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Equality: The Haves and Have Nots

(More thoughts about Consecration versus Communism.)

(See: The Trees by Neil Pert and Rush)

The haves have a responsibility to lift the have nots. That is essential to every religion, most certainly including mine. (See my thoughts about 4 Nephi and Consecration here.)

Compared to the insanely wealthy I am not wealthy. I have always had to work hard to provide for my family and I still do. I've spent plenty of my adult life not far from running out of money and maxed out in debt. I still don't know if I've got enough money to get through old age. There are things I'd love to buy that I don't because I don't have the money. However, compared to the school teachers and the millions of other people who have nobly labored to build this country on a fraction of my financial blessings, I am financially wealthy. I have immense gifts and advantages that most could never dream of. I come from a family of farmers, laborers, school teachers, and scrappers that up until the 1970's had very little and lived pretty low on the socioeconomic strata. My dad was blessed with a very industrious and entrepreneurial mind. With that gifted mind, really hard work, luck, plenty of failure, and lots of tenacity, he was able to build wealth and business opportunity. He started out selling mobile homes, then a carpet business, then grew from that into land development, a business I have been blessed to continue with my siblings since his passing in 2009. That has been a true blessing to me, my family, and my nine other siblings. We aren't private jet or drive a Ferrari wealthy. We certainly aren't "never have to work again" wealthy. But, as I said, compared to the rest of America, and certainly compared to the sadly endless poverty throughout the rest of the world, we are deeply blessed and are deeply grateful. I don't deserve all that. It is not fair. Some of what I have now I worked for and “earned” through my own creativity and industry. Some is harvesting the rewards of my Dad's labors. But, that is what I've been blessed with. More importantly, and to the point of all this, with that blessing comes an obligation to lift others with it.

Growing wealth takes hard work and driven effort, my Dad as case in point. But, nobody really creates wealth from nothing. Everybody has some unique and special combination of gifts ranging from where they were born, the color of their skin, special God given talents they were born with, family and social advantage they were born with, money the were born into, and so many other unpredictable factors. All great achievement, including creation of wealth, including creation of great art and music, including invention of great ideas, including great leadership, including great athletic achievement, all great achievement is a complex combination of grit, hard work, discipline, but also the many life circumstances given to one that are not given to another. Every great work or accomplishment is built on the back of other great creators that have gone before. Mahler symphonies are built on the back of Beethoven symphonies. The land development I do today is built on the back of what my Dad did, but also on the back of the great dams and canals built along the Colorado by hard labor a century ago. With virtually no other money or opportunity, my Dad's father was one of those laborers at the lowest socioeconomic rung upon who's back millions of us in Arizona have built better lives.

Essential to understanding how wealth gets spread around is the realization that wealth is not just about money. Just like the distribution of financial wealth is arbitrary and unfair, so is the distribution of the many other forms of human wealth. Some people are born into family or social circumstances that provide comparatively more access to financial wealth, but have relatively less access to wealth of the mind, the arts, physical ability, health, or the spirit. Inversely, some are born into circumstances of financial difficulty or social oppression, but are comparatively blessed with gifts and wealth of the mind, the arts, health, talent, physical ability, or gifts of the spirit. Some people are born into families with little or no financial wealth, but with a rich environment of learning and creativity with vastly more "wealth of the mind and spirit" than others. Some of that is corollary. People who are made to struggle seem to develop more grit in the face of their adversity and therefore they tend to achieve more. People born into ease can be less driven by necessity and adversity and therefore accomplish less. On the other hand, some of that inequity of different forms of wealth is just luck of the draw, the lottery of the human condition. Some people are just born smarter, faster, stronger, more creative, more musical, more artistic, more athletic, literally more gifted than others. They still have to work and sacrifice, sometimes to extremes, to achieve anything of value with all that. But, the Mozart's, Einstein's, and Michael Jordan's of the world were clearly born with some gift the rest of us didn't get. Genetics? Upbringing? Circumstances? Hard work? Grit? It is so complex and so arbitrary it seems impossible to see where all this "wealth" comes from and how it gets spread around. Suffice it to say that the allocation of human gifts, talent, intellect, potential, opportunity, exposure, circumstances, money, access, this broader definition of human wealth, is infinitely unfair.

So, what do we do with these infinite inequities in virtually every aspect of the human experience, not just financial, but intellectual, creative, emotional, athletic, and on on on? Up until now, various social theories and public policy experiments have attempted to equalize the unquestionably huge financial inequities in society. Redistribution of wealth, socialism, communism, public programs to equalize income, health care, housing, educational opportunity, all these things are an attempt to reset the intensely unequal station people are born into by no other merit than luck or lack thereof. Depending on how you look at it, these attempts have been fraught with a huge range of moral and immoral, effective and ineffective outcome. In some cases they have truly raised the general well-being of a nation. In other cases, they have shredded and destroyed the very fabric of a people to utter social destruction, bloodshed, and a true deterioration. Often, the only winners are a very small number a bureaucrats who manage to bleed off great personal benefit for their position of control over the redistribution. I have been to Romania and have seen how such experiments can suck the very soul out of a nation. Venezuela, the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, Greece, the list goes on where the true outcome of these experiments could not have been more catastrophic, more opposite to the stated desired outcome of elevating a people.

Does this mean we throw our hands up and give up on the idea of lifting the "have nots" or ensuring that all are "partakers of the heavenly gift" I write about elsewhere? No. It just means we must think very wisely about how that is to be done, and more importantly, who it is to be done by. The great failures generally were the result of governments using the heavy and arbitrary hand of government to affect these changes. As I mentioned, government has tried to control for things it could actually control. Housing. Money. Health care. But there are things that government cannot control and therefore has not tried to control so far. Most significant in that regard is talent and the innate human drive that is fundamental to any accomplishment. The huge social inequity in talent is just as arbitrary, unique, and unfair as the huge inequity in wealth, education, health care, and access to opportunity. But, what if by some science-fiction style technical advancement government could achieve the means to redistribute talent and gifts of the mind and soul the way they have attempted to redistribute wealth and other inequities? Imagine the horror and mayhem that would be caused if our great thinkers, artists, musicians, inventors, entrepreneurs, athletes, makers, leaders, and innovators somehow by law were required to plug some magic cable into their brain to transfer the "unfair" portion of talent that they "don't deserve" to a big government computer that could redistribute that to everyone else who "deserves" to have some portion of it? The massive step backward for quality of life of the human race would be unimaginable. Poverty of the mind, spirit, body of all people in all places would not just be catastrophic, it would be apocalyptic. As a people, it would seem we want nothing more than for those blessed with great talents to use those talents to lift us. The human condition is lifted not by slicing the talent out of gifted brains into a million pieces for redistribution, but by leaving those people free to create great things with that talent that will in turn lift the rest of us. It seems so obvious and logical when you look at this concept of redistribution of talent how ridiculous and catastrophic it would be. Why is it not so equally obvious when you look at the redistribution of many other usually unfair and inequitable aspects of the human experience?

I have imagined that I was a great author and could write at the level of Victor Hugo or John Steinbeck. I have been moved and inspired to my very core as I have read their works and considered the great questions they posed in their respective centuries. The massive social inequities they addressed as well as the human obligation to heal them are universal to all time. If I wrote the great novel of human experience for the 21st century, it would be a science fiction novel around this very theme of the redistribution of "talent wealth." I would explore the great inequities of people longing for the talents others have that they do not. I would explore the great calamities that would come if some magic of science made it possible to redistribute in this insane way. It would be somewhat autobiographical in the sense of my own ironic condition. As I have said, I have been blessed with unimaginable gifts in certain areas including financial. But, financial blessings aren't the gifts my soul truly hungers for. The gifts my heart dreams of and pleads for are gifts that were given to Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau, Stravinsky, Copland, and so many others. Would I rob them of their gifts so I could have my one billionth of a share of what they have? Never! Doing so would destroy them and rob the world of beauty and magic they have gifted to the world while my billionth share would do nothing to lift me closer to my heart's desire to be like them. Yet, I still long to have the life circumstances and gifts they have. Is it fair they have that and I do not? No! But, that is the natural reality and to artificially try to hijack that would be catastrophic not only to them, but to me and the rest of humanity as well.

It would seem then, the key is not to strip and rob the gifted in hopes of somehow lifting the rest of us. Instead, we should let them be free to magnify and exercise their gifts so that the fruits of those gifts can be shared and lift us all. Yes, we as human family, especially the most gifted, have an obligation to lift the "have nots" among us. That is a moral obligation the extends far past the "have nots" of money to the "have nots" of all things including the mind, body, and spirit. But, in spite of all the greed, apathy, and cruelty so many individuals are capable of, I trust the general agency, morality, and decency of humanity to do this lifting far more than I do the fallible, incapable, and corruptible heavy hand of government. Yes, relying on the goodwill of humanity will continue to be brutally unfair. But, history has taught and will always teach, nothing can be more brutal and unfair than a ruling class robbing the will and freedom of the people under the guise of solving all their problems with inequity being among the greatest of them. A government powerful enough to equalize all things is powerful enough crush all things, and inevitably will. Besides, with the unequal gifts of Stravinsky, Einstein, and others in mind, equality isn't what we really want anyway. Lifting the human condition for all, especially our most oppressed, is what we really want. For that I say, let those who are wealthy of mind, talent, body, creativity, spirit, AND money thrive so that their wealth and gifts may ultimately bless and lift us all!

Pendulum Jail for Morrison

Graphic: The Balanced Pendulum of
Government Control
(PDF Version)

"Still Mine" Movie: The Proper and
Balanced Role of Government

 

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