For long stretches of history, no one but the poor has been interested in poverty; but at intervals—and we are in one such period now—it has become respectable to see it as a problem. Sociologists, economists, social workers, and politicians of all persuasions have issued numberless studies of poverty, and as a result have succeeded in establishing two entirely contradictory images of the poor: on the one hand, they are the salt of the earth, hard-working individuals victimized by our economic system; on the other hand, they are conniving chiselers, irresponsible, lazy, and sly. A stalemate of righteousness has resulted.
Almost all the writing on poverty has been done by researchers who were not themselves poor, or were poor only temporarily and by choice. Their books tend to be written with the innate bias of their political convictions....
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