People tend to be quite judgmental when it comes to wealth and poverty. On the one hand, the so-called Protestant work ethic—the idea that wealth comes to those who work—leads many people to blame the poor for their poverty. On the other hand, compassion for the poor (and perhaps envy of the wealthy) leads others to blame the wealthy for poverty, judging them too selfish and unfeeling to assist the poor.
Here is where the science of economics comes in handy. As a social scientist, an economist examines wealth and poverty from a more objective viewpoint than the noneconomist. In this section, we examine poverty and wealth from the economist's viewpoint. The goal is, first, to develop a clear picture of the extent of wealth and poverty and, second, to examine trends in the distribution of income in America. Finally, we will examine the government's current role in addressing poverty.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Economics © 2003 by Tom Gorman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.