The Problem With Wealth
In this set of posts on Coyote Blog, the author argues that disparity of incomes in the US are not really a problem:
The author is commenting on a NY Times article from which he pulls out four things the Times is trying to say are bad about income inequality. For the most part, the author's analysis is spot on. One of the points the Times articles tries to make is that having really rich people around is bad because it makes poorer people feel bad. The author pretty much scoffs at this. I agree with this. Income disparities themselves are not a problem. If there are hyper-rich people, I'm not bothered at all as long as I have a fair shot at making it myself. I don't expect to be coddled and I know that getting ahead requires effort. Most hyper rich people have put in their dues through big effort, great ideas, etc. They deserve what they've got.
I think the real problem is not the super rich themselves, but what happens to the money when a super rich person dies. The whole idea of the USA is that the every person, as long as she is reasonably intelligent, can get ahead if she works hard enough. This is actually the case. But there are a set of people in this country, a set of people whose size is increasing all the time, who are able to get ahead without being reasonably intelligent and without working at all: the children of the super rich. Some of them are getting ahead by accident of birth only. Others of these children of the super rich are themselves reasonably intelligent and hard working and build on their parents' successes. This is OK. Its the lazy and dumb ones that are the problem.
Again, I don't expect to be coddled and this doesn't bother me that much, but I notice it. When I see someone like Paris Hilton, I cringe. Right now, all this is is cringe factor. But if the problem continues, I might start getting angry. That is the real problem. If enough people are made angry, things can happen. Maybe that is inevitable -- we are doomed to repeat a cycle of revolution and decay, but it always seemed to me that it would be nice if the human race would be able to someday rise above this cycle.
I have no solutions for this problem. I think we are probably on an irreversible course toward revolution, if not in this country, then on a world-wide scale. It won't happen in my lifetime, but maybe my daughters will have to deal with it. I don't think the solution is to take all the wealth from a person when he dies and redistribute it. Maybe it should be put into a private trust to pay for the offspring's education and then what is left over goes into public works or some kind of research foundation that works on really off the wall technological problems (a la The Long Range Foundation in Robert A. Heinlein's novel Time for the Stars).