Rich and Poor....Take Two... ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Friday, May 2, 2008

Rich and Poor....Take Two...

A certain Frederick Augustus has taken issue with my recent post about the unusually pronounced schism between our local have-way-too-muches and our local have-not-enoughs:

Commenting on your entry "The Rich are Getting Richer ..." (note: I have not edited any of this and have left typos as they were sent to me).

Why do you adopt the premise that anyone is entitled to monetary wealth? Like the "rich", the "poor" (however broadly you define that term) need to learn, sacrafice, set goals, take risk, and work hard ... and maybe, just maybe, with a little luck they too can become "rich".

In America, everyone faces different sets of circumstances and challenges, but everyone has opportunity. The American Experience is replete with rags to riches and riches to rags examples. Americans have the freedom to suceed, the freedom to fail, and the freedom of choice. Wealth is not just monetary wealth. There are plenty of unhappy rich people.

You seem to be happy with your transportation career, your maritime activities, and your blog activism. You have a nice family, a nice house, and seem to be happy. You are free to choose the way you want to live. But the path you have chosen for yourself certainly does not seem to be the path one would set out upon earlier in life if ones goal was monetary wealth. And that ok. You are free to make that decision. But like everyone else, those decisions lead to outcomes, and buckets of money ariving at the doorstop may not be one of them.

I agree with you that the poor need to become rich. But redistribution of capital among individuals is not the role of government but the role of individuals to seize opportunity (the "pursuit" of happiness, and not entitlement, as the Constution tells us).


Dear Frederick ("Fred")

I appreciate, and so do my readers, or so I hope, appreciate your letter. I say this in spite of the fact that it consists mainly of a lot of false assumptions and false accusations. However, since I believe this is the major social problem confronting Annapolis, and perhaps the entire world, I'll try to respond, although I think it would make more sense for us to meet over a beer, or two, or three, or perhaps at our regular Thursday morning sip and blog at Ahh Coffee....However...

1. Starting with your first sentence, I have never said that everyone is entitled to monetary wealth. I may...or may not believe that, but have I said that?

2. You seem to believe that the "rich" deserve to be "rich" while the poor deserve to be "poor." I think that's way too complex an argument to boil down to that sentence, but you seem to be engaging in a "blame the victim" type of attitude. It is true for some, not true for others.

3. Can we please get away from the notion that America is this land of unbridled opportunity for all? See number two above--it is true for some, not true for others.

4. Yes, "riches" is more than and not just about monetary wealth. Yes, there are plenty of unhappy rich people. Take nearly all of my neighbors for example.....However, when a group has way too much of everything, and another group has nowhere near enough, we are only asking for trouble. At that point, I think there are also serious moral issues that come into play. Why do we have "designer water" in dozens of differently marketed forms while billions have no access to clean water to drink or in which to bathe? I would assume you would say it is their fault.

5.You accuse me of having "a nice family, a nice house, and [that I] seem to be happy." How dare you accuse me of such things! (just kidding...) How would you know? Do you know, or are you again just making assumptions about me? I have been blessed that my parents, the children of poor immigrants took advantage of the American Dream and provided well for me and my siblings. That does not give me the right to be smug or arrogant about others that have not been so fortunate. I will not and cannot justify extreme and ostentatious wealth while other are so lacking. To take it a step further, does Robinwood and Newtown and all that it breeds (literally breeds) not come back to bite and hurt and drag all of us down? Do you not wince when the cashier at the local store cannot count change? Is that their fault? Maybe, but not always.

6. In your penultimate sentence, you say you agree with me that "the poor need to become rich." Well, did I ever say that? Again, I may, or may not believe that, but please stop putting words in my mouth, or into my keyboard, as is the case.

7. Your final sentence strikes me as most odd. You wrote, "But redistribution of capital among individuals is not the role of government but the role of individuals to seize opportunity (the "pursuit" of happiness, and not entitlement, as the Constution tells us)." I shall attempt to answer that one, but again, I must remind you that I have never said such a thing as you claim. I may believe it, or I may not, but you don't know. Please cite the posting where I said such a thing. In fact, if you really read Capital Punishment from the day I started writing, you'd see that I often attack the very notion that the government should be in housing, in public markets or in redistributing wealth--but from both sides. I also make fun of the rich and the poor when they behave irresponsibly and threaten greater society. Just go back and read. You'll see what I mean. Why do the rich never seem to complain when the government takes from the poor and gives to the rich? In fact, I think that's pretty much the basis of the Republican Party. On the other hand, Democrats tend to do the opposite. It's all ridiculous to one extent or another, but let's not deny it goes both ways. Please.

I know just enough about history, geography and anthropology to know that there have been many different kinds of societies in different times and different spaces. Some distributed wealth to the benefit of all. Others did not. Which ones do you think tended to last the longest and achieve the greatest successes? When speaking of Annapolis, the rift is such a gaping hole that the moral imperative overtakes the political reality. This is even more evident on the global scale. In other words, American is rich for a variety of reasons, but slavery, imperialism, and global exploitation of the poor has played a big role. It's not just this lame idea of a free market.

So, we can meet and talk, but first I want to know, are you really Frederick Augustus?


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