Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Price of Civil·(human)·ization

  • Should the wealthy be taxed more than the poor?
  • Should benefit programs favor the lower income group?
  • Should a retiree who has paid little into Social Security get a larger percentage return on what they've paid?
  • Should low wage earners be subsidised for living expenses?

The math is simple.
If I earn and save, I should be able to keep it all.  If I work diligently and deserve the income I receive, I earned it, nobody else did.  That's the common conservative position, and it's a valid start point.

The one who works, earns, and saves does in fact deserve the return of their labor, of their disciplined thrift and saving.

The story gets a bit more complex when you consider how they arrived at that place of success.  None succeed without help along the way.  Opportunity isn't equal despite our efforts.  Some get the good education, the good employment opportunity, the safe neighborhood where they can enjoy a quiet evening while they do their homework.  Some manage to get through college, scrabbling for enough to live while they do it.  Others make their way into a trade and develop skills that are in demand.  They have a way forward.

Others try just as hard, but the door doesn't open.  Some live where they can afford to, often in troublesome neighborhoods with street crime and violence.  School work suffers when parental supervision is limited by multiple jobs or a missing spouse.  Childhood development suffers when the top influence is a gang culture. Or poverty.  No one chooses to be poor, to not have enough for a healthy diet or a decent education.

Helping those in need -- the underlying principle is recognition of fairness, of equity.  None of us get to choose where or when we're born, the cultural and economic circumstances in which we are raised, yet our humanity requires of us that we care for one another, and that means freely receiving and giving help.

Difficulties can arise when help becomes an impersonal program rather than a personal offer.  Programs can lack the elements of brotherhood and encouragement, and they can produce less than impressive results.  The one helped doesn't get the friend walking alongside that they need and that could be such a help.

That said, do those in need deserve help?  Of course.  The larger question, are those who've accumulated wealth obligated to help others?

It's not about being nice, it's the larger issue of doing what is right.  Is that true?
(Ever wonder why we have wheelchair ramps?  It's not because we're being nice.)

In the marketplace, each echelon is built on the backs of those below. That's the way money works.  It's a bit nonsensical to suggest that the wealth of some didn't come from the efforts of others.

Interestingly, if you take wealth out of the model, the pyramid collapses, and people quickly become the same in every aspect.

Now consider American Capitalism and American Socialism.
Or perhaps The 'Why' of In-group Thinking