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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RX for Recovery

When caught red-handed, what is your favorite defense plea: (a) Guilty, with an excuse? (b) Guilty, with no excuse? (c) Run from your accuser? (d) Pin the blame elsewhere? (e) Obscure the issue with irrelevancies? (f) Other? Cite a case in point. (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1249).

What we must come to understand flat-out is that mankind has never gotten it right. In the United States today 20% of the people own 85% of the wealth and 80% of the people own 15% of the wealth. This is an egregious situation and cannot be considered fair or right. Yet like other societies we obsequiously worship “ism’s” rather than remain open-minded under the Lordship of God and humbly seek fairness and justice.

Yet after this long night of darkness even in America we obscure the issue with irrelevancies. We mystify and glorify entrepreneurship and impoverish those who make through their labor entrepreneurship possible. What would I do about it? That is the question that must confront each one of us who would see the end of humanity’s long night of injustice. We must pray for courage and boldness in confronting this issue.

First off, we must put entrepreneurship in its place. It is an essential talent and gift, but it is no more essential than many other talents and gifts that underwrite any healthy society. The entrepreneur who brings pork bellies to market is unquestionably more valuable than a Beethoven..... Really? The man who conceived the idea of fast food should be a billionaire while those who do the work that realize the dream should receive poverty wages..... Really? We have to take a long and hard look at presumed entitlements.

One reason no one wants to tackle this problem is its immense complexity. Every case is different. Laws related to the distribution of wealth it is thought would require millions of pages of regulations covering each and every possible case and scenario. None of us want to proceed down such a bureaucratic and legalistic nightmare implemented by an intrusive and (because of the complexity of the task) an inescapably dumb governmental bureaucracy. There would need to be a classification system covering each and every job in America and a listing of what is presumed to be the fair wage for that job – and to hell with any subtle distinctions, market realities, intangibles, or the cantankerous continuum from mediocre to stellar performance. Deliver us from such regulatory enslavement!

So we must face the simple fact that determining what is fair on a micro level is an impossible task. Yet on a macro level the current distribution of wealth in America is clearly unfair. Taxation (really a method of payback) of the wealthy is the most direct route to the redistribution of wealth. Yet, wealth so confiscated cannot be redistributed by welfare payments for this would not provide incentives for work and creativity but rather instill dependency and slothfulness and redound with a sense of entitlement as harmful as that currently presumed by some of the wealthy. It seems to me that an effective means of redistribution would entail investments in societal infrastructure including health services and education (to include higher education and research) as well as the public goods infrastructure. Thus, for example, though I am a minimum wage worker at a fast food restaurant without benefits from my employer, I yet would receive from other sources health benefits and affordable educational opportunities and enjoy the use of first class public goods.

America has nibbled at this idea. It is my belief that this is doable on a much larger scale. (Yes, I do look forward to everyone who wants to getting a higher education!!!) With a wider distribution of wealth, the level of economic activity of our land will greatly increase. The solution to unfair (and perhaps in some sense unavoidable) aggregations of wealth can thus be attained.

Let us in conclusion return to Beethoven. Nature is unfair. It endowed Beethoven with musical talent that only a few ever have. Yet, his music—as a public good—enriches us all though cascades of majesty and beauty. That is what I would like to see in America—a scintillating fountain of public goods cascading the creations of diverse and widespread talents and abilities within and among all members of the American Family—and by extension—even the Family of Man. We can be the City on the Hill, we can indeed be the Last Best Hope for mankind. But we must extricate ourselves from our current mental imprisonments and pyrrhic defenses. We must, in the end, raise our sights from the current morass and humble ourselves in petition and prayer before Almighty God.

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