The U.S Constitution was designed to preserve the freedom and rights of all citizens. Our Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal and that we have certain God-given rights. With documents like these, how have we arrived at the state of such discord between purported haves and have-nots in our society?
Some will try, of course, to discount any discussion of this topic by talking about the treatment of slaves, indentured servants, Native Americans and others who historically were not treated well. I am willing to acknowledge that the same human frailties that characterized societies throughout the world found their way into America, but it is unfair to demonize a nation and its many constituents based on the shortcomings of some of its members. Those who condemn America for its past seldom talk about the tremendous good and generosity that have been demonstrated by the country that cannot be denied the title of most benign pinnacle nation in the history of the world.
One of the reasons that I find the concept of royalty and celebrity amusing is watching people putting on airs and trying to act like someone special when they are acutely aware that, in fact, they are just like everyone else. In my opinion, either everyone is special, or no one is special. America is supposed to be a place of equality, and whether a person is homeless or a billionaire, he should be treated well and equally. There is no social class or political class that has the right to lord it over everyone else unless “we the people” confer such power upon them or allow them to confer it upon themselves without resistance.
Obviously, the billionaire can afford to pay for certain things like luxurious homes and cars and the best seats on airplanes and at the theater. There is nothing wrong with that. It should not cause resentment in a society in which anyone is free to work hard and use their God-given talents to excel and increase their own value in the marketplace.
Some will not admit it, but our society would be pretty dreary if everyone shared the same level of poverty with no chance of advancing themselves economically through their own efforts.
I realize that it is not a politically correct thing to say, but the real problem is not the existence of wealthy people among us. Rather, it is the feeling of helplessness and dependency that has been propagated falsely throughout many facets of our society. Perhaps it would be wise for our government to look back at the history of our nation and realize that the unprecedented rise of America to pinnacle status occurred because people knew that if they worked hard and were innovative and productive, they and their families would be the beneficiaries of that labor. I am not saying that taxes should not be paid in a fair manner, but I am saying that the government will never be successful in resolving income disparity and other social problems by taking from the haves and giving to the have-nots.
The great equalizer in America remains education. A good education or the acquisition of technical skills provides tremendous options for everyone, regardless of their birth circumstances. We live in a country where people are free to move without penalty to any state where jobs are available. We need to emphasize the fact that almost any kind of employment confers knowledge and skills that become valuable when trying to move up the economic ladder. One also acquires contacts that can be quite useful for those with knowledge and skill.
Those who have achieved great financial success should be encouraged to invest in their fellow Americans, with the return on investment being the transformation from dependency to proud achiever of the American dream.
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Dr. Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book, One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future.