lot of books. We just want to expose you guys to that idea so that as a family, you can talk about this issue together. What does poverty look like in your community? Do you know anyone that’s ever been in poverty? Has your family ever contributed to an organization that is trying to address poverty? What can you do to address the issue? What does it look like for you? I think these are good topics of conversation. So, we’ll leave it there for you guys as a family to talk about. And thanks, Brittany. Until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.