The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Most Radical Statement I’ve Ever Read

From Dr. Robert Tabash, in Bethlehem:

The poorest deserve the best.

I stared, stunned at this for a while, because it’s absolutely 180 degrees from how we do things. To do this would be a complete repudiation of our entire society, and every society of which I am aware.

I stumbled across it in the replies to this tweet, on the same general theme.

It’s hard to say much about this, because it’s almost impossible to imagine a world in which we do this.

Of course, this comes from Christians, and it’s why I have contempt for most modern Christians, especially evangelicals.

Christ was a radical. Unbelievably radical. “As you have done to these, the least of mine…” and telling the rich to sell all their possessions and give them to the poor. Real Christianity, the path of Jesus, not all the crap accreted about Christianity, is perhaps the most radical, and hardest, in the world.

This is why most “Christians” don’t follow Jesus’s clear instructions: Doing so is hard. That’s fine, I don’t either. But I also don’t call myself a Christian.

But put the Christianity aside, if you can, and marvel just in the idea of a world completely topsy turvy to the one in which we live, where those who are poorest; those who are weakest, get the best, because they are the ones who need it most, and we care for each other.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 2, 2021


Who Deserves the Good Things in Life?


  1. Paul Harris

    Maybe, once the population is sufficiently low enough, we’ll become more cooperative as a species. But not until then.

  2. Plague Species

    But put the Christianity aside, if you can, and marvel just in the idea of a world completely topsy turvy to the one in which we live, where those who are poorest; those who are weakest, get the best, because they are the ones who need it most, and we care for each other.

    We already did this many times over and every time we do, the poor become the rich and set up structures to keep it that way.

  3. Eric Anderson

    Humans won the evolutionary primate race because we evolved better PR firms than the rest of the damn dirty apes.

  4. Ché Pasa

    Buncha tiny homes got built for the poorest homeless in Abq, one of a number of cities investing a whole heck of a lot of money in the tiny home industry to provide transitional housing for a relatively few of those on the streets.

    It’s something-better-than-nothing at a time when a kick in the nuts or noggin or a bullet in the belly is about all the poorest and homeless in America (and a lot of other places) can expect from their betters.

    Is it the best? No. For some, though, it’s akin to heaven for they haven’t had a dependable roof over their heads for, in some cases, years. “Tiny” is fine.

    The cost is made a big deal of, especially in cities where the costs of these shelters is astronomical. A $5000 – $10000 shed costs public agencies $120000 to $300000 if not more, plus millions more over time for maintenance of the structures and social services for the clients. It quickly looks or is made to look excessive. Yet compared to the absurd wealth of the overclass, it’s nothing. Not even pocket change.

    Every homeless person in the country could be housed this well or better, much better, for a trifling, but if it has to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers, there’s going to be hell to pay. And then, often, the raging “taxpayer” tantrums stop. Once it’s done, it’s hardly a blip on the radar screen. There are always other things to rage over, no?

    I think about James Boyd who was a homeless schizophrenic shot and killed by the Abq police in the foothills of the Sandias one sad day in 2014. There was no dependable shelter for him at that time, no reliable services for his condition. The police felt threatened because he wouldn’t obey and he had two pocket knives. For hours, James Boyd and the police had a stand off just beyond some fancy suburban houses… and then, when the negotiations and the flash-bang and the dog didn’t force his compliance, they shot him dead. Because… what else were they expected to do? He had two knives. He was crazy. He was a threat and a danger. Officers are trained to neutralize threats and dangers to themselves and others. Just doing their jobs.

    Had Boyd been housed and been receiving reliable treatment, he’d probably be alive today.

    And yet, we’re still being told he and people like him don’t really matter. In fact, none of us do, not to so many of our betters and rulers. We’re mostly just in the way.

    So yes, it’s still a shock to see or hear or read that someone in a position of power believes the least among us need and should be provided with the best that can be offered.

  5. Anon

    No one believes in the teachings of Christ, and no one ever has. We live in a world where people worship Moloch and follow its tenets to a T.

  6. Cm

    The Zoroastrians allow themselves to become rich, but they believe in sharing their wealth with their community.

    Having read research that explains how a person becomes psychopathic the richer they become, these religious teachings make a lot of sense.

    Ancients understood human psychology much better than us.

  7. js

    Because of the Catholic church largely, Christianity seems irredeemable as being made a social force for good – the patriarchy, the obsession with peoples sex lives etc.. It’s just a nightmare without end as far as a social force. And that’s leaving aside right wing capture or many non-Catholic Christian churches.

  8. StewartM

    When I first read that statement, on face value without any digging, I thought “wow, a true Christian” because that is actually Christ’s teachings as Christ realized that most people climbed the social ladder using the backs of those poorer than they as the rungs.

  9. Joan

    @Che Pasa, why are the $10k sheds ten times as much, or more? What’s going wrong in that process, since a $5k-10k tiny house for a homeless person sounds great at first glance.

  10. StewartM

    I should also add, most conservative evangelicals in the US today actually follow a form of nation-state idolatry where their vision of America is intermeshed with God’s will, where America is the new version of Israel (and thus, should do a lot more ‘smiting’ of God’s and America’s enemies), and where American lives count for far more than the lives of anyone else. That’s why they cheer on war criminals and approve of military actions where we kill thousands of “enemy” babies rather than to risk a single hair on the head of one our brave boys in uniform.

    That contorts Christianity–even the Christianity of my youth–into something unrecognizable. Traditional Christian doctrine taught that all governments, including America’s, are at best a necessary evil to be obeyed but not something to endorse. Moreover, if anything, the lives of the saved, since they are saved and are going to be with God, should if anything be sacrificed to allow those who would be otherwise damned more time to discover Christ and thus be saved themselves. Very few “Christians” actually follow this in practice.

  11. js

    How much tiny houses cost should really not be diminished as “nothing in the scheme of things”. I don’t think that’s actually how you win any support for such programs. If you actually want public support for such programs, people want accountability on the money, not as conservatives – they don’t want money spent period, but as social democrats. I don’t think progressives are going to win by pretending it’s only conservatives who want this, despite it of course being used by conservatives in superficial “all govt is bad” arguments.

    Another problem is of course this is designed to be temporary housing with a 10 year lifespan. A temporary solution to a permanent problem, almost symptomatic of a disposable culture, where we don’t build to last, and then maybe it just all goes to the landfill.

  12. Chicago Clubs

    >We already did this many times over

    Oh, no, we did not, what a bald-faces lie. Most revolutions have had nothing whatever to do with the “poorest.”

  13. StewartM


    Because of the Catholic church largely, Christianity seems irredeemable as being made a social force for good – the patriarchy, the obsession with peoples sex lives etc.

    As someone who was raised a conservative Protestant, I’d say the Catholic Church, despite its many warts, still beats the Protestant churches as a force for social good by a long shot. The Protestants are just as sex-obsessed (even more maybe) as the Catholics and by and large been preaching a Supply Side Jesus Gospel of Riches-are-a-sign-of-God-blessing-you for at least 100 years if not longer. At least Catholics had their priests and nuns take a vow of poverty and celibacy, to be a Protestant pastor you *give up nothing * and instead take the pulpit to lambast people who might want things you don’t care for while surrounding yourself with “nice” things.

    Plus, the Catholics were more honest and more accurate in their assessment of the value of holy writ. By itself it wasn’t everything to them, and shouldn’t be interpreted without also looking at church traditions and history. That’s because, as St Thomas More admonished Luther, it was humans, not God, who decided what would go into the Bible and what would stay out of it.

  14. Effem

    I could only support if we were able to adequately distinguish “poor as a result of bad luck” from “poor as a result of bad choices.” Unfortunately that’s impossible. We need a better set of words than just “poor.”

  15. DMC

    The Victorian reformers we’re all very keen on distinguishing the deserving poor from the undeserving poor. Making this distinction is to put the state or various charitable organizations in the position of judging just who constitutes the deserving poor. The ones who were thrifty and clean and went to church and did everything right besides making money. The undeserving poor were those who did not. To make such distinctions is to engage in utterly phony charity that condemns the majority of the poor too utter Oblivion, for reasons that largely boil down to aesthetics. Until the basics of life are made available to everyone without distinction, we’re going to have this problem of the vast word of the homeless. One solution might be a law to the effect that properties that stand empty for more than 6 months will be subject to punitive taxes and properties that stand empty for more than 18 months will be subject to confiscation. It’s an oft cited figure that there is six times as much empty housing as there are homeless people. All we have to do is use the coercive power of the government for good for a change.

  16. Hugh

    DMC, not just the basics of life but the ongoing basics for a decent and meaningful life. I would also place limits on the number of units any corporation, hedge fund, or private equity group could own or manage.

  17. Ché Pasa

    The excuse for the high cost of these tiny homes for the homeless is often said to be the cost of “infrastructure” — planning process, acquiring land, installing sewer lines, connecting to water and electricity, building foundation pads, roads and pathways and so on. The ongoing costs add up quickly as well. Some places where tiny homes have been touted as a solution to homelessness instead opt to lease hotel rooms or in some cases buy entire hotels and use them for sheltering the homeless.

    Whatever the cost, it’s “nothing” given the obscene levels of wealth some of the overclass maintain, and I would ask who should be held to account? The poor and desperate and homeless or the hyper-wealthy exploitation class who own and control our governments and are close to owning and controlling everything else.

    Given the decades of overt neglect of the interests and well being of the least among us, I’d say it’s not only time for the overclass to pay up, it’s long past time, and they can just go find something else to whine about.

  18. Lex

    Good point by @DMC on the Victorian sensibilities we’re still practicing for incomprehensible reasons. It’s at the mythologized, civilizing imperial prerogative drowns out what we all might have learned by having to read Dickens in school. Namely that the good old days were fucking miserable for the majority and that the thread separating you from the other, the undeserving poor was tenuous and fragile.

  19. mago

    Hello effem. I wonder if becoming a wandering chef and a roving anthropologist/sociologist and an aspirational writer while following my passions were bad choices or bad luck or neither of either. No matter. I’m old and dirt poor. Binary either/or thinking lacks nuance, context and consideration of interdependent causal factors. Call it karma, call it what you will. It doesn’t matter. I have no regrets. The toughest thing about being poor is being penalized for it. Big hurt there.

  20. js

    The “bad choices” does get to be tautological, since it keeps getting extended. A bad choice might have once been a life of crime. But if one wants to they can define it as choosing the wrong major in college or the wrong college at 18, when one knew nothing. Basically human error. I have always taken it for granted that following one’s passions is always a bad choice. But there are so many other bad choices one can inadvertently make as well.

  21. Trinity

    “But put the Christianity aside, if you can”

    I absolutely can, but reserve the right to retain spirituality. Unfortunately with few if any exceptions, most religions throughout the ages, as with most human institutions, become opportunities for exploitation of others. This doesn’t ignore, however, significant religious figures and teachers, but who are quoted and otherwise ignored by the “people who matter.”

    The problem is the organizations that provide the opportunity to address the insatiable need for some to hold power over others, or who desire the ability to create the conditions where one small move in the wrong direction can lead others to misery for a lifetime. They create these conditions so they can feel exceptional. Gotta have “lesser beings” around in order to feel exceptional.

    My experience was to learn at a young age to avoid all people who insert “I’m a Christian” into every other sentence they utter. This probably occurs more often in small towns. Actual Christians with actual Christ-like behavior are almost invisible in our society, mores the pity. Instead we get the televangelists screaming for more money so they can add a fifteenth bathroom. There’s no profit to be extracted from the activities of people who care about or for others, unlike the multi-level skimming and payola that occurs in the building trades.

    Ian, it’s a wonderful dream, a wonderful post, and wonderful comments here as well (with one notable “exceptionalist”).

  22. Astrid

    I would prefer equal to best. But if there is a best, I agree that giving it to the poorest and least amongst us is kinder and better than to funnel it to the richest and “greatest”.

    I do have a soft spot for the RC church. Anything that created so much beauty and uplift is something. The focus on work rather than grace is a sound approach, albeit one very subject to abuse and exploitation of humans and the natural world. JPII is responsible for much of its current predicament, through decades of destroying the left/humanist strains while protecting the abusive reactionary and criminal elements. I do hope the church can rise up and do good work ahead, the world needs all the help it can get.

  23. scarnoc

    As a Christian, I want to defend Christians on this point. But, Ian is right that Christianity under capitalism is used to justify capitalist production and outcomes. It’s normally used to glorify greed, self-righteousness, covetousness, and the infliction of every type of suffering. Every Christian is still a sinner, no matter how saintly. However, I can still take comfort in the fact that the most loving and charitable and anti-capitalist and anti-modern spaces in my life are my parish church and the monasteries I visit. On the Sunday of Judgement, the liturgy reminds me that God is returning to judge us on our charity, on how we loved our neighbors and ‘the least of these.’ Many of the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Zacchaeus the publican used his position to steal from his neighbors, but in repentance he told the God-man ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.’ We have a model, here, for restitution and humility, and I have a model of charity in the saints both famous and forgotten. I’m not interested in putting Christianity aside for many reasons, but especially because Christ’s demand that I sacrifice my self for others is the pattern of reality, the last veil before the unknowable God.

  24. Dale

    To paraphrase that great modern mystic and intellectual George Carlin; “If God is all powerful, why is he always broke?”

  25. capelin

    “The poorest deserve the best.”

    which, over time, would be a dynamic equalizer, oscillating over the sweet spot.

    reminds me of the potlatch tradition, where (as i understand it) one’s power and status was tied to – how much you gave away.

  26. Keith in Modesto

    The comments section here often seems like a trash fire to me, but this one has a wonderful discussion going on which I hope Ian builds upon in further blog postings on this topic.

    Here is a suggestion: how about we “mine” the Christian tradition (and one could do the same in others) for strains of teaching and practice that could be (and maybe already are being) countercultural seeds for a better world. I’ll offer an example of a candidate: the Catholic Worker Movement founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.

  27. MK

    What a moronic statement. Why? Why should the poor deserve the best? I know plenty of poor who are absolute ripe scumbags. They deserve the best? I think not. One’s wealth has nothing to do with what one does or doesn’t deserve in life. What a bunch of mystic bullshit.

  28. Willy

    I like the idea of people willing to argue that serving the poorest will enrich the rest, although personally, I can only envision a cultural sweet spot balance between basic sustenance and deadly sin. I know some poor who deserve their condition, and many others who do not.

    But persuading the brainwashed cultist, especially the loudest of conservative “Christians”, seems an uphill battle. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to mindlessly wait for the next big tribal stricture to come along so I can repeat repeat it to those imaginarily caricaturized satanic Democrat libs for a few virtue signaling points.

    I blame true Christians for this situation. I rarely ever see them standing up to their angry “brethren”, even after the Christian logic behind overturning money changer tables at the local church is carefully explained.

  29. Hugh

    “what one does or doesn’t deserve in life.”

    I never received my copy of that book. Can you fill me in?

    I always thought it would be nice to force Bill and Melinda Gates types and lawmakers plus their families to live on minimum wage and receive the lowest healthcare afforded the rest of us. Show us how it’s done.

  30. Plague Species

    I like Hugh’s idea better. The environment does too. I’d like to witness McDonald Trump replace the power steering high pressure hose in his vehicle. No comedian could match that.

    As far as the best is concerned, what is the best? Is Mar-a-Lago considered the best? If so, no thanks, McDonald can keep it or better yet tear it down and return the property to its natural state although that may prove difficult considering how toxic McDonald is. So toxic, Mar-a-Lago is effectively a brown site and will require egregiously expensive remediation efforts to clean it up.

  31. nihil obstet

    We want the best. We don’t want to be the poorest. Most people will not be able to get beyond the contradicting feelings.

  32. Q Jackson

    God is the man and he’s saying we gotta get back out in the streets. These people in power are getting drunker and drunker and they’re gonna continue to make things worse for us. We can’t even get a minimum wage? No healthcare. No student debt relief. What’s going on man?

    My prayers are answered with thoughts to do good works. My work now is resistance to this godforsaken machine. If this place opens up again without some hard improvement to our material conditions, we the people must shut this thing down.


    I’m out.

  33. zina

    I think analogizing a general strike with “overturning the tables” is wonderful Q, and I wish more Christians would realize that’s obviously the path to take now. When the rot gets so deep, there really is only one way out. Jesus knew this.

  34. bruce wilder

    It is odd in a way that we should instinctively turn to a morality devised for and presumably by slaves and peons in a thoroughly oppressed, pre-industrial civilization.

    In our own time, salvation for the planet, not the mere or unfortunate individual, lies in adopting and adapting to a poverty of sorts, a voluntary constraint on the use of energy (all energy, not just fossil fuels) in order to reduce our impact on the planet and its ecology.

    This message of voluntary simplicity and constraint must become a global ethic. Voluntary poverty was a Christian ideal with other motivations and goals than to save the planet’s delicately balanced web of life, but it has resonance with this new, altruistic and profoundly practical purpose.

    As for the quality of provision we should collectively make for the poor in the various contexts of poverty: youth, old age, incarceration, disability, dependence, I think we should understand that standards vary dramatically. Great design of simple housing and placement in convenient places that give access to great public goods and public convenience should hardly be revolutionary in concept. Why should poor people live in ghettos without supermarkets?

    One of the happiest times in my life was living as a college student in a shared, tiny dorm room with access to books and smart people and life. We should all be thinking about salvation for ourselves and earth in simpler, less energy intense lives. Less space, fewer things, less travel, less salesmanship.

  35. zina

    We can still travel by foot, bruce! Thank you for your comment.

  36. Soredemos


    Christianity was a revolting dumpster fire long before capitalism came along.


    No one ‘deserves’ to be poor, you monster.

  37. Synoia

    One of them is that they “eat what they kill.”

    More accurately: is that they “kill what they eat.”

  38. Astrid

    Nobody deserves to be poor, but many people are self destructive and will self destroy no matter the material basis. But that’s a minor issue compared to the destructiveness of the rentier class, in their effort to be very very not poor.

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