Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Making Poverty History


One test of a great idea is if afterwards it seems obvious or necessary. Scott Myers-Lipton has certainly come up with a great idea with his book Social Solutions to Poverty, making it an instant classic that will be both voraciously read and kept for reference. In the proud and patriotic tradition of Howard Zinn, this book is an inspiring comprehensive collection of anti-poverty proposals and programs, from the grassroots as well as the elite, historically contextualized by Myers-Lipton, an associate professor of sociology at San Jose State University, who specializes in civic engagement, service learning, and social change.

Covering ideas from Thomas Paine to W.E.B. Du Bois, Tecumseh to Sitting Bull, and Susan B. Anthony to George W. Bush, along with many other famous figures as well as lesser-known ones, Myers-Lipton presents a powerful history of anti-poverty efforts in a country that is the richest but has the highest rate of poverty in the industrialized world. In spite of, or perhaps because of, American wealth and empire, poverty has been a chronic feature of U.S. society. While the current official poverty rate is over 12.5%, 1 of every 8 Americans, the actual poverty rate is much higher, possibly as much as 1 in 6, or 50 million Americans. We remain, as ever, in dire need of poverty reduction and, eventually, the elimination of poverty, the overarching social problem that causes or exacerbates so many others.

The millions of poor especially, but all of us generally, pay the high costs of poverty. If we forget our history, as George Santayana warns, we are doomed to repeat it. With Myers-Lipton expertly collecting and contextualizing the history of anti-poverty efforts in the U.S., there is renewed hope of finally transcending the tragedy of poverty.

There is abundant material in this useful and fascinating book, though for better or worse it’s limited to the U.S. There is, therefore, no mention of anti-poverty programs such as Bangladeshi-economist Muhammed Yunus’ micro-credit Grameen Bank, which won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, nor is there any reference to the policies of the Scandinavian countries, Cuba, Venezuela, Japan, Mondragón in Spain, the state of Kerala in India, and other places that have reduced or eliminated the worst effects of poverty. Yet even within the U.S., phenomena such as rent strikes, collectives, communes, credit unions, and Hebrew Free Loan Associations are omitted. Hopefully, further volumes and future editions will address these issues. That said, what’s missing from this invaluable book pales in comparison to what it includes.

For such an important book on solving poverty, it’s a shame that it is so expensive, necessarily limiting its distribution outside of academia, where premium-priced books are unfortunately the norm. Nevertheless, Social Solutions to Poverty demands and deserves to be read–and then implemented!–to finally rid society from the scourge of poverty.

DAN BROOK, a freelance instructor of sociology, is the author of Modern Revolution (University Press of America, 2005). Dan writes for various non-corporate media. He welcomes comments via <>


More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 28, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Inside the Invisible Government; War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump
Andrew Levine
The Hillary Era is Coming: Worry!
Gary Leupp
Seven World-Historical Achievements of the Iraq Invasion of 2003
Paul Street
Standing Rock Water-Protectors Waterboarded While the Cleveland Indians Romped
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel: 1984 Everlasting
Michael Brenner
American Foreign Policy in the Post-Trump Era
Luciana Bohne
Crossing the Acheron: Back to Vietnam
Robert Hunziker
The Political Era of Climate Refugees
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution was an Atrocity
Ira Helfand
Nukes and the UN: a Historic Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons
Pete Dolack
Work Harder So Speculators Can Get More
Joyce Nelson
Canadians Launch Constitutional Challenge Against CETA
John Laforge
US Uranium Weapons Have Been Used in Syria
Paul Edwards
The Vision Thing ’16
Arshad Khan
Hillary, Trump and Sartre: How Existentialism Disrobes the Major Presidential Candidates
Peter Lee
It’s ON! Between Duterte and America
Chris Zinda
The Bundy Acquittal: Tazing of #oregonstandoff
Joseph Grosso
Starchitects in the City: Vanity Fair and Gentrification
Patrick Carr
Economic Racial Disparity in North Carolina
David Swanson
Public vs. Media on War
Chris Gilbert
Demo Derby in Venezuela: The Left’s New Freewheeling Politics
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution Was an Atrocity
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Sam Albert
Kids on Their Own in Calais: the Tip of an Iceberg-Cold World
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Russell Mokhiber
Lucifer’s Banker: Bradley Birkenfeld on Corporate Crime in America
Ron Jacobs
Death to the Fascist Insect! The SLA and the Cops
Cesar Chelala
Embargo on Cuba is an Embarrassment for the United States
Jack Smith
And the Winner Is….
Ken Knabb
Beyond Voting: the Limits of Electoral Politics
Matt Peppe
An Alternate Narrative on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
The Israeli Trumpess
James Rothenberg
Water Under the Bridge
Louis Yako
Remembering Rasul Gamzatov: The Poet of the People
Brian Cloughley
The US, NATO and the Pope
When Nobody Returns: Palestinians Show They are People, Too
Louis Proyect
The Outsider-Insider: Isaac Babel’s Big Mistake
Simon Jones
The Human Lacunae in Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake”
Martin Billheimer
Now and Then, Ancient Sorceries
October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?