The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor

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9780300151367: The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor

In this important book, one of our boldest and most original thinkers charges that conventional explanations of poverty are mistaken, and that the anti-poverty policies built upon them are doomed to fail. Using science, history, fables, philosophical analysis, and common observation, Charles Karelis engages us and takes us to a deeper grasp of the link between consumption and satisfaction—and from there to a new and persuasive explanation of what keeps poor people poor. Above all, he shows how this fresh perspective can reinspire the long-stalled campaign against poverty.

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About the Author:

Charles Karelis is Research Professor of Philosophy at The George Washington University. Formerly professor of philosophy at Williams College, director of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, and president of Colgate University, he lives in Washington, D.C.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. This slim volume presents a radical analysis of poverty that turns conventional understandings of the subject upside-down. Karelis, a philosophy professor at The George Washington University and former president of Colgate, begins with a brief overview of the received wisdom on and conventional arguments regarding poverty, which he argues have been shaped in large part by middle- and upper-class sensibilities of thrift, discipline and long-term thinking; as a result, public policy initiatives have proven largely ineffective. With rigor and passion, Karelis offers a radical reconsideration of the problem, resting on twin premises: the importance of distinguishing between enjoyment and relief (e.g., eating ice cream vs. taking aspirin for a headache), and acknowledging that these motivators/rewards have a different effect on the poor than they do the well-off. Karelis argues that while the middle and upper classes seek an even distribution of "pleasers" to increase "positive satisfaction" over the long-run, those acting from a position of insufficiency work for "relievers... goods that reduce pain, unhappiness, or misery" in the moment. As such, what is rational or efficient behavior for the poor is not so for the well-off, and vice-versa. Though rich with insight on a subject with broad appeal, Karelis's treatise is not an easy read, particularly for those unfamiliar with economic theory; readers unafraid of technical forays into the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility and the Epicurean Fallacy will find this important work quite rewarding.
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