A friend forwarded a video that I’ve seen before. It highlights the range of wealth in America, showing just how much more money rich people have than poor. It got me thinking about the class warfare that the Democrats have engaged in over the past several years. For those who were educated when our public schools were still in that business, remember that a core strategy for communist propagandists in our country has been trying to stoke resentment of the rich by the poor. For years, when the disparity of income was pointed out in this country, people didn’t react by plotting to storm the castle, but responded by trying replicate their success. Too bad that envy has replace inspiration.
Anyhow, what follows is the e-mail that I sent to the friend. I thought about writing my thoughts in an post here, and directing my friend here to read my response, but that would be rude. It’s bad enough that we’re communicating via e-mail rather than in person, but life’s demands limit our time together. I guess it’s less rude to share what I said in my e-mail, so here’s what I wrote him in response to that video…
I’ve seen that before. Wealth distribution is largely a function of three things: risk, personal resources, and interaction with current market conditions.
Take personal resources first. We are born with abilities and aptitudes that suit us for certain activities. I’m not a basketball player for several reasons, but even if I were, my height puts me at a decided disadvantage to those who are a foot taller than I am. I didn’t choose my height; it just was my lot in life. So was the economic situation of my family. I would have chosen to be a Kennedy or Rockefeller, but I wasn’t. I have intelligence, an emotional and psychological makeup, and personal likes and dislikes. These all contribute to my personal resources. Also, choices along life’s path add to my pool of resources. Life lessons, accumulated assets, and relationships are all uniquely mine to glean whatever advantage I can.
Interaction with current market conditions includes my ability to land a job, start and operate a business, and maneuver myself into an advantageous position. Choosing the right college, the right college major, the right spouse, the right church, the right lodge to join. All those decisions and interactions with market forces contribute to my success at acquiring assets. Buy the wrong property at the wrong time, and my assets go down. Buy the right stock at the right time, and my assets go up. Let the wrong politician plant a “Vote for Me” sign in my yard and alienate my neighbors or customers. Market forces are more than economics and money. Everything is vying for our attention and approval. What choices I’ve made and the interactions I’ve engaged in over the years contribute to how well positioned I am for monetary success in the future.
Finally, risk. If I have an employee who flips off a customer, he will lose his job. But, he can go next door and get another one. If I flip off a customer, I may very well lose my business. That’s harder to replace. If someone slips on the floor at Ingles (a local grocery store chain), they don’t sue the stockboy who didn’t mop up the spill. They sue Mr. Ingles. He’s the one who has accepted the risks of doing business and he is the one who is entitled to the rewards of doing business: whether that’s a lawsuit or cash.
So, the issue of wealth distribution isn’t one of us vs. them, of rich vs. poor. Wealth distribution is an issue of reaping the sum total of a person’s personal resources, interaction with market forces, and the amount of risk they were willing to accept.
George Shinn is a businessman in the Charlotte area. He began the Charlotte Hornets NBA team. He graduated from AL Brown High School in Kannapolis, NC. He graduated dead last in his class. He and his mother existed on welfare. He is a millionaire many times over. Mr. Shinn addressed one of the graduating classes at AL Brown and told them all those things about his past. He also admonished the class to take chances. He said that taking risk was key to improving their economic condition and that the worst they could do was to end up in the same boat he began in: dead last in their class and on welfare.
People improve their conditions in life. It is very difficult for some, and not as difficult for others. But it is largely a function of how well they manage these three things. George Shinn managed his very well. His success did not come at the expense of others. Every transaction in our economy is made freely (except for those involving government). When someone buys a concert ticket for $85, that’s pricey, but he thinks it’s worth $85 to see a performer for a couple of hours. The performer thinks it’s worth it to play for a couple of hours in exchange for $85. Neither is getting ripped off. Same with a $700 computer, a $5 gallon of milk, or a $52 share of stock. Both parties think they are getting a bargain or else they wouldn’t enter into the transaction.
The wide range of wealth distribution isn’t a moral problem. It’s natural. Some people will fritter away their opportunities, while others leverage them to improve their economic condition. The fact that a payday exists that rewards those who made better choices is not an evil thing. Punishing those who have proven diligent and prudent by confiscating the fruit of their labor and giving it to people who squandered their opportunities is evil.
Take sex as another example, and apply the three factors to it. Risk, interaction with market conditions, and personal resources. Someone who is naturally beautiful and desirable will be able to attract willing sex partners more readily than someone who is ugly. Someone who is willing to sleep with anyone (risk) is more likely to engage in more sex than someone who is pickier. Someone who is sensitive to market conditions, such as passing fads and trends like physical fitness, yoga, hairstyles, clothing, music styles, types of bars, and such will more likely find willing sexual partners. The person who devotes the time and effort into maximizing the advantage of these three factors will most likely end up with more sex than those who ignore them. Is the inequality of sexual experience a moral issue or an issue of choice?
The gap between our poorest and richest will continue to grow. The government is making sure it does by promoting sloth. People today don’t have the foresight, diligence, or perseverance to do what it takes to close that gap. Rather than save their pennies and work hard to purchase a status symbol like a sports car or nice house, people would rather walk around with cheap status symbols like a $5 cup of coffee and an i-Phone. Anyone can afford those, but it takes time and self-discipline to acquire a Rolls Royce. Who has time for that?
I’m not unsettled by poverty. Jesus said that we’d always have the poor with us. We will not rid the world of poverty because we will not rid the world of poor choices, sloth, and people who just aren’t as good competing with others for money. I don’t compete as aggressively as I could because I just don’t care. Lots of people don’t play the game for lots of reasons.