Charles Karelis likens poverty to getting one bee sting on your hand and five on your torso.
If somebody offered to sell you a dab of salve for the hand sting, would you bother buying it?
"Getting rid of the sting on your hand would be like quieting a shout in a riot. It won't make much difference," the U. S. philosopher and author on poverty said Wednesday.
The troubles of poverty, like stings, add up, and make small relief efforts not worthwhile, Karelis explained to the Canadian Social Forum.
"Just as it is rational to pay very little for one dab when you have six stings, it may be rational for the poor person to work very little to relieve one of her troubles when she still has much more."
The three-day forum, the first of its kind in Canada, brought together several hundred social-agency workers, provincial and local government officials, academics, business figures and advocates from towns and cities throughout Canada to share strategies on reducing poverty.
Karelis recommended government tax credits or supplements that would add to low-income workers' wages, a tactic he suggested is a better incentive than ordinary strings-attached welfare policies.
"It raises work motivation by making non-work more expensive,"said the author of The Persistence of Poverty:Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor.
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