Let's Stop Doing These "Pretend to Be Poor" Experiments

A new charity project, Live Below the Line, reminds us that pretending to be broke is offensive and unhelpful. Stop doing this.

A new challenge called "Live Below the Line Week" started yesterday. Organized by the Global Poverty Project, Live Below the Line asks people to pretend to be poor from Monday to Friday of this week, spending only $1.50 per day—an amount on which 1.4 billion people are forced to subsist—on food. Why is the Global Poverty Project doing this? "Because it’s important," says the Live Below the Line website. "It matters. It takes courage to take a stand."

I agree with that last part—it does take courage to take a stand. I'm skeptical, however, that pretending to be poor for a week matters at all. These "play poor" projects seem to pop up every few months, and while some are marginally worthwhile, most are unintentionally offensive and grotesque. Why haven't we abandoned these things already?

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