I’d like to offer two comments about Freidricha Keyah’s Feb. 11 response to my Feb. 6 letter. First, Keyah suggests applying corporate accounting principles to national economics. This is a questionable idea, since countries and corporations have many fundamental differences. Specifying these differences and deciding what accounting principles should apply in various situations is well beyond a “letters” column, perhaps even beyond a university think tank. But I do hope we can agree that countries and corporations are, by intelligent design, substantially different forms of social organization and it is probably unwise to apply identical accounting principles to both.
Second, I do think major wealth redistribution would be economically wise and socially just, but I had no intention of excoriating the very rich. They mostly got that way playing within the rules and judging from the few I’ve met or know about, most behave about as well as I, some behave worse, and some better. Mel Brooks (as King Louis) once said while putting his hand on a pretty woman’s bottom, “It’s good to be the king.” Excoriate the super rich? Not hardly! Would that I was one of them.
What I do excoriate is a social system (that’s all of us) that distributes its immense wealth so very badly. (Yes Freidricha, we are still a very rich country.) Do we really want a country wherein the richest 400 people have more than the poorest 150 million? Do we, 4.25 percent of the planet’s population, really need to spend more on our military than all other countries combined? What are we like to think we need that much defending? Why do we, a supposedly free people, hire professionals to do our fighting? We are a country founded primarily by small farmers, manufacturers and traders (along with some larger, slave-holding farmers), all of whom worked for a living and carried a gun in defense of their country when that was called for. How did we let things get to this point? I can’t say I know but I don’t think it’s as simple as excoriating a few very rich people.
Still, Warren Buffet (one of those 400 super-rich) said, “When a country needs more income and we do, we’re only taking in 15 percent of GDP, ... they should get it from the people that have it.”