[EconTalk] Mauricio Miller on Poverty, Social Work, and the Alternative

Mauricio Miller on Poverty, Social Work, and the Alternative

06/05/2019 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=70022985
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2019/MillerMsocialwork.mp3

Poverty activist, social entrepreneur and author, Mauricio Miller, talks about his book The Alternative with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Miller, a MacArthur genius grant recipient, argues that we have made poverty tolerable when we should be trying to make it more escapable. This is possible, he argues, if we invest in the poor and encourage them to leverage their skills and social networks. Miller emphasizes the importance of self-determination and self-respect as keys to helping the poor improve their own lives.

Listen Date: 2018-05-27 (approx)


  • appreciate the main point being made about people needing dignity and purpose as much as money. I just feel that everything Miller said was anecdotal; and that he didn’t come up with anything which showed why this was a general rule rather than just a series of personal experiences in which he hadn’t yet run up against a contradiction.
  • Emotionally, I like the idea of treating donations as an angel investment. Again, I’m just not convinced that it’ll work. Which isn’t necessarily the point.
  • Maybe the book itself makes that case, but the interview didn’t particularly inspire me to read the book.
  • The most interesting and memorable bit of the interview was Miller talking about how he would sack social workers who would help the case family instead of just observing; and how the subsequent protest quietly evaporated when he told the families “Listen I could just save the money of his salary and give it directly to you.”


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