It seems to me, our leaders are trying to get us to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, to extract the gold inside. We live in a society and culture that teaches us to focuses on that which we don’t have, rather than what we do have, which makes us ungrateful, even dismissive about the gifts we enjoy, leading us to a state of perpetual unhappiness. Even the poorest in Western societies are rich, by world standards, yet even the rich in Western societies are resentful and unhappy. When we look at the standard of living of people in history, even those who live in impoverished lands as lower class today, have it at least as good as a Roman statesman. Our age is the age of plenty but we are less grateful than those who came before us and had it far worse. Our lack of thankfulness coupled with our arrogance is corrosive to our economy, culture and society. Sadly, it will be our children who pay the price of our childishness.
Thankful people are happy people and ingrates are always joyless. Gratitude comes from a sense that what we are and what we have is not intrinsic to us but comes from without. We may work hard for what we have, but gratitude is the acknowledgment and understanding that anything can be taken from us at any time, even our very lives. Arrogance is our lack of such wisdom, it is the belief what we have and what we are is intrinsic to us, it shows our profound lack of wisdom. Thanklessness is the natural outgrowth of arrogance. Think about it, have you ever met someone who was arrogant, covetous and ungrateful, who was happy? Have you ever met someone who was humble, generous and grateful, who was unhappy?
The Roman statesman had it pretty good for the day. They had the opportunity to be gluttons, they had the finest clothes and slaves to meet their every demand, but a simple cut on the finger could slay them, periodic plagues would wipe out large swaths of the population, Rome was in a constant state of war, they died at a very young age by today’s standards and they were limited in the knowledge they could learn. Even a Roman emperor had less liberty than the poorest in the US today. Yet Rome was the peak of human civilization until the industrial revolution. Other great civilizations had high standards of living and many were technologically advanced, but none had such a widely dispersed wealth we enjoy today.
None had the medical advances we take for granted and none was able to travel the globe in a day. We stand in an age where disease has been, if not eradicated, at least tempered. Small pox, once one of the largest killers of people, is essentially extinct. Knee and hip replacement is common along with many other quality of life enhancements. Even cancer is showing signs of retreat in the face of our medical onslaught. We can replace a failing heart or fix a defective heart valve but we are less human hearted than our ancestors. Moreover, these medical advancements are most available to the widest strata of people in the US, where there is no single payer healthcare.
There are less starving people today than any other time in human history, and those who are starving experience it due to war, war because someone or a group of people, want more and are ungrateful of what they do have. Famine due to crop failures today is almost unheard of. All the great famines of the twentieth century were due to wars to advance socialism. Our agricultural science feeds over 5 billion people on the planet, a figure that would be unheard of even a century ago. Today more food is thrown away than was produced during Roman times. Not only the staggering quantity that is available but the variety. Anyone in a western country can go to a supermarket and buy produce that is out of season or grown half way across the planet. Yet instead of being thankful for plenty we gripe our food isn’t sufficiently organic.
It is our lack of thankfulness and our arrogance at what we don’t have that is the greatest threat to our standard of living. Socialism thrives on a lack of gratitude, jealousy, arrogance and hubris. The metric our leaders use to measure the justness of our society, the gap between the rich and poor, is a metric designed to make us unhappy, jealous, and arrogant. The true metric should be the standard of living of the poor, not the rich. There will always be rich and poor. The rich will always have it better than the poor, but the real measure of the justness of a society is the standard of living of the poor. Are they well fed, clothed, have shelter, access to medicine, clean water, transportation and luxuries? In any advanced economy the gap between the rich and poor will be huge, what counts is not if a rich person can have dozens of luxury cars but can the average person have a car, not the size of the palatial estate of the wealthy but do the poor have shelter at all, nor the number of designer shoes of the magnate but do the poor have shoes.
The anger and ingratitude of our society puts the poorest among us at risk. To try to make everyone equal in wealth is the path to universal poverty. The driver of our immense standard of living is liberty. Liberty we should be grateful for, since it allows us to drive cars, eat what we want, live where we want, attend the church we want and most of all, produce what we want. Liberty tempered by the market system drives our standard of living forward. Our standard of living in not intrinsic to us, we don’t deserve it by some divine edict, it is the result of the system, individual liberty a the market system, people who lived before us built. Removing liberty and the market system, to make everyone equal, is to kill the very thing that propels our standard of living. To arrogantly try to extract the very thing that makes our economy so productive and out lives so easy, from a sense of jealousy and ingratitude, is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg, and we all know how that tale turned out. So be thankful for what you have, try not to covet other people’s stuff and be humble, that is the path to riches beyond your wildest dreams.