I am talking about lifting the masses of the world’s poor out of desperation and into a decent life. We can do it. It is autocatalytic: once some people have begun to rise, they can assist us in lifting others. This is already happening in some places where it has been encouraged, places in which the rich overlords have not prevented it. Humankind can rise if it is not oppressed. The Old Testament prophets railed against those who would grind the face of the poor into the dust. This is why they are poor: it is not because they are lazy, but because rich people oppress them. (There are, of course, a few lazy ones, but this is not usually the case.)
One of the most pressing needs is to control diseases such as malaria and intestinal diseases. These diseases thrive in, and reinforce, a spiral of poverty. Poor people with diseases cannot afford medical care, not even in America, and this only allows the diseases to spread more. The economic burden is multidimensional.
- First, there is the cost of the medical care itself.
- Second, there is the cost of people not being able to work. This is a cost to all of society, not just to the direct victim.
- Third, the parasites themselves, living in people with chronic diseases, consume a lot of the nutrients in the food that the people eat. If someone is full of worms, like the dissident who escaped from North Korea a couple of weeks ago, the worms are using up calories and nutrients.
- Fourth, and this is one I never thought of until I read about it in something that Lewis Thomas wrote, is that the food that feeds the parasites represents a substantial portion of the agricultural output of any nation that has a lot of poor sick people. Lewis Thomas said that fully twenty percent of the food produced by countries with chronic malaria goes to feed the malaria parasites.
The spiral of sickness in poor societies is reinforced by all four of the above forces. To help poor people escape from sickness, especially the mild chronic sicknesses that do not kill them but keep them torpid all of their lives, will help their lives not only directly, but indirectly by improving the entire economy of their nations.
For nations as for individuals, health is a good investment. Will we help poor countries to achieve this investment?