Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Going For The Gold

One of the traits that Mother Nature has handed down through the process of evolution is the will to survive. This impulse is so strong that, all moral issues aside, anything serving that purpose becomes fair game. Amassing wealth is, of course, one of our goals because we soon see that it enhances our ability to survive. Wealthy people live longer and better lives than their counterparts in the lower income classes.

As an example, the fictional character Jean Valjean of Les Miserables risked prison for a loaf of bread because he was starving. The will to survive was stronger than the prospect of becoming a galley slave. Strangely, he later rewarded the kindness of a priest by stealing his candelabras. He just couldn't pass up the opportunity to provide for an uncertain future.

The infamous Willie Sutton, bank robber extraordinaire, reportedly robbed over 100 banks and spent 40 years in prison. Why a 100 banks? Wouldn't a couple have been enough? In fact he couldn't stop himself.

Modern day captains of industry don't need guns in order to rob their banks (corporate treasuries). They use a pencil rather than a gun. They appoint a compliant board of trustees who rubberstamp their salaries and bonuses, independent of whether their companies makes money or increases shareholder value. It has proven to be much easier and doesn't come with legal consequences. Willie Sutton would have been proud.

It is interesting to note that man does not seem capable of turning off the impulse for greed, even after he has amassed more than enough to live comfortably for several lifetimes. The point seems to be that our instincts, which are initially guided by need, are quickly overcome by greed. A point is soon reached where thieves and robbers just can't help themselves because they actually get a thrill out of stealing, and getting away with it becomes the end rather than the means.

To dignify their crimes, the criminals continually lecture the lower classes that capitalism is good and anyone can become rich. There's no need to apologize for being wealthy--it's just part of the American dream. And the irony is that a majority of citizens accept this as their gospel, no matter how inimical to their interests.

Is this a great country or what?