It's an interesting question. Certainly, everyone makes decisions, and not all of them are wise. Mishandling money does not lead anywhere good, and a person who mishandles or misuses money cannot be expected to rise to wealth.

But even then, are we to blame the person or is there some underlying cause at work driving the decisions?

One certainty is that we cannot examine these issues in a vacuum. But that doesn't stop blanket statements from being made insinuating that the poor are poor because they want to be poor. Personally, I find that type of thinking absurd.

Some examples include the observation in the Encyclopedia of Appalachia that the residents were themselves “substantially culpable” for their poverty. Chris Ampadu in his article, The Power of Voodoo to Impoverish and Enslave a Nation, observed the same in Haiti. He wrote that the residents “experience powerlessness and are told it is their own fault. Such a self-image creates its own cycle of misery. The masses of Haitian people blame themselves for their own suffering.”

But how would things be different if we peeled back the corruption that is known to occur in both Haiti and Appalachia? Financial aid pours into both regions, but how much gets past the wealthy who confiscate it for themselves? What do we do with a culture of consumerism and other destructive values that are heavily taught? Consumerism is a widely destructive attitude toward spending and management of the world's natural resources, for no thought is put into tomorrow or the needs of others. And what do we do with joblessness or major corporations destroying land, making it unusable for decades? Or government policies that impede job growth?

Matthew Henry said, “It is no new thing for those who are themselves most culpable to be most clamorous in accusing the innocent.” If I had at my disposal access to a job that paid a living wage, a stable socioeconomic infrastructure, and a government that looked after my best interest, and after all those things I simply blew my money and chose not to take advantage of the opportunities around me, then you could say I was to blame. But we must be careful in laying blame that we first ensure the opportunity for financial freedom and independence exists without the presence of undue oppression.


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    Climbing the Money Tree


    R. Joseph Ritter, Jr. CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(TM) and founder of Zacchaeus Financial Counseling, Inc., a non-profit organization providing financial planning services to low-income households and households experiencing financial strain.

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