I’ve been thinking about this picture, posted on Liberal Vision last Wednesday, of a young protester at St. Paul’s.
Never mind, for a moment, the fact that he looks a bit like the kind of person that was being easily recruited into certain Youth movements in the 1920s and 30s following a previous period of economic upheaval. What disturbs me is the sad sentiment that he has written on his board.
It’s not the “beware” bit, threatening though that is, but the idea that it is the rich whose days are numbered. I can’t imagine what is going through his head, but it is clearly very different from what I believe. For my fervent hope is that it is the poor whose days are numbered.
Eliminating poverty is a far more noble calling than eliminating wealth. Eliminating wealth is destructive; eliminating poverty creative. Eliminating wealth brings people down; eliminating poverty requires people ascending. And, as that “beware” makes clear, eliminating wealth is aggressive, whereas eliminating poverty is cooperative.
Sadly, many people today continue to be enslaved to the idea that wealth is a zero-sum game; that there is a “lump of wealth” that can only be shared out, but cannot be grown. Thus, they devote their lives to the struggle to redistribute that which is, rather than to create more wealth so that everybody can benefit from that which will be. It is, I suspect, for this reason that more young people seem to want to work for NGOs than to set up their own business.
Fortunately, in all likelihood, it is the poor, rather than the rich, whose days are numbered. Those who benefit from the perpetuation of the idea of poverty would like us to believe that “The poor shall always be with us” but the truth is that real poverty (as each generation perceives it) is rapidly eroded by the passage of time and human progress. The poor of the future will enjoy greater living standards than the moderately well off of today, while across the developing world hundreds of millions more will be lifted out of poverty.
This will be achieved by entrepreneurs inventing new products and new processes, getting rich by serving their fellow humans and making the lives of their customers that bit easier. It will not be achieved by grim young men holding aloft placards of hate. But at least those young men will have jobs, courtesy of the entrepreneurs they so despise.