The article that is linked below may be the best analysis of what our rulers in the United States will never understand about their responsibility to govern. All of what Ayn Rand has to say, in this piece by George Smith for libertarianism.org and republished at fee.org (the Foundation for Economic Education), are thoughts that have stewed in my mind but never come to words, at least not words as clearly expressed as she did.
As Smith says: Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy. It has always been about the individual vs. the state.
In a letter written on March 19, 1944, Ayn Rand remarked: “Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Socialism are only superficial variations of the same monstrous theme—collectivism.” Rand would later expand on this insight in various articles, most notably in two of her lectures at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston: “The Fascist New Frontier” (Dec. 16, 1962, published as a booklet by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in 1963); and “The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus” (April 18, 1965, published as Chapter 20 in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal [CUI] by New American Library in 1967).
Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy between socialism (or communism) and fascism, according to which socialism is the extreme version of left-ideology and fascism is the extreme version of right-ideology (i.e., capitalism). Indeed, in The Ayn Rand Letter (Nov. 8, 1971) she characterized fascism as “socialism for big business.” Both are variants of statism, in contrast to a free country based on individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.
She warns especially against choosing the middle of the road between the two extremes of the same collectivism, a position that gives us, as I have written elsewhere, the Pigrolet.
Note: This article was originally added here in October 2017. It has been brought forward because it remains timely if not downright urgent with the unbelievable incompetence-to-govern among all who hold office in the nation’s capital. If it becomes unavailable at the FEE link in the preceding paragraph, it is available in a downloadable PDF file by clicking below.
The net profit of my first few years of life appears to have been a fairly explicit understanding of the fact that ignorance exists… This understanding came about so easily and naturally that for many years I took it as a commonplace, assuming that everyone had it. My subsequent contacts with the world at large, however, showed me that everyone does not have it, indeed that those who have it are extremely few. They seemed particularly and pitifully few when one contemplated the colossal pretensions which, in its modesty, the human race puts forth about itself… a society by and large “too ignorant to know that there is such a thing as ignorance”!
…As time went on, I became convinced that Calvin’s idea of invincible ignorance had a validity… But why should ignorance have persisted as a fixed quantity throughout human history, as apparently it has done; and why should the direct effort at enlightening ignorance remain as inveterately impracticable and inadvisable today as it was in the days of Socrates, Jesus, Confucius, Im-hotep, or it must have been found to be by the wiseacres of the Neolitic period, if any such there were? Albert Jay Nock
The Darwin awards come to mind, but that’s only one type of stupid. Compare Nock’s observation above with…
THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY by Carlo M. Cipolla, with illustrations by James Donnelly
The First Basic Law of Human Stupidity asserts without ambiguity that:
Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague, and horribly ungenerous. Closer scrutiny will however reveal its realistic veracity. No matter how high are one’s estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently startled by the fact that:
a) people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid, and b) day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one’s activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments.
The First Basic Law prevents me from attributing a specific numerical value to the fraction of stupid people within the total population: Any numerical estimate would turn out to be an underestimate. Thus in the following pages I will denote the fraction of stupid people within a population by the symbol σ. [sigma]
The Second Basic Law
Cultural trends now fashionable in the West favour an egalitarian approach to life. People like to think of human beings as the output of a perfectly engineered mass production machine. Geneticists and sociologists especially go out of their way to prove, with an impressive apparatus of scientific data and formulations, that all men are naturally equal and if some are more equal than others, this is attributable to nurture and not to nature. I take an exception to this general view. It is my firm conviction, supported by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence. Although convinced that fraction of human beings are stupid and that they are so because of genetic traits, I am not a reactionary trying to reintroduce surreptitiously class or race discrimination. I firmly believe that stupidity is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups and is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion. This fact is scientifically expressed by the Second Basic Law which states that:
The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
In this regard, Nature seems indeed to have outdone herself. It is well known that Nature manages, rather mysteriously, to keep constant the relative frequency of certain natural phenomena. For instance, whether men proliferate at the Northern Pole or at the Equator, whether the matching couples are developed or underdeveloped, whether they are black, red, white, or yellow, the female to male ratio among the newly born is a constant, with a very slight prevalence of males. We do not know how Nature achieves this remarkable result but we know that in order to achieve it Nature must operate with large numbers. The most remarkable fact about the frequency of stupidity is that Nature succeeds in making this frequency equal to the probability quite independently from the size of the group.
Thus one finds the same percentage of stupid people whether one is considering very large groups or one is dealing with very small ones. No other set of observable phenomena offers such striking proof of the powers of Nature.
The evidence that education has nothing to do with the probability was provided by experiments carried on in a large number of universities all over the world. One may distinguish the composite population which constitutes a university in five major groups, namely the blue-collar workers, the white-collar employees, the students, the administrators, and the professors.
Whenever I analyzed the blue-collar workers I found that the fraction σ of them were stupid. As σ’s value was higher than I expected (First Law), paying my tribute to fashion I thought at first that segregation, poverty, or lack of education were to be blamed. But moving up the social ladder I found that the same ratio was prevalent among the white-collar employees and among the students. More impressive still were the results among the professors. Whether I considered a large university or a small college, a famous institution, or an obscure one, I found that the same fraction σ of the professors are stupid. So bewildered was I by the results, that I made a special point to extend my research to a specially selected group, to a real elite, the Nobel laureates. The result confirmed Nature’s supreme powers: σ fraction of the Nobel laureates are stupid.
This idea was hard to accept and digest but too many experimental results proved its fundamental veracity. The Second Basic Law is an iron law, and it does not admit exceptions. The Women’s Liberation Movement will support the Second Basic Law as it shows that stupid individuals are proportionately as numerous among men as among women. The underdeveloped of the Third World will probably take solace at the Second Basic Law as they can find in it the proof that after all the developed are not so developed. Whether the Second Basic Law is liked or not, however, its implications are frightening: the Law implies that whether you move in distinguished circles or you take refuge among the head-hunters of Polynesia, whether you lock yourself into a monastery or decide to spend the rest of your life in the company of beautiful and lascivious women, you always have to face the same percentage of stupid people – which percentage (in accordance with the First Law) will always surpass your expectations.
The Third (and Golden) Basic Law
The Third Basic Law assumes, although it does not state it explicitly, that human beings fall into four basic categories: the helpless, the intelligent, the bandit, and the stupid. It will be easily recognized by the perspicacious reader that these four categories correspond to the four areas I, H, S, B, of the basic graph (see below).
If Tom takes an action and suffers a loss while producing a gain to Dick, Tom’s mark will fall in field H: Tom acted helplessly. If Tom takes an action by which he makes a gain while yielding a gain also to Dick, Tom’s mark will fall in area I: Tom acted intelligently. If Tom takes an action by which he makes a gain causing Dick a loss, Tom’s mark will fall in area B: Tom acted as a bandit. Stupidity is related to area S and to all positions on axis Y below point O. As the Third Basic Law explicitly clarifies:
A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
When confronted for the first time with the Third Basic Law, rational people instinctively react with feelings of skepticism and incredulity. The fact is that reasonable people have difficulty in conceiving and understanding unreasonable behaviour. But let us abandon the lofty plane of theory and let us look pragmatically at our daily life. We all recollect occasions in which a fellow took an action which resulted in his gain and our loss: We had to deal with a bandit. We also recollect cases in which a fellow took an action which resulted in his loss and our gain: We had to deal with a helpless person. We can recollect cases in which a fellow took an action by which both parties gained: He was intelligent. Such cases do indeed occur. But upon thoughtful reflection you must admit that these are not the events which punctuate most frequently our daily life. Our daily life is mostly made of cases in which we lose money and/or time and/or energy and/or appetite, cheerfulness, and good health because of the improbable action of some preposterous creature who has nothing to gain and indeed gains nothing from causing us embarrassment, difficulties, or harm. Nobody knows, understands, or can possibly explain why that preposterous creature does what he does. In fact there is no explanation – or better there is only one explanation: The person in question is stupid.
Most people do not act consistently. Under certain circumstances a given person acts intelligently and under different circumstances the same person will act helplessly. The only important exception to the rule is represented by the stupid people who normally show a strong proclivity toward perfect consistency in all fields of human endeavours.
From all that proceeds, it does not follow that we can chart on the basic graph only stupid individuals. We can calculate for each person his weighted average position in the plane of Figure 1 quite independently from his degree of inconsistency. A helpless person may occasionally behave intelligently and on occasion he may perform a bandit’s action. But since the person in question is fundamentally helpless most of his action will have the characteristics of helplessness. Thus the overall weighted average position of all the actions of such a person will place him in the H quadrant of the basic graph.
The fact that it is possible to place on the graph individuals instead of their actions allows some digression about the frequency of the bandit and stupid types.
The perfect bandit is one who, with his actions, causes to other individuals losses equal to his gains. The crudest type of banditry is theft. A person who robs you of 100 pounds [£] without causing you an extra loss or harm is a perfect bandit: You lose 100 pounds, he gains 100 pounds. In the basic graph the perfect bandits would appear on a 45-degree diagonal line that divides the area B into two perfectly symmetrical sub-areas (line OM of Figure 2).
However the “perfect” bandits are relatively few. The line OM divides the area B into two sub-areas, B1, and B2, and by far the largest majority of the bandits falls somewhere in one of these two sub-areas.
The bandits who fall in area B1 are those individuals whose actions yield to them profits which are larger than the losses they cause to other people. All bandits who are entitled to a position in area B1 are bandits with overtones of intelligence and as they get closer to the right side of the X axis they share more and more the characteristics of the intelligent person.
Unfortunately the individuals entitled to a position in the B1 area are not very numerous. Most bandits actually fall in area B2. The individuals who fall in this area are those whose actions yield to them gains inferior to the losses inflicted to other people. If someone kills you in order to rob you of fifty pounds [£] or if he murders you in order to spend a weekend with your wife at Monte Carlo, we can be sure that he is not a perfect bandit. Even by using his values to measure his gains (but still using your values to measure your losses) he falls in the B2 area very close to the border of sheer stupidity. Generals who cause vast destruction and innumerable casualties in return for a promotion or a medal fall in the same area.
The frequency distribution of the stupid people is totally different from that of the bandit. While bandits are mostly scattered over an area stupid people are heavily concentrated along one line, specifically on the Y axis below point O. The reason for this is that by far the majority of stupid people are basically and unwaveringly stupid – in other words they perseveringly insist in causing harm and losses to other people without deriving any gain, whether positive or negative.
There are however people who by their improbable actions not only cause damages to other people but in addition hurt themselves. They are a sort of super-stupid who, in our system of accounting, will appear somewhere in the area S to the left of the Y axis.
The power of stupidity
It is not difficult to understand how social, political, and institutional power enhances the damaging potential of a stupid person. But one still has to explain and understand what essentially it is that makes a stupid person dangerous to other people – in other words what constitutes the power of stupidity.
Essentially stupid people are dangerous and damaging because reasonable people find it difficult to imagine and understand unreasonable behaviour. An intelligent person may understand the logic of a bandit. The bandit’s actions follow a pattern of rationality: nasty rationality, if you like, but still rationality. The bandit wants a plus on his account. Since he is not intelligent enough to devise ways of obtaining the plus as well as providing you with a plus, he will produce his plus by causing a minus to appear on your account. All this is bad, but it is rational and if you are rational you can predict it. You can foresee a bandit’s actions, his nasty manœuvres, and ugly aspirations and often can build up your defenses.
With a stupid person all this is absolutely impossible as explained by the Third Basic Law. A stupid creature will harass you for no reason, for no advantage, without any plan or scheme and at the most improbable times and places. You have no rational way of telling if and when and how and why the stupid creature attacks. When confronted with a stupid individual you are completely at his mercy. Because the stupid person’s actions do not conform to the rules of rationality, it follows that: a) one is generally caught by surprise by the attack; b) even when one becomes aware of the attack, one cannot organize a rational defense, because the attack itself lacks any rational structure.
The fact that the activity and movements of a stupid creature are absolutely erratic and irrational not only makes defense problematic but it also makes any counter-attack extremely difficult – like trying to shoot at an object which is capable of the most improbable and unimaginable movements. This is what both Dickens and Schiller had in mind when the former stated that “with stupidity and sound digestion man may front much” and the latter wrote that “against stupidity the very gods fight in vain.”
The Fourth Basic Law
That helpless people, namely those who in our accounting system fall into the H area, do not normally recognize how dangerous stupid people are, is not at all surprising. Their failure is just another expression of their helplessness. The truly amazing fact, however, is that also intelligent people and bandits often fail to recognize the power to damage inherent in stupidity. It is extremely difficult to explain why this should happen and one can only remark that when confronted with stupid individuals often intelligent men as well as bandits make the mistake of indulging in feelings of self-complacency and contemptuousness instead of immediately secreting adequate quantities of adrenaline and building up defenses.
One is tempted to believe that a stupid man will only do harm to himself but this is confusing stupidity with helplessness. On occasion one is tempted to associate oneself with a stupid individual in order to use him for one’s own schemes. Such a manœuvre cannot but have disastrous effects because a) it is based on a complete misunderstanding of the essential nature of stupidity and b) it gives the stupid person added scope for the exercise of his gifts. One may hope to outmanœuvre the stupid and, up to a point, one may actually do so. But because of the erratic behaviour of the stupid, one cannot foresee all the stupid’s actions and reactions and before long one will be pulverized by the unpredictable moves of the stupid partner.
This is clearly summarized in the Fourth Basic Law which states that:
Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
Through centuries and millennia, in public as in private life, countless individuals have failed to take account of the Fourth Basic Law and the failure has caused mankind incalculable losses.
The Fifth Basic Law
Instead of considering the welfare of the individual let us consider the welfare of the society, regarded in this context as the algebraic sum of the individual conditions. A full understanding of the Fifth Basic Law is essential to the analysis. It may be parenthetically added here that of the Five Basic Laws, the Fifth is certainly the best known and its corollary is quoted frequently. The Fifth Basic Law states that:
A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
The corollary of the Law is that:
A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.
The result of the action of a perfect bandit (the person who falls on line OM of Figure 2) is purely and simply a transfer of wealth and/or welfare. After the action of a perfect bandit, the bandit has a plus on his account which plus is exactly equivalent to the minus he has caused to another person. The society as a whole is neither better nor worse off. If all members of a society were perfect bandits the society would remain stagnant but there would be no major disaster. The whole business would amount to massive transfers of wealth and welfare in favour of those who would take action. If all members of the society would take action in regular turns, not only the society as a whole but also individuals would find themselves in a perfectly steady state of no change.
When stupid people are at work, the story is totally different. Stupid people cause losses to other people with no counterpart of gains on their own account. Thus the society as a whole is impoverished. The system of accounting which finds expression in the basic graphs shows that while all actions of individuals falling to the right of the line POM (see Figure 3) add to the welfare of a society; although in different degrees, the actions of all individuals falling to the left of the same line POM cause a deterioration.
In other words the helpless with overtones of intelligence (area H1), the bandits with overtones of intelligence (area B1), and above all the intelligent (area I) all contribute, though in different degrees, to accrue to the welfare of a society. On the other hand the bandits with overtones of stupidity (area B2) and the helpless with overtones of stupidity (area H2) manage to add losses to those caused by stupid people thus enhancing the nefarious destructive power of the latter group.
All this suggests some reflection on the performance of societies. According to the Second Basic Law, the fraction of stupid people is a constant σ which is not affected by time, space, race, class, or any other sociocultural or historical variable. It would be a profound mistake to believe the number of stupid people in a declining society is greater than in a developing society. Both such societies are plagued by the same percentage of stupid people. The difference between the two societies is that in the society which performs poorly: a) the stupid members of the society are allowed by the other members to become more active and take more actions; b) there is a change in the composition of the non-stupid section with a relative decline of populations of areas I, H1 and B1 and a proportionate increase of populations H2 and B2.
This theoretical presumption is abundantly confirmed by an exhaustive analysis of historical cases. In fact the historical analysis allows us to reformulate the theoretical conclusions in a more factual way and with more realistic detail.
Whether one considers classical, or medieval, or modern, or contemporary times one is impressed by the fact that any country moving uphill has its unavoidable σ fraction of stupid people. However the country moving uphill also has an unusually high fraction of intelligent people who manage to keep the σ fraction at bay and at the same time produce enough gains for themselves and the other members of the community to make progress a certainty.
In a country which is moving downhill, the fraction of stupid people is still equal to σ; however in the remaining population one notices among those in power an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity (sub-area B2 of quadrant B in Figure 3) and among those not in power an equally alarming growth in the number of helpless individuals (area H in basic graph, Figure 1). Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the σ fraction and makes decline a certainty. And the country goes to Hell.
There is genius at work in this thesis. It came round about by way of reader Sam Keen, who sent us a thin gray monograph printed in Bologna, Italy. The trail eventually led to Carlo M. Cipolla [1922-2000], the author, who is currently  Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley
=Kevin Kelly= Whole Earth Review, Spring 1987 p 2 – 7
Note: A different translation from Italian to English uses the term “pillagers” in place of “bandits” and “naïve” in place of “helpless.”
First there was this meme, challenging me to explain to my supposedly oppressed friends why I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton for President in 2016. A meme is that “unit of communication” invented in 1976 by the unregenerate Richard Dawkins.
Now comes another one, this time asking: “Why, when Jesus talks about feeding the poor, it’s Christianity but when a politician does it, it’s Socialism?” (Never mind that, as with almost all memes, this one too stumbles over grammar. Neither the word nor the concept of socialism is a proper name. It does not need to be capitalized. Or, to paraphrase Falkland’s maxim, which applies to the crafting of legislation but can be widely adapted: When it is not necessary to do it [capitalize], it is necessary not to do it.)
I have been challenged by variations of this meme, usually in phrasing like: “You want to separate children and parents at the border and you call yourself a Christian?” “You want to deny medical care to children and you call yourself a Christian?” “You object to feeding the hungry and yet you call yourself a Christian?”
Along the way it becomes obvious that the do-gooders in one particular political party in the U.S. have shrink-wrapped each of the party’s top issues into meme-ready non-sequiturs.
No, and No
Taking the last example above — a corollary to the first, and granting for the moment that it even deserves a response, my answers are No, and No.
No, I don’t object to feeding the hungry. And No, I don’t call myself a Christian. Christian is your word — which is essentially what Jesus answered when Pilate asked whether he was king of the Jews: “King is your word.”
“Christian” falls within the language of collectivism — grouping people according to some contrived characteristic or one vaguely held in common. (See Groupthink and Eric Hoffer.) This expedites the mission of social do-gooders: They can elevate, exonerate, or vilify all members of the group, the better to apply group solutions to problems not all members share or apply pressure and enforce restrictions that not all members deserve. It forces individuals, who do not perceive themselves as poor or distinguishable by skin color or harmed by derogatory epithets to line up like first-graders in the 1940s to be sprayed with the DDT of government protection.
I am a disciple of Jesus, the Christ — the Messiah presaged in the Old Covenant. And I am a creature — an individual creation, of El-Elyon, in awe of my God. I’ll confess straight up that Jesus deserves better disciples than I am. I don’t, however, fit your catch-all category under the heading of “Christian.”
So, No to calling myself a Christian. And No, I don’t think “we” should stop feeding the hungry or stop helping the poor or stop providing medical care to children. (It’s already illegal to deny medical care to children or emergency care to anyone of any age.)
What’s this “we” bullshit, anyway?
Here is where your memes disintegrate under inspection. There are two errors in the “we” part of your challenge. “We” is where you bring in coercion. And your “we” cannot answer Jesus’s challenge to me. I cannot participate in covering for you and whatever you and your friends do can’t fulfill the call issued to me, for Jesus challenged us as individuals.
I especially can’t fulfill the call issued to me by joining a mob that is extorting money from people you and your friends are jealous of and by giving that money to a gang of lawyers who will sprinkle a trickle of that cash over the heads of a few recipients who fit the mob’s profile of a deserving group. (As we already know, according to the accusers behind the meme, Christians do not deserve assistance of any kind, only exclusion and ridicule.) Jesus didn’t tell me to join a mob, then steal from one vilified group (rich people) and give it to a gang purporting to represent another group.
When Jesus talks about feeding the poor, he’s talking to me. He is watching what I do — with my money and my other resources — for someone I can reach out to. Jesus doesn’t care whether I funnel my charity through Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Jesus doesn’t call on me to first coerce someone else to open his purse so that I and my friends can redistribute the other man’s wealth. And Jesus especially doesn’t call on me to form or join some overwhelming mob/army/party/coalition and demand that others give to the poor at my mob’s behest.
So, yes, when a politician talks about feeding the poor, it’s socialism. It is grandstanding. It’s telling you that, if you vote for the right politicians, who will force the rich to fork over bigger “voluntary” income taxes to the lawyers in government — if you just agree with that tactic, you, who do not have the big bucks won’t have to contribute a dime but the poor will be fed and you will have met your Christian duty — if you call yourself a Christian.
But what if “we” don’t compel the rich to contribute more? What if we little people, collectively, can’t feed the poor just on the strength of our taxes and the taxes already seized from the rich?
In this country, the United States, the top half of taxpayers pay 97% of all federal income tax. And the top one percent account for 37.3% of total income tax revenues.* This isn’t their fair share? And, yes, we continually hear that this or that billionaire didn’t pay a penny in taxes last year. Really? And they aren’t in jail? Your trusted, innocent-eyed politicians have created the tax code. Crucify them, not the rich guys who used the loopholes the politicians created and kept their own money.
Jesus didn’t forbid us to contribute to organizations that we know are effectively helping people in need — a rare disease research foundation, the Soupman, the Red Cross — you can name several of your own. Jesus didn’t forbid us to work together to express our love for our neighbors, through a church, a local American Legion post, Habitat for Humanity, an ad hoc local committee to help a family who lost their home to a fire. For some generous people, a group effort is the most effective way to use their time, talent, and treasure. There is a chasm of difference between banding together voluntarily to help someone in need, and banding together to coerce others to pay for what you don’t want to pay for yourself.
Poverty in America
It seems to me that, before the welfare state was conceived and implemented in its modern form, there were the rich, there were the average folk, and there were the poor. It seems to me, also, that in the ninety or so years of continuous and lavishly-funded welfare in the western world, there are still the rich, the average folk, and the poor — in about the same proportions.
In the first 50 years of the federal War on Poverty, 1964 to 2013, taxpayers provided $22 trillion to be redistributed to poor people, adjusted for 2012 dollars.** (When the program began, a dollar was defined as 0.925 of an ounce of silver. That definition was rescinded with the coinage of 1965.) You can do the math on how much that $22 trillion amounts to per poor person who has lived during that period.
The big difference is the general state of poverty. What is now called poverty would have been pretty comfortable living conditions in this country a century ago. What was “middle class” (another collectivist term) when I was a kid is abject poverty today. It’s a matter of perspective. It’s not that the poor today lack food, although the truly poor do, and it’s not so much that those under today’s definition of poverty can’t meet the cost of rent plus other necessities, although the truly poor can’t. The state of poverty today in the United States is hugely a matter of community living conditions.
People who have been herded into victim groups and corralled in ghettos by the political system, and cheated of learning by the education system, are culturally, more than financially, deprived. The “solutions” arising from the instinct for collectivist intervention have solved nothing.
Public education suppresses individual inquiry. Labor law suppressed individual enterprise. Government funding of government-approved “arts” suppresses individual expression. And you wonder why people have not escaped the ghettos.
Before I listen to your argument that there isn’t enough money among us average folk to feed the poor in our individual, non-governmental efforts, I’ll wait for you to look into where all the money the rich are already contributing in taxes is going. I’ll wait for you to explain how nearly $42,000 per year per poor household of three, in food and subsidies and extra government services, did not make a dent in poverty in 50 years.***
In the novel, Cold Morning Shadow, one character points out that governments nowadays expend great sums to extract gold from the ground only to bury it back underground. It may as well not exist, he argues. It certainly does not exist for those of us who are supposedly in charge of our own government but can neither touch our gold or know where it is hidden.
Maybe we need to take the same attitude toward the ridiculously rich. Ninety-seven percent of our tax revenue comes from the richest half of the population. Maybe we just have to regard the rest of their money as we do our national hoard of gold — it’s beyond our reach. Treat it as if it doesn’t exist. Let them have it. (Never mind, for the moment, that it is actually what sustains our economy by sustaining the industries and jobs which provide further tax revenue; that’s Economics 101 and is evidently beyond the comprehension of most Americans, thanks to public education.)
I am a child of God and a disciple of Christ. I’ve been challenged by Jesus to look after others in need. I’m not called to tell other people what to do. I’m not called to join with dozens or thousands or millions of my friends to make other people do something I think they ought to do. I’m not in a position to judge that the rich aren’t doing enough. Jesus can judge them if he wants to, and I won’t criticize him if he doesn’t.
I don’t know what any particular rich person is doing beyond the lens of public scrutiny. I don’t expect the government (id est, you or me and millions of friends), under the leadership of self-righteous do-gooders, to steal from other people and do my duty for me. I have no influence in the world anyway except in two small ways: I may, on my own, relieve someone else’s pressing need from day to day, and I may, just may, improve the world by improving the one human unit over which I have control: myself.
Examine your sanctimonious memes before you wave them in front of me. I’m through responding to them.
***Using 1989 figures from https://usafacts.org as the mean between 1964 and 2014: Mean U.S. population – 246,819,230, percentage in poverty – 12.8% (31,592,862), mean War on Poverty spending per year – $440,000,000,000.