Chapter 23 » 23.22

Social justice

Poverty and housing

If we do not have the sense that selfishness is right, we may yet be carried along by the prevailing social currents to behave as though we do. More insidiously, we may seek material well-being for those we love, and thus achieve a sort of displaced selfishness. We may need to examine what we really believe, and in the light of that we can address questions about personal conduct. The main question for us who are comfortable is whether we use our positions of comparative power to arrogate to ourselves more than our reasonable share of the resources of the world. If so, we should try to redistribute what we can, to live in a more responsible way. For those who are poor, a different question arises: what is selfish materialism, and what is proper aspiration?

We cannot take more than our share of finite resources unless we have the power so to do. Poverty and powerlessness are bound up with each other. Poverty leads to powerlessness, and powerlessness leads to poverty.

Martin Wyatt, 1988

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