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Monday, January 2, 2017

The Already-Wealthy Really Do Owe the Poor


I was reading the Sunday edition of the New York Times yesterday when I ran across this article:

Things We Learned in 2016


It listed 45 different items that readers of the newspaper might have learned in the last year. I thought number 22 very instructing and insightful:

Sixth graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts.

It was from this article:

Money, Race and Success: 

How Your School District Compares


This statement/fact has so many ramifications for people, individually, but for societies as a whole, it's difficult to know where to begin or end but I'll try.

First, it proves the idea of noblesse oblige quickly, firmly and completely. The idea that the wealthy, the already-wealthy have an obligation to help those with less is driven home here totally. The formal definition is 
"the inferred responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity and nobility toward those less privileged."

Since those "privileged" or again, wealthy have much, they rather "owe it" to the "less privileged" to assist. Part of that is just due to quantities---quantities of wealthy, of money, in our modern societies. If a person is "loaded" and has more than they could possibly spend, it seems easy, obvious and incumbent on them to help those who are of small means and struggling. This is especially true, it would seem clear, if that "struggling" includes being homeless, starving, sick or what have you.

This also seems easy and true if the person is both wealthy and either a moralist--as I'd think we all should be--or, more, a Christian or Jew or of any religion that believes in helping the poor. Sure, again, this seems easy and obvious.

But it's more than that. It's much more than that.

What becomes true, just from that one, brief sentence and fact is that the already-wealthy have many, many advantages--financial, social, educational, etc.--given to them, and from birth up, that if they didn't assist the less fortunate, the poor or what have you, it would only perpetuate horribly the divisions between the two groups of people, those "haves" and "have nots." This seems self-evident, too.

This makes it easy to see why those with money keep piling on more and more, frequently, if not usually, while those of lesser means get less, to begin with, but then also are able to save and keep less, over time. It's what makes the "1%" of a nation, of a society, grow and grow their wealth.

Offers and possibilities snowball up for the wealthy by virtue of money and education and contacts, at least, while the costs of being less fortunate snowball against "the little guy." It's a system built to go for the wealthy and against the poor. And sure, to an extent it's just human nature but it's not right and we need to acknowledge it and correct for it, each of us, let alone as a people, as a nation, again, as societies.

This isn't about the poor mooching off the wealthy or not pulling their own weight or their expecting, demanding easy things from those that have, either. As the old saying goes, if only work made people wealthy, African women would be the wealthiest of the world.

One of the great things about all this, though, about the fortunate helping the unfortunate is that, besides making one feel good, besides the fact that it is, as just one example, the "Christian thing to do", it also helps the society, too. Any person who is helped with some food, say, might well avoid going to a hospital later or, in another example, might not steal--and risk getting caught and arrested. They may not try to rob a store and should that happen, things get much worse for all involved right there.

Then there's helping a person with education. Or a job. Both certainly help the area, the town, the city, the region, the state, the nation. They help with the person's health, their expenses. Heck, they help the different government's tax coffers. The benefits here snowball upward, positively, as well.

So there's every reason in the world why the already wealthy should help the unfortunate, the poor, the sick. It's good for that person and their family, sure.  But it's also great for the society and those benefits come back to that wealthy person. The healthier, wealthier and stronger our societies are, the better it even is for the wealthy. Their own companies will likely do better. Their own city, county, state and nation will do better.  That, in fact, then is the "rising tides help all boats." Not tax cuts for the already-wealthy. That does nothing but make the rich, richer.

So, yeah, the rich owe the poor. Don't ever think they don't.  

They owe it to themselves to help.


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1 comment:

Sevesteen said...

As a nation, as a people, we have some pretty significant problems not least of which is our outrageously, ineffective poor public schools.

We can't imagine a different system.

A system where in order to get a good education many parents have to either foot the entire bill for school, while still paying for the ineffective local system, or move to a home in a rich neighbourhood.

A system virtually unchanged in a hundred years--before air conditioning was practical.

A system where success isn't enough, where successful schools are pressured to follow the same rules as unsuccessful schools.

We need to experiment, try different things, see what works. Ask questions. Answer questions. Use those answers sensibly.

Does it make sense to halt school for 3 months a year?
Should we start a class more often than once a year?
What's the best age to start--2, 4, 6, 8?
How much time should be spent in class, how much in homework, and at what ages?
Common Core? Standardized tests? (Or maybe a wide ranging standardized test where 40% is a good score)
What level of education do teachers need, and is it different for different age students? Would we be better with lower requirements but smaller class sizes? Or one extremely skilled teacher with many more students, but also many assistants?
Could we come up with a curriculum for certain grades that works better than what we have now even if taught by less educated teachers?
Should we have a separate college prep path?
Are extra curricular activities like sports, band or chess club worth the cost?
Does tenure make sense?
When should we teach kids to read?
Should corporal punishment be allowed?
Should foreign languages be taught, and at what age?
Should a child stay with his classmates when he is obviously far ahead?

I don't know the answers to all of these questions. Some of them seem pretty obvious, but we're doing them the other way and parents don't really have a choice. Others I've got answers I think are right, and some I have no idea.

The solution is to encourage choice. Refusing to educate your children should be considered child neglect or abuse, but educating them differently is not.

We should let the majority of education funding go with the child, if that child or the child's private education is performing as well as the local public school system. I believe that eventually this will make public schools obsolete, replaced by private (and possibly for profit) systems that do a better job for less money. Parents will pick options for their kids that work, bad systems will go out of business.

Unlike bad public schools.