The Common Good
December 2008

Who is Worthy?

by Ben Roth | December 2008

In her article “Changing Our Minds” (September-October 2008), Frances Moore Lappé suggests that the real barriers to an egalitarian society are the assumptions we have about ...

In her article “Changing Our Minds” (September-October 2008), Frances Moore Lappé suggests that the real barriers to an egalitarian society are the assumptions we have about poverty and its causes. Lappé is correct to say that our perceptions of poverty are all wrong. Conspicuously absent from her article is the term “welfare.” The U.S. welfare state has generally expanded and contracted as a countercyclical response to the economy. As Lappé points out, social policy succeeded in dramatically reducing poverty from the 1950s to the ’70s.

But our welfare state has always made a distinction between the “worthy” (working) poor and the “unworthy” (able-bodied and non-working) poor. A critical myth she did not mention concerns the image of the “unworthy” poor. In order to bust this myth, the non-poor in this country need to come to terms with the barriers that have given them unequal access to the opportunity structure. Fighting poverty must begin with our mistaken ideas about us as the “worthy.”

Ben Roth, Chicago, Illinois

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)