Social Protest Lit: Ruskin, “The Veins of Wealth”

A piece from “Book II: The Chasm” which regards economic/social inequality with an excerpt by John Ruskin from The Veins of Wealth:

Primarily, which is very notable and curious, I observe that men of business rarely know the meaning of the word “rich.” At least if they know, they do no in their reasonings allow for the fact, that it is a relative word, implying its opposite “poor” as positively the word “north” implies its opposite “south.” Men nearly always speak and write as if riches were absolute, and it were possible, by following certain scientific precepts, for everybody to be rich. Whereas riches are a power like that of electricity, acting only through inequalities or negations of itself. The force of the guinea you have in your pocket depends wholly on the default of a guinea in your neighbors pocket. If he did not want it, it would be of no use to you; the degree of power it possesses depends accurately upon the need or desire he has for it, – and the art of making yourself rich, in the ordinary mercantile economist’s sense, is therefor equally and necessarily the art of keeping your neighbor poor.

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