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Not all poverty is lack of money

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| Photo: Brunno Covello/ Archive/ Gazeta do Povo

Technocrat has terrible difficulty understanding things that can’t fit into numbers. In my view, this ends up implying a destabilization of societies less based on money. These are automatically considered poor, receive an artificial injection of money and, many times, this will find its destiny in a new area of ​​the economy that has grown at a rapid pace since the beginning of Bolsa Família: trafficking. With the creation of Bolsa Família, the donkey was replaced by the motorcycle, which increases production capacity and is a good thing, but it seems to me that there was also an explosion in trafficking. I don’t mean to say that needy people are not supposed to have state aid; I intend to draw attention to bad effects that the technocrat does not usually see.

What is poverty?

Dalrymple often points out that the meaning of “poverty” is altered so that it can never be said that it is over. He is a retired English doctor who worked at SUS there (the NHS) and in prisons, so he knows very well the social segment that the British call “poor”, but which he prefers to call underclass, subclass. These are people who receive a kind of Bolsa Família and say they are “paid”, even if they don’t work. If Bolsa Família is liberally inspired, however, the United Kingdom has a strong socialist tradition in the field of social assistance. As Dalrymple says, the “poor” Englishman “is paid” by the state and also receives a state-owned house that is already furnished and equipped with appliances to live in. Bureaucrats inspect families and say who will live where. They decide everything bureaucratically, in the pejorative sense of the word. In one of his books (which are published in Brazil by É Realizações), he tells the story of a single mother who used to get involved with violent men. She asked to change apartments to escape one of them, but social services said no, because she was already allocated the apartment for the size of her family. The problem was resolved when, to resolve the issue of parental alienation (created by the bureaucracy itself), bureaucrats decided that all parents would have the right to keep their children for a period, even if they were pedophiles or violent murderers. Her daughter’s father took the child and killed. Then the bureaucracy finally moved her apartment, as she was now a woman alone.

So, the “poor” from England lead a life that would fill a thousand Datena programs, though they live amidst material abundance. The “poor” of England are “poor” only because they have less money than someone else. If we make poverty relative rather than absolute, poverty will only end when everyone has the same wealth. If everyone but Bill Gates were as rich as Gisele Bundchen, Gisele Bundchen would be poor until Bill Gates’ annihilation.

The most reasonable thing, for Dalrymple, would be to consider that poverty among UK citizens no longer exists. And a recurring theme in your writings is how elite intellectual fashions have a devastating effect on people. In the end, they would not cater to an eventual Datena because of their poverty, but rather because of their moral degradation, possible also in the midst of wealth.

Where do I want to go with this? Well, in the technocratic mentality according to which every problem stems from a lack of money. Why do people steal food? Why don’t you have money? Okay. Why do people smuggle rifles? Why don’t you have money?! Why do people buy pure cocaine trafficked from Colombia? Is it because they don’t have money?! And if the rich have spiritual motivations to buy pure cocaine, why do we have to reduce the poor drug addict’s motives to economics?

I believe that the rich snort and the poor snore share the same values, and that the values ​​explain the lifestyle of both. On the other hand, technocrats and a lot of Catholics believe that all the degradation of the poor comes from poverty, that is, from the scarcity of material resources necessary for survival.

A sniffer is a narco with money; a raccoon is a penniless snorter.

Wealth without money

But one of the things that amazes me most about the technocrat’s mindset is historical ignorance. Everything happens as if God created Eden with Adam, Eve, a bunch of animals and dollar bills. For most of human history, wealth came from the soil, from rural work. People without a penny, but a lady of fertile land and serfs, she was rich. Medieval taxes such as tuesdays and middays could be paid “in cash”, an expression that meant, when credit cards or bank transfers did not yet exist, they could be paid with a fraction of their own production. Payment “in kind” by the beet grower was payment with beets.

The coin itself came about as a result of work extraction of wealth from the land. And the material of the coin could be melted and kept at home as savings, either in the form of jewelry or kitchen utensils (“the silver of the house”). As late as the 18th century, David Hume condemned the practice of importing porcelain from the Orient because, once it was gone, wealth was lost – quite unlike household silver. The creole jewelry used by the black ladies of Bahia in the 19th century were an obvious savings. People didn’t go to stores with cash in hand to pick a piece of jewelry; they amassed wealth in precious metals and sought an honest goldsmith to cast them into artifacts. When the lean cows came, it was enough to melt.

Since the Middle Ages, therefore, wealth was mainly rural and with little money. With the surplus of production in the countryside and the increase in commerce, cities (or burgs) began to appear with their burghers. The nobility had wealth in land; the bourgeoisie had wealth in money.

Still in the 19th century, in already industrial Italy, the importance of wealth in land was recognized. That is why the bourgeoisie began to marry bankrupt nobles and thus become noblers. A famous representation of this process is found in Il Gattopardo, novel by the prince of Lampedusa made into a film by Visconti. The famous phrase “it is necessary to change everything so that nothing changes” summarizes the alliance of the decadent nobility with the ascendant bourgeoisie to keep themselves above the dry meat.

A different economy

If a group of liberals like Marcos Lisboa reached the Middle Ages , a census would be carried out to measure everyone’s income in cash. They would be heartbroken to discover that marquises, counts, viscounts and dukes have little money; that peasants live on less than a dollar a day. They would send a report to international entities revealing the extreme poverty of medieval nobles. On the other hand, Jews, outcasts deprived of land use, condemned to urban life, would appear as great rich people and income concentrators. A Bolsa Família would bring money to peasants and nobles at the expense of the bourgeois. But what the hell would the country folk do with the money? this is what happens with Brazil’s regional inequalities. The economy of the majority of the northeastern population (who does not live in the capitals) is similar to the medieval economy. Liberals pull their hair out regretting the little money the rural northeaster has, but do not consider the very low cost of living that a small rural landowner has. Then he takes the money from urban centers and dumps it in the hinterland. What for?

Well, the things the archaic field cannot buy are the technological goods that are important for productivity – like motorcycles, cell phones, internet, tractors – and drugs. See, for example, this news of an illegal business caught by the Federal Highway Police: in the interior of Bahia, an inadvertent person bought a stolen motorbike with a fat pig over the internet. This is Brazilian economy. On the day when a technocrat understands that this type of transaction with payment in kind is a normal thing in the second largest Brazilian region, perhaps we can think of better money transfer programs.

Cocaine is produced outside Brazil and only enters on a cash basis. If today there is crack in any rural corner of the country, this was only possible with the arrival of money in those corners. This happened with the liberal income transfer programs, which changed this archaic economy. I repeat that the arrival of money does not imply that everyone is going to buy drugs — there are those who buy technology goods, which also only arrive with cash. But we need to abandon this mindset that money is the best or only metric of human success.

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