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Quote About Government and Poverty
September 5, 2005 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to think of a famous quote. It says something like the best measure of government is how it treats its poor. I think it's famous, or maybe it's just a thought I've had so many times that it feels famous! No luck so far searching Google or the quote sites.
posted by abbyladybug to Law & Government (16 answers total)
 
I've always heard it as "A society is judged by how it treats the least among them.”
posted by curtm at 8:21 AM on September 5, 2005


In a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of. -Confucius
posted by Serena at 8:25 AM on September 5, 2005


Maybe you're slightly misremembering Dostoyevsky's apocryphal quote, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons"?
posted by letourneau at 8:27 AM on September 5, 2005


"A society is ultimately judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members." - Anonymous, according to this guy.

Also: "The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick and the needy, and the handicapped." - Hubert Humphrey
posted by naomi at 8:31 AM on September 5, 2005


I've heard the one about how society treats its prisoners.
posted by odinsdream at 8:34 AM on September 5, 2005


You're probably thinking of the Dostoyevsky. It's paraphrased often.
posted by sbutler at 8:41 AM on September 5, 2005


Somewhat different from what you were looking for, but probably useful nonetheless - from >Matthew, Chapter 25

Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the world's foundation:

25:35 for I hungered, and ye gave me to eat; I thirsted, and ye gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in;

25:36 naked, and ye clothed me; I was ill, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came to me.

25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungering, and nourished thee; or thirsting, and gave thee to drink?

25:38 and when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in; or naked, and clothed thee?

25:39 and when saw we thee ill, or in prison, and came to thee?

25:40 And the King answering shall say to them, Verily, I say to you, Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me.
posted by Miko at 8:46 AM on September 5, 2005




In terms of "the least among them," the speakers are no doubt echoing (consciously or unconsciously) Matthew 25:40:

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
posted by enrevanche at 8:54 AM on September 5, 2005


Gah. Should have previewed. Sorry.
posted by enrevanche at 8:57 AM on September 5, 2005


Mahatma Ghandi who said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."

Churchill said that you measure the degree of civilisation of a society by how it treats its weakest members.

Truman said a society will be judged by how it treats its weakest members.

"Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members -- the last, the least, the littlest."
~Cardinal Roger Mahony, In a 1998 letter, Creating a Culture of Life

It is said that the worth of society can be measured by the manner in which it treats its weakest member.

"The greatness of any city can be judged by the way it treats its weakest member." You can judge the character and quality of life in a community by how it treats its weakest members

It is said that a civilization is measured by how it treats its weakest members - including, of course, it children.

The greatness of America is in how it treats its weakest members: the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, the underprivileged, the unborn.
~Bill Federer

"The test of any society is how it treats its weakest members."

"The moral test of any society is how it treats its weakest members."

"A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying,"
~Pope John Paul II

If one considers the observation that the worth and dignity of a civilization is judged by the way it the treats its weakest members, we cannot help but look back in shame at our past.
~Social Justice Yesterday - Today - Tomorrow, A Critical Reflection, By Rudolf Rickes

Found on the Dispassionate Liberalism blog
posted by curtm at 9:04 AM on September 5, 2005


curtm -- did you read the story I linked to, above? Because those quotes you posted may all be misattributed to those 'usual suspects'. Those quote-collection sites are notorious for that.
posted by Miko at 10:35 AM on September 5, 2005


I definitely don't remember anything about prisoners. Since I raught Multiculturalism in a School of Education for a while, reading about those without power who have been marginalized was certainly something I did often, so perhaps I read it paraphrased many ways. The article Miko shared really answers this the best. Still, I'm so glad I asked, because these other quotes are wonderful, and I am glad to know them.
posted by abbyladybug at 12:09 PM on September 5, 2005


I've heard one, probably a varient, along the lines of the civilisation and justice of a society is seen in how it allows it's most despised members to be treated. Which I take to mean (for modern times) things like whether people will look the other way while a suspected pedophile gets the snot beaten out of him, or whether an alledged terrorist's trial rights get monkeyed with, that sort of thing.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:39 PM on September 5, 2005


Warren Buffet's take (more about how things should work) which I've always loved: "Let's say that it was 24 hours before you were born, and a genie appeared and said, 'What I'm going to do is let you set the rules of the society into which you will be born. You can set the economic rules and the social rules, and whatever rules you set will apply during your lifetime and your children's lifetimes.' And you'll say, 'Well, that's nice, but what's the catch?' And the genie says, 'Here's the catch. You don't know if you're going to be born rich or poor, white or black, male or female, able-bodied or infirm, intelligent or retarded.'
posted by Mitheral at 10:49 AM on September 7, 2005 [1 favorite]


Mithrael --

That's awesome! That's going up on my wall! Thanks!
posted by curtm at 9:35 PM on September 7, 2005


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