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HUM105 Great Ideas of World Civilizations
Discussion Forum 4
What should we do about the poor?
This week, we start to work on Unit 2: “What is justice?” During this week, we will confront the unequal distribution of wealth, and the idea that power and wealth, which are important parts of any social and political system and are almost always tied to each other. So, I want you to start thinking about issues of wealth, class, poverty, ownership, and resource distribution. Do the reading assigned, including Barbara Ehrenreich’s “From Nickle and Dimed”, Garrett Hardin’s essay,  “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor”, and Landmann’s essay “The House”.   Also, watch the TEDTalk video with Mia Birdsong, entitled “The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True”. You will find the link here, and in the Unit 2 folder:

And as much as you have time for, take a look at some of the other links and resources in the Materials for the Four Units, Unit 2.
Then, at some point between now and 11:59 pm. Thursday, February 21st, post the first of your posts. Make sure you include at least one quotation from each of the readings.  You should also include a reference to the video, but you need not quote it directly. Then, by 11:59 pm, Sunday, February 24th, add your second post, as a response to what another person has said.
As before, make sure you do at least one of the following for each of your posts:
Be the first to post an answer to the question. (You get extra credit if you do!)
Agree, but then add to what someone else has already said.
Disagree with something already said, but explain why you disagree.
Add a new element or new idea to the discussion.
Again, do not just agree, disagree, go off on an unrelated tangent, or base your argument on “It’s just my opinion”. Give reasons. Be clear, reasonable, and respectful. And be sure to avoid just restating what’s already been said.
Here’s this week’s question:
The problems of inequality, poverty, and injustice are nothing new.  These problems have plagued all complex, large-scale human societies since the beginnings of recorded history. However, in spite of our throwing some of our best minds and significant resources at them, we have failed to solve these problems. Why? Some have argued that poverty is the result of the selfishness and greed of the wealthy.  Others have blamed poverty on the poor, claiming that poverty is the result of character flaws, such as laziness, lack of initiative, or lack of self-discipline. Others have argued that inequitable resource distribution is not a moral issue but a practical one, that can be resolved through a more efficient economic system, such as instituting a minimum yearly income for everyone (Check out the link to Robert Reich’s proposal on “universal basic income”), or employing technological solutions.
After you’ve read the assigned readings and watched the TEDTalk video by Mia Birdsong, think about this question and try to answer it in this forum: What do you believe are the causes of poverty? What do you think we should do about it?

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