There's a fellow on my team at work who every so often reads a news story that sets him off on a familiar refrain: "Do you know what would happen if we imposed a 50% tax on the world 50 richest people? We could pay for national health care without costing anyone else a dime! Can you imagine that? Fifty people sitting on enough wealth to give healthcare to everyone in the country. There's something wrong with the world... Why should they have all that money?"
I'm sure there are indeed lots of things wrong with the world, and this may be one of them, but try as I might I honestly can't work up any worry over it. Once and a while I half-heartedly reply, "Well, it is their money. That's why they'd generally expect to keep it." Generally I just keep my mouth shut.
I'm hesitant to say that this kind of exercise is simply a matter of envy. Christ discussed the injustice of the rich man who does nothing for those in need at his very gates in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. However, unlike many modern progressives I don't think that Jesus envisioned setting up vast government systems to redistribute wealth.
It seems to me that there rests on those who have earned or inherited great wealth a duty to use that wealth wisely, to store up treasures in heaven as well as on this earth. And yet, it doesn't strike me as worth worrying too much about it from my position. I rather question how much good it would do to take the money from the richest people in the world and give it to the richest government in the world, in order to "do good". Rather more important, it seems to me, is what each of us is doing with our own small bits of wealth, or lack thereof.
In the end, rich or poor, we're all headed in the same direction. At the end of Barry Lyndon, perhaps Stanley Kubrick's best film in my estimation, there's a quote which I can't seem to find at the moment that runs something like this: "All the players in this story, good or bad, rich or poor, all are now equal."
Or as Shakespeare put it rather bluntly: "The worm is the great equalizer."
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