Some people have more money than others. Some people have a lot more than others. Is there something wrong with that? Something evil that requires correction?
First of all, what is wealth, again? At the Spherical Model, this is the definition:
Wealth is not some mystical entity endowed by either government or birthright. Nor is it something that the haves enjoy by depriving the have nots of their fair share. Wealth, simply, represents the accumulation of the results of labor.
There is a total amount of wealth in the world—at this current moment. But that is an accounting detail, not a limit. There is no upper limit to wealth in the world. It is producible by every productive human individual.
There’s a section of The Lessons of History, by Will and Ariel Durant, on money, and disparity of wealth:
Since practical ability differs from person to person, the majority of such abilities, in nearly all societies, is gathered in a minority of men. The concentration of wealth is a natural result of this concentration of ability, and regularly recurs in history. The rate of concentration varies (other factors being equal) with the economic freedom permitted by morals and the laws. Despotism may for a time retard the concentration; democracy, allowing the most liberty, accelerates it….
We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution.
So, what we know is, there will always be differences, disparity of wealth. Because people are different. But the problem isn’t that wealth disparity exists; it is that poverty exists. As the Gospels say, “For ye have the poor with you always” (Mark 14:7, see also Matthew 26:11 and John 12:8).
It would be helpful to look at real root problems, rather than imagined problems.
Does a rich person’s wealth prevent a poorer person from generating wealth? Not in a free market. In a true free market, wealth is developed by producing more than the minimum necessary for survival. In the language of money, it’s when you earn more than you spend, and you accumulate the extra. And you might accumulate more if you invest it—low amounts in a savings account, possibly more with other investments—along with the risk of loss.
But what about the person who spends everything he can earn, and can hardly get by? What if he can barely cover his food, clothing, and shelter needs, with nothing left over for education, entertainment, or greater comfort? Is it fair that he works hard and lives this way, when another person works maybe only as many hours—and maybe at less physically taxing work?
Isn’t it evil for the rich person to accept so much money—way beyond what he needs—for work that is in many ways equivalent to a regular worker?
|The Good Earth|
That’s the kind of question that leads to discontent and sometimes to violence.
In Pearl Buck’s novel The Good Earth, there’s a point where the poor are starving and growing daily more desperate, squatting along the walls of the wealthy, until things get so heated, the poor rise up and raid the property of the wealthy, looting and killing. That was a book of fiction, but the Durants’ book describes that as a typical cycle.
It might look like the problem is too much wealth at the top, but it’s really about too little at the bottom. When people are starving and suffering while the wealthy ignore their needs, that is an injustice that won’t stand indefinitely. Usually in that kind of situation, there are interferences going on that protect the position of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. There are class systems that keep people down. Or there are limits to who can do what work, or enter into certain businesses.
It is interference with liberty that leads, not simply to disparity, but to suffering by the poor with no apparent way out. More interference, even with the intention of making up for the injustice, will never solve the problem.
The problem isn’t that some people make more; the problem is that there are actual poor—those who, for no fault of their own, cannot earn enough to meet their needs—that aren’t being taken care of.
A Democrat friend (whom I am quoting without identifying, because I value the friendship, if not the ideas) recently posted this Jimmy Carter quote:
If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor—then stop saying that you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don’t.
And then he commented,
We are the government. We choose where the money is spent. If you hate government, then work to change it. A society is known for how it treats people. I choose to live in a society where we feed the poor and provide great education for people to succeed. I believe we should provide healthcare to all people regardless of what country of birth or ability to pay. These people are our brothers and sisters. If you want to turn away your brother and sister then send them to me. If you want to blame government for everything bad in this country, then blame your forefathers for setting up this system. I choose to work harder to make a difference.
I guess we need to mention that this is not the system of forefathers set up. I've read the Constitution. But this is an example of how many Democrats think. They would never vote for a Republican, because Republicans are mean and stingy, and out to make money for themselves and let the poor starve. But they’re wrong. Republicans, or conservatives in general, because they don’t assume that government has relieved them of responsibility, are much more likely to give freely, and are likely to find charitable organizations that make a real difference in the lives of those in need. need.[i]
Government is coercion. There is no charity in coercion, so government charity is a lie; it is the despotism of redistribution. In short, that means we are voting to allow government to take earnings from whomever it chooses and to give that confiscated money to whomever it chooses. In our individual lives, that is called theft. When our government does it, it doesn’t suddenly become noble; it is still theft.
The “we are the government” claim is a fallacy. We, the people, are sovereign, and grant to government only what we must, to perform specific security and infrastructure roles. When government takes our money to give to the poor, we aren’t being charitable; we are being robbed. And too often the poor aren’t helped out of poverty; they are lured into dependency on government, which is about government power much more than about helping people. If you assume that, once robbed by government you have no more responsibility to the poor, you might be making yourself feel good, but you’re not actually engaged in charitable giving.
Follow that “we are the government” idea to its logical conclusion, and it means any majority can do anything it wants: confiscate wealth, take businesses from those who own them (ask GMC dealers under threat of Obama), control what you produce and sell, control what you are allowed to do with your own property, decide whether you are a preferred person to get various opportunities, decide how you raise your children, decide whether you get health care and within what limits, and on endlessly.
The solution to poverty isn’t theft from earners. It has to be actual charity. People with enough to meet their needs need to feel compassion in their hearts and give freely, in ways that will help the poor, whenever possible, to move out of their situation and become self-sustaining, and on the way to building their own wealth.
Name calling about whether someone is Christian or not isn’t helpful. Start with tithes and offerings. A tithe is 10% of your gross income (you figure that out, if you’re a business; it can be after reinvestment in the business for future income). Then, on top of that, consider going without something, such as a meal or two while you fast, and giving that to the poor. If your church isn’t a good outlet for the entire amount of your charitable giving, then find the charities that work for you.[ii] If you’re not doing this minimal amount that God asks for, then don’t go pretending you’re more giving because you let government take your money for its purposes. [Note: the Democrat friend actually is a rare one who pays tithes, so at least he's not hypocritical on this point.]
|Baby Social Sphere helps by making friends|
at a nutrition screening in Peru
If you’re at the lower end but getting by, you can still give that percentage; the widow’s mite was the greatest gift left at the altar that day (Luke 21;1 and Mark 12:14). Seeing yourself as someone with extra to give can be mind-changing in ways that lead to wealth. You feel gratitude instead of covetousness. You recognize the value of what you have and take care of it. You feel generosity to care for the less fortunate. You cease to feel entitled to what others have earned and begin to feel confident in your own ability to meet your needs and offer value to the world.
Inculcating real charity, instead of resentment and covetousness, would get us closer to solving the poverty problem.
The problem isn’t disparity, so let’s not even worry about that. The problem is that some people are in need and really need help. The political solution isn’t more government control; it is more liberty. The economic solution isn’t forced redistribution and control, but free market with its opportunities. The real solution is something you need for civilization—real charity and voluntary giving.
[i] Read Arthur Brooks, Who Really Cares? The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism, © 2006.
[ii] I suggest Liahona Children’s Foundation, which offers nutrition-dense resources for poor children, a project daughter Social Sphere is helping with in South America the past couple of months.