But if not everyone can be rich, wouldn’t it be better that some can be rich than that none can?
Imagine two very different types of countries or societies, one where there is a more or less permanent and relatively small wealthy class, call this country Pluto, and another where there is a much larger wealthy class, call this one affluentia. Pluto’s wealthy class remains insular and small because there are significant barriers to entry.
Most of Pluto’s wealthy gain entry through birth or political connections. Affluentia is much different and it’s wealthy class is larger because there are no social or political barriers at all to entry. Anyone can, regardless of their breeding or politics, gain entry into the wealthy class simply by amassing a fortune. Of course, even Affluentia has not found a way to make it possible for each and every one of its citizens to amass a fortune. The important thing to note in that Affluentia does not actively seek to prevent anyone, regardless of their birth or status, from amassing a fortune so long as they don’t lie, cheat and steal their way to wealth.
It is much easier for an ordinary person born into one of the lower classes to amass wealth in Affluentia because there exists in that country a free market based economy with few obstacles to starting a business or expanding an existing business. Licensing restrictions are few and those that are required are issued to anyone who meets a few objective requirements that are rational and reasonable. The only real barriers to entry into the wealthy class of Affluentia are one’s own merits, talents, and level of ambition. Of course, as in all matters of terrestrial existence, luck will inevitably play a part. The ways and laws of the universe are not voluntary nor malleable by mere mortals.
There is an unseen engine of wealth generation in Affluentia that is constantly in danger of being throttled and crushed. If the danger is ever realized it will prevent all further upward mobility from the lower economic classes to the wealthy classes. It will instead set Affluentia on a downward spiral in which members of the wealthy class will be forced out of that class and into a lower level of personal wealth. This unseen engine of economic growth is the need for the wealthy and the seekers of wealth to constantly find new ways to put their money to work for profit. This economic activity is a powerful force that creates employment and opportunity to everyone in Affluentia to earn, invest and prosper. No one controls it. It is an order of its own, created spontaneously without design or direction by any one person or group of people.
At times Affluentia comes under the leadership of individuals who see that they can gain political advantages by exploiting the natural human emotion of envy. A leader may, for example, whip up this destructive human tendency to envy by claiming that some people having more than others is simply not “fair.” This leader will gain a following from many of Affluentia’s citizens, not only those who are poor but also some who are very wealthy and who seem to be ashamed of it, by promising to “level the playing field” in the name of “social justice.”
As the level playing field is implemented fewer people become wealthy, and those already wealthy start to see their wealth slowly taken away from them through high taxes and nationalization of their property and business. The emotional envy and hatred of the rich by the lower economic classes not only propels the political agenda of the leaders in Affluentia, it also destroys the happiness of the people who do not see any gains in their own economic fortunes as the wealthy see their’s diminished. Looting and burning in mass riots occurs by new protest groups who seek to “occupy” most public spaces in Affluentia. Eventually the playing field is leveled, at a level where everyone is equal. Equally impoverished, that is.
Well, not everyone. Those with very good political connections are still able to become wealthy and remain so. In fact, it was through the destruction of the old wealthy class that they gained their wealth. Now, however, the ranks of the wealthy are closed. Only those few who were situated politically constitute the permanent wealthy class.
You see, we have not been talking about two separate countries, only one. The country that is the subject of this little tale is Pluto. It was formerly called Affluentia, before a political faction gained hold and convinced the masses that it would be a good thing to “level the playing field.”
The popular television show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” had a good run from 1984 to 1996. British-born Robin Leach, now a Yank, was the host. He recently appeared on Neil Cavuto’s Fox News Business show, and they talked about some of the concepts I tried to develop above. It’s entertaining, informative and well worth your time. It’s split into two videos, one a little over 3 minutes and the other a little over four.