Saturday, January 06, 2007

The paradox of prosperity

Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt: all arguably much more handsome than me (worse, there's not a lot of people even willing to make the argument). Living proof we are not all born equal. Yet, generations of intellectuals have persisted in perpetuating the myth that we should all aspire to being equal and that life, while patently not equal for all, should be. The fatal flaw is that what we really should be advocating is equity and not equality. Equity is where we are all treated the same irrespective of our looks, birth circumstances, race, gender or creed. Equity is where governance and authority is the same for all of us and, within that transparency, we are free to be as unequal as our unique gifts, talents, energy, ambition and industry permit.

A determining characteristic of stasis thought is the promotion of equality as the defining rationale for all authoritative acts of governance, justified on the grounds that they are seeking to balance society's limited resources for everyone. Thus, consumption is viewed with suspicion, and the innate belief that all consumption beyond one's own immediate means, is clearly over-consumption. The corollary here is that, in the words of Edmund Burke, 'all people want equality with those who have more than they do'.

Dynamists, however, focus on the level playing field provided by attention to issues of equity. Rather than looking at the results of any endeavor, dynamists look to ensure openness of opportunities, transparent rules and the provision of justice as mechanisms by which all can succeed, knowing most won't, but that all could.

What prompted my reflection on the two contrasting characteristics of equity and equality, was the latest essay by Daniel Ben-Ami over on the spiked website. His article tackles the flawed proposition, that while human well-being is measurably improved over the past 100 years, and that prosperity has clearly benefited all of society, there are those who claim that people, while more prosperous, are less happy. In accordance with this thought, affluence is not a "good" nor a "benefit" to society, as it leaves those that prosper unfulfilled.

What a wonderful, false, stasis rationalisation for under-achievement and regulated suppression of affluence (a.k.a. taxation). Don't be weathly, you'll just be miserable and look at the guilt you'll have to carry now that you're over-consuming.

Hogwash. Having been broke, I have determined three things about money:

1. it's better to have it than not
2. better more than less
3. better now than later

In the immortal words of the Beatles, "money can't buy you love". Money itself does not make you happy: but it does allow you relief from the most vexing of life's problems (including the basis necessities of food and shelter), thereby removing any external excuses for misery. Everything else is an internal task: some will and some won't.

Abraham Lincoln: People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.

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