Letter: The parable and the poverty trap

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The Independent Online
Sir: In your report of Dr George Carey's Easter sermon ('Carey fuels row over gap between rich and poor', 4 April) you quote Tory MP John Watts as follows: 'He (Dr Carey) seems to think you make the poor better off by making the rich poorer. He should re-read the parable of the labourers in the vineyard . . .' (St Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 20).

What an interesting text to choose to refute Dr Carey's argument. According to the parable, the vineyard owner eschews market forces and adopts a voluntary 'minimum wage' code to pay each worker the same, even those who have only worked for part of the day. In so doing he sacrifices his wealth to offer his labourers, particularly the latecomers, a chance to escape the poverty trap and to earn a decent living. There is no mistaking the parable. If the wealthy vineyard owner had done the expected and paid on the basis of an hourly rather than a daily rate, the poor would have remained less well-off and he would have finished the day richer.

Yours faithfully,

PHILIP ANGIER

Newcastle upon Tyne

4 April

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