Thursday, May 8, 2014

The "Hoarding" By the Rich Fosters Widespread Prosperity

The "rich" are under attack in America. This unjust, bigoted assault takes many forms. 

One form of denigrating the rich goes something like, "When the rich hoard their money, they impoverish a nation."

Before we proceed, we must distinguish between the two basic types of fortunes; fortunes by productive work vs. fortunes by looting. Those who denigrate "the rich" in today's context typically ignore this fundamental difference, and implicitly lump the two together, with the assumption that if your rich, you somehow acquired your wealth at someone else's, or "society's," expense. 

In the modern mixed economy, there is a class of wealth that fits this description; those who get rich by government subsidies and favors. Some fortunes are a combination of the two types. When I speak of "the rich," I refer to the productive rich; the Hank Reardens, not the James Taggarts.

So, some people claim that the rich are "hoarders," and that this is wrong, because the hoarding comes at others' expense. This is a derivative of the "fortunes by looting" view of the rich. The implicit premise is, "You're holding other people's money, so the least you can do is use it—spend it or invest it or whatever—for the good of the people from whom you took it. You owe them that much, otherwise you're holding out on these people." 

One example of this line can be found in Tom Hartmann's 2012 column, The Wealthy hoard money, while holding the middle class hostage. Hartmann doesn't say just how anyone is held "hostage," but he does say "median family wealth in America dropped by nearly 40% between 2007 and 2010. But, during that same [period], the wealth of the Walton family [Hartmann's proxy for 'the rich'] increased 22% to nearly $90 billion. . ." What premise is implicit in this group of non sequiturs? 

Hartmann doesn't consider government's role in this disparity. For example, what about the role of the Federal Reserve in first inflating the housing market to its 2007 bubble peak, and then collapsing it, which disproportionately hurt lower and middle class households. What about it's role in inflating the stock market post-housing bubble, which disproportionately enriches stock-holding households, which is what most of the rich are? Hartmann evades these considerations. Likewise, Hartman makes no mention of what form the Waltons's wealth is held, or why it constitutes hoarding. He just asserts a statistic, in an intellectual vacuum, to rationalize his call for higher taxes on the rich.

More to the point is this, attributed to John Stewart, posted on "Occupy Canada":

If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers, we call him crazy. If a woman has an apartment full of cats, we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.

Stewart conjures up the image of a glutenous, parasitical royalty sitting atop pots of gold, silver, and like riches taken from the meager possessions of his subjects. This kind of "wealth" accumulation is hoarding, and it does impoverish a nation. But this ancient form of the rich is wholly inapplicable to capitalist fortunes.

Far from hoarding their fortunes in some mythical gold vault—or in the form of cash; but who hoards cash?—the wealthy in a modern, relatively free market, semi-capitalist economy hold their wealth in the form of productive capital like stock ownership of productive enterprises, investment companies like private equity, and banks, where it fuels new businesses, innovative inventions, or consumer lending for durable goods. (In today's world of deficit government financing, a lot of cash is held in the form of government bonds, which is much less productive, and even un- or counter-productive. But that is a symptom of what's wrong with the economy; government spending, which hogs the bond market and diverts private capital away from productive uses to politicized spending or "investing." Besides, it is mostly government-related entities, not the rich, that hold government bonds.)

Savings—particularly the fortunes of the rich—are the investment capital that serves as the "seed corn" without which no industrial economy—and thus no prosperity—can be achieved or sustained. Far from removing wealth from the economy, the rich cycle their wealth throughout the economy, fostering widespread prosperity through investment. Contrary to Keynesian fallacy, it is production, not consumption, that fuels economic growth. And production is fueled by investment of saved money.

The Stewart quote also implies the collectivist notion that wealth is a fixed quantity that just happens to be here, and that one person's accumulation of wealth leaves that much less wealth available for others. Such a view is that of a savage or an animal, to whom survival depends solely on what nature happens to make available in any given location in any particular point in time. The idea of wealth creation through productive work (reason-guided physical labor) never entered the mind of the savage. But, in an industrial, division of labor, money exchange economy, wealth is created. No one's wealth comes at another's expense. To say that one person's "hoarding" comes at the expense of the impoverishment of others is to make the ridiculous claim that the wealth creator creates his wealth at the expense of those who did not create it.

Modern fortunes are earned by virtuous individuals through life-supporting productive work and trade. Trade is the voluntary exchange of value for value, a win-win that enriches both parties. Fortune builders are productive individuals who are the best at creating values that others are willing and able to pay for. The Rockefellers, Carnegies, Gates's, Dells, and Jobses create their fortunes by discovering and serving mass markets with products conceived and realized by their own minds, thus lifting millions economically through trade as they build their fortunes. The wealthy's $billions pale into insignificance next to the trillions upon trillions of dollars of economic activity, engaged in my untold tens of millions upon millions of people at all income levels, that their fortune-building facilitates.

The fortunes of the rich do not represent stolen wealth, but earned wealth. It is wealth already created—by them—and in a country that respects and protects property rights, deployed in a way that fuels future wealth creation. It is in this way that the rich in a civilized country represent a double-barreled benefactor for a nation. If you doubt this, just look around at all of the products and services that are available for purchase, but which you yourself did not and could not produce. Behind this material bounty lie the fortunes of the capitalist economy.

Of course, the rich are not slaves obligated to sacrifice their best interests for the sake of "the nation" or "society." They—and every saver on every economic level—have every right to liquidate their holdings, and hold their wealth in the form of pots of gold (or their equivalent). That's what typically happens under socialist regimes, which is a major reason why socialism—and all looting statists systems—typically collapses nations into impoverishment. Productive savers seek to protect their wealth by removing it from the economy (and the country), before it can be looted by the statists. The latest example; Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. Contrary to the Hartmanns and the Stewarts of the world, it is the forcible redistribution of the wealth of the rich that impoverishes nations.

Those who levy the hoarding smear against the rich obviously have not read Atlas Shrugged or any good economics book, or even thought in terms of real-world facts about what they're saying. If they had, they would not make such ignorant assertions. But what more can you expect from the Marxist-inspired "Occupy" movement.

Related Reading:

"Trickle-Down Economics": Anti-Capitalists' Insulting Portrayal of the "Common Man"

Leadership and The BB&T PhilosophyJAANA WOICESHYN 

The Capitalist Manifesto—Andrew Bernstein

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