Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Tracy Smith-Carrier comments on the importance of addressing poverty as an issue of human rights rather than charity:
It is not a matter of being down on your luck or misfortunate, as if people are somehow fated to live a life of poverty. It is the building blocks of society that reproduce poverty. Work conditions, unequal social relationships and the economy are all part of the problem: Some groups have historically been subject to racism, discrimination and inferior treatment while others have been accorded wealth and privilege.

For example, dynamics in the economy and labour market cause poverty. How many jobs are available, the nature and quality of those jobs, the availability of child care, the accessibility of advanced education and training, the affordability of housing, the extension of appropriate accommodations in the workplace, the accessibility of transportation systems, the ability for certain groups to climb the social ladder, the extension of income-security programs to buffer people in times of crisis: These are all factors that influence people’s slide into poverty and their ability to move out of it.

The decisions people make are ultimately shaped by these larger systemic forces. People might reduce their hours of work as they cannot find quality child care, or they might be reluctant to pursue post-secondary education with the prospect of crushing debt. These decisions are ultimately shaped by a lack of opportunities, not by personal deficiency. And then there is the psychological toll poverty takes: Mental-health issues can develop in the face of lingering unemployment.
Charity – the primary solution in place to address poverty through breakfast programs, soup kitchens, food banks, community gardens, and the like – can only provide some measure of emergency relief. It cannot eradicate poverty. No one gets out of poverty by using charitable programs. The fundamental problem – a lack of financial resources – remains unchanged.

It is time to shift away from the charitable model to a rights-based approach, guaranteeing people the right to food. People must have access to an adequate income that allows them to obtain their own food, and do so “in normal and socially acceptable ways,” ensuring personal dignity and choice. The perpetuation of food banks ensures the charitable-food model is preserved, and people remain hungry.
- David Leonhard argues that our current mean of measuring the economy tend to focus on the concentration of wealth rather than economic security for most people.

- Jedediah Purdy points out how the U.S. has turned the principle of freedom of speech into a mechanism to ensure most people are drowned out by the privileged few who can afford to dominate the media. And Adam Federman reports on the private surveillance of environmental activists in Canada as a similar example of money infringing on basic freedoms.

- Michael Harris offers a reminder that Canada is far better off holding off on any NAFTA deal than signing onto Donald Trump's plan to further enrich the American corporate class. And Janyce McGregor reports that like so many corporate trade deals, the CETA has fallen far short of its supposed economic promise.

- Finally, Colleen Flood, Bryan Thomas, Asad Ali Moten and Patrick Fafard examine some of the options available to establish a national universal pharmacare system.

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