Rich man poor man

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readAug 10, 2020

Source : Google photo of rich man and poor man

Synopsis : It is a fact of life that some people are more blessed than others although their numbers remain small. They are called rich who dominate over others but most people are not rich who are content to get their basic necessities. The poor people work for the rich who become richer as they had in the past but some rich people do play a role in the development of their country as businessmen and private entrepreneurs.

Our world is divided between the rich and the poor where the poor outnumber the rich by a million to one or may be more. In all countries I see the rich and poor so there is no exception. Only the degree of poverty varies from country to country. So the economists start using the words like developed countries , developing countries and underdeveloped countries that are also known as failed states like Somalia or Yemen where there is no democracy and the very basic needs of people are not met by their governments.

But the so called developed countries have their own share of poverty that their governments try to downplay by saying that they are the richest countries but it does not help the poor. The poverty affects everybody irrespective of race, skin color or ethnicity. The very poor people in so called rich countries may have a roof over their head and may even have a jalopy to drive but they suffer from joblessness, low education and fall through the crack of their social security system so they are called poor.

They get by doing odd jobs they can find once in a while but face nothing but a bleak future while the educated people get good jobs and live in decent apartments or houses of their own. Their children go to decent schools and later colleges so they can look forward to decent jobs that put them in the middle class that gives them the financial security the poor people do not have. They can afford to drive fancy cars and even take vacations but the poor and the very poor people suffer.

You see them sleeping in the subway stations covered in rags or playing guitar while the passerby drop a few coins in their open guitar case. It may earn them a meal but nothing else so they are called the jobless and the homeless people who have no future. Often you see the policemen harassing them and forcing them to move on but where can they go?

There are some charitable organizations that provide some food for them and often a place to stay. There are food banks that offer free food to the poor and very poor but they cannot help all the poor people. In Asia where there are many poor people, their governments struggle to provide them with jobs, shelters and food so they end up living in shanties under deplorable conditions and in destitution. They may number in millions but they produce many children in spite of their poverty so their number keeps growing astronomically.

So one can now see that there are many categories like very poor, poor, lower middle class, upper middle class , rich and lastly super rich in any country. If you leave the super rich and the rich aside, you will end up with the 95% of the total population in any country developed or not.

As a country develops, it creates more jobs for its citizens and brings the poor people who have some education and marketable skills into the work force so they climb out of poverty into the middle class that grows as the economy grows. We see this trend in China and India that helps the poor people to move up and join the ranks of the middle class thus reducing the actual number of poor people in their countries.

As the international trade and commerce grows between various countries, we see the growth and the development in many countries where people are getting more opportunities to get jobs and start earning decent wages that help improve their life style. We see how a very poor country like Bangladesh or Cambodia are slowly developing their country with the earnings from their exports of manufactured goods and helping many poor people get jobs in their garment factories or other such enterprises.

The nature blesses some countries with enormous natural resources while the countries that do not have natural resources like oil and mineral deposits struggle to grow their economy. The desert Bedouins in the Middle Eastern countries never thought that one day they will greatly benefit from their oil deposits but they did. Their oil money provided them the ability to develop their country but they did not have the skills to build factories and cities so they sought the help of migrant workers from other countries who built their cities and the infrastructure and sent home their remittances that helped grow their own countries.

But there are many countries that are potentially rich in oil resources or have tremendous mineral deposits but they suffer due to wars and destruction on a massive scale resulting in widespread poverty and destitution . Libya, Iraq, Syria and many other potentially rich countries continue to suffer due to wars that have brought nothing but misery to them. People in Afghanistan and Pakistan suffer not because they lack natural resources but because of long and never ending wars and political upheavals.

A rich country like Zimbabwe that was once the bread basket of southern Africa that has rich diamond and other mineral deposits suffers from poverty and gross mismanagement of their economy for a very long time but now is coming out of it slowly while a great oil rich country like Venezuela suffers from mismanagement of its once vibrant economy while people suffer.

So how a country manages to govern its people has a direct effect on its people who depend on the government to create jobs for them and help them come out of their predicaments. People in oil rich countries should not have to wait in line for a loaf of bread like in Venezuela but that is what is happening there.

After the last world war , the Europeans had to struggle very hard to rebuild their destroyed cities and homes , their roads and bridges and their factories so they got some help through the Marshall plan. But it was their own hard work that made them repair all the war damage and rebuilt Europe. Most countries in Europe have prospered and have become strong agricultural and industrial exporters that has made them richer although there are pockets of poverty in some parts among the immigrants, the Roma people and the minorities that do not get the full benefits of the richness of Europe.

The Japanese and the Koreans probably suffered the most from the last war but now Japan stands as the number three economy of the world where most people if not all live comfortably as middle class while we all know the success of the South Korean people. So the eradication of poverty does not only depend on their government but also on the people who have to work hard, get the education and join the work force the way the Japanese and the Koreans did. They have developed strong work ethics that makes them produce quality products the world wants so they have prospered.

These two countries mentioned do not have oil or other mineral deposits but they have prospered just the same because they import the raw materials and turn them into finished products that they sell abroad so the resource poor countries can learn a thing or two from the hard working Japanese or the Koreans.

China is another country that has uplifted hundreds of millions of its poor people into the middle class because it created millions of jobs for them just like in India with one big difference. China is ruled by the autocratic government that can quickly decide on projects and allocate money for it while a democratic India has a slower pace of growth due to its bureaucracy and its cumbersome process.

Historically there always have been the poor and a few rich people who ruled over them so the poor lived in hovels of mud huts in villages with no road, water or healthcare facilities while the very rich kings and queens lived in their fabulous palaces filled with untold riches. The poor only lived at the mercy of the kings and queens so they had no choice. They were not educated because there were very few educational institutions so they remained poor cultivating their land to grow food for others and paying taxes making their kings richer and them poorer.

Then came revolutions in France, Russia and in other countries where they overthrew their kings and queens to usher in the era of democracy based on equality, fraternity and justice for all. The end of the colonial period after the last war made many countries get their independence so they got to choose their government for the first time and the chance to participate in their nation building process.

While we all agree that a democracy is better than autocracy, we must also accept the fact that no democracy is perfect because there are corrupt people who get elected so they tend to fill their own pockets from the public coffers and stealing from the poor people who elected them. So all democracies are work in progress and will not become representative governments unless they eradicate corruption and elect good and honest people dedicated to serve the people . They are lofty goals to achieve but possible in the long run. Most countries are now far richer than they were 50 years ago in spite of corruption and greedy elected officials so we can safely say that people are better off than before when they were under the rule of kings and queens.

The democracy in most countries has given rise to thousands of NGOs and private institutions that look after the human rights of people , help rescue people from the grip of traffickers, help save wildlife and the nature from pollution , help spread education and skills, keep an eye on corruption and help poor people in million different ways.

Most of all the spread of democracy has given the poor people a voice that they never had to determine their own future so they use it to elect people who promise to serve them and remove them from office if they fail. They could never do that when they were ruled by the kings and queens.

Now let us see the role the very rich people play in any country. While the poor always envy the rich and the very rich, the rich people invest in industries that create jobs for people in the private sector. They own corporations that run various industries that manufacture all we need or what we aspire to own someday. The government creates jobs in the government sector but the private industries run their business efficiently because they can hire the best talent available. When the communist Russia tried to control every aspect of the agricultural and industrial production there, they failed because they produced shoddy products and gave no incentive to the farmers to produce. Their collective farms and factories were run by inefficient people.

In all countries private industries out perform the government owned factories although there may be a few exceptions here and there. In the process the private corporations become enormously rich so this wealth created by the workers ends up in the hands of less than 1% of the world population so they become the de facto rulers and the rest their subjects. This will always be so and has always been so. The vast wealth of the world created by you and me end up in the hands of very few but those few rich people who run large corporations invest in the development of the country .

The super rich companies like Apple and Amazon invest billions of dollars in factories to bring products to you that you need . Amazon itself has made e commerce a worldwide phenomenon but there are many others . In the process they have created millions of jobs to make those products in large factories. Many super rich people become great philanthropists who give away most of their wealth like Bill Gates.

Here in the Philippines , all the malls and shopping centers are built by few very rich people who make a lot of money from them because they invest money on which they expect a good return. The government proposes development projects , allocates funds and then the private contractors build the projects like roads, airports, schools, hospitals etc. These private contractors then hire millions of people to complete the project.

But in the past the kings lived in massive forts and palaces in great comfort that the poor people built for them but they remained poor. So I do not resent the rich or the super rich as long as they invest their resources to create jobs for the poor and uplift them to the middle class , invest in healthcare facilities for everybody, develop great educational institutions, spend money on research to develop new and cheaper drugs , give their employees better wages and a chance to climb the corporate ladder, build better and affordable homes everywhere and do all these things so that the country as a whole can make progress. The government can only do so much . The rest is up to all of us rich or poor.

“Ask not what the country can do for you but ask what you can do for the country.”

(A quote from John F. Kennedy but it was from his speech writer Ted Sorensen.)

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