Poverty as Slavery(?), Development as Freedom

This article published in the Atlantic today resonated with what I was (and didn’t finish) reading this summer.

“When we [make financial life easier for the poor], we liberate some bandwidth,” Shafir says. Policymakers tend to evaluate the success of financial programs aimed at the poor by measuring how they do financially. “The interesting thing about this perspective is that it says if I make your financial life easier, if I give you more bandwidth, what I really ought to look at is how you’re doing in your life. You might be doing better parenting. You might be adhering to your medication better.”

…and, contradicted with what I experienced from talking to people in Mexico.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates Sums Up My Experience in Mexico

As usual, incisive and miraculously concise:

You are the cultural conqueror. You wield the biggest guns. Somewhere in your home there is button which could erase civilization. And then you come to this place and find yourself disarmed. You see that it has its own culture, its own ages and venerable traditions, that the people do not tremble before you. And then you understand that there is not just intelligent life in outer space, but life so graceful that it shames you into silence.

From “English is a Dialect with an Army,” The Atlantic. Continue reading