Eradicating Poverty: Why the “War on Poverty” Did not Produce Desired Fruits


Pres. Johnson

According to the US Census Bureau, there are more people living in poverty in the US today than in 1966, when Pres. Lyndon Johnson started the War on Poverty. Actually, the poverty level of 18- to 64-year olds has increased by 30 percent. What went wrong?

Viewing the matter from the Back-to-the-Body perspective (which looks at the body as an exemplar for establishing and maintaining a nation), the government (corresponding to the “brain” of the nation) does not have the means to solve the poverty problem, which is a problem of DISTRIBUTION of wealth.

In the body, the distribution of the body’s wealth (considered to be the nutrition- and oxygen-rich blood supply) is controlled by the heart with the aid of the brain. It is not controlled by the brain. Applying this to the nation, any attempt to solve distribution problems on the basis of government action and control is bound to fail, since the government is considered to be the “brain” of the nation.

What is the Heart of the Nation?

It is assumed that the culture of the nation is the heart of the nation. This would be made up by people who are neither part of the government nor part of the productive forces of the nation. Examples of the culture of a nation include artists, teachers, intellectuals, members of a free press, religious people, writers, and so forth.

I have been arguing that part of the heart is made up also by people who manage the finances of the nation. The reason is that, in a certain sense, the finances of the nation represent the essence of the work performed by the productive forces of the nation (which I consider like the “stomach” of the nation). The financial wealth represents the essence of the blood and sweat of the work performed by the people (das Volk, el pueblo). I propose that the finances of the nation are not and must not be controlled by the government.

Here we can see the government’s incapability of dealing with problems of distribution of wealth—in other words, with problems of poverty: the control of the finances of the nation escapes governmental control (or ought to).

If not the government, then, who can solve the problem of poverty in society? Those individuals who represent the culture and the heart of the nation, in the sense that it is through them that the wealth of the nation flows to all parts of society. I would like to offer a few examples, but once we set out thinking along this course, the examples will multiply. Here are a few:

a. Universities: suppose Harvard University (to give an example) decides to use part of its endowment to promote and support neighborhood schools, preparing underprivileged students for higher education. That will help fight poverty.

b. Distribution Chains: suppose Walmart decides to open up small local stores in underprivileged neighborhoods, in areas otherwise not served by markets. That will help fight poverty.

c. Retired teachers: suppose retired teachers donate their expertise to the establishment of inexpensive courses for students who are unable to pay for school tuition, where such courses can be spread through the Internet. That will help fight poverty.

d. Family-friendly work environment: suppose corporations decide to create child care and nutrition for their workers’ children. Suppose Google creates Google Kids, where children have child care and meals while their parents work. That will help fight poverty.

Here the sky is the limit. The key is for people to stop looking at government for the solution. Also, government must stop taking money from people with the promise that they will solve these social problems.

As we can see, this is a cultural change. Poverty, then, can be defined as a bi-product of culture, of heartless culture. From this perspective, poverty will be solved when the nation’s culture changes and takes upon itself the task of solving the problem of poverty. And that is why Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty has not shown the success that we had hoped it would achieve.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
June 5, 2014

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