Monday, April 10, 2017

Oxfam Attacks Prosperity, Part 2

Why would Oxfam, a charity organization allegedly concerned for the poor, peddle the myth that eliminating economic inequality would somehow benefit the poor? After all, these are not stupid ignorant people at Oxfam. They can’t fail to know what actually leads to prosperity—cultures of reason, rule-of-law governments, protection of individual rights including property rights, and free enterprise. They can’t fail to know that growing prosperity requires vast amounts of ever-growing investment capital, and that the lion’s share of the wealth of the greatest producers is not spent on personal consumption but tied up as investment capital—and that the best hope of the poor resides with this capital and the freedom to employ it. (Oxfam observes that “While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight, a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it.” That’s true. But if their’s and all other fortunes were all spent today, the other 8 of 9 people would go to bed hungry tomorrow. Yet that’s what Oxfam wants to do: take it and spend it.)

The interesting thing about Oxfam’s report is that it doesn’t even try to hide the authors’ hatred of human flourishing. We don’t see the usual “justifications” for forcibly reducing economic inequality, such as that inequality-reducing redistribution and regulation would be good for the overall economy. They don’t try to hide their motives behind high-minded rationalizations, such as “We want all people to prosper, not just the wealthy. They tell you outright: The fortunes are bad for no other reason but that they exist. They are saying, “We don’t want the poor to gain, we want the wealthy to lose.”

Why peddle this unjust nonsense about “an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth?” As we see by looking at actual facts, the fortunes in the hands of the greatest market entrepreneurs stems from trade and is enormously beneficent, not dangerous. So why condemn it? One might be tempted to say, perhaps precisely because these “grotesque” creators are poverty alleviators. Who would need Oxfam if poor people could actually work their own way out of poverty, rather than be dependent on the elites at Oxfam and their ilk to make their perpetual suffering a little more bearable? And who would benefit from poverty-perpetuating wealth redistribution? Organizations like Oxfam, whose power would be enhanced.

There may be some truth to the greed motive. But it is Oxfam’s moral evaluation of the wealthy, not the wealthy, that is truly  “beyond grotesque.” The deeper motive is likely hatred for the successful and the achievers, not for anything they did wrong, but merely because of their success and achievement. And don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only a few of the richest of the rich that Oxfam is targeting. If it’s moral to take the “excess” wealth these eight, then why not the next eight, or the entire “one percent,” or the next one or five or 10 or 50 percent and on down the economic scale—anyone who flourishes on any level. If you are a self-supporting individual, do not ask for whom the bell of egalitarian wealth redistribution tolls—it tolls for you.

Yes, there are poor people. But the problem is that they are poor, not that Bill Gates is rich. If the poor had cultures of reason, rule-of-law governments, protection of individual rights including property rights, and free enterprise—that is, capitalism—they’d wouldn’t stay poor. They’d be able to afford the great products that the rest of us enjoy, and fill the jobs to be able to afford them—and, probably, produce a few Bill Gateses of their own.

Capitalism gave rise to something new in history; fortunes by work and trade, instead of fortunes by theft or conquest. Capitalist fortune-builders don’t prosper at the expense of anyone. General well-being rises as the creators’ fortunes grow. The very conditions needed to alleviate the poverty of the 50% necessarily are the same conditions that lead to even greater market fortunes and even greater economic inequality. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Economic inequality is a reflection of individual human diversity—not of racial diversity but diversity of ability, ambition, moral character, et al—and the natural consequence of a society that protects the freedom of people to rise as far as their individual ability, ambition, moral character, and personal circumstances will carry them.

In other words, more capitalism would undoubtedly make the richest people even richer, even as more people productively and self-motivationally rise from poverty to prosperity, because they’d have that much bigger of a consumer base from which to trade and flourish with. Put another way, growing fortunes and rising general living standards go hand-in-hand. Put yet another way, we need more capitalism, the only moral social system, not more socialistic, living standard-diminishing, hope/aspiration killing, neo-communist economic equality-driven wealth redistribution and regulation. Every dollar earned by individuals through trade under free market conditions, no matter how many dollars, is just. The rich have a moral right to every dollar of their fortunes. They earned it. Just do the introspection.

To attack these great creators is to attack the personal well-being and flourishing and hope of billions of people just like myself. I’m totally selfish. I worked long and hard and smart to be able to acquire, through trade, the products of all of the work and effort of producers I don’t even know, including the greatest of these producers. I defend the Bill Gateses of the world not only because of my healthy sense of justice, but because they’re personally good for me and the people in my life who mean something to me. Billionaires? I hope to live long enough to see the rise of the world’s first market trillionaires. Imagine how wealthy average people will have to be to support a trillionaire class. Imagine how free more people would have to be. Imagine no poor people. Imagine no “need” for the Oxfams of the world and their stupid surveys.

Oxfam claims to be an anti-poverty institution. But poverty is the natural state of man. Everything man needs to survive and thrive must be produced and shared through trade. The question is not, what makes people poor? The question is, what causes human flourishing? The Oxfams of the world have nothing to contribute to the answer to the second question. Anyone who wonders about rich versus poor, and then condemns the rich, have nothing to contribute to making the world a more prosperous place. Anyone who labels mankind’s greatest benefactors—the leaders of the rich world; the fortune-building creative industrial entrepreneurs who turn science and invention into mass-market products and who, more effectively than anyone else, lift millions out of poverty and into an upward trajectory of increasing prosperity—as “grotesque” cannot claim to be champions of the poor. They are nihilistic enemies of non-poverty and human flourishing motivated by envy and hatred of achievement, because the only way to end economic inequality is to end freedom and bring everybody down to man’s natural state.

I love my Dell and my safe home and my well-stocked food stores and department stores and my fracked energy and all the rest. Leave your hands off of the well-earned market fortunes. The creators have given us more every day than the poverty-worshippers could in a lifetime. And most importantly, given that they earned it the way everyone else earns their money—by voluntary consent and exchange with everyone they dealt with—they have a moral right to their fortunes. The motivation of the fortune builders is the same as consumer purchasers—selfish spiritual and material personal gain. Mutually beneficial selfishness is the hallmark of free market capitalism and its virtuous means of social interaction. That’s a good thing. People getting better together, not by taking but by trading—giving to get: That’s what makes capitalism the only moral social system. That’s how most of today’s billionaires get rich. They are heroes, these Bill Gateses and Warren Buffets of the world, not villains.

Related Reading:

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader—Brent Schlender  

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