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When the Rich Make Too Much Money When the Rich Make Too Much Money
by Newropeans-Magazine
2007-10-25 00:19:45
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American Voice in Europe - Sam Pizzigati has recently reported on the content of "Foreign Policy", claimed to be "the world's most prestigious global affairs journal" (1). In keeping with its objectives, Foreign Policy has recently devoted an issue to "21 Solutions to Save the World" (2).

Specifically, Dr. Howard Gardner, a Harvard-based psychologist, has addressed the weighty question "Is it time for a maximum wage"? Gardner argues persuasively that "one solution" to save the world "ought to be a cap on the income and wealth that any one individual can accumulate" (3).

Gardner points out that when one person can take home an income "reminiscent of the gross national product of a small country, something is askew". With no upper limits under greed-driven capitalism (as justified with Old Testament Roman religion), the doors remain entirely open for one person to, in effect, own the entire world, with all 6 billion of us presumably living happily in servitude. Gardner proposes a two point solution.

First, Gardner proposes an income cap that limits the amount of money a single individual can annually take home to no more than "100 times as much money as the average worker in a society earns in a year. If the average worker makes $40,000, the top compensated individual may keep $4 million a year."

Second, Gardner proposes that "no individual should be allowed to accumulate an estate more than 50 times the allowed annual income. Thus, no person would be permitted to pass on to his or her beneficiaries more than $200 million."

Actually, the average income of an American family, most with both parents working, is about $44,000 per year (4). Under Gardner's proposal, the top compensated individual may keep only $2 million a year if calculations are based on individual income. No person would be permitted to pass on to his or her beneficiaries more than $100 million.

In addition to establishing upper limits to income, Gardner might also have mentioned approaches to the redistribution of wealth in a manner that raises those peoplel on the bottom while lowering those on the top. The Cheney-Bush administration has redistributed wealth to the already-too-wealthy via tax breaks ever since its was appointed into office.

Here, we must come to appreciate Gardner's failure to propose meaningful change. His income ratio of 100:1 is largely to give one's blessings to the current status quo - which stands as something of a monument to unfairness and inequality. Gardner's proposal would eliminate only those who are determined to make several hundred times more than the average family makes.

In other words, Gardner is really playing it safe in defining a program providing no threat to those making up to $4 million per year. This is to blindly approve of the greed and overt white collar crime that has emerged in the U.S. since World War II, all in the name of producing and preserving an inherently corrupt capitalism. This isn't even close to what it will take to make the world fair and equitable.

How many people do you know whom you would happily claim to be worth 100 times what you are worth as a human and a citizen of a so-called "democracy"? How does the worth of people like Kenneth Lay and Warren Buffett stack up against the worth of people like Jefferson, Franklin and Lincoln? Have you ever considered the certainty that relative human worth does not have one damned thing to do with what you own or how much money you have accumulated?

Certainly, a range of incomes is required in order to reward people for their time at work, for their accumulation of experience at work, for their achievement of expertise at work, and for their creative contributions to their work. Some of us are just plain worth more recompense than others of us because some of us do make more effort and provide more contribution than others of us.

While Gardner proposes a relative worth ratio of 100:1 (so as to conform to current reality), Henry Ford proposed a relative worth ratio of only 40:1 half a century ago. It would prove ever so much more human to set a relative human worth ratio of 10:1. The argument is simple.

Rather than the "average" individual or family income as a base, it is more useful to use a minimal "living income" as a base. That would be about $20,000 per annum in the U.S. - and millions of families have both parents working to just reach this minimal level of living. The argument then takes the form that if you and your family cannot make it on $200,000 per year, it is certainly not a lack of money that is your problem. You have likely not given adequate thought to what it means to be human and why you are here on earth.

We would serve ourselves well to reconsider the concepts of human needs versus human wants. Everyone has similar inherent needs for food and shelter, medical care and intellectual growth. It is the realm of what we want that creates trouble for everyone. We no longer recognize when "enough is enough".

As pointed out by Gardner, "Our standards of 'enough' have become irrationally greedy" (3). People with more money than anyone needs only use it to produce more money that they do not need, in something of a vicious cycle of increasing greed and enhancing the lies it takes to cover that greed.

It is important to recognize that greed-driven people are entirely unable to see greed in themselves. Any notions of greed are entirely washed away and negated with pure self-righteousness and the notion that everything they have accumulated for themselves is well deserved, no matter how that wealth was acquired.

This essentially means that under despotic capitalism, the rich will not give up their pursuit of wealth and power until they discredit and destroy the marketplace that makes them wealthy and powerful. Old Testament Roman capitalism under the Cheney-Bush administration has largely accomplished that end in the eyes of the world. It is simply true that what goes up must come down.

By "letting markets control our destinies, we've lost track of what it means to be 'rich enough'" (3).
By letting markets control our destinies, we've lost track of what it means to be human.
By letting markets control our destinies, we've lost all evidence of our being a democracy.

So much for Old Testament Roman "christianity". It has always been used to justify exploitation and conquest. It has never had anything to do with the Father of Human Rights, Jesus, and the Father of American Democracy, Jefferson.

If we in the U.S., as a people, are interested in preserving and promoting human rights and democracy in the world, we can no longer afford to dismiss the concepts of fairness and equality.

Dr Gerry Lower
Bell Center, Wisconsin (USA)

* * * * * * * * *

Added Note:

Many people will consider that any attempt to limit individual income is contrary to the precepts of democracy as we know it. Many people will ask how capitalism and democracy actually fit together. The answer is that they do not.

The reason that this essay seems contrary to democracy is that in latter day capitalistic America, we typically define freedom as being able to do whatever we want or whatever it takes to survive and thrive. This approach to freedom is synonymous with license and it constitutes a bottom line in the Cheney-Bush administration and corporate America.

This is a definition that comes out of the British crony capitalism of two centuries ago. Jefferson was thoroughly disappointed that the Constitution (written while Jefferson was in France) bore almost no relationship to his Declaration of human rights. In response, Jefferson and Franklin demanded a Bill of Rights so that the people could change what was obviously a piece of British capitalistic rot.

The man most responsible for the re-emergence of democracy as a viable political philosophy in the 17th century was Benedict Spinoza, the same man who placed God on the human inside, in the human mind. Spinoza argued that freedom has nothing to do with license and doing whatever one wants. He pointed out that all real freedoms flow entirely from human rights. In order to be free, we must honor human rights and have our human rights be honored.

Spinoza put it this way. "It follows, plainly, from the explanation given above, of the foundations of a state, that the ultimate aim of government is not to rule, or restrain, by fear, nor to exact obedience, but contrariwise, to free every man from fear, that he may live in all possible security; in other words, to strengthen his natural right to exist and work - without injury to himself or others." (5).

In other words, in order to be free, we must be firstly be free of fear for our own existence and survival. We must guarantee ourselves access to food, shelter, medical care and educational opportunities. When these rights are honored, when fear is eliminated from the earth, we will finally be free to think honestly on behalf of ourselves. We will finally be on the path to Heaven on Earth. Under the Cheney-Bush administration, we are clearly on the path to Hell on Earth.

Readings:
1) Sam Pizzigati, Too Much: When the Rich Make Too Much: Is it Time for a Maximum Wage?, September 13, 2007.
2) 21 Solutions to Save the World, Foreign Policy, May/June, 2007.
3) Howard Gardner, An Embarrassment of Riches, Foreign Policy, May/June, 2007.
4) Jonathan Weisman and Ceci Connolly, Poverty Rate Continues to Climb, Washington Post, August 31, 2005.
5) Benedict de Spinoza, A Theological-Political Treatise, 1670.
-----------------
Dr. Gerry Lower lives in Bell Center, Wisconsin. His website is at
www.jeffersonseyes.com and he can be reached at tisland@blackhills.com


    
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Emanuel Paparella2007-10-25 15:24:27
When the late John Paul II used to go around preaching distributive justice, he would be promptly be criticized for being a communist sympathizer or at least a pinko of sort by the secular humanists with their simple-minded knee-jerk reaction against religion per se, the capitalists insisting that democracy goes together with capitalism, and of course the super rich out to protect what is "legitimaly" theirs. Now, some of the same people are talking about "maximum wage." Odd, to say the least. It amount to saying: I will not pay attention to the message but only to the messanger. In that case, half of the world would never be able to speak on any issue. I say, look at the message, forget the postman who delivered it to you.


Sand2007-10-25 16:44:38
The possibility of forgetting you, Paparella, is a most spectacular prospect. But here you are again, nudging your nose into the daily public. You would have us believe, like an innocent and ignorant housedog delivering the daily newspaper in his slavering jaws, you have no knowledge nor responsibility for the material you are delivering. Even you must acknowledge there is some intellectual connection between the message and the messenger. Or do you plead some sort of robotic status?


Emanuel Paparella2007-10-26 18:51:03
Robotic status is reserved for the rationalist that thinks the only thing real is rationality devoid of imagination, expecially that proceeding from his own mind, and everything is crap. That way lies solipsism and lunacy!


Sand2007-10-27 09:28:48
The proposition that to be irrational is a better approach to reality than acceptance of the messages of ones perception and attempting to logically order them is, to my mind, quite odd. There are diagnoses for people who do that.


Emanuel Paparella2007-10-28 23:46:36
Once again you are listening to the voices in your own head: the irrational and lunacy was never advocated in this forum. What was advocated is a better understanding of what a holistic approach to reason is all about: it incluedes more than mere rationality. But obviously you are not listening; too busy with the voices in your head.


Sand2007-10-29 08:48:08
Unfortunately your perpetual rants against rational thought have persuaded me that the nebulous advantages of your extremely ill defined alternate methods of arriving at sensible procedures are not apparent. You have continually attributed the historical use of brutality and general viciousness to rational thought instead of where it properly belongs to an irrational drive for greed and maintenance of political and economic power, a horrifying characteristic of both secular and religious organizations.


Emanuel Paparella2007-10-29 11:01:10
That is what your voices twll you. What I acually wrote in various contributions has nothing to do with advocating irrationality but pointing out that rationality by itself does not constitute the whole of reason and that when Man is concieved as a mere thinking machine (an inferior computer in effect) devoid of feelings and imagination, the result is dehumanization. But obviously you are not listening. You have your a priori misguided Cartesian paradigm of reality. Try reading Vico's
New Science for a change where he speaks of powtic logic and does so logically. If you have no time, at the very least look up rationalism in your dictionary. It will not be defined as anti-reason or irrationalis.


Sand2007-10-29 12:08:06
Obviously no dictionary will define rationalism as anti-reason but rather the opposite whereas you rant against rationalism. If you have a very personal definition of rationalism it might clear things up to define it with clarity. Your definition of humanism is equally vague and I can see no evidence that to be rational means to be callous and unresponsive to human needs. It must be evident to even you that, in the long run, the cruelties practiced by totalitarian regimes and regimes driven by economic forces alone are stupid and not rational. Unfortunately neither religious nor secular organizations are exempt from this type of behavior, whatever their hypocritical proclamations.


Emanuel Paparella2007-10-29 14:05:12
Only in an era rampant with rationalism could Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand be considered the most influential book of the 20th century. That book is a good example of rationalism devoid of imagination and inbued with pernicious social darwinism supported by the doctine of inevitable progress, for the rich and powerful, and scientific positivism. It ends up diving the world between winners and losers with the winners callously deciding the destiny of the losers. Sounds like Nazism to me and yet it was embraced enthusiastically in the America of the 50s by all the rationalists because Ayn Rand peddled it as anti-communism. What an enormous paradox that was and remains.


Sand2007-10-29 14:44:42
Rand is off the mark not because she is rational but because she has such a narrow view of what is valuable in society and makes her judgments on the basis of not understanding the fecundity of unassessed capabilities. And she proceeds from that to move recklessly into very poorly worked out actions neglecting disastrous consequences.


Emanuel Paparella2007-10-30 19:03:11
Obviously you know little if anything about her objectivistic philosophy based on a callous survival of the winners and social darwinism. You ought to inform yourself better.


Sand2007-10-31 08:02:03
As usual, your idiotic assumptions are in full control of your perceptions.


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