• Common sense shrugs
I’m one of a diminishing number of people who can’t let a day go by without reading one or more newspapers. But some of the verbal and philosophical sloppiness that fills the news and opinion columns without challenge by editors who spend much of their time these days fighting off corporate mandates to cut, cut, cut makes me wonder how much longer I can keep supporting the medium.
Just two examples from today’s Sunday package of ads and a bit of news:
• Syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman waxes on about how he wants to tell young people in restaurants to stay home and eat tuna fish to save their money for this continued string of rainy days. He doesn’t say how this would help. Nor does he acknowledge that diminished consumer support of such businesses will harm owners, staff, supply vendors, insurance agents, trash haulers, delivery people … in other words, people working hard to make a living and relying on consumer spending to do so.
• A letter to the editor concerning retiring New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye takes her to task for threatening a lawsuit to get judges’ salaries raised for the first time in nine years. The logic isn’t that such a stance is unseemly. Rather, the complaint is that judges already make more than the average minimum-wage worker. Well, of course they do, you ninny. They’re worth more to society, have broader and deeper responsibilities, had to undergo more training and life experience, and have more impact on the populace.
Bits of both such styles of “logic” figure into the annual complaints I’ve heard about social doyenne Marylou Whitney, whose themed costume parties are legendary when the thoroughbred horse racing season comes around each summer in Saratoga Springs, NY. Some people love the events; some decry them as excesses of the privileged class. The latter are as short-sighted as columnist Friedman. Whitney’s events help spread money around to florists, winemakers, chefs, waitstaff, parking valets, delivery people, electricians, costumers, painters and on and on, all of them getting paid for an honest day’s work.
That is so much preferable to the re-distribution of wealth that many on the liberal side of politics and society are continually espousing. An attitude I regard as trying to penalize people for being successful. Taxation through jealousy. Willful ignorance of individual effort and initiative. A disincentive to achieve.
That may be what we face in the first term of the Obama presidency. He’s widely thought to be a proponent of wealth re-distribution but he has kept his public comments on the topic flabby enough to allow for speculation until he announces some sort of plan. As he told the now-famous “Joe the Plumber” during a campaign stop:
“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody … I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
Many iconic thinkers have commented on this situation, but none has summed it up as succinctly as Ayn Rand (“Atlas Shrugged,” “The Fountainhead”), the Russian-born American writer/philosopher show above who advocated rational individualism and laissez-faire capitalism:
“Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel.”