Fixing the Machine
Okay, after this I pretend to promise to get my next idea from somewhere other than MTV or Fuse... It's all I'm watching nowadays because I'd rather listen to music than watch network programming...
So they play a Rage Against the Machine video. Very interesting. I have a love/hate thing for these guys. Love 'em because they're banging about what they believe in and, I think, trying to make a difference rather than whining about their girlfriends and the next party and getting some boot-ay, etc. On the other hand, they have made themselves a mouthpiece for knee-jerk hyper-leftism, often propagandizing with half-truths and out-of-context statistics (In this particular video they crow about shutting down the NYSE at 2:32pm "In the middle of the trading day," Perhaps they were counting on the fact that most of their toked-up, semi-literate fans wouldn't realize that trading closes at 3:00, not 5:00 pm. Middle? Bwah. On the other hand, their protest did shut it down early, if only 28 minutes, and I suppose that's something.)
Anyhow, critiquing the disingenuosness of their video really isn't the point. During the video, RAtM relate a statistic that is often bandied about, and it got me to thinking. The statistic was: 10% of the US population controls 80% of the nation's wealth. An accompanying statistic was that 35 million Americans live below the poverty line.
Now, I'm an individualist and in many ways a conservative. For the most part I believe in property rights. I don't think it's anyone's right to take away the property of another just because they have more or "excess." However, I find that general statistic regarding economic disparity a tad unsettling. It would seem there's enough wealth that if it were redistributed would have a significant impact on the poorest citizens. But that's a simplistic viewpoint.
The problems come when you try to legislate the thresholds of what's enough for one person or family. Who is to define it? By what standards? If the rights of the individual are the building blocks of the free society, then how are we to make fair, collective decisions without completely violating those rights. America was built on the notion of the empowered individual. What right does one person have to take away the power and property of another? We know that you will never get a collective, unanimous decision, and we know that most parties will join in the discussion through the filter of their own selfish agendas. Even those with altruistic motives will be viewing the situation through the filter of their own experience and priorities, which often conflict with the priorities of other people just as well meaning and sincere.
A second issue is that the concentration of wealth, to some extent anyway, is necessary for the operation of an open market society. You know what they say, money makes the world go 'round. Wealth is a powerful motivator and spurs innovation. Also the processes of innovation, growth, and competition often require significant financial resources, often coming from a few investors with the ability to take the risk because even losing wouldn't deprive them of a comfortable lifestyle. If wealth was equally redistributed, then many people (not necessarily all) would do only what was necessary to reach the prescribed level and no more. There's no reason to risk what wealth you could have to get more of what you cannot have. Nor is it reasonable to expect that a startup could gather money from 100 individuals with little to gain rather than a group of 10 angels with significant resources and much to gain.
I don't know how you address a problem this large with legislation, yet I feel in my heart some shift could be made to improve the quality of life for many of the poor. We can discuss the shiftless poor another time
Food for thought, I guess.
Any ideas out there?