Tuesday, March 24, 2009
On Wealth vs. Poverty
The last year has shown us more about the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor than I can remember.
Here are a few things people have to say:
In this interview, Jared Diamond explains how the societies that do best are those where the well-being of the common people and the well-being of the rulers are tied together. In simplified terms, in the Netherlands, where everybody -- both rich and poor -- live below sea level, the rich ruling class made sure to have really good dikes. In New Orleans, where the ruling rich people live up on the hill, and the poor neighborhoods are flood risks, they sat around for 10 years without really upgrading the dikes.
From the comments, awesome quote #1: "Retention of power is the primary motivation of power." [Joel adds: it may be the case that it is, but is very much not the case that it should be.]
Awesome quote #2: "As far as the uber rich goes, until someone gives me a reason why I should care about people who don’t give a damn if people have food on their table, I’ll always be on the side that says ‘Fuck them’." [I would use non-expletives here, and would say that the reason to care about them is that they're humans. Horribly misguided and masked from the horrors, but human nonetheless. How far should we go in caring? That is another question entirely, partially answered by the quote below.]
Super-amazing quote #3:
"Somehow it’s always reasonable to hurt the poor as a way to make them shape up. Tougher bankruptcy laws, welfare reform, it’s all good social engineering.I'm with the equality now camp. I have a feeling that unfettered free-market capitalism will not give us that. Unfettered free-market capitalism gets us rich inheritees with diamond-encrusted dashboards, while other people are waking up on Christmas morning next to their shopping carts.
But if you talk about hurting the rich to make them reform, it’s terrible. Taking money away from a guy with plenty more to spare is worse then taking money away from a person with none left.
You know, in the Aztec Empire, if you were a peasant convicted of public drunkenness, they’d shave your head to show people you’re an ass. If you were a noble convicted of public drunkenness, they’d just kill you, because they thought that people who were accorded great power and respect should behave themselves in a way befitting their station.
Here in America we’ve hit the point where the rich deserve to be rich because they are rich. They don’t have to be useful or polite or interesting or classy."
agape to all,