Saturday, November 30, 2013

Don't Have To Like It: It's Reality!

"I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth. Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2% have an IQ above 130,. The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top."
"And for one reason or another -- boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and God-given talent of boardroom inhabitants -- the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever. I stress: I don't believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity."
Boris Johnson, Mayor, London, England

The truth is, simply put, the morally elevating statement raised to the pinnacle of devotion to equality and in referred to hallowed in hushed tones as an "immortal declaration: that "all men are created equal" is all too often misunderstood. The American Declaration of Independence is a lovely document of high-minded assurance, but it is one that states simply that all men are equal under the law of the land and that they are free to engage in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, but there are no assurances that any of these aspirations will be achieved.

Nor does it mean that all of humankind is created with an equal endowment of genetic traits that would result in an even distribution of intelligence and capability among all persons. It is undeniable that within any society there are dullards incapable of grasping simple concepts, and there is the large middling group of individuals able to fend for themselves adequately, while beyond them exist those endowed with what might be considered more than their share of grey matter, enabling them to rise to the top of any society through their sense of curiosity, inventiveness and competence.

That rise does not necessarily result in people who assume power and more than their share of the goods of the world being outstanding citizens as human beings; many obviously are not, but they were capable of achieving office and riches by whatever means they employed, using their superior capabilities to attain what they set out to do. But to admit in polite company that we have more than our share of village dolts, and too few individuals interested in the world around them is to risk being labelled as indulging in "unpleasant elitism".

Mr. Johnson's speech which he addressed to the British Centre for Policy Studies as part of the Margaret Thatcher Lecture series, was as much and perhaps more, a cheering chorus for a free market economy and capitalism opening up the global economy to benefit as wide a range of populations as possible. Socialism and Communism were contrary ideologies attempting to counter capitalism and the end result was failure.

Individuals with disparate levels of intelligence and capabilities were to be treated as equal in the workforce, and they received, whether they were successful or failed at their enterprises, equal recompense. A kind of one-for-all and all-for-one. It didn't work. It is engrained in human nature that one is rewarded for the level of effort put into an economic-deriving activity. Those who were rewarded despite their lack of effort were complacently accepting, those who saw scant reward for prodigious effort were demoralized and stopped making the effort.

And lecturing them all, encouraging them on to perform and prove the thesis behind Marxism were the party faithful who used their hypocritical cunning -- in fact typical human behaviour --  to live in a manner nowhere near resembling that of the uncompetitive, unrewarding, dismal life of toil and scant self-respect they imposed on the great unwashed. To pave the way and ensure that no nuisance protests upset the apple cart as it was pulling into the town square, the intellectuals, the wealthy and the professionals were simply expunged from the scene.

There are two telling results from the experiment that took millions of lives and failed so spectacularly, an experiment in human and market manipulation that went gratingly against the grain that has been instilled in human nature from time immemorial. The Soviet Union eventually imploded. In North Korea, the old Marxist system prevails, the result being a grim police state, a shuttered kingdom as it were, an enforced misery of unfulfilled lives and malnutrition being the hallmarks, along with nuclear belligerence.

In China, North Korea's mentor-state, the elite were somewhat more discerning, but then they also had the burden of brutally manipulating infinitely greater numbers of people. The Chinese bureaucracy of Marxist ideology experimented just as the Soviet Union did, exhorting and exploiting their human capital and despite the deaths of millions of disposable people, who understood they must adore their tyrants or risk even greater numbers of people sacrificed to the prickly demands of their tormentors, finally surrendered to reality.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union led the remaining leadership to understand the depth of their dictatorial failure in a wholesale human-nature-manipulation experiment. Which hasn't stopped the current leadership from exerting a brutal autocracy that might be recognized as a kissing cousin to the former totalitarian rule; bullying and threatening and generally endearing itself to its former satellites who shudder uncontrollably at the very idea of having to resume that old union, frantically aligning themselves toward the West to fend off Eastern overtures.

China has recognized, just as Russia has, the advances to be made in the financial sphere through the relaxation of the old Communist ideals and the embrace of global capitalism. Their version is capitalism no matter the cause; unfettered and regulated only by the urge to grow itself into a giant of greedy entitlement, little different in fact from what is practised where the capitalist template was invented. And they have succeeded, perhaps beyond their wildest expectations. Hungering for even greater control of world trade.

Black Friday is becoming a universal event, to be celebrated not merely annually; but far more frequently. Capitalism makes a small percentage of those whose responding to its higher orders exemplifying success, rogues of immense wealth, social standing and power. Among them all or at least most of them there is a niggling sense of embarrassment at their own success. And this is the wretched little emotion that breeds philanthropy.

Apart from governments exerting the power of the state to exact a toll on such untold wealth in the manner of taxes so that a certain amount of those winnings can be redistributed at the state's will as it sees fit, grudging respect, as Mr. Johnson would have it, should be spared for the wealthy and no small amount of admiration at their success; they have earned it, in essence. By their determination, their enterprise, their capability, their intelligent manoeuvring.

"When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, they faced a top marginal tax rate of 98%, and the top 1% of earners contributed 11% of the government's total revenues from income tax. Today, when taxes have been cut substantially, the top 1% contributes almost 30% of income tax, and indeed the top 0.1% -- just 29,000 people -- contribute fully 14% of all taxation."
"That is an awful lot of schools and roads and hospitals that are being paid for by the super-rich. So why, I asked, innocently, are they so despicable in the eyes of all decent British people? Surely they should be hailed, like the Stakhanovites of Stalin's Russia, who half-killed themselves, in the name of the people, by mining record tonnages of coal?"

Envy, jealousy, two of the nastier emotions that humans are given to expressing when confronted by the good fortune of those who have managed to advance their aspirations into reality by sheer intent to succeed. But of course Mr. Johnson, a highly intelligent man and an accomplished one as well, knows that very well. Mr. Johnson is more than capable of not only describing and understanding a situation, and pointing out to others how that situation arose and why it should be accepted. But he also -- a rarity -- is able to offer a solution to those who begrudge others their earnings.
"It seems to me therefore that though it would be wrong to persecute the rich, and madness to try and stifle wealth creation, and futile to try to stamp out inequality, that we should only tolerate this wealth gap on two conditions: one, that we help those who genuinely cannot compete; and two, that we provide opportunity for those who can."
"Putin's Palace" File:Putin palace construction.jpg
Exterior of the palace under construction

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