From The Public, May 25, 1917
By Ellis O. Jones.
An Idle Poor Man met an Idle Rich Man and asked him for assistance, but the Idle Rich Man was impatient. He tried to brush the other aside and pass on.
"Out of my way, you lump of uselessness. It is not right for you to solicit alms. Why don’t you go to work?”
“Why don’t you give me work?”
"There isn’t any work that I want done.”
"But there is work that I want done,” retorted the Idle Poor Man, “and I am willing to do it myself if I only had the opportunity.”
"Oh, yes,” contemptuously replied the Idle Rich Man, "I have heard all that before. There is plenty of work if you would only do it. I don’t believe you want to work.”
"Of course I don’t.”
“Ah, ha, I thought so.”
“Do you want to work?” inquired the Idle Poor Man.
“I don’t have to work,” evasively replied the other.
“Ah, ha, I thought so,” mocked the Idle Poor Man.
"I have an independent income," said the Idle Rich Man.
“Did you work for it?” asked the Idle Poor Man.
“No, but I came by it honestly enough. It was left to me by my father.”
“So. So. You’re no better than I am.”
“My poor deluded friend,” responded the Idle Rich Man in a fatherly tone, “I am really doing you a great favor in thus arguing with you, but I must say your knowledge of political economy is exceedingly limited. It may be true that I do no work myself, but by spending my money I make work for others which is of great social value.”
“Yes, you make work for servants and bootblacks and chauffeurs and valets and gardeners and diamond-cutters and many others, but you take good care that none of them shall make work for you. Your theory is all wrong. There is no virtue in making work for others to clean up. But even if that were the test, I still maintain that you are no better than I. I, too, make work.”
“Perhaps you do, but of a different kind.”
“Work is work. It is impossible to place certain values upon different kinds of work,” said the Idle Poor Man. “As a matter of fact, the workers I create are quite as much honored and respected as those arising through you. I am a problem, I am. A regular problem. As such I require the attention of real thinkers, or at least those who think they are thinkers. I give employment to academicians and learned sociologists and settlement workers and charity organizations and reformers and politicians and policemen and orators and writers and goodness knows who all. I am sure you have no monopoly on making work. It seems to me that the only difference between us as shown by this argument is a difference in the matter of honesty.”
“And of course you are the more honest,” declared the Idle Rich Man sarcastically.
“Honesty is so largely a subjective matter,” responded the Idle Poor Man, “that I am quite sure we could never agree on that point.”