If there was a nation in the world with only billionaires and millionaires, would you consider the least rich person in that nation poor?
If the least rich person in that nation owned the smallest mansion, the least expensive sports cars, the least expensive personal chefs and housemaids in the nation, would they be poor?
What if that person’s 10 million dollars net-worth made them the least rich person in their nation, but the net-worth made them one of the richest people in the world?
What would you say? Would you say they’re rich or poor?
I think we would all say that person is rich, right? So why do we consider low-income Canadians (and Americans) poor?
After all, if you’re anything like the average low-income person in Canada, you are one of the richest and most privileged people to ever live.
Consider this: the poorest 20% of Canadians and Americans are richer than the average European.
There are poor people in this country, absolutely. Wealthy nations aren’t entirely made up of wealthy people. Jesus wasn’t lying when he said we’ll always have poor people with us. In Canada, our poorest people live in reserves, streets, and shelters.
My family and I lived in a shelter for several months in Toronto when I was a boy. And when we moved out of the shelter, we made government housing our home for nearly ten years.
Our bills were relatively inexpensive at the government housing. However, my mom was a single mother to three children, and she sometimes couldn’t afford to pay our utility bills. So, several times a year, we wouldn’t have electricity and heating at our home.
One day, I walked for over an hour from home to school for wrestling practice at 5AM, because mom couldn’t afford to give me 2 dollars for a bus ticket. Then after school, I walked for over an hour—in the rain—from school to home. And when I got home, I discovered that our electricity and heating service were suspended.
That wasn’t an abnormal experience for me throughout my teenage years. I was the least wealthy person in my social circles. By Canadian standards, my family was poor.
However, I was 180 pounds when I entered high school, and I was 240 pounds by the time I finished high school. Clearly, I wasn’t malnourished. I ate more meals than I needed to.
That is unlike my experience in Ghana, where I suffered malnourishment because I ate less than I needed to. I was so malnourished in Ghana, I gained 30 pounds within weeks after I immigrated to Canada.
In Ghana, we regularly couldn’t afford to eat three meals a day. And I nearly died from malaria because we initially couldn’t afford to pay for the health care I desperately needed. And yet, I wasn’t even close to the poorest person in my social circles.
In Ghana, my neighbours and I in didn’t own kitchens, washrooms, or television. To make meals, we placed cooking pots over burning coals in our front yard. And when we needed to relieve ourselves, we walked to a designated park—20 minutes away—to do so.
Today, socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders and Jagmeet Signh routinely and carelessly label others poor for their political agenda. In their socialist reasoning, they measure poverty not by a person’s inability to provide for their basic needs; instead, they measure poverty by comparing one person’s income to their neighbour’s. Essentially, they measure poverty through envious thinking.
But if that is the healthiest way to define poverty, then the least rich person in a nation made up only millionaires and billionaires should be considered poor.
And in the same way, we shouldn’t suggest an individual is poor strictly because they are less rich than their neighbours. And that is important, not because we should dismiss our challenges—no, it’s important because this way, we’ll be more grateful for what we have.