religions or governments rule.
We humans are basically social animals, with our main social institutions often including forms of religion and government. Hence human behaviour is rarely entirely individual but is affected by our social setting, and our wealth or poverty is generally affected by these social influences also.
On population, both some religions and some governments have favoured and promoted population growth strongly at times - go forth and multiply to strengthen our religion or our country ! And in other times and places social pressures have favoured lower birth rates as 'responsible parenthood' and limiting population growth. Clearly limiting populations may help to reduce the extent of poverty with less mouths to feed, and expanding populations may increase poverty though not always.
In some societies these social pressures may center on 'big families are good' or 'big families are bad' social admonitions. But social pressures can in some cases include much tougher measures such as contraceptive aids being banned or taxed - or being issued free or made compulsory.
It will of course generally be the non-poor who control the chief social institutions and decide the prevailing social pressures - mainly as whatever they see as being in their own interests. And part of that may be controlling and exploiting a poor they think needs to be kept poor. However having a poor does not promote wealth growth, but instead chiefly encourages exploiter inefficiency that retards wealth growth.
Of course not every individual will follow prevailing social pressures, but the majority generally will.
Religions and governments may or may not economically exploit workers less than rich businessmen employers, but they may generally tend to be less efficient at running business than the average businessman. Since business is less of a priority to them, where society is more dominated by religion or government it may tend to more inefficiency poverty. This form of social poverty generation some call central planning poverty, but such economic inefficiency often also results in societies with business monopoly which removes the efficiency spur of competition from business.
Successful wealth-creating business needs to really be centered on competing for profits, but this needs some real social anti-poverty regulation also - such as minimum wage law and minimum social welfare - to really encourage social wealth instead of social poverty.
To quote Confucius,
In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.
In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.
However countries are rarely well governed, because ;
Poverty can be strongly affected by just one or two particular needs that those running countries should safeguard but often fail to do so.
In many poor countries the poor are very dependent on having a good water supply, but in many cases it either does not exist or is controlled by a monopoly that makes excessive charges for it.
In some richer countries the poor are very dependent on having a good electricity supply, but in many cases that either does not exist or is controlled by a monopoly or cartel that makes excessive charges for it.
Governments or religions running countries clearly have a duty to protect the poor in these cases, but some make little or no real attempt to do that.
In richer countries especially, trying to target poor people can create too many problems so that often poor people can be helped more by targeting them less. Hence the UK Child Benefit for everyone with children (rich, poor, unemployed or working) has almost certainly done more good for UK poverty than some of the more costly targeted benefits. January 2010 UK news headlines included a government minister publicly admitting for the first time that UK middle-class governments have not understood the UK poor. Of course the UK is not alone in having that widespread problem.
Virtual Poverty and Virtual Exclusion.
Richer countries like the USA and UK have also over recent years been building up a new real poverty and exclusion problem that can be called 'imagined poverty' or 'virtual poverty'. This largely involves children being given an incorrect view of the average family as being significantly richer than the average family really is, so that many from average families now think they are poor. Hence a substantial number of 'virtual poor' can be created by modern advertising, TV and film especially in richer countries or developing countries.
1. Advertising. Those selling more expensive products at higher profit margins have more money to spend on advertising than those selling chaeper goods at lower profit margins. So advertising does tend to present average people as buying more expensive goods than the majority of people actually buy. The advertising 'virtual average person' is richer than the average person actually is.
2. TV and film. Those making TV programs and films targeted at the young commonly present 'virtual average families' as richer than the average family actually is. Hence the Disney TV show 'Hannah Montana' basically presents a multi-millionaire family as 'typical' to the young people that it successfully targets. The TV and film 'virtual average family' is richer than the average family actually is.
Hence the UK today may have only 10% who are actual relative poor, but may have another 20% who are actually in the avegage majority but have been made 'virtual poor' by exposure to modern advertising, TV and film. And these 'virtual poor' will feel that they suffer 'virtual exclusion' in not being able to buy what they wrongly believe that the majority can buy. There is a real problem for some countries where this 'virtual poverty' problem, added to some real poverty problems, may have in part contributed to events like the recent 2011 street riots in the UK. And current UK 'virtual poverty' and 'virtual exclusion' creation shows in a recent Children’s Society and University of York study of children aged 8 to 15 giving their views on social exclusion. UK 21st century children feel 'deprived' if their family does not have most of the popular 'normal possessions' including in importance order 'some pocket money', 'some family holidays', 'some iPods', 'some good clothes', 'a family car' and 'good TV'. It may need some more regulation of advertising, TV and film that is targeted at the young - and the problem may be less in the currently censored '18' films area than in the 'PG' area !?
A doll to encourage girls to have babies ?