By Dr. A. Duttaahmed
It seems Steve Smith (Guest Commentary, Oct. 23, 2008) got carried away by the campaign lines of one of the presidential candidates, which are often meant to stretch the truth. I am talking about socialism, aka redistribution of wealth.
Redistribution of wealth happened in legends—Robin Hood. Redistribution of wealth happens now in Alaska, where every citizen of the state gets a check from the taxes gathered from crude oil output—the state collects and distributes to its citizen.
In all countries, taxes are collected and used for the maintenance of national structure—the very frame of government is part of the national structure, the defense of the country is another and so on—and for other programs for the benefit of its citizens. The progressive taxation according to the income of the individual or the family has been practiced in our country since taxes have been collected.
It is somewhat like the plate/basket that is used for offertory in a church—those who wish to give or are able to, give according to their ability. Richer people offer more than those who are not. The church decides, with the consent of the congregation and the deacons, or the like, how to spend that money.
With regard to taxes, the only difference is that it is not your wish to give, rather one gives according to a formula. Believe it or not, every citizen has a formula!
However, an agreed compromise prevails as the formula, as it should in a democracy. The compromise reflects mostly the views of a majority group in the Congress, not necessarily the majority party.
What do we do with the money? It is spent to benefit the entire citizenry such as roads, streetlights, traffic lights, bridges, airports, maintenance of law and order, national defense, maintaining the presence of the country throughout the world and things of that nature. I can go on for pages.
The money is also spent to benefit select groups, usually the brightest of students and researchers who will enhance the nation and the less fortunate ones, some for their maintenance that include educating the brighter ones and training the less brighter ones for jobs, so that they do not become a social charge. I know—I was an educator in West Virginia!
By the term social charge, I do not only mean a financial burden, I mean an emotional burden, too. I do not want to see a struggling or starving family “next door.” Would you?
Voluntary help is wonderful, but it is optional. The burden of living is not optional. There should be a structure to oversee whether an effort has been made by the person to earn a living and yet they need help. Steve Smith thinks everybody would be a “success,” if they just try, which is kind of a wishful thinking.
As success depends on opportunity, it is the responsibility of the society—by extrapolation, the government as its representative—to ensure that the opportunity is available equally to the enterprising, and the person in need as well. Examples of “un-success,” whether it is a job or an enterprise, are also common, for no fault of the person concerned: Factory closed, company failed, changed neighborhood unable to sustain a business and, thus, its employer and employees, and so on.
Those people need a helping hand—another opportunity, that is—so that they can stand on their own again. The structure of opportunity offered by all of us through our representative—the government—should be in place. Our country is great, not for our wealth, but for our available opportunities—enterprising citizens, our national system for everybody to flourish, and our collective helping hand for those who needs it.
Just be vigilant that our generosity is not abused! This vigilance could be a big topic for discussion for another occasion.
This is humanity and morality, and collective self-interest as well. One famous Eastern poet said, “those you leave behind, will pull you back.” Paraphrased, those who have more give a little more to our common fund. Call it whatever you like, but, please, do not get carried away by slogans of political campaigns!
A. Duttaahmed, Ph.D., is a Ramona resident.