FROM THE BOQ: BUSINESS, POLITICS AND ETHICS #12

Another question from Gregory Stock’s book is this:

Should there be a limit to the personal wealth one individual is allowed to amass? 

Unfortunately not. 

The rich have never been richer, and the poor have never been poorer–and the rich have never been so goddamned selfish.  In the past, the richest people–at least in the United States–tended to engage in philanthropy.  Millionaires like Rockefeller and Carnegie contributed extraordinarily large amounts of money for the public good.  It was not only expected of them–it was the fashionable thing to do.  Did they do this because they really cared, or because it made them feel more appreciated?  It doesn’t matter.  As I’ve stated in a previous post:  It is best to do the right thing for the right reason.  But it is better to do the right thing for the wrong reason than the wrong thing for the right reason. 

Now the rich contribute nothing.  Philanthropy is no longer fashionable, and neither is humanitarianism. 

I’ve heard, through the grapevine, that 97% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of only 3% of the population.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I do know, however, that generosity is no longer valued in this country–and that those rich bastards people who are generous are so biased in their generosity that it counts for nothing.

The decade in which I came of age, the 1980’s, was labeled the “Me Decade”.  And it was a selfish era–but nothing compared to this goddamned Digital Age.  I don’t know how it is in other countries–but I have never seen such selfishness among Americans as now. 

The rich have never been so selfish because the American people, in general, have never been so selfish. 

But we cannot impose monetary limits on individuals–maybe corporations, but not individuals.  To do so would be to embrace communism.

As most of us know, communism itself is not an inhumane concept.  In fact, in theory, communism is quite humane.  But it simply doesn’t work, in practice–at least not on a national, or even regional, scale.  It breeds tyranny–no communist nation has ever been truly communist.  Because there are always going to be those who insist on more than their own fair share.  Quoting from Aldous Huxley’s novel, Animal Farm (which I highly recommend to anyone), “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”  And this is the essence of communism, when actually put into practice.

Capitalism has its flaws too, however.  In fact, the current economy of the United States is heading toward one of untempered capitalism–eventually our economy will be just like that of Mexico (no middle class–just an extremely rich minority and an extremely poor majority), if we don’t use some restraint.

Yet capitalism is the only economic system that works, in practice, as well as in theory.  It’s not perfect by any means–but it’s arguably the best.

I disliked George W. Bush as much as I dislike Barack Obama.  But, like Obama, Bush had some good points to make.  And one of these was that we could not legislate kindness.

No, we cannot legislate kindness.  We cannot legislate generosity.  We cannot force the rich (whom I admittedly resent) to give back to the community. 

We cannot legislate a limit to the personal wealth one individual is allowed to amass.  But that individual can impose a limit on himself–or herself.  That individual can exercise his or her conscience toward unselfishness.  Let us hope he or she does.

And in the meantime–let us look at ourselves.  The poor can be as selfish as the rich–we humans are the most advanced animals on the planet, but we’re still animals.  And as animals, it is in our nature to be selfish.  Yet as humans, it is in our power to be unselfish.

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