Both sentiments, although based on veneers of truth, are largely inaccurate. Nevertheless, a widening divide between the wealth of rich and poor portends societal breakdown, and something must be done about it--on the part of government and private interests.
Many on the American political Left lionize Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although I think he was a very dignified and well-meaning man, his policies have been the impetus for a great deal of the societal malaise that America is experiencing today.
True capitalism must be mixed with charity, but when the rich get richer at the expense of the poor that's as uncharitable as it gets.Roosevelt's main political thrust was that the government can take care of the people, when a nearly $80 trillion budget shortfall required to take care of the schemes FDR wrought belies this noble-sounding idea. In the wake of New Deal policies, government has failed its subjects in its attempt to supplant the family as the fundamental unit of society.
The even bigger problem, however, is the lie of the American Right that the rich are getting richer simply because of their value to society. In nearly all cases this is not true.
- Corporate Chief Executives are not being paid hundreds of times more than their employees because they provide hundreds of times more value; rather, they are getting paid exorbitant rates because they can.
- Enron executives were, and farming and energy conglomerates are, filthy rich mainly because of their incestuous relationship with governments.
- The longer politicians stay in office, the greater likelihood that they'll be able to make much more money from their friends on the other side of the revolving door that leads to K-Street.
- Bankers, brokers, and federal reserve chairmen are usually able to insulate themselves from the economic chaos that their policies wreak on the rest of society.
Such political mice (not men) are faux "capitalists" in the mode that Adam Smith and Karl Marx were both correct to abhor. Although Marx came to the wrong conclusions, his observations of "capitalistic" maladies, many of which we're experiencing today, were very accurate.
True capitalism must be mixed with morality,
In the wake of New Deal policies, government has failed its subjects in its attempt to supplant the family as the fundamental unit of society.and when the rich get richer at the expense of the poor primarily because of the machinations of government, that's as immoral as it gets.
The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, gives us an excellent pattern for recognizing impending societal breakdown. It always involves a breakdown of morality, and it always is presaged by a widening gap between the earning power and opportunities of rich versus poor.
Just prior to the coming of Christ in the Western Hemisphere following his death and resurrection, an ancient American society was in free-fall decline, characterized chiefly by a lack of charity on the part of the increasingly rich toward the increasingly poor:
Cataclysmic social and natural upheavals caused the breakup of their society into tribes and caused the ultimate deaths of thousands of people.10 ...some were lifted up unto pride and aboastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions;
The remaining inhabitants were left to learn from previous social mistakes. It worked rather well for about two centuries, but the next devolution of society, which occurred beginning 200 years after Christ's appearance and warnings to these people, became a death spiral.
In a few more decades, the social breakdown of that ancient American society culminated in a battle in which millions perished.24 And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in apride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.25 And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more acommon among them.26 And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up achurches unto themselves to get bgain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.
35 And...in the two hundred and thirty and first year, there was a great division among the people.
43 And also the people...began to be proud in their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, and become avain like unto their brethren...
46 And it came to pass that...robbers...did spread over all the face of the land; and there were none that were righteous save it were the disciples of Jesus. And gold and silver did they lay up in store in abundance, and did btraffic in all manner of traffic.
Book of Mormon, 4th Nephi, Chapter 1
It would be way cool if we could learn from their bad example before it's too late.
When it comes to ensuring economic fairness, can government be the solution? Yes, insofar as it remains within its proper sphere--that of creating and enforcing fair economic laws. Government will always create more problems than it solves, however, when it attempts to redistribute wealth. Wealth redistribution, if it is to succeed at all, must be affected by charitable individuals, strong families, and by respectful religion and other charitable social institutions.
Wealth redistribution, if it is to succeed at all, must be affected by charitable individuals, strong families, and by respectful religion and other charitable social institutions.
Many factors signal the impending failure of American society. If we hope to save ourselves, government, along with private organizations and individuals, must work within their proper spheres to once again enshrine honesty and charity. Government must enforce the rules. But individuals, if they hope to be called capitalists in the true sense of the word, must act in all cases with charity.
That is a recipe for fairness. That is a recipe for economic success for all.