It is clear that there is a huge disparity between the very rich and the poor world-wide, and the United States is not immune to this issue. Since this has been the case throughout the recorded history of the world, I wonder if anything can be done about it. I harbor no ill will or envy of the very rich and would not even think anything needed to be done, if not for the fact that many living in extreme poverty could be helped out of utter despair with seemingly little effort or impact on the very wealthy. I must confess that I have never been a proponent of government mandated wages, or other artificial levelers, due to my belief in freedom, for all, (that includes the obscenely rich). Freedom is freedom, right? I do not subscribe to Marquis de Sades’ belief that extreme freedom should be unrestrained by religion or morality, but rather Thomas Jefferson’s leaning toward as much freedom as possible without slipping into anarchy.
One writing of John Adams is close to an answer to this problem. He said “We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (Adams p 229). And therein lays the answer. For our constitution to work, we need to re-embrace a morality once more prevalent than today. A morality based on Biblical principles. No one wants to hear that anymore, but it does not make it any less true. Morality cannot be legislated; it must well up from within the people.
There may be other ways to lift people from the despair of poverty, but so far, I have not seen much evidence of it, and it’s not my task to find every way that may work, but to offer one way that will work. One of the problems we face in this country is, culturally, we do not understand the necessity of menial tasks and therefore do not value people who do menial tasks. Have you ever heard someone say, “You couldn’t pay me enough to do that”? If it is that terrible, and it needs done, shouldn’t we value the person who can and will do it? Shouldn’t we pay them well for doing it? If your answer is, “No. Anybody can do that. It doesn’t take any skill.” I would differ with you on two accounts.
First, “anybody” can’t do it. There are myriad reasons “anybody” can’t do it. They may legitimately be too busy. They may legitimately get ill or stressed from doing it. Secondly, it not only takes skill, but much more. Many menial tasks take intestinal fortitude, perseverance, determination, and especially in this society, humility. If you do not have the time and do not possess these characteristics, why not pay someone who does have them, well, for doing those needful tasks?
Having others perform these menial tasks frees up those who have specific, innate abilities to pursue those endeavors, such as medicine, science, aviation, research etc. Those gifts are not more important, and those people are not more important than their supporting cast. No one accomplishes anything completely on their own. We are all interdependent. And if your mindset is that if someone doesn’t want to work for ridiculously low wages, there are hundreds of hungry people to do those jobs, that is selfish, arrogant, woefully misguided, and leads to exploitation and coercion. That is why we need an outside force to help us deal with this problem.
All we need is love. It’s more than a catchy lyric to sell records. It is the truth. Love truly fixes every circumstance. Love is charity in action. Not self serving lust, as it is so often portrayed in our culture. Charity is not dropping your junk off at a re-distribution center to get a tax write off. There is nothing charitable in that. Charity is giving to someone with no expectation of receiving anything in return. True love, charity, agape as the ancient Greeks said, values people. It values people’s contribution, and sets a proper perspective of self worth.
For this country to survive we need to look at history. Even a cursory review shows us the issues that contributed to the development of the Magna Carta, the fall of Roman Empire, the French Revolution, and many other social explosions, and implosions, are in our face--again. Put God and religion aside for a moment, (as if that were possible), and take a pragmatic look at the problems we face.
Nick Hanaure, a self proclaimed plutocrat, puts forth a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15.00. He has witnessed good results from this in his hometown of Seattle, WA, but recognizes that, “In any large group, some people absolutely will not do the right thing” (Hanaure p 3). This is true and perfectly illustrates the true problem, which is inadequately addressed by rules alone. He goes on to say, “That’s why our economy can only be safe and effective if it is governed by the same kinds of rules as, say, the transportation system, with its speed limits and stop signs” (Hanaure p 3). This idea is an attempt to legislate morality. I agree that we need legislation like this, that causes a moral outcome such as this, but it does not address the true problem. The problem that really needs more effort is changing the hearts of men.
Even non-Christians see there is a problem, and are suggesting courses of action that would require some application of the principle of love. History also teaches us that men reject the love principle in favor of greed, power or other self-serving ideologies. The paradox is that it is always to their detriment. In one way or another, the pitchforks always come.
Adams, John. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States. Ed. Charles Francis Adams. Vol. XI. Boston: Little, Brown, 1854. 229. Print.
Hanaure, Nick. "The Pitchforks Are Coming... For Us Plutocrats." POLITICO Magazine. 1 July 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.