It is hard to imagine any class within our society on the receiving end of more vitriol than the rich. We are daily told that this group of evil people are the cause of all of our American problems, and something must be done to curtail their success. Any success that the rich attain to must have necessarily been been obtained to the detriment of other citizens. Or so we are told. But is this really the truth? Should be really be criticizing, chastising, and castigating the most successful members of our society?
Defaming of the rich is by no means a new phenomenon. This has been a standard practice throughout the whole world for our entire human existence. Rich has always been synonymous with evil, and it is hard to deny that this was simply the truth for most of human history. Riches were historically obtained solely through the conquest and oppression of a people. One could only become rich by committing evil actions and essentially stealing from his neighbor. It is therefore easy to understand why the rich were historically looked upon as evil, and indeed these views were certainly justified.
But the history of our human race was forever altered by the establishment of America. This new country invented an alternative pathway to riches that did not involve the extortion of one’s neighbor. One of America’s greatest gifts to the world is the idea of wealth creation. If one desires to become rich, he no longer has to conquer and steal his neighbor’s riches, but rather he can create his own riches through hard work and innovation. This may seem like a simple idea, yet it wasn’t until the establishment of America that the notion of wealth creation emerged as an alternative to conquest. Alfred North Whitehead summed up the significance of this idea when he said, “The greatest invention of the nineteenth century was the invention of the method of invention.”
Why is it important to know that America invented an alternative method to obtain riches? Because this now means that people can become rich without being evil. In fact, the obtaining of riches now requires one to possess the virtues of hard work, perseverance, customer service, honesty, integrity, and so on down the list. Riches in the world today (at least within America) are obtained by the very opposite of extortion of one’s neighbor. The primary method of becoming rich is by serving one’s neighbors! What a beautiful reversal our great country has presented us with, and we criticize this method at our own peril.
Why is it that so many Americans are blind to the fact that the rich are our most successful and often most virtuous citizens? Why do we continually defame the rich’s success and attempt to downplay their achievements? Quite plainly, the answer is envy. We hate the rich because we envy their success, and we will do whatever it takes to tear them down. It does not appear that this envy will be diminished anytime soon because it is fueled by the constant narrative within our society that the rich are indeed evil. If not checked, however, this envy will eventually lead to the desired collapse of our rich class and, consequently, all of America.
We will rarely hear the simple truth that our entire economy completely depends upon the riches of our most successful citizens. Rich Americans are the employers of most Americans. If rich Americans disappear, so do most American jobs. The rich person’s investments provide opportunity for other Americans to reach the same level of riches. If we advocate the elimination of the rich class, we are advocating the elimination of the vast majority of our jobs. The most common objection to this idea is that employers become rich only through the stolen labor of their employees. We hear the stories of million-dollar companies started by someone with only a few dollars to their name, but these cases are few and far between. The vast majority of businesses are started by those who are already successful. Their success puts rich people in the perfect situation to take business risks; they can afford to lose. We need this rich class to continue to take business risks because those investments provide the rest of us with the opportunity to also become rich.
Aside from the practical arguments in favor of the rich, perhaps the most compelling is the moral argument. Those who wish the downfall of the rich class do so not on the grounds of benefiting anyone, but rather purely out of envy. The poor person profits nothing but momentary satisfaction if the rich person fails. This is pure evil, yet this is the moral argument put forth by most in the anti-rich crowd. It is important therefore to counter this with a more powerful and actually true moral argument. The vast majority of rich become rich through practicing the aforementioned virtues of hard work, perseverance, etc. How, then, can we blame the rich for simply reaping the rewards of doing good? Riches are the result of doing things the right way over a long period of time. Everyone agrees that we all need to practice the virtues of hard work, perseverance, and so on, yet once someone begins to reap the benefits of practicing these virtues we suddenly turn on them and insist they must be stopped!
America is completely dependent upon our rich class, and we cannot let our own personal envy prevent us from assuring the success of our entire country. The false narrative that the rich are evil is just that, false. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but any educated person can easily find that America’s rich class are rich because they have practiced important virtues over an extended period of time. If we cannot get past our envious desire for equality, we will soon have what we wished for. It will not be equality in riches, however, but rather equality in failure because we have destroyed the most successful among us.
2 thoughts on “The Evil Rich”
“Riches were historically obtained solely through the conquest and oppression of a people. One could only become rich by committing evil actions and essentially stealing from his neighbor. It is therefore easy to understand why the rich were historically looked upon as evil, and indeed these views were certainly justified.”
That’s not quite true. Much before America industrious people (e.g. merchants and traders) were becoming wealthy in Europe, for instance in the Italian city states of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, most famously Venice. They had much of the same upward mobility the US was to become famous for centuries later.
And of course we also have the examples of very wealthy men in the Old Testament – indeed most of the OT patriarchs were very rich – and they were certainly not evil but just and righteous.
You’re right. Good points. I should have said that very often riches were obtained through conquest and oppression. It seems fair to say that industrious persons grinding their way into wealth was the exception rather than the rule. Merchants and traders have always been looked down upon in every society before America. It wasn’t until the establishment of our nation that the entrepreneur was given a place of rank.