05.06.2020 in Book Report
An Appraisal of the Book An End to Poverty? A Historical Debate

The book An End to Poverty? A Historical Debate by Gareth Jones gives an insight into today’s mechanisms of poverty alleviation such as insurance schemes, as well as international and social security patterns. The work proposes that the programs are not a product of the current generation but rather a culmination of history. Many contributions, for example, were borrowed from the French and American Revolutions, according to the author. The ideas arose from Antoine Nicolas de Condorcet of France and Tom Paine of England who rejected the notion that poverty had something to do with divinity or something arising out of the sinful nature of a human being. These two scholars and their followers rather proposed that poorness was a problem created by a man. Therefore, as such it cannot lack a remedy from a human being. In essence, what the author meant was the fact that if the world adopted a proper economic planning, the calamities facing people and causing poverty would have been eradicated. The reasoning was not just an illusion but something that was witnessed later on during the 1990s in a form of a welfare state. The traditional idea of poverty originated from Jesus in the Gospel books. One of the scenarios that have provided a rise to this conclusion is the following fact. When Jesus visited Simon the Letter, a woman came by and smeared rather expensive oil on Jesus. After that, the disciples of Jesus Christ called this act as a waste of resources. They meant that this oil could have been given to the poor for a proper use. Jesus responded them by telling not to be anxious about that as poverty had been with them all the time. From this story of Christ, we are able to learn that poverty is divine. Therefore, those who are unfortunate to be in this state should accept it with utmost humility.


The Link between the Eradication Measures and History of the Today’s Poverty

As earlier stated, the book argues that the innovations witnessed today in ending poorness started during the 18th century. It states that the enjoyment of the relatively stable economic conditions and peace were the start of implementing the policies towards the eradication of poverty. The advancement in the field of mathematics, for example, caused the development of statistics responsible for the basis of today’s insurance schemes. The insurance forms bankruptcy and death through the life insurance scheme followed. Therefore, a general improvement in the standards of life has appeared. Actuarial science further assisted in the development of poverty eradication schemes. The innovations, however, did not appear by themselves. The two scholars, Paine and Condorcet from Britain and France respectively, put a lot of efforts in generating the ideas. The issues such as universal pensions, tax based social insurance, and schooling were some of the ideas generated by those ones who could see the light of a day. The book, therefore, traces all these developments from a historical perspective. In this regard, much attention of the current paper will be paid to 5 main arguments provided with the aim to eradicate poverty.

Eradication of Poverty through Social Security, Education and Taxation

The first argument provided in the book is the fact that poverty can only be removed through the use of social security, education, and welfare taxation. Through the American and French Revolutions, France as a nation, for example, discovered the following fact. It was poor but wanted to go the same route as America had done. Such ideas, therefore, instilled a lot of radicalism and some forms of urgency into the commercial society. One challenge posed by this era is that all citizens were poor. Therefore, revolutionary leaders faced a lot of challenges in managing the country with a lot of reasoning. It was the proposition of two scholars, Paine and Condorcet, that a welfare state was needed. In this case, the savings and taxation could be directed towards pensions for elderly people, allowances for children, and getting the universal education. To this extent, Adam Smith of Britain and Turgot of France engaged in discussing the essence of free trade where there were no restrictions towards any individual. In this case, the scholars intended that the wealth and profits would be divided equally across the society. France as a country first attempted to incorporate the ideas of Condorcet in the years 1793 and 1794. With it on the verge of collapse during the reign and fall of Robespierre, the government and people of France changed their attention from the idea of eradicating poverty towards common efforts. The plans and objectives were, however, put in place immediately after the World War I. The situation was even better in France than in Britain where the state repression and popular loyalism took a central position. Thus, the ideas collapsed in the midst of the revolution in Britain. On the other hand, Malthus and Burke supported the position that poverty was something of a natural order which was divine. As such, it was a disgrace for anyone called a pauper. According to them, the only thing that could save such people from such shame and humiliation was exercising sexual continence, thrift and hard work. According to Stedman Jones, therefore, it was this vision of eradication of poverty that then was displayed in the way for marking the borders of social policy in Britain. It was the idea that had lasted for over a century. In line with the argument, Krugman further argues that the unemployment and lack of political will in the US government was responsible for the Great Depression in America and poverty of the American people. The hard work of people, coupled with political goodwill as elaborated by Krugman has gone a long way in removing poverty.

Role of Industrial Revolution in Streamlining Poverty Eradication Measures

The second argument provided by the author is that poverty eradication got its impulse as a result of development during the Industrial Revolution. In this case, France and Britain were the examples of this kind of evolution. During this period, however, the African countries had been left behind. The beneficiaries of the development of the Industrial Revolution in removing poverty were the European Nations. A lot of wealth was created with the invention of the steam engine used for the propelling of several mechanisms. As a result, two effects were felt in both Britain and France. First, the wealth generation and accumulation had gone a long way in assuring the future security of their citizens. Secondly, the wealth helped in the creation of a class amongst the workers in industries. During this period of the Industrial Revolution, however, the republican social reforms towards removing poverty had been overpowered by religious views for the existence of this issue. The rate at which this revolution took part formed a great basis towards changing the attitude and rather accepting poverty as being an artificial problem. Therefore, this issue can only be solved by a human being. While moral views point towards the divinity of poorness as a result of sin and thus cannot be ended, the Industrial Revolution became a presentation of how a person can eradicate poverty. Stedman Jones, therefore, has tried to strike a balance between the two conflicting opinions by using Britain as an example while attracting attention to Toynbee’s work. In his view, for example, this historian believed that the Industrial Revolution had played a key role in setting people free form the chains of class society. It totally ignored Paine’s arguments on social reforms. The Industrial Revolution in this case, therefore, acted as a catalyst in speeding up the separation process. In his view, it aimed at promoting efficiency at the national level, which, in turn, had gone a long way in the elimination of poverty.

Role of History in Eradication Measures of the Today’s Poverty

The author Stedman Jones argues that for people to appreciate the efforts and models proposed as a measure of poverty eradication, care must be placed. The today’s means such as embracing equality amongst all people and including the population in all matters pertaining to and affecting them, all have a basis from the commercial society during the 18th century. The purpose of the scholar is to make people to think of Adam Smith’s ideas of the free market and appreciate his piece of work. Further, Stedman Jones wants everybody to rethink of the British and French Revolutions as the beginning of appreciating the issue of poverty and looking for a solution towards removing it. Friedman, for example, argues that the need to end poverty is upon all human beings uniting, understanding what they want, and embracing technology to reduce hunger. For instance, some programs on funding to help reduce hydrocarbons will help in eradicating global warming and as such reduce hunger.

Eradication of Poverty through Fighting for Equality

Another argument shown in the book is a concept of equality as a means of creating an equal world where there is no rich or poor one. Condorcet in this sense proposes an idea of a balanced society. The scholar has decided to take a rather contrary view against all researchers when he pointed out that the differences between the rich and poor were inevitable in the era of civilization. He through has provided the following argument. The inequality is socially constructed in what Condorcet calls a social art. Thus, he proposes that the end of such social art is the eradication of inequality amongst all people and nations to create the world of equals. He goes further in stating that some of the ideas contributing greatly towards inequality among nations and within them are slavery and trade restrictions. The world will, therefore, only see the light of equality if these practices are removed. Trade monopolies must further be dealt with to leave people with a free choice of determining where to trade and with whom. To this extent, Condorcet was of the idea that one of the ways to be used was to eradicate inequality. It was possible through the creation of an insurance scheme of the universal nature. The idea was later to be implemented into the Constitution while adopting the rights of a person. I totally agree with Stedman Jones’ appraisal of Condorcet’s work. Karl Marx would agree with the sentiments made by the author. For example, he was of the view that through labor, three classes of people appeared. The first group is what he called the Bourgeoisie; the second one is the middle class, and finally – the proletariats. The first class represents the high rank. These are those people who control all the means and methods of production. They, therefore, use their wealth for creating poverty setting some class differences. The Bourgeoisie also controls the politics of the country. These people use their political positions in championing for their own interests and subordinating others. On the other hand, the proletariats are those persons who are used to do the production work. They are made of workers. The proletariats are considered to be the lowest class. Carl Marx, therefore, argued that in order to eradicate poverty, there was a need to remove these classes. He believed that the common end of mankind was equality. Further, Carl Marx supported also the idea that to attain the equality there was a necessity for a proletariat revolution to be held. He was sure that there was the need to fight for equality and create a society where all people could be equal and all resources were shared equally. The argument by Carl Marx coincides well with Condorcet’s view of equality. This opinion appears in the book by Stedman Jones. To this extent, therefore, removing poverty starts with creating the free world where people are free to engage in business without any restrictions and participate in the political decisions of their countries.

Resolution of the Social Problem of Poverty

Stedman Jones also takes another argument by engaging in the resolution of the social problem, i.e. poverty. Jones adopts Condorcet’s and Paine’s ideas that the problem of poorness can be removed only when the society is enlightened and the forces of resistance are eradicated. These forces, according to the authors, are the voice of the church and the practice of aristocratic leadership. Adam Smith’s argument of a peaceful and faithful trade also forms a clear basis. For example, he argues that in every exchange done among individuals and corporations, self-interests should not be let to dictate the transactions. The issues of trade restrictions must be eradicated and replaced with free trade where goods can cross borders in any country without higher taxes and other financial restrictions. Condorcet and Paine further argue that if all governments embraced democratic leadership and free circulation of knowledge to all people, the world would remove such problem as poorness. Education is, therefore, a key towards the enlightenment of society for social progress. The authors also argue that the idea of sociability must exist if the social problem of poverty appears. It seems as a concept with the light of the day after the Industrial Revolution. Every being must be given a chance to do his or her business transactions without any form of interference. Independence is a key to the realization of this sociability concept. During the French Revolution, for example, the parliament was emphatic about removing communism, slavery, lazy society, industrial anarchy, monopoly, and the restriction of the right to work. In addition, the essence of education, according to Stedman Jones, was for the creation of community that that is enlightened about the values and ethics of the republic. Moreover, such society should be also assisting in the sensitization of people towards removing societal hierarchies to create the poor society. The arguments presented by the author are very legitimate and worth competing with. Through education, for example, the African countries which had been under slavery in the form of colonization by the European powers were able to reclaim their independence and focus on the development of their countries. Free trade has also seen the states boosting their foreign exchange by engaging in the import and export business over goods that they have a comparative advantage in.

Role of Globalization in the Ending of Poverty Debate

The last argument provided by Stedman Jones is related to globalization. He believes that with industrialism people were a bit limited. He though states that something connecting a human being with poverty especially during this era was the aristocratic kind of leadership and the protection of corporations and industries. In his idea, therefore, there was a need for people to go aside from dependence on their governments, open up borders, and indulge in trade with other nations. To this extent, therefore, the overthrow of the aristocratic government would have no impact on the economy of citizens. The author further proposes that the challenges that Britain faced economically during the 18th century were a result of strict tariffs and taxes. They constrained only the benefits of industries within borders while neglecting the importance of international trade. The introduction of the Corn Laws in Britain during the war time, with the purpose to maintain high prices during that time, had a very negative impact towards the economy of Britain. The reason was related to ruining both local industries as well as affecting the exportation of corn to other countries. The argument is reasonable and coincides with my opinion. It means that many countries today are the beneficiaries of international trade. The UAE, for example, is a classical illustration of how states may use international trade to grow. Singapore is another case. In this country, there is a free trade to facilitate an easy importation and exportation of products. Despite having very few industries the state has determined itself. China is another instance. While the US has adopted a strict protectionism policy China has made business easy all over the world. As a result, it has become a threat as the next superpower.


In conclusion it should be noted that the book An End to Poverty? A Historical Debate offers an insight about the recognition of the problem of poverty in nations and among people. The research traces the measures put in place today from a historical perspective as a means of removing this issue. The problems such as social schemes, insurance, foreign aid and the removal of trade barriers as well as embracing democratic leadership and equality go a long way towards eradicating poverty. The basis of these ideas, however, is the Industrial Revolution, as well as the French revolution. These events have created radicalism in the minds of workers being unfairly treated at work into finding a solution. Before that, aristocratic leadership regimes coupled with corporate regulations had denied people from the independence of indulging in development activities. These periods were characterized by the introduction of the steam engine causing industrialization as a means of poverty eradication. However, it finished with creating a class based economy. At the end of his book, the author though recognizes the following fact. The means of ending the social problem lies in creating equality, embracing education as a means of removing the class based society, and erasing business barriers. The book is very informative, educative and provocative towards embracing richness and eliminating poverty.

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