Is the War on Poverty a Failure?

Dr. Paul F. Cwik vs. Dr. Snehal Shingavi

Resolved: “A free market is the most effective poverty-fighting program.”

Saturday, June 7th at 12:45pm ET | St. Edward’s University | Austin, TX

**Watch the debate below.**

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Dr. Paul F. Cwik

“Free markets enrich and liberate people. Free markets benefit the rich, but not just the rich…they particularly benefit the poor.”

Markets have dramatically reshaped the world. The evidence is unmistakable. We can compare North and South Korea, or East and West Germany, or even Hong Kong and Communist China. Free markets enrich and liberate people. Free markets benefit the rich, but not just the rich. Free markets benefit the middle-class, but not just the middle-class. Free markets particularly benefit the poor. By any calculation, the improvements in the quality of life for the poor have been the most dramatic; whether that is measured in terms of life-expectancy, health, living conditions, education, or even entertainment. What is considered as poverty in the US today would be envied by the aristocracy of just a few hundred years ago.

Perhaps most importantly, under a system of free markets, people are able to pursue their own dreams and be the authors of their own lives.  The poor are not forced into a caste of a status society, only able to escape by the whims of others. They are liberated from being peasants and serfs. With free markets, a person born in the depths of poverty, through his own ability, can climb to the top of the ladder of wealth. Only in a free market society is a person is able to be the truly unique individual he was made to be.

Paul Cwik  Dr. Paul F. Cwik is a Professor of Economics at Mount Olive College; and for the 2013/14 year, he taught the BB&T classes on Free Enterprise at North Carolina State University. He has earned a B.A. from Hillsdale College, Michigan, an M.A. from Tulane University in Louisiana, and a Ph.D. from Auburn University in Alabama.

Dr. Snehal Shingavi

“The problems that exist in the world today are not the result of insufficiently free markets, but rather free markets run amuck.”

Free markets have never had as their priority the abolition of poverty, but of profit-maximization. In the few episodes where poverty alleviation has taken place historically, this has been either an accident of history or the effect of social struggle which redistributed the gains of growth downward rather than the magical benevolence of the “free hand.” Because profit-maximization is less about entrepreneurial ingenuity and more about the accidental intersection of supply and demand on the one hand and the squeezing of labor on the other hand, the result of all free market activity necessarily results in impoverishment. But the poor have always faced another problem: namely, the total control that the capitalists exercise over all aspects of government. Rather than act as a hindrance to the accumulation of profits, states have arisen to allow capitalists to protect property rights, enforce discipline on labor, freely acquire public wealth, and go to war to defend their access to markets and raw materials. The problems that exist in the world today are not the result of insufficiently free markets, but rather free markets run amuck. Two examples should suffice: 6 million people die every year of starvation while food production is more than sufficient to feed everyone. Income inequality in the US has only accelerated poverty here. The richest 20 percent of Americans owns nearly 85 percent of the country's wealth. The richest 40 percent own just about 95 percent. The poorest 20 percent of Americans own 0.1 percent.

Snehal Shingavi – Dr. Snehal Shingavi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Texas/Austin. Dr. Shingavi received his Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008 after earning BAs in English and Economics from Trinity University in 1997. He won the Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, has published articles in several journals including International Socialist Review, and has appeared as a commentator on programs such as Hardball on CNN.