Poverty Alleviation as an Economic Problem

39 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2017 Last revised: 10 Mar 2018

See all articles by Adam G. Martin

Adam G. Martin

Texas Tech University - Free Market Institute

Matias Petersen

King's College London, Department of Political Economy

Date Written: February 26, 2017

Abstract

Lionel Robbins famously distinguishes between technological problems, in which variable means confront a given end, and economic problems, in which given means are allocated across competing ends. This essay explores the implications of this distinction for poverty alleviation. We argue that there are three key dimensions to the economic problem: exchange, coordination, and governance. We then make a case that poverty alleviation is more like an economic problem than a technological one, an economic problem with a small ‘e.’ We survey empirical evidence from economics, anthropology, and sociology indicating that poverty is not a simple lack of objectively identifiable resources but rather a multidimensional and socially embedded phenomenon. Understanding what poverty alleviation would even look like requires thinking through problems of exchange, coordination, and governance.

Suggested Citation

Martin, Adam G. and Petersen, Matias, Poverty Alleviation as an Economic Problem (February 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2924048 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2924048

Adam G. Martin (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University - Free Market Institute ( email )

Box 45059
Lubbock, TX 79409-5059
United States

Matias Petersen

King's College London, Department of Political Economy ( email )

Strand Campus
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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