Wealth and Poverty

Books reviewed:

For the Least of These edited by Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley;

Neither Poverty nor Riches by Craig Blomberg

Public Good by Private Means by Rhodri Davies;

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes

Wealth, Poverty and Politics by Thomas Sowell.


Christian viewpoints:

We have reviewed two books that consider the appropriate Christian response to poverty:

For the Least of These edited by Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley (published 2014). This is a collection of essays mainly from a US viewpoint addressing the question how Christians should address poverty. It is not a systematic treatment of this subject and it has deficiencies (including, in some places, an overly polemical style) but it is challenging and interesting and should inspire reflection and further reading.

Neither Poverty nor Riches by Craig Blomberg (published 1999) is described by its author as a “biblical theology of material possessions”.   It is not an easy read and its analysis of every single New Testament passage relevant to its subject may leave the reader feeling exhausted but it is an important book that deserves to be read even if this takes time.


Secular viewpoints:

We have reviewed two books that consider the underlying reasons for wealth and poverty from an economic and historical perspective and one that considers philanthropy:

Wealth, Poverty and Politics by Thomas Sowell (revised edition published 2016) is overlong and largely repeats things that its author has been saying for many years. However, it is worth reading as a robust and systematic attack on the prevailing liberal approach to the tackling of poverty that is supported by a wealth (but not an overwhelming quantity) of quantitative and qualitative material. It could be read alongside Saving Capitalism: For the Many, not the Few, which presents what might be called the standard left of centre approach (see our reviews relating to “Capitalism”).

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes (published 1998) is a modern day classic (and our review is thus an exception to our normal principle of not reviewing the “classics”).  It considers what makes nations and peoples rich and what makes them poor from an historical perspective, focussing on culture as a key determinant.  All subsequent discussions of this subject have had to interact with it (e.g. it is frequently referred to in Wealth, Poverty and Politics). It is a “must read” for anyone who wishes seriously to consider the causes of wealth and poverty and, fortunately, its style and approach makes it accessible to all serious readers.

The subject of Public Good by Private Means by Rhodri Davies (published 2016) is much narrower. It considers issues associated with UK (and, to a lesser extent, US) philanthropy and its main (though not exclusive) focus is on philanthropy as a means of tackling poverty. It contains a good historical overview of its subject and is worth reading, not least in order to understand the attacks on philanthropy and philanthropists that have, rightly or wrongly, been made over the years. Some of its underlying assumptions are unstated and it needs to be read with care but it is both interesting and important in the context of our overall response to poverty.