Quotations about:
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There are such things as to speak well, to speak easily, to speak correctly, and to speak seasonably. We offend against the last way of speaking if we mention a sumptuous entertainment we have just been present at before people who have not had enough to eat; if we boast of our good health before invalids; if we talk of our riches, our income, and our fine furniture to a man who has not so much as an income or a dwelling; in a word, if we speak of our prosperity before people who are wretched; such a conversation is too much for them, and the comparison which they then make between their condition and ours is very painful.

[Il y a parler bien, parler aisément, parler juste, parler à propos. C’est pécher contre ce dernier genre que de s’étendre sur un repas magnifique que l’on vient de faire, devant des gens qui sont réduits à épargner leur pain; de dire merveilles de sa santé devant des infirmes; d’entretenir de ses richesses, de ses revenus et de ses ameublements un homme qui n’a ni rentes ni domicile; en un mot, de parler de son bonheur devant des misérables: cette conversation est trop forte pour eux, et la comparaison qu’ils font alors de leur état au vôtre est odieuse.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 5 “Of Society and Conversation [De la Société et de la Conversation],” § 23 (5.23) (1688) [tr. Van Laun (1885)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Some men talk well, easily, justly, and to the purpose: those offend in the last kind, who speak of the Banquets they are to be at, before such as are reduc'd to spare their Bread; of sound Limbs, before the Infirm; of Demesnes and Revenues, before the Poor and Needy; of fine Houses and Furniture, before such as have neither Dwelling or Moveables: in a word, who speak of Prosperity, before the Miserable. This conversation is too strong for 'em, and the comparison you make between their condition and yours is odious.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

There is speaking well, speaking easily, speaking justly, and speaking seasonably: 'Tis transgressing the last rule, to speak ofthe sumptuous Entertainments you have made, before such as are reduc'd to want of Bread; of a healthy Constitution of Body, before the Infirm; of Demesnes, Revenues and Furniture, before a Man who has neither Dwelling, Rents, nor Movables; in a word, to speak of your Prosperity before the Miserable: this Conversation is too strong from them, and the Comparison they make between their Condition and yours is odious.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

There is speaking well, speaking easily, speaking justly, and speaking seasonably: It is offending against the last, to speak of Entertainments before the Indigent; of sound Limbs and Health before the Infirm; of Houses and Lands before one who has not so much as a Dwelling; in a Word, to speak of your Prosperity before the Miserable; this Conversation is cruel, and the Comparison which naturally rises in them betwixt their Condition and yours is excruciating.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

There is a difference between speaking well, speaking easily, speaking with judgement and speaking opportunely. We fail in this last respect when we enlarge upon the splendid meal we have just enjoyed in front of people who have to be thrifty of their bread; or boast of our health in the presence of invalids; or talk about our wealth, our fortune and property to a man who has neither home nor income; in a word, when we speak of our happiness in front of those who are wretched; such conversation is too painful for them, and the comparison they are bound to make between your state and their own is intolerable.
[tr. Stewart (1970)]

 
Added on 20-Feb-24 | Last updated 20-Feb-24
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More quotes by La Bruyere, Jean de

My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, in a small Mexican-American school. Few of them could speak English, and I couldn’t speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast, hungry. They knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them. But they knew it was so, because I saw it in their eyes. I often walked home late in the afternoon, after the classes were finished, wishing there was more that I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that it might help them against the hardships that lay ahead.
Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American politician, educator, US President (1963-69)
“The American Promise,” speech to a Joint Session of Congress [40:55] (1965-03-15)
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Added on 5-Jan-24 | Last updated 5-Jan-24
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Nature never said to me: Do not be poor; still less did she say: Be rich; her cry to me was always: Be independent.

[La Nature ne m’a point dit: ne sois point pauvre; encore moins: sois riche; mais elle me crie: sois indépendant.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 4, ¶ 281 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Nature has not said to me: Be not poor; still less: Be rich. But she cries out to me: Be independent.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

Nature did not say to me, “Do not be poor”; still less, “Be rich”; but she cried out to me, “Be independent.”
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Nature did not tell me, "Do not be poor"; still less did it say "Be rich"; but it does cry to me: "Be independent."
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Nature never urged me, "Be not poor," much less, "Be rich." Instead, she shouts: "Be independent."
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

Nature didn't tell me, "Don't be poor!"; and certainly didn't say: "Get rich!"; but she did shout: "Always be independent!"
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶174]

Nature didn't say to me "Never be poor."; still less "Be rich."; but it cried "Be independant."
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 18-Sep-23 | Last updated 18-Sep-23
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More ease than masters, servants lives afford:
Think on that, Tom; nor wish to be your lord.
On a coarse rug you most securely snore:
Deep sunk in down he counts each sleepless hour.
Anxious betimes to every statesman low
He bows; much lower than to him you bow.
Behold him with a dun at either ear,
“Pray, pay,” the word; a word you never hear.
Fear you a cudgel? view his gouty state;
Which he would change for many a broken pate.
You know no morning qualm; no costly whore:
Think then, though not a lord, that you are more.

[Quae mala sint domini, quae servi commoda, nescis,
Condyle, qui servum te gemis esse diu.
Dat tibi securos vilis tegeticula somnos,
Pervigil in pluma Gaius, ecce, iacet.
Gaius a prima tremebundus luce salutat
Tot dominos, at tu, Condyle, nec dominum.
‘Quod debes, Gai, redde’ inquit Phoebus et illinc
Cinnamus: hoc dicit, Condyle, nemo tibi.
Tortorem metuis? podagra cheragraque secatur
Gaius et mallet verbera mille pati.
Quod nec mane vomis nec cunnum, Condyle, lingis,
Non mavis, quam ter Gaius esse tuus?]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 9, epigram 92 (9.92) (AD 94) [tr. Hay (1755)]
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Masters often think themselves more put-upon than their lazy, "carefree" servants/slaves, as do the rich versus the poor. "To Condylus" (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

The weal of a servant, and woe of his lord,
Thou know'st not, who so long hast service abhorr'd.
Securest of slumbers thy coverlet crown:
Thy master, my Condyl, lies watching in down.
Lords many hails he, the chill morn just begun:
Thou own'st no such duty, saluting scarce one.
To him this and that wight: Pray, pay what you ow.
To thee not a mortal pretends to say so.
Thou feat'st but a flogging: he's rackt with the gout.
A thousand sound lashes he'd rather stand out.
Nor sick thou at morning, nor pale with disease:
Who's moire, prithee, thou or thy master at ease?
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 4, Part 2, ep. 35]

Of the troubles of a master, and the pleasures of a slave, Condylus, you are ignorant, when you lament that you have been a slave so long. A common rug gives you sleep free from all anxiety; Caius lies awake all night on his bed of down. Caius, from the first dawn of day, salutes with trembling a number of patrons; you, Condylus, salute not even your master. "Caius, pay what you owe me," cries Phoebus on the one side, and Cinnamus on the other; no one makes such a demand on you, Condylus. Do you fear the torturer? Caius is a martyr to the gout in his hands and feet, and would rather suffer a thousand floggings than endure its pains. You indulge neither gluttonous nor licentious propensities. Is not this preferable to being three times a Caius?
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

The lowliest cot will give thee powerful sleep,
While Caius tosses on his bed of down.
[ed. Harbottle (1897), 9.93.3]

What are a master's ills, what a slave's blessings you do not know, Condylus, who groan that you are so long a slave. Your common rush-mat affords you sleep untoubled; wakeful all night on down, see, Gaius lies! Gaius from early morn salutes trembling many masters; but you, Condylus, not even your master. "What you owe, Gaius, pay," says Phoebus, and after him Cinnamus: this no one Condylus says to you. Do you dread the torturer? By gout in food and hand Gaius is stabbed, and would choose instead to endure a thousand blows. You do not vomit in the morning, nor are you given to filthy vice, Condylus: do you not prefer this to being your Gaius three times over?
[tr. Ker (1919)]

"How easy live the free," you say, and brood
Upon your long but easy servitude.
See Gaius tossing on his downy bed;
Your sleep’s unbroken tho’ the couch be rude;
He pays his call ere chilly dawn be red,
You need not call on him, you sleep instead;
He’s deep in debt, hears many a summons grim
From creditors that you need never dread,
You might be tortured at your master’s whim;
Far worse the gout that racks his every limb;
Think of the morning qualms, his vicious moods.
Would you for thrice his freedom change with him?
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921), "True Servitude"]

Condylus, you lament that you have been so long a slave; you don't know a master's afflictions and a slave's advantages. A cheap little mat gives you carefree slumbers: there's Gaius lying awake all night on feathers. From daybreak on Gaius in fear and trembling salutes so many masters: but you, Condylus, do not salute even your own. "Gaius, pay me back what you owe," says Phoebus, and from yonder so says Cinnamus: nobody says that to you, Condylus. You fear the torturer? Gaius is cut by gout in foot and hand and would rather take a thousand lashes. You don't vomit of a morning or lick a cunt, Condylus; isn't that better than being your Gaius three times over?
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Never the pros & cons of "slave," or "master,"
can you, mourning long servitude, discern.
The cheapest matting yields you dreamless sleep;
Gaius's feather-bed keeps him awake.
From crack of down Gaius respectfully
greets many masters; yours goes ungreeted.
"Pay day, Gaius, pay!" says Phoebus. "Pay! Pay!"
chimes Cinnamus. What man speaks thus to you?
Screw & rack, you dread? Gaius' gout stabs so
he'ld far prefer the thumbscrew or the rack.
You've no hangover habit, oral sex:
is not one life of yours worth three of his?
[tr. Whigham (2001)]

 
Added on 15-Sep-23 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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The poor have little, beggars none, the rich too much, enough not one.

Franklin - The poor have little, Beggars none, The rich too much, Enough, none - wist.info quote

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
Poor Richard (1733)
    (Source)

Repeated in Poor Richards (1740).
 
Added on 25-Jul-23 | Last updated 25-Jul-23
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Art followed hard on art. Toil triumphed over every obstacle, unrelenting Toil, and Want that pinches when life is hard.

[Tum variae venere artes. Labor omnia vicit
inprobus et duris urgens in rebus egestas.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
Georgics [Georgica], Book 1, l. 145ff (1.145) (29 BC) [tr. Fairclough (Loeb) (1916)]
    (Source)

On humanity developing the arts and sciences in response to Jove making life difficult.

Compare this to Labor omnia vincit ("Work conquers all"), Oklahoma's state motto.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Then came strange arts, fierce labor all subdues.
Inforc'd by bold Necessity, and Want.
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

And various Arts in order did succeed,
(What cannot endless Labour urg'd by need?)
[tr. Dryden (1709), ll. 217-218]

Thus by long labour arts to arts succeed,
Such is the force of all-compelling need.
[tr. Nevile (1767)]

Thus rous'd by varied wants new arts arose,
And strenuous Labour triumph'd at its close.
[tr. Sotheby (1800)]

Then various arts ensued. Incessant labour and want, in hardships pressing, surmounted every obstacle.
[tr. Davidson (1854)]

Then came the various arts: oh, grand success
Of reckless toil and resolute distress!
[tr. Blackmore (1871)]

Then came the various arts of life. So toil, relentless toil, and the pressure of want in adversity, conquered the world. [tr. Wilkins (1873)]

Then divers arts arose; toil conquered all,
Remorseless toil, and poverty's shrewd push
In times of hardship.
[tr. Rhoades (1881)]

Thus stern Necessity inventive tried
Fresh arts, which life’s increasing wants supplied.
[tr. King (1882)]

Then various arts followed. Unwearying labor overcame every difficulty, and want spurring men on in times of hardship.
[tr. Bryce (1897)]

Then arts many in sort; nothing but yielded to unrelenting toil and the hard pressure of poverty.
[tr. Mackail (1899)]

Then divers arts arose; toil conquered all,
Remorseless toil, and poverty's shrewd push
In times of hardship.
[tr. Greenough (1900)]

Then followed manifold arts: unflinching toil ever one
Triumphs: in hardship's school stern need still drave men on.
[tr. Way (1912)]

Then later times
Brought forth of other arts the varied skill.
Work conquered all, relentless, obstinate,
While poverty and hardship urged it on.
[tr. Williams (1915)]

Then numerous arts arose. Yes, unremitting labour
And harsh necessity's hand will master anything.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1940)]

Then followed all the civilizing arts:
Hard labor conquered all, and pinching need.
[tr. Bovie (1956)]

Then all kinds of skills came into being. Toil has overcome all things, runious toil and need, pressing in harsh circumstances.
[tr. Miles (1980)]

And last the various arts.
Toil mastered everything, relentless toil
And the pressure of pinching poverty.
[tr. Wilkinson (1982)]

Then came the various arts. Hard labour conquered all,
and poverty’s oppression in harsh times.
[tr. Kline (2001)] https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/VirgilGeorgicsI.php#anchor_Toc533589845:~:text=then%20came%20the,in%20harsh%20times.

Then came the arts in many guises. Relentless work conquered
all difficulties -- work and urgent need when times were hard.
[tr. Lembke (2004)]

All this before the knowledge and know-how which ensued. Hard work prevailed, hard work and pressing poverty.
[tr. Fallon (2006)]

And then myriad arts. Toil subdued the earth, relentless toil, and the prick of dearth in hardship.
[tr. Johnson (2009)]

Then followed other arts; and everything
Was toil, relentless toil, urged on by need.
[tr. Ferry (2015)]

 
Added on 12-Jul-23 | Last updated 25-Oct-23
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You can be young without money but you can’t be old without it. You’ve got to be old with money because to be old without it is just too awful, you’ve got to be one or the other, either young or with money, you can’t be old and without it.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) American playwright
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Act 1 [Margaret] (1955)
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Added on 12-Jul-23 | Last updated 12-Jul-23
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All Doctors should make enough out of those who are well able to pay, to be able to do all work for the poor free. That is one thing that a poor person should never be even expected to pay for is medical attention, and not from an organized Charity, but from our best Doctors. But your Doctor bill should be paid like your Income tax, according to what you have. There’s nothing that keeps poor people poor as much as paying Doctor bills.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Weekly Article” column (1930-07-13)
    (Source)
 
Added on 6-Jul-23 | Last updated 6-Jul-23
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Money poisons you when you’ve got it, and starves you when you haven’t.

David Herbert "D. H." Lawrence (1885-1930) English novelist
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, ch. 19 [Mellors] (1928)
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Added on 14-Jun-23 | Last updated 14-Jun-23
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You don’t seem to realize that a poor person who is unhappy is in a better position than a rich person who is unhappy. Because the poor person has hope. He thinks money would help. I tell you there is no despair like the despair of the man who has everything.

Jean Kerr (1922-2003) American author and playwright [b. Bridget Jean Collins]
Poor Richard, Act 1 [Sydney] (1963)
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Added on 7-Jun-23 | Last updated 7-Jun-23
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Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man’s greatest source of joy. And with death as his greatest source of anxiety.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
The Age of Anxiety, ch. 6 “The Rise and Fall of Money” (1977)
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Added on 24-May-23 | Last updated 24-May-23
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People feel shameful to be poor and underprivileged in a well-run country. You should feel shameful if you are rich and aristocratic in a decadent and corrupt country.

[邦有道、貧且賤焉、恥也、邦無道、富且貴焉、恥也。]

Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [論語, 论语, Lúnyǔ], Book 8, verse 13, sec. 3 (8.13.3) (6th C. BC – AD 3rd C.) [tr. Li (2020)]
    (Source)

Brooks (below) says that this analect was added into Book 8 at the time of Book 14 being produced.

(Source (Chinese)). Alternate translations:

When a country is well-governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill-governed, riches and honour are things to be ashamed of.
[tr. Legge (1861)]

Under a good government it will be a disgrace to him if he remain in poverty and low estate; under a bad one it would be equally disgraceful to him to hold riches and honours.
[tr. Jennings (1895)]

When there is justice and order in the government of his own country, he should be ashamed to be poor and without honour; but when there is no justice in the government of his own country he should be ashamed to be rich and honoured.
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898)]

When law and order prevail in his State, he is ashamed to be needy and of no account. When law and order fail, he is ashamed to be in affluence and honour.
[tr. Soothill (1910)]

When a state is functioning, poverty and meanness are shameful; when a state is in chaos (ill governed) riches and honours are shameful. [Let us say: under a corrupt government.]
[tr. Pound (1933)]

When the Way prevails in your own land, count it a disgrace to be needy and obscure; when the Way does not prevail in your land, then count it a disgrace to be rich and honoured.
[tr. Waley (1938)]

If a state is following The Right Way, it is a disgrace to be in poverty and a low estate therein; if not, it is a disgrace to be rich and honored therein.
[tr. Ware (1950)]

It is a shameful matter to be poor and humble when the Way prevails in the state. Equally, it is a shameful matter to be rich and noble when the Way falls into disuse in the state.
[tr. Lau (1979)]

When the Way prevails in your own state, to be made poor and obscure by it is a disgrace; but when teh Way does not prevail in your own state, to be made rich and honourable by it is a disgrace.
[tr. Dawson (1993)]

In a country where the Way prevails, it is shameful to remain poor and obscure; in a country which has lost the Way, it is shameful to become rich and honored.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

When the state possesses the Way and you are poor and lowly, it is a shame; when the state loses the Way and you are rich and noble, it is also a shame.
[tr. Huang (1997)]

If the country is on the right way, it is the shame to be poor and low; If the country is not on the right way, it is the shame to be rich and honor.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), #201]

It is a disgrace to remain poor and without rank when the way prevails in the state; it is a disgrace to be wealthy and of noble rank when it does not.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

When the state has the Way, to be poor and humble in it is shameful; when the state has not the Way, to be wealthy and honored in it is shameful.
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998)]

When the Way rules in your country, there's shame in poverty and obscurity; when the Way's lost in your country, there's shame in wealth and renown.
[tr. Hinton (1998)]

In a state that has the Way, to be poor and of low status is a cause for shame; in a state that is without the Way, to be wealthy and honored is equally a cause for shame.
[tr. Slingerland (2003)]

When the state follows the Way, being poor and lowly is a cause for shame. When the state is without the Way, being rich and eminent is a cause for shame.
[tr. Watson (2007)]

When the moral way prevails in a state, being poor and lowly is a cause for shame. When the moral way does not prevail in the world, having wealth and position is a cause for shame.
[tr. Chin (2014)]

 
Added on 15-May-23 | Last updated 15-May-23
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Again we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that Capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that Capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves, and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white, both here and abroad.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“The Three Evils,” Keynote Speech, National Conference for New Politics, Chicago (31 Aug 1967)
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Added on 7-Mar-23 | Last updated 7-Mar-23
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The great question for our time is, how to make sure that the continuing scientific revolution brings benefits to everybody rather than widening the gap between rich and poor. To lift up poor countries, and poor people in rich countries, from poverty, to give them a chance of a decent life, technology is not enough. Technology must be guided and driven by ethics if it is to do more than provide new toys for the rich.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
“Progress in Religion,” Templeton Prize acceptance speech, Washington National Cathedral (9 May 2000)
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Added on 20-Feb-23 | Last updated 20-Feb-23
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A poor man defended himself when charged with stealing food to appease the cravings of hunger, saying, the cries of the stomach silenced those of the conscience.

Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849) Irish novelist [Lady Blessington, b. Margaret Power]
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Quoted, without citation, in R. R. Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, Vol. 1 (1855).
 
Added on 20-Dec-22 | Last updated 20-Dec-22
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‘Tis unbecoming not to shed a tear
Over the wretched; he too is devoid
Of virtue, who abounds in wealth, yet scruples
Thro’ sordid avarice to relieve their wants.

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Antiope [Αντιοπη], frag. (c. 410 BC) [tr. Wodhall (1809)]
    (Source)

Barnes frag. 62, Musgrave frag. 40.
 
Added on 22-Nov-22 | Last updated 22-Nov-22
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What is at issue here is relative poverty, not absolute poverty. Inferiority is a relative concept. When everyone is poor together, there is no shame in being poor. As Marx said, it is not living in a hovel that causes people to feel ashamed, it is living in a hovel next to a palace. And as he also said, shame is the emotion of revolution, i.e. of violence. But one does not have to be a Marxist, or subscribe to everything he said (and I do not), in order to see how correct his insight was.

James Gilligan (b. c. 1936) American psychiatrist and author
Preventing Violence, ch. 5 (2001)
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Added on 2-Aug-22 | Last updated 2-Aug-22
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It’s simply a national acknowledgement that in any kind of priority, the needs of human beings must come first. Poverty is here and now. Hunger is here and now. Racial tension is here and now. Pollution is here and now. These are the things that scream for a response. And if we don’t listen to that scream — and if we don’t respond to it — we may well wind up sitting amidst our own rubble, looking for the truck that hit us — or the bomb that pulverized us. Get the license number of whatever it was that destroyed the dream. And I think we will find that the vehicle was registered in our own name.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Commencement Address, University of Southern California (17 Mar 1970)
    (Source)

In Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling, ch. 28 (2013).
 
Added on 12-Jul-22 | Last updated 12-Jul-22
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There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Griffin v. Illinois, 351 US 12, 19 (1956) [majority opinion]
    (Source)

On the Constitutional requirement for states to ensure not only that trial defense is available to poor defendants, but that appeals costs be addressed as well.
 
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“Some people say we shouldn’t give alms to the poor, Shirley.”

“They are great fools for their pains. For those who are not hungry, it is easy to palaver about the degradation of charity, and so on; but they forget the brevity of life, as well as its bitterness. We have none of us long to live: let us help each other through seasons of want and woe, as well as we can, without heeding in the least the scruples of vain philosophy.”

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Shirley, ch. 14 [Lina and Shirley] (1849)
    (Source)
 
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No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

Nye Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan (1897-1960) Welsh politician
In Place of Fear (1952)

Bevan was the key politician responsible for the 1946 founding of the UK's National Health Service.
 
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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. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4: The Puritan Movement, sec. 4 “The New Medicine for Poverty” (1926)
    (Source)

Originally delivered as Holland Lectures, Kings College (Feb-Mar 1922).
 
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For my part, I prefer a man without money to money without a man.

[Ego vero, malo virum, qui pecunia egeat, quam pecuniam, quae viro.]

Themistocles (c. 524-459 BC) Athenian politician and general
Quoted in Cicero, De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 2, ch. 20 / sec. 71 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
    (Source)

Original Latin (of Cicero). When asked whether he would choose for his daughter a poor but honest husband or a wealthy but disreputable one.

Alternate translations:

  • "I had rather have a man without an estate, than to have an estate without a man." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
  • "I would rather have a man without money, than money without a man." [tr. McCartney (1798)]
  • "I certainly would rather she married a man without money, than money without a man." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
  • "I, indeed, prefer the man who lacks money to the money that lacks a man." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
The comment is also recorded in Plutarch, Parallel Lives, "Themistocles," ch. 18, sec. 5 [tr. Dryden (1653), rev. Clough (1859)]:

Of two who made love to his daughter, he preferred the man of worth to the one who was rich, saying he desired a man without riches, rather than riches without a man.

Original Greek: τῶν δὲ μνωμένων αὐτοῦ τὴν θυγατέρα τὸν ἐπιεικῆ τοῦ πλουσίου προκρίνας ἔφη ζητεῖν ἄνδρα χρημάτων δεόμενον μᾶλλον ἢ χρήματα ἀνδρός.

Alternate translations:

  • "When two men paid their addresses to his daughter, he chose the more agreeable instead of the richer of the two, saying that he preferred a man without money to money without a man." [tr. Stewart/Long (1894)]
  • "Of two suitors for his daughter's hand, he chose the likely man in preference to the rich man, saying that he wanted a man without money rather than money without a man." [tr. Perrin (1914)]
 
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If all men were rich, all men would be poor.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Noteook (1935 ed) [ed. Paine]
    (Source)
 
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Where some possess much, and the others nothing, there may arise an extreme democracy, or a pure oligarchy; or a tyranny may grow out of either extreme.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 4, ch. 11 / 1296a.1-3 [tr. Jowett (1885)]
    (Source)

Alternate translations:

  • "When some possess too much, and others nothing at all, the government must either be in the hands of the meanest rabble or else a pure oligarchy; or, from the excesses of both, a tyranny." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "Where some own a very great deal of property and others none there comes about either an extreme democracy or an unmixed oligarchy, or a tyranny may result from both of the two extremes." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "Where some possess very many things and others nothing, either rule of the people in its extreme form must come into being, or unmixed oligarchy, or -- as a result of both of these excesses -- tyranny." [tr. Reeve (2007)]
  • "Where some people are very wealthy and others have nothing, the result will be either extreme democracy or absolute oligarchy, or despotism will come from either of those excesses."
 
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It is also advantageous for a tyranny that all those who are under it should be oppressed with poverty, that they may not be able to compose a guard; and that, being employed in procuring their daily bread, they may have no leisure to conspire against their tyrants.

[καὶ τὸ πένητας ποιεῖν τοὺς ἀρχομένους τυραννικόν, ὅπως μήτε φυλακὴ τρέφηται καὶ πρὸς τῷ καθ᾽ ἡμέραν ὄντες ἄσχολοι ὦσιν ἐπιβουλεύειν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 5, ch. 11 / 1313b.16 [tr. Ellis (1912)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "Also he should impoverish his subjects; he thus provides against the maintenance of a guard by the citizen and the people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring." [tr. Jowett (1885)]

  • "And it is a device of tyranny to make the subjects poor, so that a guard may not be kept, and also that the people being busy with their daily affairs may not have leisure to plot against their ruler." [tr. Rackham (1932)]

  • "It is also a feature of tyranny to make the ruled poor, so that they cannot sustain their own defense, and are so occupied with their daily needs that they lack the leisure to conspire." [tr. Lord (1984)]

  • "It is also in the interests of a tyrant to make his subjects poor, so that he may be able to afford the cost of his bodyguard, while the people are so occupied with their daily tasks that they have no time for plotting."

 
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The evangelist was preaching “sin and redemption,” the infinite grace of God and His pardon for human frailty. He was very much in earnest, and he meant well, but Jurgis, as he listened, found his soul filled with hatred. What did he know about sin and suffering — with his smooth, black coat and his neatly starched collar, his body warm, and his belly full, and money in his pocket — and lecturing men who were struggling for their lives, men at the death grapple with the demon powers of hunger and cold! — This, of course, was unfair; but Jurgis felt that these men were out of touch with the life they discussed, that they were unfitted to solve its problems; nay, they themselves were part of the problem — they were part of the order established that was crushing men down and beating them! They were of the triumphant and insolent possessors; they had a hall, and a fire, and food and clothing and money, and so they might preach to hungry men, and the hungry men must be humble and listen! They were trying to save their souls — and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Jungle, ch. 23 (1906)
    (Source)
 
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Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,

But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I could at the same time assume every blessing.

The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can’t cure,

Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.

Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won’t buy, but it’s very funny —

Have you ever tried to buy them without money?

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“The Terrible People,” New Yorker (11 Feb 1933)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Many Long Years Ago (1945).
 
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Money helps, though not so much as you think when you don’t have it.

Louise Erdrich (b. 1954) American author, poet
“Insulation,” The Bingo Palace (1994)
 
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You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
East of Eden, ch. 1 (1952)
    (Source)
 
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A rich man cannot enjoy a sound mind nor a sound body without exercise and abstinence; and yet these are truly the worst ingredients of poverty.

Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782) Scottish jurist, agriculturalist, philosopher, writer
Introduction to the Art of Thinking, ch. 2 (1761)
    (Source)
 
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Jesus Christ chose to be born of poor and humble parents, in a land remote from the centre of political or intellectual influence, and in the circle of labouring men. He chose to belong to the class of the respectable artisan, and most of the twelve Apostles came from the same social level. In His teaching He plainly associated blessedness with the lot of poverty, and extreme danger with the lot of wealth. All through the New Testament the assumption is that God is on the side of the poor against the rich. As Jowett once said, there is more in the New Testament against being rich, and in favour of being poor, than we like to recognise.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Bishop Gore and the Church of England,” Edinburgh Review (Jan 1908)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Outspoken Essays: First Series (1911).
 
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Oh dear, I’m feeling political today. It’s just that it’s dawned on me that “zero tolerance” only seems to mean putting extra police in poor, run-down areas, and not in the Stock Exchange.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (11 Jan 1997)
    (Source)
 
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You have oppressed the poor and robbed them of their grain. And so you will not live in the fine stone houses you build or drink wine from the beautiful vineyards you plant. I know how terrible your sins are and how many crimes you have committed. You persecute good people, take bribes, and prevent the poor from getting justice in the courts. And so, keeping quiet in such evil times is the smart thing to do! Make it your aim to do what is right, not what is evil, so that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty really will be with you, as you claim he is.

The Bible (The Old Testament) (14th - 2nd C BC) Judeo-Christian sacred scripture [Tanakh, Hebrew Bible], incl. the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals)
Amos 5:11-14 [GNT (1976)]
    (Source)

Alternate translations:

Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
[KJV (1611)]

Well then, since you have trampled on the poor man, extorting levies on his wheat -- those houses you have built of dressed stone, you will never live in them; and those precious vineyards you have planted, you will never drink their wine. For I know that your crimes are many, and your sins enormous: persecutors of the virtuous, blackmailers, turning away the needy at the city gate. No wonder the prudent man keeps silent, the times are so evil. Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and that Yahweh, God of Sabaoth, may really be with you as you claim he is.
[JB (1966)]

Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins -- you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.
[NRSV (1989 ed.)]

Assuredly,
Because you impose a tax on the poor
And exact from them a levy of grain,
You have built houses of hewn stone,
But you shall not live in them;
You have planted delightful vineyards,
But shall not drink their wine.
For I have noted how many are your crimes,
And how countless your sins --
You enemies of the righteous,
You takers of bribes,
You who subvert in the gate
The cause of the needy!
Assuredly,
At such a time the prudent keep silent,
For it is an evil time.
Seek good and not evil,
That you may live,
And that the ETERNAL, the God of Hosts,
May truly be with you,
As you think.
[RJPS (2006)]

 
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So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age — the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing children by physical and spiritual night — are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Preface (1862)
    (Source)
 
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While we are poor, the necessarys ov life are the luxurys; after we git ritch, the luxurys are the necessarys.

[While we are poor, the necessaries of life are the luxuries; after we get rich, the luxuries are the necessaries.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist, aphorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
    (Source)
 
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Negroes are not the only poor in the nation. There are nearly twice as many white poor as Negro, and therefore the struggle against poverty is not involved solely with color or racial discrimination but with elementary economic justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
Speech to Shop Stewards, Local 815, Teamsters and the Allied Trades Council, New York City (2 May 1967)
    (Source)
 
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Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

The Bible (The Old Testament) (14th - 2nd C BC) Judeo-Christian sacred scripture [Tanakh, Hebrew Bible], incl. the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals)
Proverbs 31:8-9 [NRSV]
    (Source)

  • KJV: "Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy."
  • GNT: "Speak up for people who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless. Speak for them and be a righteous judge. Protect the rights of the poor and needy."
 
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Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) American union leader, activist, socialist, politician
Statement to the Court (1918-09-18)
    (Source)

On being convicted of sedition for urging resistance to the draft. Often paraphrased:

As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
 
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What do you suppose makes all men look back to the time of childhood with so much regret (if their childhood has been, in any moderate degree, healthy or peaceful)? That rich charm, which the least possession had for us, was in consequence of the poorness of our treasures. That miraculous aspect of the nature around us, was because we had seen little, and knew less. Each increased possession loads us with a new weariness; every piece of new knowledge diminishes the faculty of admiration; and Death is at last appointed to take us from a scene in which, if we were to stay longer, no gift could satisfy us, and no miracle surprise.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Eagle’s Nest, Lecture 5 “The Power of Contentment in Science and Art,” Sec. 82 (22 Feb 1872)
    (Source)
 
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If you’re poor now, my friend, then you’ll stay poor.
These days only the rich get given more.

[Semper eris pauper, si pauper es, Aemiliane;
Dantur opes nulli nunc, nisi divitibus.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, epigram 81 (5.81) (AD 90) [tr. Michie (1972)]
    (Source)

"To Aemilianus." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Faile yee of wealth, of wealthy ye still will faile,
None but fat sowes are now greaz'd in the taile.
[tr. Davison (1602), "To All Poore Schollers"]

If thou be poore, thou shalt be ever so;
None now do wealth, but on the rich, bestowe.
[tr. May (1629)]

If thou are poor, Æmilian,
Thou shalt be ever so,
For no man now his presents can
But on the rich bestow.
[tr. Fletcher (1656)]

You want, Æmilianus, so you may;
Riches are given rich men, and none but they.
[tr. Wright (1663)]

Once poor, my friend, still poor you must remain,
The rich alone have all the means of gain.
[tr. Edward Cave, Rambler # 166 (19 Oct 1751); sometimes attributed to publisher Samuel Johnson]

Poor once and poor for ever, Nat, I fear;
None but the rich get place and pension here.
[tr. Halhed (1793)]

If you are poor now, Æmilianus, you will always be poor.
Riches are now given to none but the rich.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

If poor you are, poor you will always be,
For wealth’s now given to none but to the rich.
[ed. Harbottle (1897)]

You will always be poor, if you are poor, Aemilianus.
Wealth is given today to none save the rich.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Gold only draws to gold, so it is plain,
If you are poor, that poor you will remain.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

Poor if you are, my friend,
Poor will you always be.
Money gets money today;
Poverty, poverty.
[tr. Marcellino (1968)]

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days only the rich get given more.
[tr. Michie (1972)]

You will always be poor if you are poor, Aemilianus. Nowadays wealth is given only to the rich.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

You're cursed by poverty? But they tell me you're "blessed."
While the rich get richer ... you know the rest.
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

Aemilianus, you’ll always be poor if you’re poor.
These days they only give wealth to the rich.
[tr. Klein (2006)]

Vainly the poor extend their palms.
Only the rich are given alms.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

If you're a poor man now, Amos,
a poor man you'll remain.
Riches are only given only
to rich men.
[tr. Kennelly (2008)]

You will always be poor, Aemilianus, if you are poor;
nowadays wealth comes to no one but the rich.
[tr. @sentantiq (2012)]

If poor, Aemilianus, poor you'll stay.
None but the rich get wealthier today.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

 
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It’s a funny thing, the less people have to live for, the less nerve they have to risk losing — nothing.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Moses, Man of the Mountain, ch. 2 (1939)
    (Source)
 
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Good government is known from bad government by this infallible test: that under the former the labouring people are well fed and well clothed, and under the latter, they are badly fed and badly clothed.

William Cobbett (1763-1835) English politician, agriculturist, journalist, pamphleteer
Cobbett’s Political Register, Vol. 46 (31 May 1823)
    (Source)
 
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The murmuring poor, who will not fast in peace.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
“The Newspaper,” l. 158 (1785)
    (Source)
 
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Where Plenty smiles — alas! she smiles for few,
And those who taste not, yet behold her store,
Are as the slaves that dig the golden ore,
The wealth around them makes them doubly poor.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
The Village, Book 1, line 136 (1783)
    (Source)
 
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Ability is a poor man’s wealth.

Matthew Wren (1585-1667) English clergyman, bishop, scholar
(Attributed)

First found in Day's Collacon (1884).
 
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The poverty of goods is easily cured; the poverty of the soul is irreparable.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 3, ch. 10 “Of Managing the Will” (1588) [tr. Cotton (1877)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Poverty of possessions may easily be cured, but poverty of soul never."
 
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She ate her trifle, reflecting that grinding poverty, though loathsome while one is in it, has the advantage of making one enjoy money in a way denied to the rich-from-birth.

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Flying Too High, ch. 2 (1990)
    (Source)
 
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To be poor and independent, is very nearly an impossibility.

William Cobbett (1763-1835) English politician, agriculturist, journalist, pamphleteer
Advice to Young Men and (Incidentally) to Young Women, Letter 2, #54 (1829)
    (Source)
 
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“I hope that you did not give him anything, Mr Sanderson!”

“Of course I did, ma’am.”

“But he would only spend it on drink! You know what the working classes are!”

“Indeed, ma’am, and why should he not spend it on drink? Would you deprive the poor, whose lives are bad and miserable and comfortless enough, of the solace of a little relief from grinding poverty? A sordid, sodden relief perhaps, but would you be so heartless as to deny the poor even that pleasure in which all of us indulge at your generous expense?”

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Cocaine Blues (1989)
    (Source)
 
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You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

William J. H. Boetcker (1873-1962) German-American religious leader, author, public speaker [William John Henry Boetcker]
“The Industrial Decalogue” (1916)

Often referred to as "The Ten Cannots," and also often misattributed to Abraham Lincoln.
 
Added on 14-Mar-17 | Last updated 14-Mar-17
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In the Feejee islands, it appears, cannibalism is now familiar. They eat their own wives and children. We only devour widows’ houses, & great merchants outwit & absorb the substance of small ones and every man feeds on his neighbor’s labor if he can. It is a milder form of cannibalism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1841-02-12)
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Added on 27-Feb-17 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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The rich rob the poor, and the poor rob each other.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) American abolitionist, women's rights activist [b. Isabella Baumfree]
(Attributed)

Variations: "Truly, here the rich rob the poor and the poor rob each other," "Our rich rob the poor, and the poor rob each other."
 
Added on 24-Feb-17 | Last updated 24-Feb-17
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Yet somehow our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) American writer
My Several Worlds, Part 4 (1954)
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Added on 6-Feb-17 | Last updated 6-Jul-22
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Economic privation proceeds by easy stages, and so long as men suffer it patiently the outside world cares little.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
The Economic Consequences of the Peace, ch. 6 (1919)
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Added on 17-Jan-17 | Last updated 17-Jan-17
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