I had an exchange online with an old friend and a few people he knows. I am posting the text of it, anonymized with a couple minor edits, because the debate and what happened after is such a great snapshot of the left.
Westerners are not taught that the hoarding of wealth is an act of evil. Many other cultures, however, do understand this concept. We need to learn it.
“Hoarding” money, better known as saving, is what enables investment, which is what allows new products and companies to come into existence. That would include things like Facebook which would not have survived without VC money. If you use things like computers, the internet and cell phones you can thank the people who saved and invested the money that made them available for your use. When that money is taken away, future growth and innovation is taken away as well, and everyone is made poorer as a result.
Is there a particular culture you have in mind?
Other Person 1:
Mr. Manifesto I think you missed the point …. saving is different than hoarding … saving some thousands to cover a rainy day mis fortune is a needed thing …. when the numbers turn to millions and billions and trillions .. thats hoarding and it only serves the hoarder at the expense of many … and thats wrong
Hoarding money is not equal to saving. Hoarding money is when your wealth is so vast that it deprives millions of people the ability to live a life of basic human dignity. Such as the ability to get a basic education, or to see a doctor without declaring bankruptcy. If you accept the idea that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one, then you must agree that hoarding of money is wrong. If you do not accept the idea that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one, then there’s nothing more I can say to you.
Sorry, guys, but this is pretty elementary economics. One person’s wealth does not deprive anyone of an education, dignity, etc. Wealth doesn’t sit in someone’s basement. It is invested and produces jobs and growth. Facebook, for example, would not exist without millionaires.
If you confiscated all the money from people above, say, $10 million and give it away to the poor of the world, you would see two things. First, there would still be poor people now. Second, there would be more (not fewer) poor people in the future because this act of “kindness” would suck away the funding from future companies, products and jobs.
It is not an accident that collectivist societies invariably impoverish and oppress their citizens. It isn’t kindness to condemn the poor to lives of poverty, which is what collectivism does. There is only one force that has lifted millions of people out of poverty - capitalism.
But I’d like to repeat my previous question: do you have a culture in mind that practices your no-hoarding-of-wealth philosophy?
Other Person 2:
Have you considered that “hoarding” isn’t as direct a thing as you think it is? Influencing an entire political body to work in favor of you keeping a greater majority of your wealth that could otherwise be spent on social programs that help the poor is in itself a sort of hoarding. Or at least the mentality behind that sort of thing is the same as traditional “hoarding”.
Other Person 1:
I do but not for large random numbers …. I am also aware of the the concept that given an even start and an equal amount of money eventually some would amass most of the wealth … as we see it today …. that doesn’t make it right or the best thing to do it just makes it where we are now…. history illustrates this time and time again … it also shows that eventually the despots crash and are eventually replaced first by a benevolent society which is eventually over come by a despot and things recycle … today we have an opportunity to break this cycle by creating a new model …. something where the wealth has greater restrictions, where the middle class is the major part of society and the impoverished also have restrictions. I enjoy watching China struggle with this delemna as well. The real truth of that situation seldom gets here, I use my contacts and family reports to get a more accurate picture.
Other Person 2 - When government spends trillions of dollars annually and grants itself more and more power, it should come as no surprise that people spend a lot of time and money to get in on the action. They are looking for 3 things: (1) a piece of the action; (2) to avoid being crushed by regulation; and (3) to use regulations to crush their current and future competition. It is the wealthy and big business that has the resources to do this, of course. Progressivism is good to the wealthy and to big business (see, for example, Solyndra and the rest of Obama’s green energy program).
If you want to keep the wealthy from being to powerful politically, the only solution is small, constitutionally constrained government. We used to have that and it actually worked quite well.
As for social programs, there are two kinds of poor people in the U.S. - the temporarily poor and the underclass. For the temporarily poor, the safety net works. They are unemployed briefly and then back on their way.
For the underclass, government programs have been a well-intentioned disaster. They have made things worse for the most part. We now have areas of the country where the out-of-wedlock birthrate is around 80%, made possible only because of government programs intended to “help.” The problem, however, is that a single mother is virtually certain to be poor or very close to poor (even with the safety net). And her children are more likely to underachieve in school then drop out, more likely to commit crimes, more likely to be poor as adults, and more likely to repeat the cycle by having their own children out of wedlock.
People who finish high school, then get a job, then get married before having children have a poverty rate in the single digits. Government programs that simply shovel money at the poor prevent them from following this all-but-certain path out of poverty.
Other Person 1 - I’m not sure about your history. Most of human history, certainly the last 2,500 years anyway, has featured despotism and little else. There have been a few outbreaks of liberty but they have been outliers. It took our ancestors hundreds of years to establish the right of the individual to live in freedom, to make his own way and to have a representative government.
This process pushed western Europe from being a bass-ackwards, illiterate, collection of petty monarchs to being an economic and military powerhouse. People forget that western Europe was nothing special compared to the rest of the world, including Africa, until just a couple hundred years ago. But we embraced liberty and capitalism when the rest of the world stuck with the usual routine - despotism. Now it seems that too many people are trying to forget this.
But I’d like to hear what your new model is. I’m particularly interested in hearing how the middle class will be sustained in it.
Old Friend 1:
I’m fascinated that all you want to talk about is welfare programs when I’m talking about how there’s no money for the education of our youth, and that it has been made a crime-punishable-by-financial- ruin to become sick or injured. Tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich. They have been waging and winning a war on the poor and middle class for the past 30 years. This is not an opinion, it is a fact demonstrated by a mathematical tally of who owns what percentage of the wealth in our country, and how that distribution has changed over the past 30 years.
Other Person 3:
And how, pray tell, does the accumulation of wealth by one person prevent another from accumulating it? That is absurd. Read all of the above carefully — Mr. Manifesto was cogent and well reasoned. The counter replies were not. Round goes to Mr. Manifesto.
Other Person 3 - Rich don’t pay taxes. No money for public education. Uneducated people are forever shut out from financial opportunity. That his how the accumulation of wealth by one percent robs millions from their own chance for financial well being. Booya.
Ugh. I’m so tired of this. We’ll never agree. I’m pro human rights, you’re pro property rights. We are what we are….I’m not gonna have these conversations with you anymore. I’m still marveling at your earlier comment in defense of the glories of despotism. We are what we are.
That’s when Old Friend unfriended me. I could not even post the detailed response I had been writing.
It’s a perfect encapsulation of the real nature of many on the left: angry, unhinged, intolerant, lacking in facts, unable to analyze coherently and only wanting hear things they agree with.
So, I sent Old Friend an email.
Hey Old Friend,
So you unfriended me on Facebook. Such is life - I’m disappointed but not insulted.
You had long ago lost your status as one of my preferred debating opponents because you confused anger and passion with insight. I have many lefty friends who actually debate in good faith because they recognize that their own arguments are made sharper by having them tested against people who disagree. They have not pushed themselves into self-imposed intellectual ghettos like you. It’s your loss. So, the next time you rage against “intolerance,” just remember today. You responded to facts with anger, to reason with hate, to dissent by cutting off debate. Congratulations on becoming what you hate.
Anyway, I don’t hold grudges, particularly not against old friends. If you change your mind at any point in the future (months, years, decades) feel free to get in touch. I am always up for a worthwhile debate.