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May 29th, 2017

Max’s View

Available Now on Netflix
Living on One Dollar
**1/2

My conclusion about the economy in the United States right now is that things are pretty great.

The doom-and-gloomers on the news are certainly right about a few of the problems that we face: an increasingly large amount of wealth is collecting in the stock portfolios of the richest 1% instead of being productively spent at American stores. A perfect storm of free trade, overzealous unions, and oppressive regulation has swept most of our factories overseas, leaving a generation of blue collar workers with fewer quality jobs than their parents.

However, the good far outweighs the bad.

Most Americans can afford enough food. Heck, it seems like most Americans can afford a whole new wardrobe because they can’t fit into their old clothes anymore.

We can afford to live in ridiculously intemperate places like Vermont because we have ready access to fuel to heat our homes. Heck, the fuel is even getting cheaper.

We can relax in our heated homes while watching HDtv because just about everybody has access to affordable electricity. And on the rare occasions that the power goes out, we can take out our phones and text to our friends about what a bummer it is that we have to live without light for an hour or two.

Not all of us are living large – Diddy style. But we all live better than the 1 billion people on earth who survive on $1 per day. “Living on One Dollar” is a documentary about a pair of college buddies who decided to spend two months living in actual poverty.

Ryan Christoffersen and Zach Ingrasci moved into a shack in a remote Guatemalan farming village to experience how the bottom 1% lives.

The film is entertaining but unsurprising. Subsisting on beans, rice, and lard the young men lose weight and energy quickly. Sleeping on the dirty floor leaves them covered in flea bites.

After a few weeks, Ryan developed a painful intestinal parasite. He scraped together enough to pay for the doctor’s visit to get diagnosed but he definitely couldn’t afford the $25 for medicine to treat the illness.

Ryan and Zach are just average dudes on an unusual adventure. They’re like Bill and Ted without the time machine. They don’t make any profound observations about inequality or the human condition.

They do make one surprising conclusion. They argue that the best way to help the rural Guatemalans isn’t to give them charity or even offer their kids a good education. The farmers can be best helped by giving them more access to small business loans.

In America, it seems like banks do little more than allow people to live in houses than are larger than they can afford and go into credit card debt buying Christmas presents to fill the houses with stuff they don’t need.

Ryan and Zach show us concrete examples of how loans of just $200 transformed the lives of villagers they met by allowing them to start a weaving business or an onion patch.

But even that fortunate onion farmer who got a loan doesn’t live nearly as comfortably as a lower middle class American. It’s pretty great here.

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