Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rome - America - Capitalism

This lengthy essay is in response to a comment posted by Susanna.

Thank you for your comments regarding Ancient Rome. Yes it is true that Roman society was sharply divided between the wealthy and everyone else but the society did function. The Gracchi’s did attempt to land reform but as you may know it failed. Nevertheless land was constantly being allocated to former members of the military and the majority of Roman Society lived better than they did after the Romans were eclipsed by those who desired their wealth without actually earning it. The result was grinding poverty and marginal living for virtually all of society. So eliminating slavery and redistributing land and wealth didn’t actually improve things.

While in college my history class addressed the issue of land reform as a means of wealth redistribution. The idea was that most of the land and wealth was in the hands of a few so various “Presidente`s” elected to take the land from the wealthy land owners and give it to the peons. This was done several times and it failed every time. Within a very few years the wealthy land owners once again owned the land and the peons were back working it. The root cause was not greed or even predatory practices – the fundamental issues were that not everyone is a good farmer so some simply failed to work the land properly and had to sell it in order to eat. Others could farm the land but could not make enough to feed their families because they didn’t have enough land. Eventually these farmers also sold their land and within a few years the land was back in the hands of the wealthy, the government collapsed, and a new Presidente` was in place.

Now you note that 90% of the wealth of America is in the hands of 10% and you say this as if this was wrong. In my work I travel extensively and I have noted that virtually everyone owns a car, has housing, eats regularly, has a TV, and most have one or more computers. I would say that everyone I meet on a daily basis is not “rich” nor are they in that rarefied 10% so your statistic is really meaningless. I also have in my circle of friends 3 people who do in fact reside in that 10% and probably in the 5% range. One man escaped from the communists and came to the US with no money whatsoever. He worked as a carpenter, saved his money, bought land, and today owns homes all over the world, contributes heavily to the Republican Party and commented recently that the very words used by President Obama were the exact words the communists used when they seized his family’s farm and livestock. Another man sold tools out of the trunk of his car. He gradually built his business and recently sold it for $57M and retired. One my oldest friends left the Navy and worked as door to door salesman. He borrowed money to buy one share of the business he worked for. Twenty years later he bought the last share of that business and today he owns it and is worth millions. All three of these men contribute heavily to charity and employ hundreds of others. So opportunity exists for those who choose to work. Those who choose not to work have no right to the wealth of others.

Since you are student of Roman History you might check Emperor Severus. As I recall he tried the Obama approach of taxing the wealthy in order to raise revenues. Paradoxically the higher he raised the taxes on the rich the lower his revenues dropped. You cannot take from the wealthy and give to the unproductive without reducing the total revenues and lowering the standard of living. This was made very obvious with the various communist regimes in the 20th Century.

I do agree that there is a growing underclass in America but I disagree with your implied root cause. You state that this underclass is the result of a lack of education, housing, and healthcare. Public schools are available throughout the country. The schools are routinely destroyed by the children of the underclass whom they are serving. These children do not attend, do not do the work, assault the teachers, and destroy the property. Rather than take responsibility for the poor education their children are receiving they blame the government, the wealthy, the whites, anyone but themselves. So the education is there if they choose to take advantage of it and many do. I am not responsible for the bad decisions of the underclass regarding their education. The government has routinely built public housing for the underclass who have just as routinely destroyed it. The government has torn these projects down and built new ones with the same result. The government then offered programs so the homeless could buy houses with no money down. This allowed hundreds of people to buy homes they couldn’t afford which forced them into bankruptcy and the ill advised government program to spend trillions of dollars keeping companies out of bankruptcy after the government forced them into this ridiculous program to start with.

This brings us to the question of healthcare which you apparently think is some sort of right of the underclass. The actuality is that every hospital in the country is required to provide service to the indigent without charge. The cost of this service is borne by those who have (and pay for) health insurance. So the reality is that there is no one in this country who must go without healthcare and that includes millions of illegal aliens who are slowly bankrupting the welfare system.

Some how you have concluded that the social welfare programs initiated by Roosevelt and expanded by every President since, have not worked because of greed. Precisely whose greed you don’t mention, but I suspect you attribute the woes of society to those who actually work for a living and those businesses that strive to make a profit while employing others. Making a profit is not greed and taking money from those who earn it and give it to those who do not, is communism in its purest form. I think this philosophy has failed repeatedly. I

In the late 1990’s shortly after the fall of the Communist Regime (USSR), I was part of a university program dealing with Russian professionals. The objective was to give them insight into businesses being run for profit. This was an astonishing experience for all parties but those that visited my home never grasped the size of my home and the quality of my life as the result of how hard I worked. They were accustomed to not working and drinking constantly. Prior to this program I was on a tour in Denmark of manufacturing facilities. The other American and I were appalled at the gross inefficiencies and commented that we could increase production and decrease costs by at least 50%. The tour guide stated that the objective of the socialist government was employment not profit or efficiency.

Now you think that people who work hard are doing it solely so they can have more money than their neighbor. I have no idea where you got that idea from – perhaps it is your personal motivation – I don’t know but I do know most of the people I know work because they like to work. I know I do what I do for fun and the fact that I make a lot of money doing it is a by product not the driving motive. In fact I would turn this around and say that those people who you view as the underclass are there due to their own decisions. They are the ones who didn’t like school. They are the ones who don’t have a trade because work requires you arrive on time, follow directions, don’t take drugs, and don’t drink. These simple rules are too stringent for most of those whom you see as the underclass. They are the ones who make these decisions that prevent them from enjoying the fruits of their labor. Instead they whine and appeal to politicians to give them something from the government. Of course most politicians seem to forget that the government doesn’t make money it extorts it from those who do work to give it to those who don’t. The current economic collapse is a direct result of these government run attempts to satisfy the demands from this underclass who are there because of their own bad decision making.

Do I despise and distrust the elected representatives? I certainly do although not as much as I distrust the Judiciary. Beginning with FDR the congress and the judiciary have step by step and inch by inch distorted the Constitution and Declaration of Independence into something totally unrecognizable. Apparently you think this battle over healthcare reform is the main issue – it is not. The Congress and the liberal community based on the West and East Coasts have so lost touch with the temper of the country that they really don’t understand this ground swell of anger or how to cope with it. They keep tying it to healthcare which has little to do with it. The anger begins with affirmative action which has led to quotas and reverse discrimination. It starts with the idea that prayers cannot be said in public, that we are not a Christian Nation, that atheists can dictate how we live and worship, that politicians are distorting the Constitution to restrict guns, that the courts give more rights to criminals than they do to citizens. That the President can by pass congress and appoint czars to run the businesses which he is illegally seizing. The great majority of the population is tired of being ignored and having the very fabric of the country eroded by thoughtless self-seeking politicians and judges with their own agendas.
Now to return to Rome for a moment, the reality is that the Roman Empire encompassed the entire Mediterranean Basin. The vast majority of people in the empire lived happy productive lives. The bread and circuses really was a City of Rome issue and not an issue in the Empire per se. In fact an argument could be made that a lot of loafers and idlers gravitated to Rome for the simple reason they could get handouts from the government. This welfare system was unique to Rome. It didn’t work there and it isn’t working here either because it still rewards idlers and loafers. Corruption for the most part is a government institution and enjoyed by those politicians who need to be turned out of office. Just look at the current administration – it is filled with jail birds, tax evaders, and officials totally out of touch with the people.

I urge you to read:
“The Law” by Frederick Bastiat
“ The Worldly Philosophers” by Heilbronner


1 comment:

ZenTiger said...

A fine, enjoyable rant.

There is an implication that the underclass are only there because of their choices, and that is as much true as the wealthy who lead disastrous lives because of their choices when it comes to drugs, selfishness, spending other people's money (like living off the parent's created wealth) but I think once in such a situation from birth, it can be hard to move out if the mentoring, parental love, and basic opportunities are not there.

Still, I agree with the underlying theme that even with such issues prevalent, hard socialism is not the cure.