Why should the poor be flattered?

It’s actually pretty remarkable that Hamlet is just straight up calling Horatio poor. We can call ourselves poor but it seems somehow uncouth to call others poor – even if they are. At least not to their faces. At least not to one’s friend’s face. Why this is, I’m not sure.

It’s not as if it’s not true. The poor are poor. And yet it somehow gets framed as a moral failing, that poverty is somehow a judgment on the poor, not simply a matter of circumstances, birth and social conditions. So you don’t call someone poor for the same reason you don’t call someone fat. Because it’s not good manners to point out someone’s failings. (The fact that both poverty and size are often a matter of circumstance and not morality is another point entirely.)

Reading Scarcity, it became clear what a world of circular reasoning we’ve been living in around poverty. There have been those that assume the poor are poor due to being forgetful or short-sighted with money. When in fact it’s the reverse – that anyone becomes forgetful and short-sighted when facing down scarcity.


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