Ideas

Five Freedoms: Freedom from Want

Poverty has always been a defining issue in the quest to build a better world. How do we go about making things more equitable, making sure that wealth is distributed to those in need and creating opportunity for the weak to become strong? Journalist Sally Armstrong, healthcare activist James Orbinski and former diplomat Paul Heinbecker discuss a thorny issue.
Workers unload sacks of wheat flour as people gather outside an aid distribution centre in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen June 14, 2018. (Reuters/ Abduljabbar Zeyad )
Listen to the full episode53:59

In his 1941 State of the Union address, American president Franklin Roosevelt proposed four freedoms that he believed all people were entitled to: freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from fear and freedom from want.

All this week, we explore ideas about the meaning of freedom in a series of discussions recorded at the Stratford Festival. However, we've got a total of five freedoms in our list, and a stellar lineup of thoughtful people to dig into a central question for our times: what is freedom?

Freedom from Want

Poverty has always been a defining issue in the quest to build a better world. Most political systems lay claim to the idea that they alone can create a better world.

It's a kind of litmus test: if our political systems can't raise almost everyone out of relative poverty, then what exactly have we achieved?

Why poverty exists at all in otherwise wealthy, prosperous democratic countries is a very incisive question, and it's not enough to just shrug and say our system is still better than any other alternative.

And those alternatives? Dictatorships take us into the abyss. Right-wing libertarianism has little to offer as solutions to poverty. Soviet-style Communism didn't exactly work either, which leaves some version of western liberal democracy, either what we have now, or some variation that is still to emerge.

So once we've got past that, and accepted that we've failed on the poverty file, how do we go about making things more equitable right now, making sure that wealth is distributed to those in need, and creating opportunity for the weak to become stronger?

James Orbinski is a healthcare activist and former Medecins sans Frontieres leader. 1:20

How might we redistribute some of the goods with which we are blessed in the west?

How might we create greater opportunities for peoples and nations less fortunate than we are? When we're all better off, well, we're all better off.

In this episode, journalist Sally Armstrong, healthcare activist James Orbinski and former diplomat Paul Heinbecker discuss a thorny issue.
 

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**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.

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