Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Give a man a fish

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Chinese proverb

This is no longer true.  It's no longer this simple.  Modern society has erected many new barriers to entry.  Literally in fishing, there are now licenses, rules and regulations about how many fish and what types you can take, etc.  And there are very few public places left where you can fish.  And most of those have been over fished already.

It's a proverb, and it's not really talking about fishing, per se.  The proverb is intended to encourage those who have means to help those without means to learn a trade and become self sufficient.

If a man wants to be a barber, for instance, there are many barriers to entry that he has to overcome.  Many of those are legitimate, like health and safety training.  Some of those barriers may be less legitimate.  And our modern society is constantly increasing the barriers--adding new ones and raising the height of the existing ones.  That's all fine for those of us with means.  But it makes life increasingly difficult for a poor person.

We need to examine these barriers to entry.  The barriers that are pointless should be removed, for the sake of helping the poor gain access to the system.  The barriers that are legitimate should be streamlined and documented in a way that the poor can understand.  We need to look at the barriers from their perspective and make the system as accessible as possible for them.  And we need to insert help points into the system so that charitable people and organizations can provide tactical assistance that genuinely helps.

This problem will only get worse.  We need to get this mindset in place and process started before the bureaucracy gets too thick.

One of the big things that Hernando de Soto proved in Peru is that the official and unofficial barriers to entry were the big reason why the poor remained poor.  They were locked out of the formal economy.

We have to intentionally work to maintain the possibility of teaching a man to fish.  This is the foundation of Democracy 2.0.  This is my mission. 

No comments:

Post a Comment