Poverty is a condition or state an individual finds himself which reflects a number of personal, family and societal maladjustments. Poverty has been extensively studied by scholars in the areas of Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science and Business. There are issues surrounding the question of poverty which scholars agree and disagree, both too numerous to mention here. It is not the intent of this paper to agree or disagree with what has been reported previously, but to explore the effect of human values, individual freedom and the impact of societal values on poverty.

It would be naive to treat poverty and dependency as purely a psychosocial phenomena. While the title of this paper is intended to convey a particular perspective, it is not meant to imply a strict disciplinary exclusiveness. On the exploration are made into other disciplines, most notable Economic and Political. These will be apparent when the cultural and racial aspects of poverty are considered.

This paper provides no unchallengeable and definitive solutions to the problems of poverty. It does attempt, however, to approach a comprehensive understanding of the nature and causes of these problems. It proceeds on the assumption that to do, something effective about poverty and dependency, one must know something about them.


This paper will examine the relevant importance of individual freedom and human values on the one individual who finds himself in poverty. We will begin by defining poverty and dependency and continue by discussing those characteristics of Poverty most cited in the literature, and discuss some of the maladjustments which give rise to poverty and dependency. To the extent possible we will discuss some of these characteristics and their relevance to individuals who find themselves in poverty.

If remedies for poverty and dependency are to be found, we must first learn their causes natural, economic, social and political. Conditions in nature affect the capacity of people to adjust to the present social order, and also affect their economic welfare; economic causes touch the incomes of various classes in the population, distribution of wealth conditions in industry; social causes include unthrifty habits, unwise spending of money, and unsound standards of living; political factors operate through laws and methods of administration which place unequal burdens upon different classes of the population. In this paper we will concentrate on what we think is the most significant natural cause "the human value system." In addition, we will concentrate on that value which underlines all human values "Freedom". It is our contention that the "human value system" and " freedom" underlies, natural, economic and social causes, and political factors.

No presentation of the natural causes of poverty and dependency would be complete without a psycho social discussion. Therefore, we will present the psycho social aspect of freedom, human values and their relationship with the family, community and poverty.
These problems are problems of sociology, psychology, political science, theology, economics and medicine (psychiatry). This paper places special emphasis on (1) the socio economic aspects of poverty and places special emphasis on (2) the psycho social aspects of poverty.


Poverty is that condition in which a person, either because of inadequate income or unwise expenditure, does not maintain a standard of living high enough to provide for his physical and mental efficiency to enable him natural dependents to function usefully according to the standards of the society of which they are members. Economists would simply define poverty as a family whose basic needs exceed its available means of satisfying them. It should always be understood that the state of poverty is a continuum rather than a point on an absolute scale. The idea of poverty ( as we use it ), is above all a comparative concept that refers to relative quality, i.e. Poverty is relative deprivation, and in essence is inequality.

To fully understand poverty we must clarify and distinguish poverty and dependency. A dependent may be a child, dependent for its support upon its parents; a helpless cripple, dependent upon parent, husband, wife, or some other kin; a man or woman authorized, but still actually capable of self support, though so lacking in self respect and ambition as continuously to accept public support instead.

It is obvious from the above mentioned statement that there are different kinds of dependency. ( See figures 1 & 2 ) John Lewis Gillin in his book "Poverty and Dependency," classified dependency as follows:

1. Natural Dependents are such because of the ties of nature: parental, filial, or marital.
2. Customary Dependents arises from social custom in the care of the unfortunate.
3. Legal Dependency Legal enactments are of two sorts. Those things which have been sanctioned by custom finally are enacted into law, provided they are of such nature that they are of interest to the whole group and provided that the customary sanctions alone are not sufficient to compel universal obedience.
4. Normal Dependency, or unemployment must be added by either a natural
supporter or by a private or public agency, provided he has not lost his
spirit of independency.

5. Abnormal dependency that condition in which a person prefers to depend for his substance, in which or in part, upon someone other than his natural supporters rather than earn his own living. He is a dependent without an independent spirit.

For the purpose of this paper we have cross classified abnormal dependency into abnormal dependency per se and abnormal dependency de facto ( see figure 3 ).

Fig. 1

POVERTY = A Condition or
state of being

Physical Efficiency Mental Efficiency Inadequate Standard of
Standard of Living Income or Society
Unwise Expenditure
Needs Available

Fig. 2

DEPENDENCY = A Condition or
state of being

Fig. 3


per se de facto = Normal
Absent of an Independent spirit

Many sociologist place special emphasis on the cure and prevention of poverty. Their approach to this problem is to attempt to eliminate insufficiency of income and wasteful or unwise expenditure. This approach includes only those individuals who find themselves in the Normal state of dependency, and exclude those who are dependent because they have no wish to support themselves ( abnormal dependency per se abnormal dependency de facto ).

John Kenneth Galbraith in his paper pointed out:

"The most certain thing about modern poverty is that it is not efficiently remedied by a general and tolerably well distributed advance in income. Case poverty is not remedied because the specific individual inadequacy precludes employment and participation in the general advance. Insular poverty is necessarily remove the specific frustrations of environment to which the people of these islands are subject. This is not to say that it has no effect. Secure job opportunities elsewhere, a concomitant of industrial advance, work against the homing instinct. And so even more directly does the spread of industrialization. The appearance of industry in parts of the Tennessee Valley area has had a strong remedial effect on the insular poverty of those areas. But it remains that advance cannot improve the position of those who, by virtue of self or environment, cannot
participate or are not reached."

In this paper we will restrict our discussion to individuals who find themselves in the state of (1) abnormal dependency per se and (2) abnormal dependency de facto, who are in poverty.
An unresolved question is which comes first: poverty or abnormal dependency (pauperism). For the purpose of this paper, it is our contention that poverty comes before abnormal dependency per se and de facto. The literature reveals a considerable consensus as to characteristics of individuals in the poverty state as follows:

1. Labor Force Participation. Long periods of unemployment and/or
intermittent employment. Public assistance is frequently a major
source of income for extended periods.
2. Occupational Participation. When employed persons hold jobs at the lowest levels of skills; for example, domestic service, unskilled labors, mental service jobs, and farm labor.
3. Family and Inter personal Relations. High rates of martial Instability (desertion, divorce, separation ), high incidence of household headed by females, high rates of illegitimacy; unstable and superficial inter personal relationships characterized by considerable suspicion of persons outside the immediate household.
4. Community Characteristic. Residential areas with very poorly developed voluntary associations and low levels of participation in such local voluntary associations as exist.
5. Relationship of Larger Society. Little interest in, or knowledge of
the larger society and its events; some degree of alienation from
the larger society.

6. Value Orientations. A sense of helplessness and low sense of personal efficacy; dogmatism and authoritarianism in political ideology; fundamentalist religious views, with some strong inclinations toward beliefs in magical practices. Low "need achievement" and low levels of aspirations for the self.

Oscar Lewis (1966), who coined the term "culture of poverty," distinguished between "poverty per se" and poverty as a culture or, more accurately, as a sub culture, with its own structure and rationale, as a way of life which is passed down from generation to generation along family lines. An additional crucial element is the transmission of the culture across generations.

It is our contention that poverty associated with abnormal dependency is a "culture of poverty," and has as one of its major characteristics "Value Orientation."

Otis Dudley Duncan pointed out "A recurring theme in the discussion of poverty during the 1960's has been the "cycle of poverty," the "persistence of poverty," the "legacy of poverty," or the inheritance of poverty."

He further stated that:

I shall argue, in particular, that Negroes ( that is, disproportionate numbers of them) are poor mainly because they are Negroes and are
defined and treated as such by our society and that their poverty stems largely not form the legacy of poverty but from the legacy of race. I don't believe that Harrington meant to deny this, but I do believe that political as well as intellectual mischief is done when a congeries of in precise ideas is gummed together with an ideological slogan serving as cement.

Who are the poor ? Part of the disagreement over the concepts of the "poor" and of "poverty" stems from the distinction, often implicit, made by writers, between two types of poverty and or poor people. On the one hand, there are the "disreputable" poor, those who not only have limited resources but also have differently, or hold values different from those of standard middle class Americans. For example, Warner and his students (1949) distinguish a lower lower class from an upper lower class primarily on the basis of values and behavior. In Social Class in America, Warner distinguishes a "common man level described by his respondents as "poor but respectable," "poor but honest", and "poor but hardworking" from a "below the common man level" described as "river rats", "pecker woods", "dirty and immoral", and "those like pigs".

One of the major weaknesses in current sociological thought is the absence of any discussion of the underlining trait principle freedom. Oscar Lewis states that people with poverty culture "claim as their own" some middle class values with respect to marriage but do not practice these values. He further suggests that one finds a verbal emphasis upon family solidarity, also not lived up to in reality.

John Kenneth Galbraith stated in his paper "The New Position of poverty:"

People are poverty stricken when their income, even if adequate for survival, falls markedly behind that of the community regards as the minimum necessary for decency; and they cannot wholly escape, therefore, the judgement of the larger community that they are indecent.


Freedom is the very cornerstone of man. Without it man cannot remain human. Freedom underlies the "human value system" and economic, social and political factors relative to poverty. Human beings are by nature, free. The human desire to exercise freedom can never be eradicated.

In his paper, Freedom and Human Knowledge, Dr. William E. Carlo stated:

The aspiration towards freedom, though rooted in human nature, unfortunately does not flower in a political society without careful cultivation. The visible blight that has fallen on modern civilization is proof enough of this. Entire nation are casually surrendering their God given freedoms, or appears to be the same thing, are so indifferent as to allow an inconsequential minority to deprive them of their personal freedoms. This decay of political virtue can be attributed to a deadening of enthusiasm for freedom, and the actual rejection of it for a precarious economic security. Equality and fraternity are still magic words, but liberty has yet to fire a contemporary revolution.

It is important to distinguish freedom from liberty. Politics has to do with liberty. Freedom is (internal) to the individual. Man can live without liberty but man cannot live without freedom.

Dr. Casimir J. Czajdowski in his paper, The Acts of Freedom pointed out:

To develop more fully the notions. . . . concerning human or psychological freedom, we shall next focus our attention on the conditions requisite for the exercise of man's freedom of choice. philosophical psychologists generally enumerate the following as indispensable ones : 1. attention; 2. presence of a particular good; 3. immunity from compulsion; 4. choice based on reason; 5. active or dominative indifference.

Rollo May noted psychoanalyst, has characterized freedom as follows:

1. Existential freedom Freedom of doing
2. Essential freedom Freedom of being
3. Transcending freedom

Existential freedom (freedom of doing) refers to those acts which result from individual choice; for example, choosing a tie or choosing one brand of an item in the super market for another. Essential freedom (freedom of being) refers to the freedom of thought or the individual understanding who he is, or as Dr. May explains, his inner core. Transcending freedom (freedom of thought) is the phenomena where an individual can leap to other times and places, go into the future, the capacity to transcend space and time, characterized imagination.

Essential and Transcending freedoms are fundamental to human values and individual principles.


Bradley R. Schiller in his book, The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination, begins Chapter 8 entitled, Culture and Race as:

Accusation that the poor bring about their own deprivation through excessive procreation or family instability are generally elements of a broader perspective. When people suggest, for example, that "welfare mothers would rather have another kid than a job, "they are ascribing to the welfare poor a whole complex of attitudes, norms, and values. That is to say, the demographic forces we have reviewed tend to be mere details of the Flawed Character perspective. What makes theories of cultural and racial inferiority so interesting is that they are so much more explicitly about Flawed Characters. Simply put, the cultural theory of poverty argues that the poor lack the aspirations, values, and motivation required to "get ahead", that they just don't give a damn about improving their economic status; in this sense, that poverty is self imposed.

Racial theories of poverty built on the notion of cultural differences but add another dimension as well, namely the notion that genetic deficiencies inherently constrain the economic status of blacks. In terms of either the cultural or racial manifestation of the Flawed Character perspective, then the poor bring little human capital to the labor market and are rewarded accordingly.

It is not the purpose of his paper to be judgmentative. It is our purpose, however, to approach a more comprehensive understanding of the nature. Next we will discuss human values as they relate to poverty and dependency.

There is a clear conflict between the value system of persons in poverty and the majority of the community. Their (persons in poverty) values are not acceptable to the rest of the community, and, in turn, they reject many of the values common to the other social groups.

Most sociologist agree that values, particularly as they become organized into more generalized ideologies, have an important influence on individual and collective behavior, and hence on social processes, but they assert that values, like other factors in social change, are often the result of other changes and hence are not always to be considered the primary variables in the process.

The social dislocation caused by the industrial revolution has resulted in a decline in loyalty to many of the older values, and a constant controversy as to which values are appropriate to the changed conditions. Although the change in the conception of the individual's relationship to the rest of society, and this change has come to place more weight on the limitation of certain traditional freedoms in order to assure a broader base for the enjoyment of other freedoms by the great mass of people. Thus people have come to except a larger measure of governmental regulation of economic enterprise. People have come to expect a larger responsibility for the care of the unemployed, the sick, the aged, and the otherwise handicapped, by governmental agencies. In addition, a whole set of changes in moral values has arisen in connection with the turning away from theological to ethical and ideological values of a socio political nature.

Every social group within a community is characterized by a set of attitudes, values, and symbols which comprise its ideology and distinguish its members. There are different systems of values, as follows: Racial system of values, Ethic

system of values, Religious system of values, Economic system of values, and Political system of values.

Oscar Lewis', The Culture of Poverty, points out:

It is conceivable that some countries can eliminate the culture of poverty ( at least in the early stages of their industrial revolution) without at first eliminating impoverishment, by changing the value systems and attitudes of the people so they no longer feel helpless and homeless so they begin to feel that they are living in their own country, with their institutions, their government and their leadership.

Many scholars have discussed the conflict between aggregate and distributive values, to use the language of Thomas F. Green:

By an aggregate value, I mean a good to be maximized for society even though it may not be maximized for each individual within the society. By a distributive value, I mean one which is to be maximized for each individual, though not necessarily for the society as a whole.

Green notes, "cultivate the independence of each individual and develop each person to the fullest is an expression of distributive values.

Distributive values are usually derived from the following sources: (1) family, (2) school, (3) church, (4) friends, (5) community. Examples of some specific distributive values are love, faith, honesty, courage, self respect, and individualism.

It is our contention that it is imperative to include the concept of freedom whenever one discuss the impact of human values on poverty and dependency.


It is our contention that in order to understand the nature and causes of poverty as it relates to those individuals who find themselves in the state of abnormal dependency per se and abnormal dependency de facto we must consider the relative importance of freedom and the human value system. The information available on the War on Poverty would suggest that the absence of these considerations ( Freedom and Human Values ) are partly responsible for the many failures.

The deterioration of the institutions: the family, the church, the school and the community has had a direct affect on the deterioration of individual freedoms and distributive values. The data would definitely support these assumptions. Moreover, the data supports the correlation between individual freedom and human values with poverty and dependency.

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