Causa paupertatis plerisque probitas est.
(Q. Curtius Rufus 4.1.20)

The cause of poverty for many is honesty.

Pron = KOW-sah pow-pair-TAH-tis play-EES-kweh PROH-bih-tas ehst.

Comment: Curtius Rufus uses this line as a momentary reflection in
the middle of a story about a man many deemed to be most powerful, but
who had no money. His honesty was the cause of his poverty.

At first glance, perhaps, in a culture built on the Protestant
(Puritan, Calvinist) work ethic, this must be a mistake. If one is
honest and upright, the smile of divine blessing will be evident in
prosperity. It is a message still alive and well. Moral virtue
equates material prosperity to many. It's an easy message that many of us learned long ago: behave, and you will get candy.

What the ancients understood all too well was that wealth was a
product of two things: the luck of birth, and one's ability to
manipulate power for one's financial gain. With that view of things,
an honest man could only be one thing: poor, for it is difficult to manipulate others for one's own benefit and be honest at the same time.

Luck of birth is still a factor. Those born into any kind of
affluence enjoy a headstart in life. An inheritance doesn't hurt, either.

When, and where, and to whom, one speaks the truth still has a
powerful effect on whether one is allowed into the flow of wealth in
modern society. One would think that those who tell the truth in a society that claims to be moral would be honored. We call them "whistleblowers", a grown up term for "tattle-tale".

Consider Salman Rushde. Or, the Dixie Chicks. Or Martin Luther King, Jr. Or Mahatmas Ghandi. Or Jesus. Or the Buddha (who was poisoned to death). Or Socrates. Or someone you know in your own community who has been a little too honest a little too often a little too publicly. We don't often allow such honest people to thrive. Their honesty keeps them "poor".

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day Archive