Thursday, June 14, 2012


There has been much bandied about since the '60s about poverty.  Who is in poverty and who is not?  Before we can grant poverty status upon a person or class of persons, it might be illuminating to look to the definitions of the common words and see what those definitions might tell us.  According to Wikipedia:
Poverty is the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money.[1] Absolute poverty or destitution refers to the one who lacks basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter.
Well, in the United States we could argue that very few people live under poverty, and certainly fewer under absolute poverty.  It is hard to argue, when you have a rent-subsidized house, food stamps, a television, car, and cell phone, that you're in poverty as defined.

So, we turn to another definition.  From the same source.  Pauper.
Pauperism (Lat. pauper, poor) is a term meaning poverty or generally the state of being poor, but in English usage particularly the condition of being a "pauper", i.e. in receipt of relief administered under the poor law. From this springs a more general sense, referring to all those who are supported at public expense, whether within or outside of almshouses, and still more generally, to all whose existence is dependent for any considerable period upon charitable assistance, whether this assistance be public or private. In this sense the word is to be distinguished from "poverty". 
Okay.  Generally, persons receiving assistance are paupers.  Dependent upon charitable assistance, whether that assistance be public or private.  Pauper.  It's an interesting word.

We in the United States certainly have a surplussage of paupers, but very few in poverty.  I'll leave my few readers to investigate the implications of those  distinctions.

1 comment:

Jester said...

Pawpaw, I grew up on the bottom end of the economic scale in the United States, and while for times as an adult I would not have a packet of ramen noodles a day I was never hungry as a child, at least truly starving. My tours to Iraq at the very least has illustrated poverty and destitution. The United States does not have poverty where people starve on a regular basis. And Thank God for that. People really do not know how fortunate they are.