Linda M wrote to me: Alain de Botton has an interesting theory on wealth/poverty in his book, “Status Anxiety.” He points out that under aristocracies in the “old country” people weren’t expected to rise above their class. Therefore a poor laborer could still be considered good and moral. With the American Dream (and the Puritan work ethic that buoys it) apparent obstacles to obtaining wealth are removed. He points out that our perception of poverty now has an added dimension: immorality. We perceive the poor as being somehow deficient in character.

The flip side, for me, is a certain Puritan modesty: I remember how upset my parents got when a neighbor bought a new car and did not remove the price sticker from the window . . . one does not flaunt ones wealth — indeed, everything one purchases was “on sale” or “a bargain” . . . 

As for Linda’s comments I would note the role (and “dignity”) of the ‘lower class’ in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged . . . and note that Ayn’s father was a significant figure among “the whites” during the revolution . . . and how ironic is that: “The Whites” are the family on my Mothers side!

Anyway, the idea that poverty = immorality is certainly worth a conversation. Thanks Linda!

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