That’s Why We Are Poor

Posted by: Rudra Pandey

“A minister’s son killed someone but the court acquitted him. The minister was charged with bribery but he was set free because the court could not gather enough evidence to put him behind bars despite being caught red-handed. The chief secretary of a political party was convicted of murder and he served jail for three years but now he is back and is serving as the general secretary. A poor fellow was beaten to death because he stood up against a minister’s son who also happens to be the ring leader of a criminal gang.
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A politician claims he inherited his multi-million property from his father-in-law but the fact, on the contrary, is that his father-in-law was in a wretched condition and starved to death a few years back. A man was fired from his job because he was standing against the powerful ruling party member. A promiscuous minister has been sleeping with several women and one of them is his personal secretary. And the prime minister has just nominated his nephew to a prime post in his party. The prime minister’s daughter was found involved in making illegitimate deals and embezzling funds from the national treasury but no action was taken against her. Several people have lost their lives to the reckless driving of a drunken prince only to find the system dead mute failing to give any justice to the innocent lives lost. The head of the police department built his house in a public property but the neighbors stood there in silence.”

More often than not, we hear these statements in poor third-world countries. The courts of law in these countries are not independent. They treat people on the basis of their social status and not on the basis of evidence. Money is the only language the court speaks day in and day out. They write the best laws based on the laws prevailing in the developed world but seldom do they emerge beyond the shelves where they are stacked away gathering nothing but dirt. On the other hand, in the more affluent first world countries, the courts of law ensure that everyone gets a fair trial, the guilty, irrespective of who he/she is, gets punished and no one is guilty until proven so.

We know that a perfect rule of law does not exist in any country. There is no system in the world which is impeccable and free of loopholes. The rich people can always employ these loopholes for their benefit while the poor people just sit, watch and often become victims. Even in the countries with a strong rule of law, the rich people can always buy smarter lawyers. In the countries with a weak rule of law, rich people can go further – they can not only buy smart lawyers but also the judges. In fact, in some countries, the rule of law is what the rich and powerful wants it to be.

We all wonder and discuss why we Nepalese are poor. Is it because we are lazy? Is it because we lack enough resources? Is it because of our neighboring countries? Is it because we lack good leaders? Or is it because we are inherently incapable? My answer to all these questions is a ‘No’. I would rather say that we are poor because we do not have a strong rule of law, which is the foundation of any civilized and responsible society. In this regard, we are still at a barbaric stage and we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Here, I have casually, without doing any research, selected some countries and divided them into two groups: the first group with acceptable level of compliance with law and order and the second group with unacceptable level of compliance. Countries like USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, France, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Israel can be considered to be in the first group and countries like India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, Nigeria, Jordan, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Nepal, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, and Ukraine can fall into the second group.

Why do we have a high level of compliance with law and order in one group of countries and not in the other group? What are the root causes? Is it because of religion? Is it because of prosperity? Is it because of the level of education? Or is it because of race? I personally do not know but I have jotted down a few probable answers. The correct answer could be a combination of all of them.

Religion: Mostly, the countries with Christian majority are found to have the best compliance with law and order. Countries with Buddhist majority come second, Hindu third and Muslim at the bottom. This ranking, though debatable, sort of makes us wonder if the prevailing religion in a country determines the level of rule of law in that country. However, we also cannot ignore the fact that pre-dominantly Christian countries like Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, and Chile have weak law and order but a Buddhist country like Japan has one of the strongest law and order. The religion hypothesis, therefore, does not always hold true.

Prosperity: Is the level of compliance with law and order high because a country is prosperous? Or do countries become prosperous because the compliance with law and order is high? Or do the levels of prosperity and law and order work in parallel with each other? This question makes me think about the legal system in America 100 years ago. Was it in par with the level of prosperity or better? Can we state that the rule of law preceded the prosperity in western countries? Are they prosperous today because the rule of law existed in their land for hundreds of years? The answer to the question, whether prosperity leads rule of law or vice versa, cannot be answered by citing examples of just a couple of countries. More thorough research and study will be required, which is not the scope of this brief article.

Education: We generally find that the level of compliance with law and order is low in countries where the level of education is below average but, of course, some of the current and ex-communist countries are exceptions to this rule. Cuba and ex-USSR states have a highly questionable rule of law despite having a considerably high level of literacy. In Nepal, particularly, most leaders and thinkers blame the low literacy rate for the weak legal system. Sadly, it is the illiterate and poor people who are the victims of the broken system. This kind of legal system fails to ensure a fair distribution of state resources; thereby, widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The haves continue to step up in the ladders as they get better education while the have-nots end up getting poorer as they get either sub-par education or no education at all. Nevertheless, I am inclined to believe that increasing level of education generally pushes countries towards higher level of compliance with law and order.

Race: Does the Caucasian white majority in a country have something to do with the compliance with existing law and order? This could be a highly debatable question. The western countries have Caucasian white majority and they are the group of countries having the highest level of compliance with law and order. Again, ex-communist countries come as exceptions to this rule. Despite having a Caucasian white majority, those countries lack a strong legal system. Hence, just being a Caucasian white majority country does not guarantee a high level of compliance and there are certainly many other factors involved in the determination of the level of compliance with law and order.

This article just raises some questions regarding the compliance with law and order, and is not directed at attempting to answer those questions. It merely touches a macro level social science topic that many Ph.D. theses might have been written on. Academicians may have answered these questions but I am sure they have not been able to give a clear and undisputed answer. We commoners can brainstorm through blogging and try to answer these questions.

If, by any chance, I am misunderstood, let me clarify that I am not questioning here the written legal system but only the compliance with it. In general, all countries have a fair legal system. Discriminations, in writing, are rare and the ones that exist are mostly insignificant. However, the fair practice of the written laws is a whole different matter.

I would put my note in the form of the following expression:
[Compliance with Law and Order] = [c + c1*religion + c2*prosperity +c3*education + c4*race].

Let us debate!

Note: Thanks to Pramod K Rai and Shreeya Shakya for editing support and Dovan Rai for illustration.

That’s Why We Are Poor was last modified: January 15th, 2014 by Rudra Pandey
 

Blog Comments

  1. naresh

    Guys ,

    In my opinion the following things are essential for removing proverty.

    1. Education : First of all educational system should be changed which we have currently, we have two types of schools one private for rich and other public school for poor (esp.people in rural areas.). In this scenario people who come from public school always being overcomed by people from private school in various aspect. People who dont get good education cant work even for their survival. In this case we need unified educational system to provide equal opportunity to all people.

    2. Nepotism and Favoritim: This bar sould be broken quicky to uphold the economic status of poor people. Since rich people are mostly using this weapon to get their job done or to move ahead.

    3. Politics : Country’s politics sould be stable and politician should be ethical so that people will get the things which goverment deliver’s to them.

    4. Subsidy: Goverment sould provide the poor people some kind of subsidy in various needful area for getting their daily life run, then only poor can start thinking for their education.

    Still there are a lot more things to be done by goverment and others who work on the behalf of reducing proverty.

    Now we come to the point , Even the situation where above all things are done , if proverty still remains, then only we have to change our mindset to over come the reminiscent of proverty.

    thanks.

  2. couldyouclarify

    Could You Clarify Pawan, what you meant more clearly? your hypothesis and What how I could not grasp.

  3. pawan

    i rather liked rudra’s previous hypothesis on same issue. yes we are poor and westerns rich. the difference is upbringing, kitchen table talk and what and how we do in bed.

  4. Yestai Ho

    Well – I do not know how much education helps when educated people have to remain unemployed. Unemployed educated people are more dangerous than unemployed uneducated people. The Maoist problem in Nepal started as the nation became unable to give jobs to boys and girls with high school education. After high school education, they did not want to work in farms and did not want to be a truck driver. They prefered joining the Maoists.

    I would therefore question your plain simple statement that education is solution to everything. Please think more and think harder.

    Yestia Ho

  5. Rudra Pandey

    It seems that we do not have definite answer to “why are we poor?” I am thinking more about this and inclining to the statement that education is the foundation. Poor countries should spend more than 50% of their national budget on education. Investment in education will not have immideate return, but in the long term, its going to create positve effect all around the society. Poor countries cannot fix law and order chaos without educating their people. When there is no definite path to follow, we have to take the best one. In this case, best one is to invest on edication and let time fix other issues. In case of Nepal, where leaders are sort of direction-less and are always pondering on what to do and end up wasting money one small local level micro projects to please their vote base, we commoners need to push them to do nothing but heavily spend our tax money on education. Leading life without education is much more worse than spending nights without light. I would rather be educated and walk on mountain trail to reach my desitnation than be uneducated and ride on the bus.

    I think Ishwar above to some extent agrees to this point too.

    Rudra

  6. GBG

    heyep ‘WE’ have been fooling ourselves and others. heyep ‘WE’ have been assuming too much and too wrong. heyep what about ‘YOU’ and ‘I’?

  7. pawan

    yeap Bhedaaships is what most of ‘we’ have, and ‘we’ are fooling ourselve assuming it as ‘respect for relationship’

  8. dovan

    Rich whites are living in ordered society regulated by law while poor asians and africans are living in lawless havoc and chaos.

    But isn’t it the legacy of colonial oppression of past and neo-colonial exploitation of present that has left these poor mass in trouble?

    If colonization and slavery, ethnocide and exploitaion are crime, those educated , Christain , affluent, whites are the biggest criminals.

  9. GBG

    Ummmm! Let me review. 14000 deaths in 12 years. Yeah. Was it due to ‘Individual Entities’? Or was it due to convoluted ‘Relationships’/'Affiliations’/'Bhedaaships’?

  10. Ishwar Khatiwada

    In addition to what Rudra dai said, I would like to add few other points in the topics of poverty. Nothing is more talked about than the poverty in development economics and in the polity of a “developing” country. Theories abound on the causes of poverty ranging from corruption, less investment in human capital, political system to historical development path of a country. I believe that poverty is caused by confluence of all of these factors. Democratic countries with strong rule of law are more prosperous than those without them. Nations with higher investments in human and physical capital are more affluent than those nations with low investments in these two sectors. In addition, a country become affluent and reduces poverty by reforming institutions, investing in business and technology, human capital, physical infrastructure, respecting the rule of law, creating a level playing field for innovations, business and population at large under democratic settings. South Korea and Bostwana are prime examples on this issue despite their unpropitious historical development path. There are arguments that countries (or societies) with more tolerant religions are economically more affluent than their less tolerant counterparts. However, many studies have found no statistically significant link between poverty and religions. It is true that nations/societies with entrepreneur culture and inclination to change are less likely to remain poor. I think we lack this culture. I have briefly talked about it here
    on this issue. Investment in quality education is a key to prosperity. Education has many by-products. It makes people more productive, more innovative, better citizens and much more. Overall, to make our country prosperous, we will have to address the aforementioned multiple issues simultaneously. Any policy intervention to reduce poverty requires reforms in these issues first. We will remain poor forever without bringing rigorous reforms in these important issues.

  11. Ananta Risal

    To summarize I would say – implementation of the
    Globally persistent humanity and moral values in any society would bring up better law and order.

    There are hind side of these categorization:

    1. religion:too much complicated religious mind set makes society dogmatic and brings up hard-core believers
    2. prosperity: they can get away with the order by bribing and nepotism

    3.education: can manupulate poor and uneducated people to inteprete laws in different direction

    4.race: favorism and nepotism, superior vs inferior mind-set builds up…

    So to start a society to be free and fair, lawful and trusting is from the basic but simple moral values in every house. The society that teach poeple to be humble, lawful, respectful in majority become better and prosperous.

    The relative terms of defining Prosperity, education and religion has to become global first. With love and compassion the law follows is my 2 cents.

  12. lpk

    If Topic quoted “We” were Nepalese ourselves, then all constants will have same value:c=C1=c2=c3=c4=c5…=Inheriting Real Nepalese Mentality seen in common mass/society/groups/forums/government/parliament/=Nepalese LOS= Nepalese Vision=0 nanometers..

  13. Rajendra K. Pandey

    Good writ-up Rudra-ji.
    Your have quoted “Academicians may have answered these questions but I am sure they have not been able to give a clear and undisputed answer. We commoners can brainstorm through blogging and try to answer these questions.” I agree with you. This is a matter of debate and doing. At least we have guts to write as we feel and we are able to flow our thoughts. This is nice.

  14. Geeta

    “We here have more respect for Relationships than for Rules.” You got the main point GBG. That’s exactly what is happening. People in the third world countries, go beyond the lines of laws to help and rescue their circle of friends and family. That creates series of events leading to lawlessness. It will take years to change the attitude. Question is: how could government help speed the change? I do not know. Ask yourself, would not you do everything to save your brother if he has been charged of murder? Who stops you from doing everything you want to do? Who makes you aware of consequences of helping your brother breaking laws? If you as well had to go to jail as consequence of breaking law, you would never even try to help your brother beyond what is allowed by existing laws. For example, if there were two btothers in the plane and one of them had to die by jumping out of the plane because of engine problem, who would jump? Both of them would probably start fighting for the survival without trying to help each other.

    Geeta – the Geeta Lover!

  15. GBG

    Geeta, you may be right. Any suggestions on ways to break that ‘web-of-human-relationships’ rampant in poor nations? ‘Compliance with Law’ here is oftentimes replaced by ‘Compliance with in-Laws’. We here have more respect for Relationships than for Rules. Things will definitely change here as well but the pace of change is too slow, I guess.

  16. Geeta

    Bottom line is that everyone should do the Karma. That’s what missing in the thirld world countries – too much dependence. The dependence starts right from family: kids depend on their parents even after they are 18 and exepct to live on parental property; where as in western counttries, lesson of being independent and doing Karma start from the Kithchen table. When every person is taught to be independent, things start working every way. I am not promoting every aspect of western culture, but I like the way every person in the western countries think of being self-made. No one is looking for special protection. Geeta came from estern culture and in practice it is being adopted by westerners.

    Geeta – the Geeta Lover!

  17. Kanchha

    सतीले सरापेको देश भन्‍ने थाहा छैन कि ससो हो?
    प्रजातन्‍त्र नभए कानुनी राज हुदैँन
    कानुनी राज नभए प्रजातन्‍त्र हुदैँन।
    तँ पहिला कि म पहिला भन्‍दि भन्‍दै
    देश चहिँ जाहाँको त्‍यहीँ।
    तपाईँ जस्‍ताहरूलाई भने
    लेख्‍ने बाहेक अरू केहि वास्‍ता छैन।

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