We are ruled by poor logic

Speaking about Walter Williams, his latest column, Should the Rich Be Condemned?, is worth a read.

The whole column is so good that I put it under the fold.  Here’s one key paragraph:

President Barack Obama, in stoking up class warfare, said, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” This is lunacy. Andrew Carnegie’s steel empire produced the raw materials that built the physical infrastructure of the United States. Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft and produced software products that aided the computer revolution. But Carnegie had amassed quite a fortune long before he built Carnegie Steel Co., and Gates had quite a fortune by 1990. Had they the mind of our president, we would have lost much of their contributions, because they had already “made enough money.”

Exactly!  When it is reasoned that the rich have enough and we should take more from them, we don’t realize that we are really taking it from ourselves.

We say, oh well, so they’ll have one less car in their 50 car garage.  That may be true.  But it is equally likely that we don’t get a better a light bulb, a new vaccine or some other thing that may improve our lives. And I never hear that considered in the ‘take more from the rich’ logic.

For me, it’s the same poor logic that produces massively harmful things like the housing policy.

For example, the poor logic: “Home ownership makes people responsible, so let’s make it easier for folks to own homes by lowering the bar of responsibility.”

Better logic: “Responsible people buy homes.  So, let’s encourage responsible behavior.”

With rich people, “They have a lot money and it doesn’t seem fair, especially while others are struggling.  Let’s take more from them.”

Rather than, “For the most part, wealthy people earned their wealth by finding ways to add value to the lives of others.  So, let’s encourage people to find ways to add value to the lives of other.  Then we all come out ahead.”

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Tick, tick, tick, tick

Ricky Gervais, creator of the television show The Office, and Andy Rooney both lamented about how much money they have on this evening’s 60 Minutes.  Ricky said that he doesn’t work harder than a lot of other folks, but earns many multiples of their income.  He said that a large part of his success was due to luck.

I agree.  Nassim Taleb, author of the Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness, educated me on how much luck plays in the success of successful people.  As Taleb says, we always hear about the successful people but never about the just as talented people who aren’t as successful because they just haven’t had their lucky break.  Sometimes it’s as simple as meeting the right person at a party.

But, I will give Ricky something, he does have talent.  He makes me laugh.  I enjoy his humor, acting and writing.  Not to say that others aren’t as deserving, but any dollars Ricky has of mine in his pocket were well earned.

Rooney seemed bothered by having more than his share, but comforted by the fact that he doesn’t have as much as others.  He referenced the Forbes 400 list of the richest 400 people as proof.

What bothered me: C’mon guys.  Rather than feel down about being wealthy, celebrate it.  Encourage others.  Tell us how awesome it is that we live in a world where you can follow your dreams, work hard and be rewarded.  Acknowledge, as Ricky did, that there is some luck to it, but one thing is for certain – they wouldn’t have been successful if they hadn’t tried.

And, if you don’t have a dream but can still live a decent, comfortable life as a nurse, engineer, electrician or some other chosen profession, that’s awesome too.  Compared to how people lived a century ago or how people live in other parts of the world (some within a day’s drive for most of us) – we are all rock stars.  That something that we should feel good about it.

We should be asking ourselves why that is.  What are the root causes that allow each of us live better than royalty in the past in exchange for an honest day’s work?  We should want more of that.

They showed an 80s video of Ricky taking a stab at the music business.  Apparently it didn’t work out.  He wasn’t bothered by it.  He seemed to recognize that all things don’t work out, but trying matters.