Category Archives: Poor/Poverty


HT: Micah Mattix’s excellent email blast, Prufrock

Two “much food for thought” insights from the article above:

Adam Smith spoke of “the man of system” who “seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.” [Richard] Thaler and his benevolent friends are men, and some few women, of system. They hate the Chicago School, have never heard of the Austrian School, dismiss spontaneous order, and favor bossing people around—for their own good, understand. Employing the third most unbelievable sentence in English (the other two are “The check is in the mail” and “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning”), they declare cheerily, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

The great essayist Lionel Trilling wrote in 1950 that the danger is that “we who are liberal and progressive know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us.” The same may be said of Burkeans or conservatives, too. He also wrote that “we must be aware of the dangers that lie in our most generous wishes,” because “when once we have made our fellow men the object of our enlightened interest [we] go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.”

From C.S. Lewis:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”


From Pastor Mike Woodruff:
Years ago, while traveling in troubled parts of Africa with Tim Dearborn – then a senior member of World Vision’s leadership team – I wondered why God allowed so much suffering. Dearborn reframed the question, asking why we allow it. He noted that if Christians gave ten percent of their income away, which he argued was a starting point, we could: 1) Wipe out extreme poverty; 2) Provide a 6thgrade education to everyone; 3) Provide clean water to everyone; and 4) Double every church budget and double every mission budget in the world and still have hundreds of billions of dollars left over. He argued back then that the question is not: when is God going to provide, or when are we going to be generous, but when are we going to be faithful and obedient? 
I called Tim last week to see if he wanted to update his thinking. He said the numbers still hold, and then observed that there were four things that got the Jews in trouble during the Old Testament era: 1) a failure to circumcise; 2) a failure to tithe; 3) a failure to keep the Sabbath; and 4) a failure to welcome the stranger. He argues that these were all issues of trust. In every situation they (we) were being asked to give something up something they did not want to give up. With circumcision – well, there is no desire to give up anything on that front. With the tithe, it’s money. With the Sabbath, it’s time, and with our home, it’s control / privacy. On all four fronts, obedience protects us from idolatry and helps us learn to trust God.


I’ve felt a bit of this shame during the recession when it looked like we might lose our house.  I know the weariness of dickering with doctors over an easier payment plan.  And yet…we have always had friends who have generously given of themselves and their resources.  I can’t imagine what it would be like  apart from supportive friends.

Short, but important read on paying more attention:

Image result for working poor




Professor Alan Taylor teaches at the University of Virginia.  He has won the Pulitzer prize…twice!  Look for a review or interview on his latest book in the months ahead.

Taylor has written a terrific piece on the need for an educated electorate (HT to  I spent some good time marking up and pondering Taylor’s critical assessment and prescription.  Here’s a taste:

“Here then was the rub. Visionary leaders insisted that preserving a republic required improving the common people by an increased investment in education. But a republic depended on common voters who lacked schooling and often balked at paying for it, preferring to spend their money on consumer goods. As farmers, they also wanted to keep their children at work on the farm. To justify their preferences, they invoked a populist distrust of the educated. A rustic republican from North Carolina insisted, ‘College learned persons give themselves great airs, are proud, and the fewer of them we have amongst us the better.’ Preferring ‘the plain, simple, honest matter-of-fact republicanism,’ he asked, ‘Who wants Latin and Greek and abstruse mathematics at these times and in a country like this?’ Distrustful of all aristocrats, natural and artificial, he insisted that they should pay to educate themselves, and the poor could make do without book learning; thus, he would vote for candidates who kept taxes low. Common voters in the southern states often did not regard education as essential to preserving their republic.”

The rest is here: http://


Theodore Dalrymple (pen name of Dr. Anthony Daniels) is one of my favorite essayists.  Joseph Epstein, who was mentioned last Saturday, is another one.
In this astute and sobering essay, Dalrymple has much to say.  He worked among the poorest of the poor in his native land of England. 
You will be wiser for having read this!


As Americans, we take many things for granted.  For example, we tend to think the answer to poverty in developing nations is getting them adequate resources.  Of course, things like food and medicines are badly needed.  But there is something more foundational that we tend to miss.