Branches and Roots
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.” Henry David Thoreau penned those words in 1854. If H.D. were alive today he would likely find even stronger words to convey the same thought.
Something is wrong in a society – any society – when some garner (notice, I didn’t say “earn”) multi-millions annually while others file for bankruptcy because they lost everything paying medical expenses. Something is out of whack when one person can own a $500 million 454-foot toy boat while many fathers can’t afford to rent a 16-foot boat with outboard motor to take their kids fishing. What is wrong, what is out of whack, is a system that perpetuates such unfair disparity.
To be clear, I am not in any sense a professional economist. As a matter of fact, most of the time when I see a spread sheet I become temporarily dyslectic. But I can see with my own eyes that Masa Restaurant in New York City is filled with people paying $1000-2000 for dinner for two (minimum price per person is $595 not including beverage or tax) while 62,000 people (which includes 22,000 children) in that city are homeless and generally hungry.
It is neither logical nor realistic to propose that everybody should have the same. But it is hitting the ethical nail on the head to propose that everybody should have enough. Complicated as it is to pursue that goal, pursuing it must be the aim of every caring person.
The operative principle is that of limits. One must limit him/herself and society must limit itself regarding the equitable sharing of a society’s resources. Setting limits on income (via the tax structure) and directing public revenues toward self-help, hand-up programs – while yet dispensing needed emergency aid – could go a long way toward reducing the gargantuan disparity that exists today.
A million dollars a year; maybe even two million. Who needs more than that for a supremely comfortable lifestyle? One with that kind of annual income should be overjoyed to direct whatever else he/she garners to meeting the many needs of a wanting society.