[Strawbale]Re: Poverty-consciousness - WAS: ethical question?

root root at amper....muni.cz
Fri Mar 4 22:49:56 CET 2005

Date: Fri, 04 Mar 2005 16:01:52 -0000
From: Stewart Hargrave <Stewart at Hargrave....uk>
To: strawbale at amper....muni.cz
Subject: RE: [Strawbale]Poverty-consciousness - WAS: ethical question?

On 4 Mar 2005 at 9:59, fostertom at clara....uk wrote:

> Stewart, I'm sure we'd get on fine if we met - in fact where do you
> live? I'm in Dartmoor.  and expanding.

Tom, I've been reading back through my posts. It was not my intention to be
unfriendly, and nor was I trying to make a personal attack. Just trying to put a
different perspective on things. I'm glad to see you are still around. I'd be pleased
to shake your hand if we met, and a list like this needs experts in architecture
who take an interest in alternatives.

I live in urban Berkshire, so I guess we're a couple of hundred miles apart.
However, I've been harbouring a dream for many years to escape this urban
sprawl - a couple of acres where I could build my own home. Money, as ever, is a
stumbling block.

> > Sure, accept payment in the form of fringe benefits if agreeable, but
> > leave charity and poverty-consciousness out of it.
> Why?

>To answer, because to me, it goes nowhere;
> whereas terrific good service and mutually-created prosperity is
> generous

(I've changed the thread heading, so as not to confuse topics)

Prosperity CAN be generous, but it doesn't have to be. Bill Gates is an extremely
generous man, as is Richard Branson and others like them. But then again, as a
fraction of their income, I know poorer people who are more generous. And I also
know people who are, by all measures, well off, but spend their life grizzling
about their money problems, and show no interest in the plight of others.

As we in the West generally grow more and more prosperous, with ever greater
purchasing power, it puzzles me how there are still areas of the world that are SO
poor as to be unimaginable. Some of it is as a result of natural conditions and
disaster, but most, I would suggest, is as a result of political conditions at some

And this brings up many far reaching questions. I think we should seriously doubt
that our ability to buy 'stuff' is a fair measure of prosperity. Neighbours near me
typically own breadmakers, espresso machines, home cinemas, rowing
machines, mobile phones that take pictures, iPods, million-channel TV sets,
camcorders, 4x4s with sat-nav, air-con, video consoles... All of these things are
quickly outdated, and apparently need replacing with new, improved, more stylish
versions. In a strange sort of way, people's self-worth seems dependent upon

And yet I puzzle how we, as a society and as individuals, seem unable to be any
happier. 100 years ago, none of the above was even thought about (no one even
knew they wanted it) and there was much poverty. But I doubt mental disease or
suicide rates were higher. And our willingness to have wars seems unimpeded.

The prosperity cycle worries me in several ways.

The more people earn, the more they can buy; the more they buy, the more
people earn. But ever greater consumption has to have a cost; all our resources
initially come from, and are ultimately returned to, the earth and its atmosphere.

One reason we can buy so much is because things are becoming so cheap. A
Ł30 DVD player? a shirt for Ł6? A cordless drill for Ł20? I don't believe it.
Someone, somewhere is being exploited. We in the first world don't need goods
that cheap. And yet we are constantly told that this is how we improve our
standard of living. I reflect upon a comment made in one of John Seymour's
books (he was an early self-sufficiency pioneer in the 1960s). He embraced the
idea of peasant culture and distinguished it from poverty - a peasant had all he
needed, particularly knowledge and land, to feed himself and his family. These
would get passed down the generations, and were largely independent of

A question that I have asked many people, including accountants and bankers,
has never been answered in a way that I understand: If I get richer, does it
necessarily mean that someone somewhere else is getting poorer? Really, I am
asking whether wealth is a finite resource, or can we genuinely *create* wealth?
And I get bogged down with what I mean by 'wealth' or 'rich.'

Stewart H.

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