Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 24, 2013

How people remain poor

Take a look at this article from the Atlantic. It is trying to say, “Being poor or in the context of being poor means people’s brains change, and they continually make poor decisions because of hopelessness.”

I have no doubt that people that feel despair will bite on any pleasure that comes their way, no matter how small. However, this only continues the cycle of poverty. How does one get out of poverty?

I have a family line that was extremely poor. I never realized how poor they were on my father’s side until I was an older adult. It is a story of a family in central Texas where the head of the family, my grandfather, had only a second grade education. (He was pulled out of school at an early age to work on the farm full-time.) Despite the poverty and his poor education, his sons became engineers. One son went to get a doctorate of Nuclear Science. To this day, my father thinks of carpeting as a luxury. Carpeting!

So what happened? What got them out of poverty?

The answer is virtue. Some people are born in the wrong parts of the world. Being in the rural south during an era of industrialization meant you will be poor compared to the general population. My grandfather was uneducated not because he quit learning but because he had responsibilities on a family farm. One of his tasks each summer was to herd cattle from Texas to the Dakotas (a task I look at awe at). Had he been born in an industrial town without the family farm responsibilities, he would likely have had a wealthier life. (Why didn’t he move there as he got older? A city won’t hire anyone with just a 2nd grade education.) If anyone has met these type of old-school farmers, their work-habit is incredible. There was a strict morality for the family which they lived.

Virtue is the art of self-governance. It allowed the sons to succeed in engineering school instead of becoming drunks, criminals, or something else. No one talks about the subject of virtue today which is a damn shame. People want to talk about politics, about laws, about the Constitution, but they don’t want to talk about John Adams saying, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” What he is saying there is that a society of barbarians are not fit for self-government. The entire notion of self-government is not ‘democracy’ or ‘representation’ but of applying virtue to oneself and, thus, governing yourself. There is much focus these days on financial matters such as the debasement of currencies. “Bitcoin will save us.” Any business transaction, just as all currencies, are dependent on virtue in order to exist. No currency can prosper, not even Bitcoin, if people cease to be virtuous. How can you do business matters with someone who lies, cheats, and steals?

Currently, I am doing engineering classes at college to gain an international  marketable skill. This is surprising to those who knew I was a different person at the beginning of this website. But was I? The reason why I succeed at these engineering classes is not because I am ‘smart’. The reason why is because I am not ‘stupid’. By ‘stupid’, I mean I am not getting drunk every other night, that I actually come to class, that I do the homework and assignments provided, that I do not go waste my time on miscellaneous adventures outside of class, and that I give a damn about my performance. Those who have been in college or are in college currently will recognize what I am saying. I consider myself ‘normal’. People are failing because they are doing stupid things.

What creates stupid? It is the lack of self-governance. However, there is another word to describe it, a more ancient word that when said, people’s minds immediately have a knee-jerk reaction. Sin makes people stupid. In the article linked above, it has a quote from someone who has, or knows, of women who have three or four babies from three or four different fathers. It is stupidity like that which makes you poor.

When was the last time you heard a pastor preach against gluttony? Exactly. With the obesity epidemic of landwhales increasing, there is a reason why fat people inspire thoughts of them being stupid. Once you start gaining weight and fat, don’t you stop? Don’t you start changing your ways? Yet, some people double down and end up riding that scooter in Wal-Mart. There is no upside to fat. None! You have higher health problems, you buy fat clothes, you look like you belong in a lower social category, the opposite sex will hate you, and you become less mobile.

“Are you saying rich people are all virtuous? Or that poor people are sinful?” No. Most people I know who have become rich got there by applying some virtuous habit. There was no sloth in them, none at all. And there are good people who keep being poor no matter what they do like my grandfather. However, virtue does filter out most bad habits and gets passed down to the next generation. No one denies that the body builder has a strong virtue in gym attendance and nutrition and that the fat person has a low virtue in gym attendance and nutrition. So why can’t the same be said about other things? No one thinks children should have play all day with no work, with no school. Adults, however, live their lives thinking they are entitled to play with no work. And by work, I mean doing something you don’t want to do. The reason why the degree in Fine Arts isn’t delivering a high paying job is because the person is pretending his ‘play’ (what he wants to do) is ‘work’. Life is much like lifting weights. Lifting weights is never fun, but you always have to PUSH more in order to grow.

I make this post for young people to recognize that starting virtuous habits when young will give you a much happier life. Life is rigged. If you play fun video games instead of going to class, there is a consequence for that action. While you forget about the momentary fun you had with video games that day, you will forever remember failing the class, and it will haunt you. In the same way, the momentary pain of studying for a class will be forgotten and the victory of making an A in the class will be sweetly remembered.

Benjamin Franklin was poor. What he did was write down traits of Virtue he wished to adopt. That is when his life began to change.


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