The labouring people are only poor, because they are numerous. Numbers in their nature imply poverty. In a fair distribution among a vast multitude none can have much. That class of dependent pensioners called the rich is so extremely small, that if all their throats were cut, and a distribution made of all they consume in a year, it would not give a bit of bread and cheese for one night's supper to those who labour, and who in reality feed both the pensioners and themselves.— Scarcity (VI. 4).
To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. The people maintain them, and not they the people. It is in the power of government to prevent much evil; it can do very little positive good in this, or perhaps in anything else. It is not only so of the state and statesman, but of all the classes and descriptions of the rich— they are the pensioners of the poor, and are maintained by their superfluity. They are under an absolute hereditary, and indefeasible dependence on those who labour, and are miscalled the poor.— Scarcity (VI. 3).
Labour is a commodity like every other, and rises or falls according to the demand.— Scarcity (VI. 6).
When I say that we of the people ought to be informed, inclusively I say, we ought not to be flattered ; flattery is the reverse of instruction. The poor in that case would be rendered as improvident as the rich, which would not be at all good for them.
Nothing can be so base and so wicked as the political canting language, "the labouring poor." Let compassion be shown in action, the more the better, according to every man's ability; but let there he no lamentation of their condition. It is no relief to their miserable circumstances; it is only an insult to their miserable understandings. It arises from a total want of charity, or a total want of thought. Want of one kind was never relieved by want of any other kind. Patience, labour, sobriety, frugality, and religion, should be recommended to them ; all the rest is downright fraud. It is horrible to call them "the once happy labourer— Scarcity (VI. 4).
I shall content myself now with observing that the vigorous and laborious class of life has lately got, from the bon ton of the humanity of this day, the name of the "labouring poor." We have heard many plans for the relief of the "labouring poor." This puling jargon is not as innocent as it is foolish. In meddling with great affairs, weakness is never innoxious. Hitherto the name of poor (in the sense in which it is used to excite compassion) has not been used for those who can, but for those who cannot, labour— for the sick and infirm, for orphan infancy, for languishing and decrepid age; but when we affect to pity, as poor, those who must labour, or the world cannot exist, we are trifling with the condition of mankind — Regicide Peace (VI. 279).