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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Help Wanted: Goodness & Fairness

William Buckley on Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged

A friend sent me an email with the following quote or compilation of quotes of uncertain yet purportedly esteemed authorship.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. . . . Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage. . . .

My response begins with a quotation regarding wealth in America.

In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country's total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country's wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%. Financial inequality was greater than inequality in total wealth, with the top 1% of the population owning 42.7%, the next 19% of Americans owning 50.3%, and the bottom 80% owning 7% (

At this point please read my recent blog:

In conclusion, in my opinion the present state of wealth distribution in America puts the government under enormous pressure to somehow render less egregious the unequal distribution of wealth. The root of the problem is that the poor must depend on the government to redistribute wealth (or, as is now the case, fabricate a sense of fairness) in some form or other as there is no other remedy. A fervent fiction in capitalism is that individuals “earn every penny” of their disproportionate wealth and completely discount the fact that wealth arises from many sources but is filtered by a few. Contributions to wealth formation include the yeoman effort of many, flourishing markets, and substantial infrastructure support. Thus while wealth arises from many sources, capitalism tends to redistribute it to the few. And the wealthy, while gifting some of their wealth to others, en mass do not do enough of it as some people are more selfish than others.

So, my friend, under the circumstances, I do not see dependency on government as a problem for it is indeed government that must more effectively devise ways and means to make up for the inability of capitalism alone to fairly distribute wealth. There is no other institution that can effectively do so. I am fully aware that the “market economy” purportedly does that, but it is palpably obvious based on the present distribution of wealth in America that it does not do so.

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