Monday, February 14, 2005

Who Decides?

Whenever a progressive-minded person starts talking about equitable ways to distribute wealth, a conservative is bound to jump up to ask, "Who decides who gets what?"

One way to answer this question again is to return to a discussion of what wealth is. I stipulate that wealth represents an excess of resources. If every individual in the world possessed a savings account of $1 million, then $1 million would not represent wealth as it would not exceed what any other person possessed.

Therefore, wealth is to exceed what others possess.

I suppose some would say this is all well and good. Though I would likely argue that point, I would at least point out that we don't live in a world of infinite resources. If we did, then wealthy individuals could possibly excuse their excess by stating that any other person could achieve the same level of excess as they had. In fact, they might accurately state that people who lived in poverty were simply lazy and had not put forth the needed amount of effort to obtain that which is there for the taking.

However, as we all know, we live in a world of FINITE resources. There is only so much oil, gold, food or trees in existence. To be certain, the amounts of these things do change and the number is never static, but, only the fool believes that their is an endless amount.

Since our world is bound by its finiteness, the fact that some individuals possess an excess of resources concurrently means that others possess a corresponding deficiency in resources. While some have vastly more than they need, others have far less than they need, often below the minimum subsistence level.

In essence, the wealthy are stating that THEIR personal needs are somehow more important than other people's needs. It's as if their needs, desires, dreams and aspirations matter, but millions of other people's needs, desires, dreams and aspirations don't matter. What it really boils down to is the narcissistic statement, "My life matters more than yours!".

So, to return to the initial question, each person needs to decide what is basic for their own survival AND they need to temper this decision by the knowledge that a) We live in a world of finite resources AND b) They aren't the only person on the planet.

If you have 5 starving people sitting around a table with one pizza, a person would have a lot of gall to declare that they needed to consume 3/4 of the pizza to meet their most basic need. Each of us might relish the thought of eating 3/4 of the pizza, but the compassionate individuals among us would settle for a piece that represented 1/5 (a little more or less).

Unfortunately, using the example above, there are far too many wealthy individuals in our world today who would not only claim the ENTIRE pizza for themselves, but also the table the pizza is on and the chairs the other 4 people are sitting in.

1 comment:

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