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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Rich and Poor

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington D.C. circa 1918
"The growing divide between the rich and the poor" is a common complaint these days. The implication is that some people have too much money, other's don't have enough, and something should be done about it.
    "The growing divide between the rich and the poor" is not a problem. What matters is not whether we all are equal in terms of buying power, but whether we all have enough to live our lives as civilized people. When people don't have enough, when they are marginalized, oppressed, crushed, disenfranchised, driven from their homes, etc. etc., that's when the Communists can gain a toehold.
    Communism as it is practiced by those who call themselves Communists, is not really communism. As some of us have learned, it is really just a gang of thugs, much like the Mafia, only writ large. Could it be that the growth of the gangs in the USA might be engendered by the same kind of problems that make good breeding grounds for Communism? I think it is.
    I imagine being rich is kind of a pain in the ass. Yes, I know, somebody famous once said "I've been rich and I've been poor and being rich is better"*, but you have to constantly be thinking about your money and what you should be doing with it, where you should invest it, who is trying to steal it. Now some people might take to that kind of agonizing like a duck to water, they might actually enjoy it. Me, I find it tedious and boring. Fortunately there are things like Mutual Funds that remove most of the day to day agony.
    Being rich requires paying attention to your money. Stop paying attention and all that money will wander off. And what do you do with a billion dollars anyway? I mean after you've bought your fancy car, boat, house, airplane? You invest it in something that  you hope will make more money. Which means that most of the money that the rich have, which means most of the money in the world, is tied up in real estate and infrastructure and and organizations that are actually producing something. It's just sitting there, working, being watched by all those concerned.
    Now you could redistribute that wealth, give all the employees a share in the companies they work for, but that would be a temporary fix at best. All that wealth is going to migrate from those who are not paying diligent attention into the hands of those who are, and we will be right back where we started.
   A negative, or reverse, income tax might be the way to give those on the bottom a boost. I don't really like the idea of giving people something for nothing, it sounds like every bad, socialist, idea I've ever heard. On the other hand we are producing more stuff with less labor than ever before. If we give the poor some money, they are going to spend it on stuff, which means demand will go up, which means production will go up, which means employment will go up, which means we'll have fewer poor people. Or we might just all collapse into the fetid swamp of hyperinflation. I mean it's hard to tell. The future is cloudy, I cannot see.

* Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Joe Louis, Bessie Smith, David Lee Roth, Beatrice Kaufman

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