The Broken Ladder (2017) by Keith Payne is a great book not because it offers new ideas, rather because it methodically takes a scientific walk through what is already known about wealth, power, poverty, life and death. Inequality creates despair and stress leading to social problems (crime, lower life expectancy, disease and hopelessness). The concern for us is…..what are they gonna do about it?
The reason why the poor (and these are people who perceive themselves as poor, not just the actual poor) have such lower quality and quantity of life is a short-sighted decision making capacity – they can’t control their spotlight (4/5/16 post); they have a shorter time span of discretion (3/26/16 post); they live in an environment of scarcity (11/17/15 post) and die sooner (3 posts on wealth and death starting 4/19/16). It’s not their fault. Many, including Professor Payne, believe that wealth inequality is an urgent public health crisis.
Politicians are fomenting dangerous societal rage and resentment. Anger is an emotion to be controlled with reason and discipline but politicians are doing the opposite, fanning flames of discontent. There cannot even be an honest public debate. The attitude is “I disagree with you, so you are evil”. Payne notes that people who are financially successful tend to regard those who disagree with them as idiots and morons rather than simply people with a different opinion. The bias is obvious, not only because of natural psychological illusory superiority, as discussed in his book, but also because the debate is moral not intellectual.
Is it moral to forcibly confiscate someone’s private property in order to redistribute it to others for the “betterment” of society? No! But mainstream thinkers and writers are engaging in a battle to win this moral dispute in favor of extensive wealth redistribution. And it’s not the super wealthy in the cross hairs – it’s you (my Mass Affluent clientele).
This Sunday’s Chicago Tribune had a second page article “Who’s to blame for American inequality? It might be you”. It discusses the book Dream Hoarders (2017) vilifying the moderately wealthy. You evil dream hoarder! (Well, at least hoarders are only in Dante’s fourth circle of hell; there are a few lower circles). The New York Times ran an Op-ed piece “Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich”, criticizing people who give their children social and economic advantages and why that’s bad.
A National Review article after the congressional shooting “The Left Embraces Political Violence” is telling. It quotes philosopher Slavoj Žižek who believes the ancient moral position that violence is never legitimate but sometimes necessary should be flipped because so many people feel oppressed. From an “emancipatory perspective”, he says it is the reverse; violence is always legitimate but never necessary (it’s a matter of strategy on whether or not to use it). There are thinkers who believe that it is moral to violently and coercively attack your family’s wealth. Nietzsche’s slave morality is dangerous to the successful. Secure your legal armor; raise your War Chest sword and shield; prepare for battle.