Monday, April 18, 2011

Poverty is not a choice.

Recently, I started a debate on Facebook concerning taxes. One of my old friends from my high school days, a teabagging Libertarian type, chimed in with the belief that poverty is a choice. She was born and raised poor and has managed to do well for herself since. She has the notion that anybody can succeed if they just try hard enough. The poor, therefore are lazy, and have chosen their fate.

Unlike this here blog, I actually attempt to be polite on Facebook, so I bit my tongue and refrained from immediately pointing out what was so very wrong with her ignorant, clueless, cruel notions. I decided to pause for awhile and figure out how to get my point across without actually calling her ignorant, clueless and cruel. In the meantime, my brother-in-law Andrew* wrote a response far better than anything I could have come up with.
Although I am paid well, and although we have little debt, my family's medical needs often knock our finances. As a result, I've had to cash in retirement accounts to pay large hospital bills.

Now, I'm not complaining, I'm simply stating that "working hard" is not a magic bullet to financial success.

Capitalism works on the notion of winners and losers. The system fails if you expect everyone to "win." Some win, but most don't, just like in sports or any other competitive endeavor.

And, just like in sports, if you just leave everyone to their own devices, you'll get a lot of cheating. So, we need some referees to keep the game fair, or at least more fair... provided the ref isn't on the take himself!

Strong competition and solid, fair regulation will no doubt be a long term successful strategy for our economy. But we can't approach every problem with the same strategy! Some problems require a cooperative, rather than competitive, spirit.

It's disheartening to hear both sides speak in venomous terms of the other... to the point that liberals use "tea party" and conservatives use "socialism" as bad words! And that's on the polite forums!

It seems to me that we Americans get more interested in finding fault than in finding common ground. We revel in our well placed barbs, whose purpose is not to actually solve anything, but simply to make the "other side" lose face.

And that's because we're inherently competitive... whether we care to admit it or not.

*Andrew is a blogger himself, though he has been silent recently. Hopefully, the fat man will soon be running again.

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