Hatred for the Rich

Doug Wilson has a recent piece that should not be missed.  It’s short enough to quote in full here:

You have a button in front of you, placed there by a helpful genie. But instead of giving you the standard three wishes (and why doesn’t anybody ever wish for ten wishes?), the genie has limited your options.

 

If you push the button, the real income of all the “have-nots” in the world will double overnight. Their health care will be twice as good as it is now, their disposable income will be twice as large, their houses will be twice as nice, and so on. But another consequence of pushing this button will also be the fact that the “haves” will see their prosperity increase ten-fold. They will all be ten times richer, thus enabling them to swank around all day.

 

To spell it out, this means that the divide between the rich and poor will widen, but will do so in a way that leaves the poor undeniably better off.

 

This is your ethical “dilemma,” and part of your test is whether or not you even think of it as a dilemma. Would you refuse to push that button out of hard principle? Would you push it, but with a guilty conscience? Or would you, like me, push it while whistling a cheerful air, with your hat on the side of your head?

 

If you would not push it, or if you would push it reluctantly, then that urgent yearning for social justice that you feel all the time in your gut is not compassion at all, but cancerous envy. It is evil. It is a deadly sin that must be mortified. You don’t love the poor at all — you hate the rich, and you want to use the poor as a club. And why would this malevolent genie want to take your precious club away?

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2 Responses to Hatred for the Rich

  1. Aaron – Insofar as the point of this story is to unmask misappropriated hatred because of greed or envy, then it’s making a valid point, as you say. If this is an allusion to the contemporary political situation, however, it’s shortcomings are glaring. No such world exists in which this could happen. Kind of makes it a useless illustration. Contrary to neo-classical economic theory, we have reached a point in time in the world – due to limited resources, undemocatric control of production, population explosion, etc. – where one person’s gain is too often another person’s loss. This isn’t always the case, but we need to recognize the nature in which society is structured such that it all too commonly is indeed the case. Every social movement, whether it’s the tea party or OWS has its ignorant followers as well as its thoughtful leaders. Thoughtful leaders of the latter like Cornell West continue to emphasize that the movement is only being true to its cause when people are protesting out of love. I’m not interested in defending or criticizing the movement itself. I’m just saying that it’s quite possible to denounce unjust accumulation of wealth or forms of corrupt governance in a thoroughly Christian manner. Is this not what the Jewish prophetic tradition does for us? Jesus did it too in his own transcendent, peaceful yet forceful way. The key is not to over-identify ourselves with any particular modern party so as to protect against blurring the line between “worldly,” imperial kingdoms and the kingdom of God.

  2. I think we have also reached a point in time when protesters will gather in major cities to camp out for weeks at a time, defecating in the streets, driving away customers from local businesses, showing blatant disregard for any sense of decency or respect for their fellow citizens, all without having the ability to specify exactly what their demands are. OWS has no message, other than the message that they are ticked off that other people have money.

    If you have ever heard that song by Lonely Island entitled “Threw It on the Ground,” I think that is an apt description of the OWS movement: people who are ticked off at “the system,” whatever that may be, and have an inflated view of their own importance.

    There may be thoughtful people associated with that movement, but I have not heard their message in the fog of nonsense spewing out of it.

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