Quotations about:
    poverty


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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)
    (Source)
 
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.
 
Added on 16-Jun-22 | Last updated 2-Feb-23
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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)
 
Added on 8-Apr-22 | Last updated 8-Apr-22
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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.
 
Added on 14-Sep-21 | Last updated 14-Sep-21
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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).
 
Added on 30-Mar-21 | Last updated 30-Mar-21
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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)]
 
Added on 29-Mar-21 | Last updated 29-Mar-21
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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)
 
Added on 9-Mar-21 | Last updated 9-Mar-21
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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."
 
Added on 19-Feb-21 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
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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."

 
Added on 5-Feb-21 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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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)
 
Added on 15-Oct-20 | Last updated 15-Oct-20
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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).
 
Added on 9-Oct-20 | Last updated 9-Oct-20
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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)
 
Added on 10-Aug-20 | Last updated 10-Aug-20
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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)
 
Added on 13-Jul-20 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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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)
 
Added on 15-May-20 | Last updated 15-May-20
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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).
 
Added on 4-May-20 | Last updated 4-May-20
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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)
 
Added on 24-Apr-20 | Last updated 24-Apr-20
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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.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Amos 5:11-14
    (Source)

Alt trans.:
  • [NRSV] "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."
  • [GNT] "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."
  • [TJB] "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."
 
Added on 18-Feb-20 | Last updated 18-Feb-20
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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)
 
Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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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 [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
    (Source)
 
Added on 9-Jun-19 | Last updated 9-Jun-19
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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)
 
Added on 31-May-19 | Last updated 31-May-19
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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 (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
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."
 
Added on 23-Apr-19 | Last updated 23-Apr-19
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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 (18 Sep 1918)
    (Source)

On being convicted of Sedition. 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."
 
Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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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)
 
Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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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.]

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

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)]

 
Added on 13-Dec-17 | Last updated 20-Jan-23
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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)
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Added on 18-Oct-17 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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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)
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Added on 17-Oct-17 | Last updated 17-Oct-17
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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)
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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)
 
Added on 2-Oct-17 | Last updated 2-Oct-17
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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).
 
Added on 11-Sep-17 | Last updated 11-Sep-17
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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."
 
Added on 1-Aug-17 | Last updated 1-Aug-17
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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)
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Added on 13-Jul-17 | Last updated 13-Jul-17
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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)
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Added on 6-Jul-17 | Last updated 6-Jul-17
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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)
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Added on 25-May-17 | Last updated 25-May-17
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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.
 
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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 (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (12 Feb 1841)
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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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[The] “robbing of the poor because he is poor,” is especially the mercantile form of theft, consisting in taking advantage of a man’s necessities in order to obtain his labor or property at a reduced price. The ordinary highwayman’s opposite form of robbery — of the rich, because he is rich — does not appear to occur so often to the old merchant’s mind; probably because, being less profitable and more dangerous than the robbery of the poor, it is rarely practice by persons of discretion.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
Unto This Last, ch. 3 (1800)
 
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Convinced that character is all and circumstances nothing, [the Puritan] sees in the poverty of those who fall by the way, not a misfortune to be pitied and relieved, but a moral failing to be condemned, and in riches, not an object of suspicion but the blessing which rewards the triumph of energy and will.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4 (1926)
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A stranger to human nature, who saw the indifference of men about the misery of their inferiors, and the regret and indignation which they feel for the misfortunes and sufferings of those above them, would be apt to imagine that pain must be more agonizing, and the convulsions of death more terrible, to people of higher rank than to those of meaner stations.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish economist
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1.3.2 (1759)
 
Added on 14-Sep-16 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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The very poor can always be depended upon. They never turn away the hungry. Time and again, all over the United States, have I been refused food at the big house on the hill; and always have I received food from the little shack down by the creek or marsh, with its broken windows stuffed with rags and its tired-faced mother broken with labor. Oh! you charity-mongers, go to the poor and learn, for the poor alone are the charitable. They neither give nor withhold from the excess. They have no excess. They give, and they withhold never, from what they need for themselves. A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog when you are just as hungry as the dog.

London - bone shared with the dog - wist_info quote

Jack London (1876-1916) American novelist
“My Life in the Underworld,” Cosmopolitan Magazine (May 1907)
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Republished in The Road, Part 1, ch. 1 (1907). Recalling his days as a hobo in 1892.
 
Added on 26-Aug-16 | Last updated 10-Jun-22
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No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts: Gathered from the Extemporaneous Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher (1858)
 
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He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means “I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve”. It’s easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
I, Asimov: A Memoir (1994)
 
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The truest American president we have ever had, the companion of Washington in our love and honor, recognized that the poorest man, however outraged, however ignorant, however despised, however black, was, as a man, his equal. The child of the American people was their most prophetic man, because, whether as small shop-keeper, as flat-boatman, as volunteer captain, as honest lawyer, as defender of the Declaration, as President of the United States, he knew by the profoundest instinct and the widest experience and reflection, that in the most vital faith of this country it is just as honorable for an honest man to curry a horse and black a boot as it is to raise cotton or corn, to sell molasses or cloth, to practice medicine or law, to gamble in stocks or speculate in petroleum. He knew the European doctrine that the king makes the gentleman; but he believed with his whole soul the doctrine, the American doctrine, that worth makes the man.

George William Curtis (1824-1892) American essayist, editor, reformer, orator
“The Good Fight” (1865)
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No matter how poor I am; no matter though the prosperous of my own time will not enter my obscure dwelling; if the sacred writers will enter and take up their abode under my roof, if Milton will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise; and Shakespeare to open to me the worlds of imagination and the workings of the human heart, and Franklin to enrich me with his practical wisdom, I shall not pine for want of intellectual companionship, and I may become a cultivated man though excluded from what is called the best society in the place where I live.

William E. Channing (1780-1842) American moralist, author, cleric, Unitarian theologian
“Self Culture,” lecture, Boston (Sep 1838)
 
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To have money is a feare, not to have it a griefe.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum (1640)
 
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“Money does not bring happiness” — only the wherewithal, perhaps, to endure its absence.

Ehrenreich - money happiness - wist_info quote

Barbara Ehrenreich (b. 1941) American feminist, journalist, political activist
Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, ch. 6 (1990)
 
Added on 15-Jan-16 | Last updated 1-Jun-16
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Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Open Door (1957)
 
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Poverty is the only burden which is not lightened by being shared with others.

Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [Johann Paul Friedrich Richter; pseud. Jean Paul]
(Attributed)
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In Maturin M. Ballou, Edge-Tools of Speech (1886)
 
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In vast stretches of the earth, men awoke today in hunger. They will spend the day in unceasing toil. And as the sun goes down they will still know hunger. They will see suffering in the eyes of their children. Many despair that their labor will ever decently shelter their families or protect them against disease. So long as this is so, peace and freedom will be in danger throughout our world. For wherever free men lose hope of progress, liberty will be weakened and the seeds of conflict will be sown.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Tenth Colombo Plan Meeting, Seattle (10 Nov 1958)
 
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I know that a man who shows me his wealth is like the beggar who shows me his poverty; they are both looking for alms from me, the rich man for the alms of my envy, the poor man for the alms of my guilt.

Ben Hecht (1894-1964) American writer, director, producer, journalist
A Child of the Century (1954)
 
Added on 9-Dec-15 | Last updated 9-Dec-15
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