Written by Nic Fraraccio // Photo by Balazs Balassa
The Harding American Studies Institute (ASI) hosted Michael Matheson Miller, director and producer of the award-winning documentary “Poverty Inc.,” in the first ASI Distinguished Lecture event of the semester to discuss his role in promoting entrepreneurial opportunities in poverty in the evolving world.
“Poverty Inc.” focuses on the downfall of human flourishing due to the outcomes of the poverty industrial complex. The documentary promotes personal entrepreneurship as an efficient way to eliminate world poverty.
Filming for the documentary started in 2010. After collecting over 200 interviews filmed in 20 different countries, Miller and the Acton Institute released the documentary Dec. 5, 2014. The film promotes the tagline, “Fighting poverty is big business, but who profits the most?”
Miller is the senior research fellow at the Acton Institute and was the founding director of PovertyCure, a television series and initiative of the Acton Institute.
During his lecture, Miller talked about the dominant views of charity, the philosophical and theological underpinnings of the dominant poverty industry and the lack of social justice.
“I will argue that the biggest obstacle for poor people today, especially in the developing world, is not that they lack stuff, but that they are excluded from the institutions of justice,” Miller said. “That would enable them to create prosperity in their own families, in their own communities.”
Miller also discussed the issues of crony capitalism within governmental organizations. Miller said the collusion of political bureaucracy and powerful interest groups will continue to lock out entrepreneurs.
“When aid is given, it often can crowd out local businesses,” Miller said. “Even worse, aid becomes linked with crony capitalists.”
The second half of the lecture was a question and answer discussion led by President Mike Williams.
During the discussion, Miller said foreign aid creates negative incentives for companies to build their own institutions of justice.
Miller also said students can transform the world by having a deep friendship with Jesus Christ and obeying the commandments.
“If you want to fix the broken world, you’ve got to fix yourself,” Miller said. “You can’t fix yourself. Only Jesus can fix you.”
Miller’s lecture was met with excitement from faculty and students at the University.
Associate professor of communication Charles Bane said the decision to invite Miller was a great opportunity for students at the University.
“He’s out there living it,” Bane said. “He’s out there doing this. To bring in that actual real-world perspective, it’s fantastic.”
Sophomore Lydia Radke said she was excited to listen to Miller’s lecture after watching the “PovertyCure” DVD series with her family.
“It’s a really pertinent thing to talk about, like how we can alleviate poverty in a more sustainable way,” Radke said.