I was struck by this passage from “Poverty Amid Plenty”, a report produced by a 1969 presidential commission:
To go to school costs money — books, notebooks, pencils, gym shoes, and ice cream with the other kids. Without these the child begins to be an outcast.
To go to church costs money — some Sunday clothes, carfare to get there, a little offering. Without these one cannot go.
To belong to the Boy Scouts costs money — uniforms, occasional dues, shared costs of a picnic. Without these, no Scouts.
To have friends into the house costs money — for a bit of food, a drink.
To visit relatives costs money — for travel, a gift for the kids. These people cannot afford to visit their relatives.
For a teenager to join his friends on the corner he must have some money — for a coke, a show.
How does a fellow take a girl out on a date without some money? And how does a girl pretty herself for a fellow without some money?
How do you join a club? Buy a book, a magazine, a newspaper?
Poverty settles like an impenetrable cell over the lives of the very poor, shutting them off from every social contact, killing the spirit, casting them out from the community of human life.
This is likely true of inequality in general, not merely absolute deprivation. A society with substantial inequality is one in which there are different classes of people living very different and very separate lives. For those with communitarian inclinations, this is toxic.