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Frugality versus Fun
Bar Harbor
So, you know that thing about the Evil Republican who said poor people are going to have to decide between new iPhones and health insurance? I’ve seen many arguments go by about how many cell phones it takes to equal the cost of health insurance, and similar arguments on an economic or factual basis. The same sort of dialogue is happening about the National Endowment for the Arts, and many other recent political issues.

But I think there is a moral argument worth having here, also, which seems to be largely overlooked.

One of the moral stances implicitly held by many people on the Right (though they are usually too canny to come right out and say it), is that if you spend ANY money on something that isn’t a necessity, you are Not Really Poor. Or, to look at it from another perspective, anyone who is actually poor does not deserve to spend any of their meager resources on entertainment.

This, I find abhorrent. A life which is entirely spent on the bare means of survival is worse than that of most mammals. A life in which one is not allowed to EVER choose enjoyment is a life not much above that of a slave.

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It goes back to 19th-century distinctions between the "deserving" and "Undeserving" poor--and it was the "Overseers of the Poor" (an actual office in many New England towns) who got to decide who belonged in which category. As in my most recent journal entry, it's not a long step from accusations that the poor don't "deserve" anything to the workhouse, poor farm, etc.

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