Thursday, December 13, 2007

Poverty is the reality check of economic success.

Learning the Hard Way About...: The Heritage Foundation Are Evil Liars

Imagine that you have personally dealt with hearing loss due to an untreated ear infection--since your family had no health insurance. Imagine that you have been in foster care, because your home did not have sufficient heat. Imagine being an American, surrounded by SUVs, HDTVs, and unspeakable wealth, but you rely on lunches at the Salvation Army. Good days are when you get *two* small milk cartons.

Unless you have been through these experiences, you probably cannot accurately imagine any of these things. Yet, people like Charles Murray (he co-authored, the Bell Curve) and Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation, write constantly about the alleged romantic experience of poverty. They do everything in their considerable power to tell Americans and the rest of the world that poverty is bliss. They have--without conscience--lied to the American public by saying that welfare creates poverty.

When Jonathan Swift made his "modest proposal," suggesting that the potato famine be relieved by feeding people upon the flesh of their own infants, it's worth remembering that truly good satire goes merely one step beyond the sort of thing that those being satirized are saying with straight faces.

That's why it takes a particularly strong stomach to be a great satirist, for often enough the actual positions taken are enough to provoke reflexive nausea. I'm not able to hold down my lunch well enough to even pretend agreement for the purposes of satire.

As a Libertarian, I'm all for wealth and private property. I think the accumulation of capital is an inherent good. I'm not opposed at all to those of an acquisitive nature keeping score by the means most attractive to them at all. And I understand that without concentrations of capital, nothing much of interest would ever get done.

What I object to is the idea that those who are not playing that game, or who have created opportunities for the "winners" by having tried and failed, are beneath consideration.

Wealth does not exist in a vacuum. It doesn't come from nothing, and for the most part, is not created by those who end up with the great bulk of it. They are massively rewarded (and justly so, I might add,) not by being creative themselves, but by empowering the creative and the talented. Creativity and wealth-building may even be talents that are mutually exclusive. Certainly, one cannot try to be both and achieve excellence at either, in the ordinary run of things.

Donald Trump is wealthy, and yet he's not an architect, a steel worker, a plumber, a glazier or a window washer. His entire success depends entirely upon a pyramid of people who depend on people who depend on people, and without them, despite his particular and inarguable genius, he's just a guy with an attitude and a truly bad haircut.

I don't know precisely how well he understands this, but it's clear that those at the Heritage foundation do not. They are, aside from being moderately evil,very short-sighted in the sense of practical economics. Let me be blunt; poor people are either non-participants in the economy, or they are participants at a level that is far below their potential.

Or in other words, when there is a great deal of poverty, not only is that an inherently bad thing from a perspective of human rights, it's also a bad thing economically and selfishly. It means there are human resources that are lying fallow when they could be generating wealth.

It's capital being held in a low or no-interest instrument. It's an economic waste, as well as being a social embarrassment.

The pyramid would be taller if these people were not as poor as they are, and yet some portions of the wealthy appear to think they will somehow be seen as being less wealthy if the poor are less poor.

But the existence of poverty is properly seen as a metric of the overall success of the economy as a whole, and a judgment upon the skills of those who have the most influence over it.

In our economy, that would be people like Trump, Soros, Murdoch and other billionaires, who influence our government all out of proportion to their numbers.

Well, since they do, let them understand that they are responsible for the results. And let them know that funding transparently ridiculous exercises in justifying the unjustifiable will not change the fact that, whatever their personal wealth and personal comfort levels, they are not truly successful until everyone they have placed "beneath" themselves is raised to a level that they, themselves would settle for if circumstances and the luck of the draw had been just a little different.

Frankly, any money spent on the Heritage Foundation would be better used on something frivolous that was at least creative. The Heritage Foundation hasn't said anything of substance that wasn't said to the last emperor in Constantinople by his courtiers - and with no better probable outcome.

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