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Combating Poverty: New Battle Gear for an Ancient War

Posted by Business in Ghana on October 18, 2010

By Lansana Gberie, Sierra Leone

(A review of Combating Poverty: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics: A Report by United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, UNRISD, August 2010)

Since antiquity the problem of poverty has engaged the consciences of statesmen and thinkers, but few have dared to draw the obvious context – and fuel – for it: inequality. In the happier days of the Roman Empire almost 2000 years ago the estimable Trajan, one of the great Caesars, introduced the Alimenta, which was an ambitious welfare program to help the poor, especially orphans and destitute children, throughout the Italian part of the Empire. Food and education were subsidized. This was the earliest record of a welfare program on such a scale, and it won wide plaudits for Trajan. The great English historian of Rome, Edward Gibbon, surveying this era and particularly admiring of Trajan, wrote that if someone were to “fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation” name the 80 years of the Roman era which included, and was rather dominated, by Trajan’s rule. This was the period of the great Roman peace. Read the rest of this entry »

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