Hating our Heroes

The rich suck. They take their money from the poor and hoard it. They are greedy, selfish megalomaniacs who prey on the weak.

How we’ve come to believe the above statements is a sad tale of ignorance combined with the ill-conceived efforts of those who amass power to themselves as they feel they are better arbiters of equity than the market system. It’s natural to hate the rich, just as it’s natural to hate the smart kid in class, or the pretty girl in school. We know, and commonly preach, that jealousy is a character flaw stemming from the desire to be in someone else’s shoes. “Thou shalt not covet”. Yet somehow our jealousy toward the rich has become condoned, accepted, and even encouraged in our culture. The very leaders of the nation now preach the doctrine of soaking the rich. “Unfair!” they all cry. “Give it back!” they plead. Thus the rich are condemned, and the champions of the poor are held up as heroes.

“Give it back”? The very concept of “giving back to the community” is a mess of economic and philosophic misunderstanding. It implies that it was the community which gave to you what you have, thus you are obliged to return to it a portion of what you have taken. Permit me to destroy this dangerous and destructive falsehood.

A transaction in trade consists of 2 willing parties. Each party has something that the other party wants. They are each willing to part with their item of value in exchange for the item which the other person possesses. Why? Because the thing that the other person offers is of greater value to you than the thing which you now possess. In the case of a purchase, money represents a value, and the same principle applies. If you buy a car, the car is worth more to you than the $15K that it cost you. Thus you were willing to part with the money in exchange for the car. The person who sold it to you valued the money more than the car. If both parties did not benefit, no transaction would be made.

Every trade we make makes us richer. Our wealth grows and our lives are enriched. But the amazing thing is that every trade we make makes our trading partner richer too. The value he received in the trade was greater than what he gave up. Each trade makes both parties richer. The community hasn’t given you anything, except that you gave it something of greater value to it in return. “Give back to the community“? You owe the community nothing.

With the exception of fraud, the richest among us are the ones who have successfully made the most and greatest trades, each trade of something of value that they created. Translating this to the trading partner’s viewpoint, the richest among us are those who have made the most people more wealthy. In fair trade, you don’t become rich unless you make your customers equally rich (or close to it). Thus the contribution of the rich to society approximates their entire net worth. Utlimately, the rich do far more for our communities than all the sweet spoken politicians, vocal champions of the poor, and even charities, combined.

We’ve been hating our heroes. Perhaps it’s time we learned to honored them instead.

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6 Responses to Hating our Heroes

  1. Debbie says:

    Good article. I think a lot of the bitterness toward the rich comes when people feel they are being ‘bullied’ into a deal… or like they have no other option. Yes, they may need/want a product, but feel it is priced too high, but they have no other place to turn. The item is not really worth as much to them as the sticker price, but they do the trade anyway. This is where society in general needs to learn to say, “I want it, but I can’t afford it, so I’ll do without it.” Instead they buy the higher priced item, losing more money than they would have liked and now resent the rich for ‘putting them in that situation’. Live within your means people! Someday I’ll be rich and I hope you will still love me then. 🙂

  2. There is a difference between wealth and greed. I think people confuse the two and assume because some have wealth that they are necessarily greedy. Greed however is a human vice, not delimited by income or wealth and it is in fact greed that often motivates the socialist as they believe they should have more, though often unwilling to work for it.

  3. markpackard says:

    I just wish we’d get back to when Thomas Edison, or the Wright brothers, or Henry Ford were society’s heroes, rather than Lindsey Lohan and Brad Pitt. Instead we’ve begun to demonize those whose merit has done the most for us, and adore idiots. It’s a sad state we’re in.

  4. Carrie says:

    Sure, it’s uninformed to say that all those who are rich have stolen from the poor, but it’s equally uninformed to say that everyone who hasn’t committed legal fraud and is rich has never wronged anyone to get there. The folks who give impoverished workers in FTZs (Editor: I assume this is Free Trade Zones) a few cents an hour to live on no doubt give them something better than unemployment. But when they can offer so much more and don’t, because they want to keep it for themselves, it’s certainly not admirable. Together through a partnership with the reigning legal systems in those areas, the companies who use those practices end up enslaving the people they employ. A slave-owner gave something his slave valued (work and food instead of death), but it was still exploitative. Likewise, it’s not impressive when we give the bear minimum to others only to make ourselves more comfortable.

    • MBABailey says:

      Carrie,

      I would say that it is not simply uninformed to claim that the rich have stolen from the poor, it is a malicious means of imposing one’s views of “fairness” on those one feel are morally inferior because they do not agree with one’s point of view. You talk about those who “exploit” their vendors or employees in free trade zones, and that they should “offer so much more.” I would ask, what is it that obligates them to offer more? Should the rich offer to pay more for a meal at a restaurant so that we will admire them? The reason I ask is that to do so would exhaust their wealth, and would mean that they can no longer employ those they currently do. Offering more than the market clearing price has several downsides, which I’m sure we will discuss later. (I will personally be talking about minimum wage and its negative effects later.)

      You use the term enslaving to describe the actions of companies that engage in employing people in developing nations. This is a term used frequently by Marx, who believed employers to be greedy and exploitative. It would seem that you feel much like he does. You go on to use the analogy of slaves, and their owner’s magnanimity in granting life and sustenance. The problem with the analogy is that it assumes that this is a free transaction. As I mentioned in my post “The Problem with Conservatives,” one of the things we own is our labor. To assume that slavery is analogous to a transaction in which both parties have agreed in good faith to trade is folly.

      In the free trade zones, the people are not forced to work for the wages offered. If they choose, they can work elsewhere, or not at all. Only if working for the wages offered was compulsory would the slavery analogy be apt. Indeed your comments seem to reflect the very sentiment that Mark was describing, that the community (be it local or global) is somehow due some level of remuneration simply for having been. I agree with Mark. Those who should be admired are those who are productive, not those who advocate removing the incentives of others to do so.

    • markpackard says:

      Carrie,

      you bring up an interesting point. But let me clear up your misunderstanding of economics, if you’ll hear it. In a free society, labor, as Jeff notes, is yours to give as you choose. If you are worth (deserve) more than you are getting paid, you may seek out other employment. Yes, companies try to find the best talent at the lowest price, but employees have equal power in the employment agreement. As a result, market competition on both sides provides a very accurate number to the employee’s worth and the job’s value. If an employer is underpaying its employees, the freedom of those employees will ensure that that employer loses its best talent to its competitors, and thus destroy itself.

      Basically, the point I’m making is that those employees you are referring to are worth precisely what they are getting compensated, else they go where they would get paid more. If, as you suggest, the employer was to choose to pay them more, it would be charity. Now, it may be honorable for an employer to be charitable to its employees, giving them more than they’re worth, but it would be equally, or perhaps more, honorable for that employer to hoard that money to give it to another worthwhile charity of his choice instead.

      And, as I explain in my post, the best thing he could do for the poor is to invest that money in improving his (or someone else’s) business, thus making things of value more affordable to them. And this is by far the most common practice of those greedy employers.

      Finally, I must add quickly the philosophical note that what he chooses to do with his money is really none of your business. He is not achieving his riches at the expense of anyone, but rather at their benefit. Thus his reward is his property, to do with as he pleases.

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