My breakfast is accompanied by a view of a beautiful white American bulldog and a scrawny village dog wandering around the rocks by the Pacific.
What's the difference between these two?
Access to food, water and shelter through a benefactor.
Now, one could look at this situation in two different ways... First, that the healthy bulldog is mooching off of its owner, taking and taking and taking, while spending all of its energy getting fatter.
The scrawny dog has to be innovative. It needs to succeed in finding food and water or starve.
Somewhere in here is a moral question...
Let me stop beating around the bush, and get right to it. Last night at dinner, an attendee of the Family Wealth Forum said that it was morally wrong to take money from producers and squander it on consumers.
Redistribution of wealth, in other words, was theft.
And we can't help but nod along. "Thou shalt not steal." Yes, we agree.
In the scenario at breakfast, the "kept" pup represents the takers of society... the scrawny dog represents small businesses and the private sector, always on the move, looking for its next meal.
This is the view of a lot of Americans, and they are right.
Government programs designed to "give a hand up, not a hand out" have gone off the deep end and are fiscally unsustainable in our current economic environment and, according to many, morally wrong.
But let's take a look at this scenario from the opposite point of view.
The American bulldog represents big businesses, rolling in cash and growling over his bowl of kibble while the scrawny dog is relegated to a safe distance and forced to find food elsewhere, if it can.
Many of the attendees here would not see the system this way, and this difference in perception sets up a whole lot of moral questions.
Let's go back to the conversation last night. The next topic was philanthropy... not government handouts or bailouts. Some leaders within the Libertarian party say that we shouldn't consider philanthropy at all, that if it doesn't make a profit, then you shouldn't do it, because profits inherently benefit society.
Producers have already paid their dues to society just by being producers.
Here's where we sit back.
It's a good argument, another at our table says, but we do it anyway.
And that gets our attention. Why do we give? It occurs to us that perhaps a society is more than economics, though this is undoubtedly the most important part (see the Western Roman Empire, A.D. 476).
The idea that our morality stops with our own bottom line is, frankly, revolting. Akin to kicking the scrawny dog who is searching for scraps to sustain him.
Between these two scenarios must be the kind of common ground that neither offends the moralities of the well-to-do, nor starves the scrawny dog. Perhaps this common ground will recognize that profits come in many forms, not just dollars and cents.
We want to live in that society...
Unfortunately, that society is becoming less and less possible. Our economic freedom is being squeezed out of us by massive debts and even bigger fiscal promises.
And how can we hope to create a richer society -- in all respects -- when we are broke?
We wish that our elected officials were here in Nicaragua with us to see how real family wealth is built and sustained, and how to create a family structure in which everyone who contributes reaps the rewards of a strong nation.
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