Poverty, Competition and Over-consumption

Do you believe EPL is actually ‘more ethical’? And if so, what are the implications of increasing our definition of the poverty line?

Furthermore, is over-consumption an issue that needs to be addressed in the developed world? Why/why not?




The Historical poverty-income relationship is a notion which remains fundamental to contemporary concepts. Its meaning, dependent on the asker, its perceived understanding and the respondent, creates a situation in which “income” as an independent ideal is an equally problematic concept as “poverty”, both of which require careful elaboration. Resources such as assets, income in kind, subsidies to public services, and employment should be considered in calculating a comprehensive measure of income. Based on this, is it possible to assume that “people [experience] … poverty when … deprived of income and other resources needed to obtain the conditions of life—diets, material goods, amenities, standards and services— that enable them to play roles, meet obligations and participate in relationships and customs of society” (Townsend 2006).

Individually, I don’t believe that any one framework is “more ethical” than another. The EPL does not overcome problems inherent of other existent income-poverty line indicators, namely the oversimplification and reduction of global poverty complexities to a monodimensional monetary appraisal. Furthermore, while noting that the EPL provides a morally defensible basis for setting a line, I would argue that the determination of a poverty line cannot be based on an arbitrary selection of a low level of income.

Poverty does not end with resource acquisition. Perception of status is a comparative mark reliant on competition. From evolutionary perspectives, stronger individuals possess greater opportunity, whilst maintaining a receipt of communal protection. Competition and consumption are close allies, and together cultivate social hierarchies dependent on group members capacities to secure resources. Over-consumption patterns intensify relative to social position, and often has limited correlation against satisfying living requirements. Notions of “us” and “them”, though important to concepts of self, are frequently exploited by advertising and marketing professionals to maintain, or increase, current levels of over-consumption.

Over-consumption is an issue that should be addressed in the developed world, and as Jarred Diamond (2003) states simply “the biggest problems facing the world today are not at all beyond our control, rather they are all of our own making, and entirely in our power to deal with”. The problem as noted though is that in all likelihood this will only occur out of necessity.



Diamond, J. (2003) Ted Talks, Why Do Societies Collapse, http://www.ted.com/talks/jared_diamond_on_why_societies_collapse/transcript#t-674998.
Gondor, D. (2009). Our World, Why Do We Over-consume? United Nations University. http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/why-do-we-over-consume.

Townsend, P. (2006). What is Poverty? In Poverty in Focus. International Poverty Center, United Nations Development Center. http://www.ipc-undp.org/pub/IPCPovertyInFocus9.pdf.


2 thoughts on “Poverty, Competition and Over-consumption

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