John Stossel Asks, “Why Are Indians Poor?”

Manny Jules served as Chief of the Kamloops Indian Band in British Columbia for sixteen years. He has devoted his life to the betterment of First Nations. Recently, he met with John Stossel to discuss the cycle of poverty on reservations. He also described how to break it. His solution? Recognize the private property rights of First Nations individuals.

Modern socialism was pioneered on First Nations reservations. The experiment has been an abject failure. In Canada, half of the approximately 426,000 First Nations children live in poverty. Aboriginal Peoples are also more likely to collect employment insurance and social assistance, and face poor living conditions. They are more likely to suffer physical, emotional, or sexual abuse and become victims of violent crimes. In addition, Aboriginal Peoples go to jail more often. And, when they do, are less likely to receive parole.

Daniel Wilson, a former diplomat and policy consultant on indigenous issues, while describing the plight of many First Nations children, said, “They’re waking up in an overcrowded home that may have asbestos, probably has mould, is likely in need of major repair, that does not have drinking water and they have no school to go to.”

Nonetheless, as Dr. Gary North has observed, the socialist underpinnings of this social degradation are largely ignored:

For some reason, textbooks do not offer a page or two on the corruption, the bureaucratization, and the multi-generation poverty created by tribal-run socialism. Here we have a series of government-run social laboratories. How successful have they been? Where are reservations that have systematically brought people out of poverty?

The next one will be the first.

People respond to the economic incentives provided by liberty. This includes the right to keep the fruits of your labour. As Manny Jules so passionately emphasizes, a shift in this direction, from poverty to prosperity, must include the right of Aboriginal Peoples to own private property.

It is a simple concept. Indeed, you can travel from the largest cities to the smallest villages the world over and hear dogs barking. According to Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, this is because even dogs understand property rights.

It is high time our government understood, too.

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  • About Gregory Cummings

    Gregory Cummings writes about Canadian monetary and economic policy. His writing has been featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and the Ludwig von Mises Institute's Mises Daily publication. Read more.

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