The World's Problems and How to Get People to Solve Them

Okay, we all know what the various problems in the world are (homelessness, poverty, war, pollution, etc., etc.), how do we convince the “haves” that its in their interest to shell out the billions if not “trillions” needed to solve the problems of the “have nots”? There’s ample solutions out there to the current crop of problems (though many of these solutions will create their own problems as well), but we can’t seem to get a large enough group of people to commit the money needed to actually solve these problems. How do we change that since what we’re currently doing isn’t working. Any ideas?

[sub]I put this in GD and not IMHO since I figure that people are going to be disagreeing as to what will work and what won’t.[/sub]

You can’t convince them to give willingly. If you get the right people to gain power in government, you might be able to mandate contributions, but then there is the risk of rebellion. No, equality is not the usual state of things in the natural world, and it’s not the usual state of things in the political or economic world, either. No utopia for you!

I’m not talking utopia here, each one of the major problems facing the world today will in turn create their own problems once solved. But surely someone out there must have some idea of how to convince people that we need to launch a Manhattan type project to do these things. Anybody? Anybody at all?

What makes you think we *can? If you took the GDP of the United States and distributed it around the world, you’d temporarily raise the standard of living only slightly, and then you’d be out of capital and the standard of living of the U.S. would drop and it’d be unable to produce the wealth. Then we’d ALL be poor.

As for War, I’d love to hear your suggestions as to how to ‘solve’ it.

You say there are ample solutions… Perhaps a more productive debate would be to look at the solutions you have in mind and try to figure out why the ‘haves’ have ignored or thwarted them.

Those are everyone’s problems, not just the “have nots”.

I disagree with much of this well-meant OP.

I’m not sure how many of “us” would agree that these are the biggest problems in the world. E.g., I would put over-population and “bad government” near the top of my list. I see the four items mentioned in the OP more as consequences of these two.

The haves are shelling out a considerable amount of money. It’s not clear to me that more money would solve the problems (although it would help, no doubt.)

I don’t see obvious solutions. E.g., look at countries that are dreadfully governed, such as North Korea and much of sub-Saharan Africa. How can the west fix these governments? Set up covert operations to overthrow them? Should we conquer and colonize them? I don’t think so.

As I said, it’s not clear to me that money will solve the problems

I agree that what we’re doing isn’t working very well. E.g. many, many billions of dollars are spent by the World Bank, with less positive impact than I’d like. However, I have an impression that the prolems listed in the OP are getting better gradually. Does anyone know of any facts or statisticss on this?

There seems to be at least two types of approach that have wide support. The “liberal” approach is to give money for development, food, medical care, education, infrastructure, etc. The “conservative” approach is to promote economic freedom. The wording of the OP seems to imply that Tuckerfan would favor the liberal approach. An alternative would be to focus more on the conservative approach.

There’s more urgency to this question than most people think, because most of us or our kids may well be in the “have-nots”.

Think how far we’ve come in the last 25 years in automation and computing power. It will not take much more than another 25-50 years til the only people necessary to the production side of the economy will be new product developers, computer designers, and a very few specialists (like riot police).

Maybe my time scale is off by a century or so, but this is our future. In theory this production model could produce goods for a tremendous population, but today’s ecomomic models don’t fit – if anything, the pressure would be on to DEpopulate.

Okay, let me try to make this a bit clearer. For example, one way in which air pollution can be dramatically cut (not entirely eliminated) is by switching to solar and wind power. However, its not cheap to make the switch and while there has been some effort made to convert the US over to these methods of generating power, we’ve not completely done it, nor has the rest of the world.

There’s also been lots of designs for low cost housing developed, but no one’s built houses or apartments for all the people without homes. (Efforts have been made, of course.)

I didn’t mention all the problems of the world, of course, but that doesn’t mean the discussion has to be limited to ones I’ve mentioned.

And to address a few of the issues december raised:

There’s evidence that when a population’s standard of living is raised, it’s birthrate goes down.

Didn’t mean to imply that the “haves” aren’t shelling out money, only that they’re not necessarily spending enough or that its being spent in the correct manner.

And I don’t particularly care if the approach is “liberal” or “conservative,” so long as its not like the mathematicians solution to over-population (You know, just kill half the people and your problem’s solved.). The ones I posted just happened to be the ones I thought of when I wrote the OP.

And yes, these problems are everybody’s problems, not just the “havenots,” but how do we convince people that these are the most important issues of the day and that we should direct the bulk of our energy into solving them?

Tucker: two answers.

Show them, don’t tell them.

And love.

As I understand it, the amount of energy that could be realized from solar and wind power would be a small fraction of what the world uses. We could make greater use of these sources, but they couldn’t replace the burning of fossil fuels.

Nuclear power already produces a big share of energy needs, and it could produce a lot more. It causes no air pollution, but, of course, there’s concern over radiation, due to accident or waste disposal. There are pro’s and con’s over switching to nuclear.

This is often given as part of the argument for the “conservative” approach: Focus on having a good business climate. Reduce regulations and taxation, and hope that prosperity will ensue, which will lead to reduced birth rate, reduced pollution, reduced homelessness, etc.

Some revolutions were based on this premise: they took everything from the haves and distributed it among the have nots. Cuba, Russia, China… it didn’t work as expected. Those who managed to get away from Cuba with nothing, were soon richer than those that stole their stuff in Cuba. The wealth of an individual, people or country is not in material possessions, it is between their ears. Wealth is created, used and destroyed. Redistribution does very little to solve the problem. Better teach them to fish.

december, what exactly do you have in mind as the conservative approach. Aside from the vague ideal of economic freedom. Does it include austerity programs, less government spending, fewer regulations? Those are generally the things which the IMF and World Bank have set as conditions for economic aid. They have not really worked so far.

I think the liberal approach is the way to go, personally. Build the infrastructure, including good schools and environmental/safety/min wage regulations and prosperity follows. Of course, do not regulate too much so that business is strangled. I see this as sort of the Marshall plan type idea here.


It would make a great new thread to discuss solutions to the eventual energy crisis (we will have another one). As I understand it, your first paragraph is accurate only if you add “using current technology.” For example, a means of efficiently harvesting solar power, e.g., in orbit, could supply all energy needs. Geothermal and tidal could produce a significant small percentage of present use (nowhere near enough, but far more than they presently do – and “every little bit helps.”)

Most people’s objections to nuclear power lies not in fear of everyday ratiation problems, but in the fact that any potential accident could have horrendous consequences, at least ITHO. (I hope ultress sees this thread and can comment more knowledgeably than I to that last statement.)

Fusion is harnessable but barely at breakeven levels at the moment, and needs some critical research into more efficient and effective (and perhaps safer) technology before it can be added to the mix.

And let us take the idea of “heat pollution” and list it as exactly what it is: so much hot air. What the problem here is, is not that atomic plants, fossil-fuel-fired plants, etc., create excessive waste heat, but that it’s waste heat. It could be harvested for use in things that need added heat. (“And as an added benefit of your new townhouse in Three Mile Island Estates, your entire winter heating and cooking will be supplied completely free.”)

Uh, Poly, we’ve got lots of people showing them (ever heard of Habitat for Humanity?), but its not working all that fast. We rebuilt Europe and Japan in just a few years after WW II. Surely there’s got to be a better and faster way than what we’re doing now.

And actually, Poly, we wouldn’t want or need space space solar panels beaming power back to Earth (seems such a system would “cook” flocks of migrating birds that got caught in the beam). Wind or Earth based solar generating stations could be built to provide ample power for the US and other countries, but they’re not cheap. “Rolling Thunder” is South Dakota’s effort in this area (sorry no cite, I’ve been unable to find one), but once the tax breaks for wind power expire, it’ll be more expensive to build a wind power station than a conventional powerplant.

We really need people like jshore or ** Kimstu** in here, but in their absence…

Indeed! What if all this currently deployed political and diplomatic energy were to carry though too after the war and into addressing the causes of not just terrorism but also economic injustice throughout the world – are there votes in it ?

Anyway ** Tuckerfan**, let me amongst the first to welcome you to the growing band of STMB happy-clappy, we-are-the-world, tree huggin’-huggin’ burning lovers. Peace stickers to the right, tie-tie goodies to the left. Enjoy.

Environment ? – does ‘Kyoto’ ring any bells ? Anyone remember the George W. Bush of pre-9/11 and his f**k the world oil/isolationist agenda ?

Oh well: The developing world. Where to start. Well, the ‘charity’ mindset doesn’t work, isn’t wanted and, IMHO, isn’t relevant. The approach adopted by the EU and other concerned parties is one that emphasises policies that permit developing countries to help themselves – as we well know (having spend decades exploiting the mechanism), lending money to transient, self-serving third world regimes that goes ‘missing’ or is invested in ill-conceived contracts to…surprise, surprise, western construction companies (while leaving the people of those countries with long-term and unmanageable debt) is great for shareholder value and western leverage but not for social development in those countries.

So: Continuing to address developing world debt, investing a greater degree of efficacy in the IMF and World Bank – so they behave less like Western lap dogs, ditto the WTO, confronting the worst aspects of Globalisation, establishing a workable framework to allow the use of generic drugs in countries that can’t afford First World prices…In general, create and propagate an international aid culture that doesn’t require 2lb’s of flesh for every lb of ‘help’ (less exploitation) and, instead, promote a more ethical use of our economic power.

If you want a starting point, IMHO the single most important development what would facilitate change is for the policy makers of the world’s leading single economy to fundamentally reconsider their approach. This cannot happen while US Foreign Policy continues to be unduly ‘influenced’ by those who have funded Presidential campaigns – in the era of Globalisation, the imbalance of power as between the interests of CEO’s and shareholders vs. ethical policies must be dramatically shifted, IMHO. You can’t make a profit on aid by tying it with corporate and political interests, claim to be helping the country and also expect the indignant people to not be resentful at the perceived exploitation.

In short, the absence of a separation of powers as between the US Government and Corporations is perhaps the first – and most difficult - issue that could/should be addressed.

US taxpayers ultimately pay for election campaigns anyway, better to pay most of that via the direct tax system rather than through retail prices (then, at least, the cost is borne on gross income) - unless you think shareholders pay for those campaign contributions out of their dividends ? And you don’t get all those nauseating ads. Plus, it might even lead to the phrase ‘Foreign Policy’ being uttered during election campaigns.

There is a great degree of will and+ there are a great number of global initiatives it’s just that the folks in the US don’t get to hear too much about them or they are characterised by George and others as being “Against American interests”. And then 9/11 happened and, maybe, the world changed. Or not.

Damn! It’s great to live in a perfect country. Lets join hands and sing - Poly, you got the acoustic guitar ?

Okay, now we’ve got some concrete ideas to refute… (-:

Throwing money at the problem will NOT solve it. The problem of poverty is mostly related to bad government and instability. To have a prosperous country, you need a stable government and a good infrastructure. Until you have those, you can shower a country with as much aid as you want and it won’t change a thing other than provide some temporary relief.

The key to world prosperity is not direct handouts to poor countries, or even programs to educate people. The key is to foster the development of stable governments that allow people to benefit from their own investment of capital and labor. Couple that with worldwide free trade, and you’ll have prosperity.

Afghanistan is a good example of what causes poverty. The country is a morass of feuding warlords and chieftans, and therefore economic activity can’t be organized and intra-country transportation is difficult and dangerous. That limits economic production to local shops, crafts, and the like, which will never provide much more than the $800 per capita GDP they ‘enjoy’ now. And large companies aren’t going to invest in Afghanistan until they can be sure that the multi-million dollar factories they’d have to build won’t be destroyed by tribal warfare or nationalized by some warlord who gains control of that territory.

When Stalin ‘nationalized’ agriculture in the USSR, he caused a famine in the Ukraine, which had been known as the breadbasket of the world, at a time when the weather was some of the best for crops that had been seen in a long time. Why? Because he destroyed the infrastructure by killing the people who knew how to grow food and replacing them with cronies who didn’t. It’s all about government and infrastructure.

In short, the solution to world poverty is not going to come from the U.N. or the Peace Corps, but from Nike and Reebok. IF western intellectuals would stop dumping on them for building infrastructure in poor countries.

Overpopulation: Doesn’t look like it’s a problem, so let’s call that one ‘solved’. In fact, there’s a chance that UNDERpopulation will be a problem in the latter half of the 21 century, especially in places like Japan.

Pollution: Ah, the panacea of the left - electric cars, fuel cells, solar and wind power. These are the ‘solutions’ of people who don’t know engineering and don’t understand the problem. All of these technologies have a place - solar cells are useful for making power for remote places that don’t have easy access to a power grid and have lots of access to sunlight. Wind power is useful in areas where there is a lot of continual wind, and where it’s difficult to get power from the grid. Fuel cells are a good way to concentrate energy that has already been created, but it is not a fuel source. As long as you have an industrial economy, you will need a way to generate large quantities of power on demand, rain or shine, wind or calm. That means nuclear, coal, natural gas, or other traditional forms of energy production. No way around it in the short term. In the long term, we may slowly add other types of generation to the grid from things like geothermal or fusion power, but this is decades down the road.

Conservation helps, but it’s not the solution. If we got rid of all our SUVs and started driving hybrid autos, replaced all our lights with efficient flourescents, and double-insulated our homes, we’d maybe reduce our overall energy needs by 10-20% or so, and in 10 years we’d be using as much conventional power as we use today, due to population growth in the U.S.

But power is more of a political problem than technical. Nuclear waste can be managed, and nuclear power can provide a high percentage of our power needs safely and without emitting greenhouse gases. That’ll buy us the time to develop new innovative sources.

Sam, I apologize for not having a link for this, but according to a piece on NPR a number of months back, something like 100 square miles (or roughly the same area used for the nuclear test sites in Nevada) covered in solar panels would provide enough electricity for the US, rain or shine, day time or night (with the appropriate storage system for times when the panels were in darkness).

Afghanistan and other nations like it are sort of a “chicken and egg” kind of problem. Good economies tend to make for stable governments and vice versa. Not saying I disagree with you, but only that when there’s only scraps left, people tend to want to fight over them and that when there’s plenty people tend to be a lot calmer. (Look at the US during the election fiasco, while there were folks from both parties screaming that the other side was trying to steal the election, the country didn’t break out in civil war.)

Oh, and Sam, you forgot water power. Tidal energy stations work pretty well from what I understand. And who says we have to stick all our eggs in one basket as far as energy production goes? We don’t currently generate all our power from just nuclear or just fossil fuels, so why should we rely solely on solar or wind or water? Why not a combination of all three? What’s the worst that could happen, we have too much electricity and have to start selling it to those “nasty” Canadians to the North? :wink:

Er… I’m not sure it could be construed to be in their interests at all. A billionaire has nothing to gain materially by giving up his material possessions as far as I can tell. It might ease his peace of mind, satisfy some altruistic urge in him, but really, he’s only gonna be alive less than a century. You could rob him blind, quite literally, and not solve the problems you mention.

Though others will undoubtedly clear things up after me, I’ll try to take those problems one at a time.
[li]Homelessness[/li]It is very doubtful that eliminating or otherwise reducing homelessness would return a positive benefit to anyone who we took the money from. This isn’t to say that fighting homelessness isn’t an important issue, but it is doubtful that it is in the best interests of the haves. The homeless are not a threat to the haves or the haves’ possessions in any way that demonstrates it is more costly to not fight homelessness.

[li]Poverty[/li]I’d say the same thing as above, really. Poverty simply doesn’t affect these persons and does not present itself as an immediate source of loss, except for people wanting to confiscate through taxation more wealth in an attempt to combat it.

[li]War[/li]Ah, now there’s something, but you could only really get the help of those who both have foreign material interests and cannot move them away from the war without a significant loss. We’ll come back to this one.

[li]Pollution[/li]Pollution falls in the homelessness camp, quite frankly. “Pollution costs” in the form loss of quality of life don’t really happen within one person’s lifetime. They slowly accumulate. Though we might appeal to a wealthy persons’ desire to have a family line in fighting pollution it ismply isn’t a pressing need to them. Because of their wealth they are mobile, and in the worst-case scenario they can simply take care of the pollution that immediately bothers them.

[li](etc)[/li]Not quite sure what you mean by that.

I think that we disagree in principl here: the very fact that people won’t commit makes the plan inherently flawed. I believe the standard response to such things are, “Well, it works great in theory… blah blah.” Though I abhor that statement it is often appropriate.

I’d disagree that current schemes aren’t working, but not on grounds that overall standard of living has increased or something. I simply think that we are trying to balance the incentive people have to become wealthy (or the ability people have to become wealthy) with the needs you mention, and because there are no “peasant revolts” and there are still plenty of wealthy people I think we have found a balance.

When I said I’d come back to the “war” topic this is what I meant. Yes, there are homeless, and there is poverty, but if this group of people are not an active threat to others’ livelihood then you’re not going to see much of anything get done quickly.

Apart from that, wealth is not actually the problem here. Even if we formed a task team to go appropriate wealth and handed it out that wouldn’t be a permanent solution. The have-nots are, quite likely, not able to hold on to their wealth in whatever form it comes to them. That is why there is poverty in a lot of cases: people cannot obtain wealth and people cannot keep that wealth. I don’t think there is a magical dollar amount after which a person can just stay wealthy, and poverty is beaten. Keeping your head above water, siting in an inner tube, or sterring a ship: these are all active processes.

I honestly feel that “better living through taxation” is bunging up the holes in the ship. That sucker is still gonna sink because we’re gonna run out of material to plug the holes. I think education is, primarily, where our focus needs to lie. We need to keep people sellable to the job market, and they need to be mobile within that job market because the job market is not static.

After a certain point I would bet that wealth redistribution falls prey to the law of diminishing returns and that the “big oil” conspiracy types aren’t willing to admit that. They think that just giving out cash is going to fix everything.

I think the best bet lies with education, and possibly propaganda. If you want people to help other people by giving up their possessions you need to convince them not that it is in their interests to do so, but that they satisfy some moral goal. Consider the plight many speak now, that people deserve an education, that they deserve health care. You see what I’m saying? People don’t deserve anything, for cimeny’s sake, we aren’t born with some “IOU” tattoo. But if enough people believe that people really do deserve an education, then we do deserve an education (or whatever).

The idea of Democratic government spread through the Western world almost like wildfire. And why not?—People deserve to dictate their own government, right? :wink: I think if you want to combat the things you mention you need to start with ideology. And as Polycarp mentioned, don’t just tell them: show them.

I cannot see how anything else is a permanent solution.

Sam where is that infrastructure supposed to come from? You need money to build highways and schools. And then you need regulations to harness the potential good that comes from having businesses invest in the country. You also need regulations to ensure that the businesses don’t run your country into the ground and help keep it in a situation of poverty.

Also, overpopulation will continue to be a problem, except in a few industrialized nations like the US, EU, and Japan. And that will be easily solved by loosening immigration laws to help take up some of overpopulation of other states. But it won’t be enough, and overpopulation will still be a major problem in most third world nations.

Also, I’m sorry, but conservation IS a big part of the solution. You say that if we got rid of SUV’s etc. that the power use would be back up in the future because of population growth (oh wait, I thought we were going to be underpopulated). Well, that future power use will still be less than it would be if we didn’t move towards conservation. If you couple that with more use of cleaner energy sources (you are correct that a complete conversion would be inadequate, but I’m talking a greater percentage of use, not complete conversion) you help curb pollution. If you also require installation of scrubbers on coal fired plants and combine that with use of the less polluting coal from the western US, you have an even bigger benefit.

So what are we talking about in this thread? Energy solutions? Or everything and nothing at the same time? You just can’t have a thread that addresses simultaneously all the problems we face. Unless the solution is some religious cult. At any rate:

Here we go with the crap again. I, for one, would like to see a cite for this because it is stupidly meaningless.

We have had quite a few threads dedicated exclusively to alternative sources of energy so you can go there for some serious discussions.

At any rate, these generic “solutions” are meaningless. Yes, the solution to world hunger is that everybody get more to eat. The solution to the pollution problem is to pollute less. And the solution to world happiness is that we all get laid more often. I want to know the details.