Once upon a time, there was a young man born in Alliance, Nebraska. He spent the first few years of his life in the Chicago area, but around 1959 his family moved to Southern California. He spent his formative years in the South Bay area, spending a lot of time on the beach. Eventually he would grow his hair long, wear round glasses, smoke pot, inhaling, and basically party.
When it came to economics, politics, and social issues, he was quite naïve. His parents were registered Democrats, but when his father would drink, he would call his son a Communist. This young man’s early adult life out of high school began with one year of college, but eventually dropping out and going to work. This young man would tell people he just wanted to have fun.
Eventually, he would marry and move his family to Huntington Beach, California, start a business, close down the business, and go to work as an Inspector, which would eventually lead to a job in the Pacific Northwest, back to college, where he earned a Certificate in Supervisory/Management, Associates in the Arts, BS in Business Administration, MBA, and finally a PhD.
During these young adult years, he would get saved, change careers, Pastor a Church, divorce, remarry, and eventually settle into two great careers, one as a manager and the other a professor. During this time, this now older man developed his philosophy/worldview that influences his decisions in life. He is now a senior citizen, and is reflecting on the world around him. He does not want to become his Dad standing on the front porch, calling people Communists.
What has this man reflecting in this manner? It began when he heard a speech where the speaker stated that as an academic institution “we do not want to just prepare our students to be middle class.” This is what got this older man to begin thinking about the purpose of education.
An additional current event that has this man thinking about life is the racial debate in this country. Words like colonization, racism, and white supremacy are part of our national dialog. This older man now is thinking about what does one do in light of the current review of history.
Lastly, the political situation has been an event that has initiated hours of thought into what this older man believes. Bernie, Hillary, Johnson, Stein, or Trump? Where does one throw one’s support, and what is best for the United States of America.
All of this, at least according to this man must be filtered through the lens of faith. How does his faith, as a Christian, influence his choices? There you have the reflections of an old man who cares.
What constitutes middle class? We hear this term being thrown around. Sometimes it is a pejorative. Other use the words petite bourgeoisie, or lower middle class. Karl Marx used the phrase to describe a transitional class. Others would describe it as a “social class comprising of semi-autonomous peasantry and small scale merchants,” who in contrast to the haute bourgeoisie, or high bourgeoisie, those of the upper middle class which own “cultural and financial capital.” Today we don’t use the term bourgeois; we say upper middle class and lower middle class.
The man who is reflecting on this subject is solidly middle class. He has had wonderful opportunities, and is very thankful for those privileges, but is working hard, earning enough money to living comfortable, a bad thing? This is discussion usually occurs in juxtaposition with those in poverty. It is now accompanied with words like privilege, colonization, racism, and other inflammatory language. However, this discussion always includes a slam associated with the excesses of Capitalism, or the free market.
As the older gentleman in question reflects on this discussion, he has read how even certain economists have decided not to use the word Capitalism anymore. The reasoning involves the level of disdain associated with Capitalism and business in general. This gentleman we are discussing has asked individuals why they are so against Capitalism, the answer always focuses on the excesses of corporations and the exploitation of the worker. However, these same individuals usually have no qualms with asking a rich person for money for their cause. So it seems to our protagonist, that the issue is not with the economic system, but the application of the system.
It is so easy to focus on the excesses of large organizations, because their systems are so large that mistakes can be easily made. Also, when there is so much money and power involved evil lurks just around the corner. As the Apostle Paul tells us “the love of money is the root of all evil.”
However, we must remember that the metaphor of Joe the Plumber from 2008 represents the fact the organizations with 500 employees or less produce 46% of private economic output. This equates to about $7.82 Trillion. Small to midsize businesses also supply 33% “of the value of U.S. exports” according to Nitin Nohria in today’s WSJ.
In 2011 the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper. “Erik Hurst and Benjamin Wild Pugsley of the University of Chicago found that most of the people running these companies are content to stay small and continue offering the same kinds of products or services as competitors.” Most small business owners just want to make a good living as petite bourgeoisie. Even the majority of haut bourgeoisie just want to have a good career and make enough money to live well.
So why is there some many people angry with our economic system that even economists would not use a term that people see as inflammatory? This is what our gentleman is question has been thinking about.
What do people want out of life? According to the Huffington post they want happiness, money, freedom, peace, joy, balance, fulfillment, confidence, stability, and passion. According to clinical studies people want love, health, high paying jobs, looking better, losing weight, learning new things, living longer with families, being safe, being comfortable, and enjoying pleasure.
It seems like all of us want to same thing. So the question then becomes how do we make it more accessible to those with less opportunity? This is the greatest complaint against Capitalism. And as we all know Capitalism is a great system for creating wealth, but not for distributing it. Thus, it seems like, as a Democracy, we could figure out how to better handle our immense wealth.
Often in this modern age Adam Smith is discussed in derogatory ways as the father of Capitalism. However, the man that described the invisible hand:
The rich consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity…they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessities of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus extending it, without knowing it, advance the interests of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.
Is also the man who said:
What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable.
So my dear friends, the older man in question has decided he is solidly a proponent of a free market governed by the process of the invisible hand. But he is also solidly pragmatic when it comes to distribution of the benefits of the free market. We need to personally and as a government figure out how to create more opportunities for those with less privilege.
If all people want the same things, and there are some who have more opportunity than others, then why not help those who have less to find the very same things you experience? To quote one of our current Presidential candidates, and this is not an endorsement, “what have you got to lose?”
And that is my thought for the day! The first in quite a while.