Be Open-Handed Toward Your Brothers’

A Recommended “No Bull” Article, this time from


‘Be Open-Handed Toward Your Brothers’

Arthur C. Brooks

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

—Deuteronomy 15:11


…the administration’s ostensibly pro-poor, tough-on-the-wealthy agenda has led us toward a new American Gilded Age. Our putatively progressive president has inadvertently executed a plutocratic tour de force.

But the administration’s failure to achieve the president’s stated goals is nothing for his opponents to celebrate. Few conservatives begrudge the wealthy their gains, and many are skeptical that income inequality is meaningful in and of itself. But the fact that many Americans continue to suffer years after the technical end of the Great Recession should offend any sense of plain justice. The administration’s pathetic performance demands not schadenfreude, but answers. Conservatives need a social-justice agenda of their own.

Most academic research on poverty is eerily divorced from contact with the actual people it references. One of my colleagues tells an instructive story. One afternoon, as he beavered away at his Ph.D. dissertation in a top university’s poverty-research center, an actual poor person walked in. He had seen the signs and was simply looking for help. The expert researchers had no idea what to do. Their instinct was to call security.

Interviews with poor and vulnerable citizens, especially those whose struggles to lift themselves up have yielded success, provide more insight in these conversations than any survey database could impart. From my experience conducting such interviews, many express an apolitical contempt for all politicians, liberal and conservative. They denounce with equal force the progressive politicians who believe that cash and redistribution alone can solve poverty and the conservatives who act as though every poor person should simply start a small business.

What, then, do poor people say they truly need to lead prosperous and satisfying lives? The real answer is both simple and profound. They need transformation, relief, and opportunity—in that order. On these three pillars, conservatives and advocates for free enterprise can build the basics of the social-justice agenda that America deserves.


The first pillar is personal moral transformation.

This a an important article in which the author goes on to remind us of the success of welfare reform, the conservative origins of a safety net designed to reduce dependency and in the process makes a compelling case for an intelligent, practical – and biblically anchored – approach to rebuilding a society in which the term “upwardly mobile” really means something. It is the classic, “No Bull” article of the moment, that deserves to be read carefully by every fan of The Policy Think Site.


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