"I have said before, and I shall say it again, because it is the most imperative social truth of our age, that about one-third of the world is rich and two-thirds of the world is poor. by this I mean something very simple. In North America, in most of Europe, in Australia and New Zealand, and now in the Soviet Union, the great majority of the population get enough to eat and don't die before their time. That is what "riches" means, in a world whose harshness those of us born lucky don't willingly admit. 

   In the rest of the world the opposite is true. The great majority of the population don't get enough to eat; and, from the time they are born, their chances of life are less than half of ours. These are crude words, but we are talking about crude things, toil, hunger, death. For most of our brother men, this is the social condition.

C.P. Snow (Essay: Magnanimity)


"Poverty-The most deadly and prevalent of all diseases."

-Eugene O' Neil


"The difference between the richest man and the poorest is but a day of hunger and an hour of thirst."

-Kahlil Gibran


"Despite all the vaunted technological and economic progress of modern times, there are probably more poverty-stricken people in the world today than there were fifty years ago."

Dr. Eugene Staley (Standford Research Institute)



"Those who escape from destitution do not escape from the memory of their destitution, Either by dwelling upon it or by reacting against it, all their future life is affected by it. The majority of the once destitute take refuge in voluntary amnesia."

Charles Pierre Peguy


"Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor."

James Baldwin


"Poor people don't envy the rich nearly as much as they envy the poor person who gets a break."

Joe Jackson


"Laziness travels so slowly that Poverty soon overtakes him."

-Ben Franklin


   "There have always been rich and poor," say the rich and comfortable, "and there always will be." This, to them, is a self-evident truth; it has all the force of an immutable law of nature. But they are wrong. The division into rich and poor did not exist until very recently in man's history-only a few yards back on our three-thousand-mile evolutionary walk-nor does it exist among other animals either. It is not, therefore, a law of nature; it is a "law" that man has made himself."

Felix Greene

The Enemy


"We'll have no more Grapes of Wrath. We'll have no more films that show the seamy side of American life. We'll have no pictures that deal with labor strikes (or)....the banker as villain."

Eric Johnson( former  president of the Motion Picture Producers Association)


"Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred  or a thousand. Keep your accounts on your thumbnail....By poverty, i.e., simplicity of life and fewness of incidents. I am solidified and crystallized. It is a singular concentration of strength and energy and flavor."



"For every city (state), however small, is in fact, divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another."


The Republic IV


"The rich will always require an abundant supply of the poor."



"We are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring."

-Martin Luther King Jr.


"The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends."

-Bible, Proverbs, Ch.14 v.20


"Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is."

-Ben Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanac)


"He is much to be dreaded who stands in dread of poverty."

-Publius Syrus


"Our dangerous class is not at the bottom, it is near the top of society. Riches without law are more dangerous than is poverty without law."

-Henry Ward Beecher (1813-87)


"All privileged and powerful classes, as such, have used their power in the interest of their own selfishness, and have indulged their self-importance in despising, and not in lovingly caring for, for those who were, in their estimation, degraded, by being under the necessity of working for their benefit."

-John Stuart Mill (1806-73

Principles of Political Economy


"The vagabonds about the country are a terrible pest; they are like an enemy's force which, distributed over the territory, obtains a living as it please, levying veritable tolls.....They are constantly roving about the country, examining the approaches to every house, and informing themselves about their inmates and of their habits. Woe to those supposed to have money. .....What numbers of highway robberies and what burglaries! What numbers of travelers assassinated, and houses and doors broken into! What assassinations of curates, farmers, and widows, first tormented until they reveal the hiding place of their money and afterwards killed!"

Letosne (about France in 1779)



"No business which depends for its existence on paying less that living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living."

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt, address to Congress, May 24,1937



"The disparity of fortune between the rich and the poor had reached its height, so that the city seemed to be in a dangerous condition and no other means for freeing it from disturbance seemed possible but despotic power."

-Plutarch (on Athens of 594 B.C.)


"How else to describe the new (2001) administration's legislative agenda-elimination of the inheritance tax, revision of the bankruptcy laws, the repeal of safety regulations in the workplace, easing of restriction on monopoly, etc.-except as an act of class warfare? Not the aggression that Karl Marx and maybe Ralph Nader had in mind, not the angry poor sacking the mansions of the rich, but the aggrieved rich burning down the huts of the presumptuous and troublemaking poor."

-Lewis Lapham

Harper's Mag 2001


"Our nation has a peculiar work ethic. It insists that people work for a living, which is a valid expectation, but it does not insist that the private and public sectors provide enough jobs at livable wages for everyone who wants to work."

-Jesse L. Jackson Jr.



   "The early Puritans looked at poverty and detected signs from heaven. Later generations saw sloth, personal extravagance, bad blood, weak will, or criminality. Roosevelt's explanation mixed Social Gospel and modern science. "The causes of poverty....are beyond the control of any individual." Economic competition had sunk Americans into "jungle law." "The survival of the so-called fittest" served only the cruel and ruthless. American churches-Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish-all condemned the "unbrotherly....distribution of wealth" and the "spirit of Mammon" that were routing the "eternal principles of God and justice." What was the alternative? "Community effort." When a modern civilization faces a disease epidemic, said Roosevelt, turning from gospel to science, it "takes care of the victims after they are stricken." But it also finds and attacks the source of contagion. Just as public health efforts eradicated the causes of disease, public policy would wipe out the roots of poverty. How? Through modern social programs like workman's compensation and old-age insurance."

James A. Morone

Hellfire Nation


"I surrender my life to Christ. I renounce the Capitalist system."

(The Council of Methodist Youth 1932 took this pledge)


"We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals. We know now that it is bad economics."

-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937



" A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify making their life a hell in this."

-R. D. Tawney


"Riches are no test of goodness. Indeed Poverty is the only test. A good man voluntarily embraces poverty."

Mahatma Gandhi


"That plenty should produce either covetousness or prodigality is a perversion of providence; and yet the generality of men are the worse for their riches."

William Penn


"Riches are the pettiest and least worthy gifts which God can give a man. What are they to God’s Word, to bodily gifts, much as beauty and health; or to the gifts of the mind, such as understanding. Skill, Wisdom! Yet men toil for them day and night, and take no rest. Therefore God commonly gives riches to foolish people to whom he gives nothing else."

Martin Luther


"The child was diseased at birth – stricken with an hereditary illness that only the most vital men are able to shake off. I mean poverty – the most deadly and prevalent of all diseases."

Eugene O Neill


"It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly."

Bertand Russell


"The higher we ascend among human types and the more intense personalities become, the more the importance of possessions dwindles."

Vida D. Scudder


"We shall soon with the help of god be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished form this nation."

Herbert Hoover 1920


"It is very painful to accept what is happening in Western countries: a child is destroyed by the fear of having too many children and having to feed it or to educate it. I think they are the poorest people in the world, who do an act like that."

Mother Theresa


"The most urgent need today is not attention to material poverty. The real poverty in our society is intellectual. Students attend universities listen to professors, and come away intellectually poor, even when the university buildings and grounds are well ordered and charming. Thus, the alleviation of intellectual poverty is not something that can be solved with more money or new buildings. It is something that requires a transformation in the Soul."

James V. Schall

On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs


"That amid our highest civilization men faint and die with want is not due to the niggardliness of nature, but to the injustice of man."

Henry George

Progress and Poverty


"Hard as it may appear in individual cases, dependent poverty ought to be held disgraceful."

Thomas Robert Malthus


"He who know how to be poor knows everything."

Jules Michelet

History of the Revolution


"…As the centralized church-state drained away more wealth from the land and into city environments, and more wealth was wasted via the luxury living of the court and church elites, and endless war (one way to absorb and invert the intrastate revolutionary energy of a suppressed population is by using it up in interstate conflicts), there was of course more poverty. Poverty among large crowded city populations was disruptive of the ‘public tranquility; with crime, prostitution, and disease rampant. So, for the first time in history, the poverty problem was ‘solved’, in Europe, by blaming poverty on the poor…"

Monica Sjoo & Barbara Mor

The Greatest Cosmic Mother



"The Simplest plan, probably, where one is not a member of the Humane Society, is to put a little strychnine or arsenic in the meat and other supplies furnished the tramp. This produces death within a comparatively short period of time, is a warning to other tramps to keep out of the neighborhood, keeps the Coroner in good humor, and saves one's chickens and other portable property from constant destruction."

July 12,1877   Chicago Tribune

(This was at a time when the "Hoboes" were doing most of the hard seasonal labor i.e. cutting ice, harvesting wheat, cutting timber etc)


"Hundreds of this class flock to this country from New York and the adjoining State of Connecticut....These tramps are a source of great danger and great nuisance to our citizens....The expense, directly and indirectly, to the tax payers of this city, caused by this tramp raid, has reached the enormous sum of 75,000 dollars per year.

(In this same report the superintendents of the poor and asylums were instructed:

"To erect a building in a suitable place on the country farm, which shall be so situated and constructed that it can be flooded with water to the depth at least six feet, and so arranged with apartments and platforms that all persons committed as tramps and vagrants can be placed therein and thereon, and when the water is turned on to be compelled to bail or be submerged thereby."

(A Report from the supervisors of Westchester Country, New York,1886)



"The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty…All the other crimes are virtues beside it; all the other dishonors are chivalry itself by comparison. Poverty blights whole cities; spreads horrible pestilence; strikes at the soul of all of those who come with-in sight, sound or smell of it."

George Bernard Shaw


"Any ordinary city is in fact two cities, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich, each at war with the other; and in either division there are smaller ones-you would make a great mistake if you treated them as single states."


The Republic


"Whereas it has been known and declared that the poor have no right to the property of the rich, I wish it also to be known and declared that the rich have no right to the property of the poor."

John Ruskin


"You who have more than your share of the wealth of the world are rich at the cost of our suffering and poverty. That troubles you not at all: you have sophistries and to spare to reassure you: the sacred right of property, the fair struggle for life, the supreme interests of that Moloch, the State of Progress, that fabulous monster, that problematical Better for which men sacrifice the Good-the Good of other men. But for all that, the fact remains and all of your sophistries will never manage to deny it: ‘You have too much to live on. We have not enough.’"

Romain Rolland



"Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime."



"It is not poverty so much as pretence that harasses a ruined man – the struggle between a proud mind and an empty purse – the keeping up of a hollow show that must son come to an end."

Washington Irving


"Forgive us for pretending to care for the Poor, when we do not like poor people and do not want them in our homes."

United Presbyterian Church

Litany for Holy Communion (1968)


"The poor, by thinking unceasingly of money, reach the point of losing the spiritual advantages of non-possessing, thereby sinking as low as the rich."

E.M. Cioran


"The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty."

George Barnard Shaw


"We rush though heated garbage days with fear in morbid blood-raw eyes:

Mobs in cancerous slums…At noon. Angled faces in twisted Patterns of survival.

Ben Okri

Nigerian Poet


"The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but written off as trash. The twentieth –century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing."

John Berger


"For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."

Bible: New Testament Matthew 25:29


"Grant me the treasure of sublime poverty: permit the distinctive sign of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of you name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging."

St. Francis of Assisi


"In the 1100s, Peter Waldo of France, a wealthy man, was deeply affected by Jesus' words in Matthew 19:21:"If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." Waldo gave away his wealth and began preaching poverty and simplicity as the way to follow Christ. The wealthy and corrupt church of that day excommunicated him. Waldo attracted followers who organized themselves into a church with its own ministers. Attempting to go "back to the Bible," they rejected such nonbiblical teachings as purgatory, transubstantiation, and prayers for the dead. Calling themselves the "Poor in Spirit" (after Matt.5:3), they promoted high moral standards, and the movement-also known as the Waldensians-spread throughout Europe. The pope ordered a crusade against them, but they took refuge in remote places in Switzerland. Three hundred years later, they happily joined the Protestants."

1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible



"There’s no scandal like rags, nor any crime so shameful as poverty."

George Farquhar


"The most dramatic change in the third world will be the United States becoming a part of it. We are already well on our way. Many of our cities are indistinguishable, in large part, from Beirut. The manners, dress and games of our young people have a decidedly underdeveloped cast."

P.J. O’Rourke


"…from morning till night, we try to have the police cruise through our streets to stop beggary…but as soon as soldiers, commoners or the crowd notice the arrest of a beggar to bring him to the poorhouse, they riot, beat up our officers sometimes hurting them grievously and liberate the beggar. It has become almost impossible to get the poverty-police to take to the street…

Prussian Secretary of the Interior 1747


"Prose cannot do justice to a social organization set up to enlist people in their own destruction."

Ivan Illich


"The well-being or existing humanity, and the unfolding of it into this ultimate perfection, are both secured by that same beneficent, though severe discipline, to which the animate creation at large is subject; a discipline which is pitiless in the working out of good; a felicity-pursuing law which never swerves for the avoidance of partial and temporary suffering. The poverty of the incapable, the distresses that come upon the imprudent, the starvation of the idle, and those shouldering aside of the weak by the strong, which leave so many in shallows and in miseries,’ are the decrees of a large far-seeking benevolence."

Herbert Spencer


"Don’t say that you will never wear the beggar’s bag, nor go to prison."

(proverb of Russian Peasants)


The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization…The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty."

Martin Luther King Jr.

Where do we go from here; Chaos or Community?


"Do not scorn me ‘cause I’m poor.
you ne’er can tell! You ne’er can tell!
The world keeps turning like a wheel…
and yesterday a tower fell!

(gypsy song)


"This mighty mob of famished, diseased and filthy helots is getting dangerous, physically, morally, politically dangerous. The barriers which have kept them back are rotten and giving way, and it may do the state a mischief if it be not looked to in our time. Its fevers and its filth may spread to the homes of the wealthy; its lawless armies may sally forth and give us the taste of the lesson the mob has tried to teach now and again in Paris, when long years of neglect have done their work."

George Sims

How the Poor Live


"How much more repugnant is it to reason and to instinct that the strong should be overwhelmed by the feeble, ailing and unfit!

Arnold White

The Problems of a Great City


"Thus like Siamese twins joined at the hip, aid bureaucrats and their limousines are never far apart. Indeed, pomp and ceremony of just about every possible kind, gourmet dinners, and five-star hotels are integral components of the day-to-day existence of those employed by international organizations to solve the problems of global poverty. Whether they are from the United Nations Development Programme, or from the World Bank, few of the officials concerned see their costly addiction to the trappings of status and wealth as indication of deeply ingrained hypocrisy rather, they take their privileged lifestyles for granted as inalienable right, as self-evidently legitimate rewards for the ‘great sacrifices’ they somehow believe they are making."

Graham Hancock

Lords of Poverty


"In verity…we are the poor. This humanity we should claim for ourselves if the legacy, not only of the Enlightenment, but of the thousands and thousands of European peasants and poor townspeople who came here bringing their humanity and their sufferings with them. It is the absence of a stable upper class that is responsible for much of the vulgarity of the American scene. Should we blush before the visitor for this deficiency?"

Mary McCarthy (1912-89)

America the Beautiful Commentary NY Sept 1947


"In the country we cannot tarry, but must be their slaves and labor till our hearts burst, and then they must have all. And to go to the cities we have no hope, for there we hear that these insatiable beasts have all in their hands. Some have purchased, and some take by leases, whole alleys, whole rents, whole rows, yea, whole streets and lanes, so that the rents be raise, some double, some triple, and there is not so much as a garden ground free from them…What universal destruction chanceth to the noble realm by the outrageous and insatiable desire of the surveyors of lands."

A peasant’s plight England 1550


"Every room in these rotten and reeking tenements houses a family, often two. In one cellar a sanitary inspector reports finding a gather, mother, three children, and four pigs! In another room a missionary found a man ill with small-pox, his wife just recovering from her eighth confinement, and the children running abut half naked and covered with dirt. Here are seven people lying in one underground kitchen, and a little dead child lying in the same room. Elsewhere is a poor widow, her three children, and a child who had been dead thirteen days. Her husband, who was a cabman, had shortly before committee suicide. Here lives a widow and her six children, tow of them who are ill with scarlet fever. In another, none brothers and sisters, from 29 years of age downwards, live, eat and sleep together. Here is a mother who turns her children into the street in the early evening because she lets her room for immoral purposes until long after midnight, when the poor little wretches creep back again if they have not found some miserable shelter elsewhere. Where there are beds they are simply heaps of dirty rags, shavings or straw, but for the most part these miserable beings fid rest only upon the filthy boards. The tenant of this room is a widow, who herself occupies the only bed, and lets the floor to a married couple. In many cases matters are made worse by the unhealthy occupations followed by those who dwell in these habitations. Here you are choked as you enter by the air laden with the smell of paste and of drying match-boxes, mingling with other sickly odors, overpowers you; or it may be et fragrance of stale fish or vegetables, not sold on the previous day, and kept in the room overnight. Even when it is possible to do so the people seldom open the window, but if they did it is questionable whether much would be gained, for the external air is scarcely less heavily charge with poison than the atmosphere within."

Andrew Mearns

The Bitter Cry of Outcast London


"There is no power on earth to match the power of the poor, who, just by sitting in their hopelessness, can bring the rest of us down."

Bill O’Dwyer

(former Mayor of N.Y.)


"Poverty is the great enemy of human happiness. It destroys liberty, makes some virtues impractible, and all virtues extremely difficult."

Samuel Johnson


"This is how the game works: public money levied in taxes from the poor of the rich countries is transferred in the form of ‘Foreign Aid’ to the rich in the poor countries; the rich in the poor countries then hand it back for safe-keeping to the rich in the rich countries. The real trick, throughout this cycle of expropriation, is to maintain the pretence that it is the poor in poor countries who are being helped all along. The winner is the player who manages to keep a straight face while building up a billion dollar bank account."

Graham Hancock

Lords of Poverty


"You discover boredom and mean communications and the beginning’s of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty; the fact that it annihilates the future. Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have the less you worry. When you have a hundred francs in the world you are liable to the most craven panics. When you have only three francs you are quite indifferent, for three francs will feed you till tomorrow, and you cannot think further than that. You are not bored, but you are not afraid. You think vaguely, "I shall be starving in a day or two-shocking, isn’t it?’ And then the mind wanders to other topics. A bread and margarine diet does, to some extent, provides its own anodyne."

George Orwell

Down and Out in Paris and London


"Come away; poverty’s catching."

Aphra Behn


"Every man has a right to be poor."

Richard Jefferies


"Our affluent society contains those of talent and insight who are driven to prefer poverty, to choose it, rather than submit to the desolation of an empty abundance."

Michael Harrington


"The prevalent fear of poverty among the educated classes is the worst moral disease from which our civilization suffers."

William James



"It is easy enough to say that poverty is no crime. No; if it were men wouldn’t be ashamed of it. It is a blunder, though, and is punished as such. A poor man is despised the whole world over."

Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927)

Idle thoughts of an Idle Fellow On Being Hard Up


"What a devil art thou, Poverty! How many desires-how many aspirations after goodness and truth-how many noble thoughts, loving wishes toward our fellow, beautiful imaginings thou hast crushed under they heel, without remorse or pause!"

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Death of McDonald Clarke NY Aurora March 18, 1842


"Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them."

Mother Teresa


"Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is poverty. What is the matter with the Rich is Uselessness."

George Bernard Shaw


"Modern poverty is not the poverty that was blest in the Sermon on the Mount."

George Bernard Shaw


"Love loathes poverty and toil. It prefers to die rather than pinch and scrape."


History of the 13


"The private poor man hath cities, ships, canals, bridges, built for him. He goes to the post office, and the human race runs on his errands; to the book shop, and the human race read and write of all that happens for him to the court house, and nations repair his wrongs."



"After Calvin, people in Evangelical lands could still be poor, and most of them continued to be. But they could never again pretend they were proud of it."

T.R. Fehrenbach

The Swiss Banks


"What is rich? Are you rich enough to help anybody?"



"We need a better class of rich people."



"Yesterday’s poverty was less poor than the poverty handed down to us today by industrialism."

Jorge Luis Borges

Doctor Brodie’s Report


"Calvin argued salvation by the sweat of men’s brows, and that not only by their works but by their visible rewards you shall know the elect. Gold was God’s gift for pleasing work, of which man w a mere steward-not to spend, but to gather and husband. Men had no more right to squander gold, in Calvin’s eyes, than they had to refuse to work for it."

T.R. Fehrenbach

The Swiss Banks McGraw-Hill


"Napoleon thought that the greatest miracle in Christianity was that it kept the poor from murdering the rich."


"Where the conditions to which material progress everywhere tends are most fully realized-that is to say, where population is densest, wealth greatest, and the machinery of production and exchange most highly developed-we find the deepest poverty, the sharpest struggle for existence, and the most of enforced idleness."

Henry George (1879)

Progress and Poverty


"There is, and always has been, a widespread belief among the more comfortable classes that the poverty and suffering of the masses are due to their lack of industry, frugality, and intelligence. This belief, which at once soothes the sense of responsibility and flatters by its suggestion of superiority, is probably even more prevalent in countries like the United States, where all men are politically equal, and where, owing to the newness of society, the differentiation into classes has been of individuals rather than of families, than it is in older countries, where the lines of separation have been longer, and are more sharply, drawn It is but natural for those who can trace their own better circumstances to the superior industry and frugality that gave them a start, and the superior intelligence that enabled them to take advantage of every opportunity, to imagine that those who remain poor do so simply from lack of these qualities.

But whoever has grasped the laws of the distribution of wealth, as in previous chapters they have been traced out, will see the mistake in this notion. The fallacy is similar to that which would be involved in the assertion that every one of a number of competitors might win a race. That any one might is true; that every one might is impossible."

Henry George

Progress and Poverty


"Among us English-speaking peoples especially do the praises of poverty need once more to be boldly sung. We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise any one who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem his spiritless and lacking in ambition. We have lost the power even of imagining what the ancient idealization of poverty could have meant; the liberation from material attachments, the unbribed soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by what we are or do and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly, the more athletic trim, in short, the moral fighting shape. When we of the so called better classes are scared as men were never scared in history at material ugliness and hardship; when ewe put off marriage until our house can be artistic, and quake at the thought of having a child without a bank account and doomed to manual labor, it is time for thinking men to protest against so unmanly and irreligious a state of opinion."

William James

Varieties of Religious Experience


"Poverty loses most of its pangs when it loses its disgrace."

Chaim Weizmann

Trial and Error Harper Pub


"Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meager life than the poor. The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindu, Persian and Greek, were a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, none so rich in inward. We know not much about them. It is remarkable that we know so much of them as we do. The same is true of the more modern reformers and benefactors of their race. None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we shall call voluntary poverty."

Henry David Thoreau



"The present position which we, the educated and well-to-do classes occupy, is that of the Old Man of the Sea, riding on the poor man’s back; only, unlike the Old Man of the Sea, we are very sorry for the poor man, very sorry; and we will do almost anything for the poor man’s relief. We will not only supply him with food sufficient to keep him on his legs, but we will teach and instruct him and point out to him the beauties of the landscape; we will discourse sweet music to him and give him abundance of good advice. Yes, we will do almost anything for the poor man, anything but get off his back."

Leo Tolstoy


"Every effort, therefore, must be made that at least in the future a just share only of the fruits of production be permitted to accumulate in the hands of the wealthy, and that an ample sufficiency be supplied to the workingman."

Pope Pius XI


"The whole economic life has become hard, cruel and relentless in a ghastly measure and the State which should be the supreme arbiter ruling in kingly fashion for above all party contention has become instead a slave bound over to the services of human passion and greed"

Pope Pius XI


"The sacred law is violated by an irresponsible wealthy class, who, in the excess of the good fortune, deem it a just state of things that they should receive everything and the laboring class nothing."

Pope Pius XI


"It needs to be said that the poor are poor because they don’t have enough money."

Sir Keith Joseph


"In America we have socialism for the rich and ‘free enterprise’ for the poor."

Justice Douglas


"This practical wisdom in Jesus’ parable cannot be faulted. Through all history’s changes, the revolutions and counterrevolutions, the rise and fall of great ones, it has continued to be valid. Take, for instance, what he tells us about money; a key matter at all times and in all circumstances. In the first place, there is his statement that the poor are blessed. Today, this amounts to blasphemy. Set up in type, it will positively melt the lead; pronounced in television studio, it will cause a deathly hush, making the lights go out, the floor-manager drop dead, and the Director-General hurriedly issue an apology that so monstrous a perversion to truth should be uttered on the air. The poor blessed! How in God’s name can that be? It is a denial of our whole way of life; a contradiction of everything we believe in, of every single advertisement transmitted on every TV channel, or alluringly set forth in print and colour;of everything said by every single politician and demagogue, of the contentions of every party and ideology. All of these say: Get rich and be happy. Riches bring everything desirable-travel, speed, the delights of love and every human bliss. How beautiful are the bodies of the rich as they run, laughing, into the sea! Or as they sit at the wheel of a fast car, or look at one another’s perfection across a white tablecloth beside the blue Mediterranean, Gatsby-like in their whiteness and fragrance and freshness! Who in his senses could suppose that the opposite-poverty is to be preferred? Poverty, as Bernard Shaw vehemently insisted, is dirty, squalid, unmanicured and ungroomed; not just unblessed, but a fall from grace, a sinful condition imposed by a cruel and unjust social system. Yet Jesus dared to say that the poor were blessed, and what is more, through the centuries the choicest spirits have not just agreed with him, but often, in order to participate in this blessedness, embraced poverty themselves in its extremist form. As blissful as being naked on the naked earth as others are at being tucked up in newly laundered linen sheets; as joyous in their lack of possessions as others are in their yachts, their convertibles, their swimming pools."

Malcolm Muggeridge


"Last term I had to make the following remark to a room full of Christian undergraduates:-‘A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep in humility, thankfulness, and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely ‘higher’ state than one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride."

(extract from a letter written to Dom Bede Griffith

16 April 1940 by C.S. Lewis



see article "Nickle-and-Dimed ..On (not) getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich HARPERs

An array of celebrities, ranging from Madonna to Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama is supporting Jubilee 2000, a movement calling for the complete and unrestricted pardon of all foreign debts owned by the world’s poorest countries. Limited relief has won support from leaders of the U.S. Britain, and Germany and some bankers.



The Tyranny of Money

by Jeremy Seabrook

Absolute poverty has declined from 70% in 1960 to almost 30% today," says a television advertisement for CARE. But here is a problem with most definitions of poverty. It is common for humanitarians to cite the fact that there are 1 billion people in the world who live on less than a dollar a day. This fact is cited as proof of unspeakable deprivations.

But life with zero income does not have to be degrading if people can provide all their own needs for themselves. On the other hand, an income of $25,000 may be called poverty when all needs must be purchased, and the sum is insufficient for the purpose.

To re-create poverty in the image of the West-as a monetary sum, the absence of which means you are poor-is perhaps the most effective way of setting the whole world on the same developmental path, for it means that the norms of the market economy are being universalized. Once measures of wealth and poverty that depend on money have been accepted, the poor are condemned to an eternity of poverty.

In the market economy, people must learn how to be poor. What social reformers are really saying when they cite people living on less that a dollar a day, is that they were excluded from the market economy. The idea that this, in and of itself, is an index of poverty is the profound untruth that lies beneath all money-dominated statistics and measures of poverty.

Another way of looking at those who have not yet entered the market economy is to say that they remain free and independent of market-provided needs and commodities. So to declare a 40-percent reduction in the number of absolute poor, when you are really saying there has been such a reduction in the numbers living, surviving, existing comfortably outside the market system, is to create unnecessary confusion. This is the real scandal. All those still living outside the market economy give the lie to the totalizing thrust of globalization, the imperative of conforming to one particular way of answering need.

There is a word for this. It is tyranny. The struggle to establish the uncontested dominance of the world market has been the true locus of attack upon, not only the poor of the Earth, but all those whose way of life is a reproach to the market economy. The struggle has been a kind of low-intensity warfare. Its battle cry has been "development." Its weaponry has been money, its foot soldiers the high consuming middle class that has emerged in virtually every country.

At the same time, a distinctly more aggressive war has been carried on against those people who still occupy forests, coastal environments, subsistence farms, and riverbanks and whose resources-minerals, metals ,timber, fish, water-must be surrendered to the market. In the name of "brining these people into the 20th century," they have been systematically dispossessed, violently removed from ancestral lands. In India, in the 50 years since independence, 25 million people have been displaced for infrastructural or developmental projects.

The market offers instruction in being poor. First, it removes from individuals and groups of people the capacity to provide for their own needs and the needs of others, and it creates dependency. Second, the market teaches us about what we do not have. Through self-reliance we learn what we need, and that is surprisingly little; though the market we learn what we might get. In that sense, the market serves the growing self-consciousness of an industrialized humanity that must now understand that all the familiar artifacts and goods of traditional culture are actually junk, and that everything that is produced elsewhere has superior value, set by its monetary price. In this way, inferiorization, subordination, and dependency are the principal gifts of the market to self-reliance.

The market economy sets all humanity in a sad and circular dance, a chase of perpetual keeping up with an abstraction, the limitlessness of desire. All human societies have recognized the infinity of human desire, and hey have taught that wisdom lies in recognizing the impossibility of pursuit it."

Jeremy Seabrook, Third World Network Features (Independent news service ) Penang, Malaysia Sept, 1997


"Their heresy was a vigorous, popular offshoot of an extremely important religious movement that rent the Franciscan Order (and indeed the whole Christian world) for some two centuries after the death of the saint. St Francis, with the supreme fearlessness of a revolutionary, had put into practice his ideal of ‘evangelical poverty’, in his own life, and in the communities he founded. But after his death the Order split into two parties: the Spirituals, who uphold his tenets in their original severity, and the Conventuals, who sought to mitigate the austerity of the rule. The Spirituals defended their views with extreme selfless heroism; but they were outnumbered. It is very saddening to learn how these men who were guilty of nothing worse than voluntary destitution were hounded and persecuted, chained in dungeons for years on end, tortured and burnt at the stake before crowds of jeering friars of their own Order. Their original resistance centers were Tuscany and Provence; but their movement was broken in Provence by 1318 when four of their leaders were sent to the stake in Marseilles. Their ideas were however kept alive in this area, in vulgarized form, by the Beguins of the Third Order, ignorant violent people who inherited all their zeal with little of their enlightenment. But they too were heroic and died for their beliefs."

Dorothy Carrington



   To understand the immense power of Ideas once they have been transformed into a map of reality, let us consider the "insoluble" and "intractable" problem of poverty. According to the System, there are no known solutions. A New York Times reporter writes;

"If anyone knew for sure how to life people out of poverty, Americans would embrace the solution eagerly. It would make everyone's life safer and more prosperous. But no one does know, and no one has known since people first started thinking and talking about the problem in biblical times.'

   As a Los Angeles Times article puts it, this view "symbolizes the ascendancy of the perspective that affixes blame for poverty primarily to self-defeating and self-destructive behavior by the poor"-a problem beyond the power of society to remedy. Both Republicans and President Clinton apparently share the view that only moral renewal and "personal responsibility" can uplift the poor.

   This picture of reality should be compared with the view of Louis D. Brandeis, that poverty is caused by the concentration of wealth and disappearance of jobs engendered by giant corporations. In 1933, Senator Hugo L. Black proposed a thirty-hour workweek. Speaking of the nation's 12 million unemployed, Black asked, "Have we not taken away from them the security that comes from honest work and honest toil and an honest job?" Black pointed out that burdensome overwork is forced upon others at the same time that millions are deprived of any work at all. "The time is ripe for recognizing the fact that people, human beings, are the things that need to be protected in this country...."

   Today a similar senseless condition of overwork for some together with unemployment for others exists. Professor Juliet Schor, like Senator Black, sees no solution "without an equalization of the distribution of work itself. Today, this practical solution to poverty has simply been excluded from the prevailing map of reality. Instead of maldistribution of work, we are shown only a picture of people who are to blame for their own inability to find employment. Thus poverty becomes insoluble. The prevailing map of reality fails to show that there is a nationwide and indeed a world-wide crisis of unemployment. The very word "depression" has been eliminated from the economic vocabulary. In this area, as in so many others, ideology has become "reality."

Charles A. Reich

Opposing the System


"The feeling of poverty is bottomless; it cannot be satisfied by any amount of accumulation, possessions or achievement. There is no compensation for it. Any effort to kill desire by accumulation or achievement only stimulates greater ambition to achieve and possess. The situation is similar to the shipwrecked sailor on a raft who tries to quench his thirst by drinking sea water. The more he drinks the sooner he will die, as it only draws the existing water out of his bloodstream.

   On the other hand, the feeling of fullness is independent of what we have or don't have. It is such that we feel adequate in all situations, so that we do not need to get, achieve, grasp, steal, possess or take from anyone. We are in full contact with the world around us and function without a sense of strain. We are filled to capacity with the here-and-now. We seek nothing outside ourselves.

   Nothing can fill the void of the feeling of poverty because it is not based on lack; it is the shadow cast by habitual comparison and envy. Mirror, mirror in my hand, who is the fairest in the land? The feeling of poverty, then, does not arise from any realistic need we have. For this reason, it can never be compensated for by any real achievements on our part. While we are envious, the feeling of poverty continues, though we may be rich as kings.

   The feeling of fullness, or adequacy, on the other hand, exists when one's center-of-gravity is inside a person and he does not lean, depend on, or expect from, those around him. When one gives up comparing and seeking to enrich himself through others, he gives up seeking fulfillment outside himself. He makes no further efforts to extort happiness from others by using them for his satisfactions. When he is no longer tempted to turn outside himself to make others responsible for his own welfare, he finally comes to rest within himself."

Willard and Marguerite Beecher

Beyond Success and Failure: Ways to self-reliance and Maturity


Book: Pathologies of Power: Health: Human Rights, and The New War on the Poor" by Paul Farmer

Book: "Make a Difference: How  One Man Helped Solve America's Poverty Problem" by Gary MacDougal

Book: "Down & Out On The Road: The Homeless in American History" by Kenneth L. Kusner

Book: "The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy" by William Julius Wilson

Book: "Wealth, Poverty, and Human Destiny" ed by Doug Bandow & David L. Schindler

Book: "An Inquiry Into Well-Being and Destitution" by Partha Dasgupta

See" What Money Can’t Buy" by Susan Mayer…(Harvard University Press)

Book: "Ending Poverty as we Know it." by William P. Quigley

Book: "The Poverty of Riches: St. Francis of Assisi Reconsidered" by Kenneth Baxter Wolf

Book: "The Working Poor: Invisible in America" by David K. Shipler

U.N.: poor government, poor nations…by Barbara Crosette,NYT….Poverty caused by bad government…

© 2001



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