Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Smearing the wealth uptown

Arthur C. Brooks, Wall Street Journal:

Real fairness, as most of us see it, does not mean bringing the top down. Yes, free markets tend to produce unequal incomes. We should not be ashamed of that. On the contrary, our system is the envy of the world and should be a source of pride. Generation after generation, it has rewarded hard work and good values, education and street smarts. It has offered the world's most disadvantaged not government redistribution but a chance to earn their success.

What is interesting about this statement is that "our system" is not the envy of the world when it is applied in other nations. Our country, for various reasons owing to how it developed, happens to be extremely wealthy, and it's no secret that people like to envy anybody who is extremely wealthy. But when you apply the "free market" principle of total dependence on one's employer for one's health and well-being, with no basic rights outside this relationship, then "the world" will be the first to tell you how much this sucks, particularly when you don't enjoy the sort of extreme wealth that might let you subsist for a while on the crumbs. In other countries, you just starve, or sell members of your family into some kind of slavery. This is why the rest of the world avoids "our system" like the plague whenever they aren't compelled to accept it by force, and subsequently enjoy "government redistribution" in the form of basic services, like health care, that the average citizen would not be able to purchase on their own.  The thing to remember about a person like Arthur C. Brooks, however, is that he is not an average citizen, and what scares him most is that he would ever be expected to contribute to the welfare of anyone who was.

6 comments:

Ethan said...

I'm not "ashamed" that free markets tend to produce unequal incomes. There are a lot of words to describe how I feel about that, but "ashamed" is definitely not one of them.

Ethan said...

Although I'm sure that any possible sense of "we" as used by Mr. Brooks would not include, say, me.

almostinfamous said...

when Rupert Murdoch said that he would put the WSJ behind a paywall, nobody was happier than me because 70-80% of the people would be free of the influence of their grimy editorial page...

Montag said...

i just read a vivid description of how this works in "the rest of the world." the book it is an English translation (from Korean) of The Dwarf by Cho Se-Hui. it tells stories of people living through (South) Korea's rapid industrialization in the 70's from different perspectives, with a heavy focus on the workers' strife.

Richard said...

It must be exhausting, expending all that effort continually reassuring ourselves that we're the envy of the world.

Another Lawyer said...

But shouldn't a person be ashamed of being rich, if the wealth was stolen or born on the backs of a much lower caste. Can that person be "proud" that they successfully gamed the system, became wealthy but created nothing of value?