The rich owe society for the benefits they receive

I'll explain this in the next post.

The rich owe society for the benefits they receive
What William F. Buckley Jr. overlooks in his plea on behalf of the wealthy (“Is capitalism petering out?” Commentary, March 1) is that they became wealthy at the expense of those who did not – the working poor who provided cheap labor and a mass market for their products.
         Citing what he considers basic tenets of the Constitution and a “metaphysical regard for property,” Buckley argues that the wealthy should be allowed to keep more of the money they earn. Perhaps he would be right if they earned that money only as a result of some combination of hard work, talent, good luck and good timing.
         But the truth is that they are part of a system that functions by keeping 36.5 million people below the poverty line, 12 million workers earning minimum wage, and an immeasurable number of Americans paying the real cost of big business and big industry - - air pollution, water contamination, depleted resources, loss of wildlife, loss of open space, and the widespread and often life-threatening health problems associated with environmental degradation.
         The conclusion is simple and yet lost on Buckley—those who benefit more from the imbalance of a capitalistic society should be required to give more back.

Attack on wealthy shows ignorance of economics
         In her letter to the Globe (“The rich owe society for the benefits they receive,” March 6), Rachel Federman of Acton asserts that wealthy individuals acquire their wealth at the expense of the poor. This could not be further from the truth.
         In market transactions, consumers willingly give up their dollars for things of value. Individuals acquire those dollars by providing things of value (e.g., higher-quality goods and services at lower prices). Consequently, wealth is achieved by making other people happy.
         Ignorance of basic economics and prejudice against money-making have been the source of many disastrous policies. Envy is a seductive but ultimately self-destructive vice.
         Jeff Milyo, Concord

Naïve view of economics ignores market coercion
          Jeff Milyo’s assertion in his March 12 letter that wealth is amassed only through the happy provision of desirable goods to discriminating customers is painfully naïve. It completely sidesteps the question of how those of us with nothing to trade must nonetheless pay to live.
         It is furthermore not evident that persons who amass wealth by speculative buying and selling of commodities contribute to public happiness. The price of real estate, for instance, has been escalated beyond the reach of most Americans in the last 20 years not by increasing quality (to the contrary) but by speculative resellers. A few people have in this way become very wealthy by making many other people unhappy, i.e. homeless.
         Milyo also denies the possibility of extortion. It is hard to describe the exchange of sweatshop labor for pennies a day as either voluntary or happy, except for the sweatshop owner. This implicit threat of destitution exists for many workers (who “should be happy to have a job”) throughout the modern world.
         Jonathan Clapp, Pelham


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