CLEMSON, SC, October 11, 2011—How you think we should “divide the economic pie” tells us a lot about your economic values.
A hot topic in political economy today is the growing disparity between the top 1% and the remaining 99% in terms of income and wealth. The leftists and hobos Occupying Wall Street are using this disparity to get the nation to buy into class warfare.
In fact, not only do they include the top 1% in their hatred, but anyone in the middle-class – the workers who drive the economy. Sometimes they ignorantly include themselves in their rash hatred because they themselves own retirement plans, which consist of stocks and mutual funds that earn money as a result of those “evil windfall corporate profits” that they so earnestly decry.
This topic raises an interesting question: Is it better to eat at a table where everyone has very little food on their plate, or at a table where a few people have no food, a majority have enough to live well, and a few have much more food than they would ever need?
The question may be posed to promote charity or raise awareness of those in need, but it also silently promotes a leftist agenda. If the wealthy take the question seriously, they might be moved to share more and help the rest of us. But as posed, the question easily feeds the hate against those who “have much more food than they would ever need.”
The wealthy should be generous and compassionate. In fact, most are very willing to part with substantial amounts of their money. Forty US billionaires, including Bill Gates, signed “The Giving Pledge” last year in which they promised to donate half of their wealth to charitable organizations. Many have already donated much and are contributing to great and charitable causes.
Regardless, those who are not wealthy shouldn’t be angry with those who “have too much food” solely for being successful. Instead, we should strive to follow their successes so that we will be able to feed ourselves and feed others.
In drawing a picture of the United States economy, the “dinner table” question creates what in logic is called a “false dichotomy.” A false dichotomy is a logical fallacy involving a situation in which only two alternatives are presented and considered, when in fact there are others. Between the two possibilities presented in this question lie an almost infinite number of alternatives.
Questions about dividing the economic pie almost always rest on the assumption that there is a set amount of wealth to disperse among us all — that somehow there is a limit on the size of “the pie,” or the amount of food we can put on the table.
In politics, it is easy for people to get into the mindset that there is a set amount of money and resources already in the economy, and that in the future that figure will remain constant. The only thing that differs from year to year is who now owns more or less of “the pie.” Politics then becomes a game of shifting the same resources back and forth between interest groups.
Most true conservatives, successful entrepreneurs, and proponents of Capitalism (not Cronyism) seem to agree on a central point: Wealth is not a constant, but rather, wealth is created with every positive-sum transaction. When the free market thrives, the economy grows because the entire pie grows and new markets emerge, not because the pie gets cut differently.
The framework of our rhetorical meal question then radically changes. In the free market system, there are buffets. People must walk to get to them, which is not always easy. In fact, some buffets are off-limits, classified as “illegal.” Others have very little food to choose from. Farther away, there are ever-replenished buffets that are a challenge to find.
Some cannot physically make it to the farther buffets and require the charity of those who have made it. Those with full plates don’t just need to share their food. They should show those with no food the closest way to the buffets or share from experience tips to find them.
However, if those with no food get angry and attack those who worked to get their food from the buffets, and then confiscate it, then who will be left to lead the way to the buffet for future meals?
If we crucify the wealthy like Steve Jobs and the evil corporations like Apple, simply because they are successful, from where will we get our Apple products?
John Paul Cassil studies Management/Entrepreneurship and Political Science at Clemson University. A former U.S. House of Representatives Page, Cassil has since worked on conservative campaigns and in Congress for Congresswoman Foxx.
Cassil is the Managing Editor of the Tiger Town Observer, Clemson’s Conservative Journal of News and Opinion. He regularly speaks about activism at national conservative conferences.
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