The Wall Street Journal recently published an article by Allan Meltzer (A Welfare State or a Start-up Nation) which raises an issue deeper than tax-code revision and other mechanical differences between welfare states and start-up nations. Mr. Meltzer is speaking to a worldview issue centered [in or on] the concepts of riches vs. wealth.
My four adult children (20-30 years old) and I talked about this around the breakfast table recently. We agreed that a riches-based lifestyle is about show and consumption, whereas a wealth-based lifestyle is about growth, production, and building for future generations. “Riches” is consumed with “what I want, for me, NOW”. Wealth lives in both the now and the not yet, caring and providing for one’s self and for others.
The idea of riches (and the corresponding poverty mentality) is at the root of the welfare state mentality and is grounded in the worldview of materialism. The material universe is all there is, and it is a closed system. There is only one pie, so big, that ought to be consumed equally by all. Thus the rich must be forced to relinquish (by moral, legal or even physical means) some of their piece of the pie to the poor (who need do nothing but receive it).
The concept of true wealth is grounded in the Judeo/Christian worldview. The universe is an open system, it was created, and man is given creative ability to maximize and expand resources. We are all able to make more pie from that which God created out of nothing.
Wealth grows, riches are consumed. One of the comments attached to the column sang the old song about “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” another concept rooted in the “riches” mentality. True wealth lies in the creative abilities of man to steward creation, develop it to its fullest potential and share the bounty thus produced with the larger community. Wealth creation, development and growth, as opposed to managed consumption, is the biblical response to Creation’s potential. Those who understand and apply stewardship and production are the true, lasting resources of a nation.
Mr. Melzer implies a solution which amounts to managing riches by tweaking tax codes. This does not address the root issues. The worldview of America’s founders included the ideas of wealth discussed above. We are in danger of becoming (or have already become) a nation of riches rather than one of wealth and if so we will end up poor.
- Bob Evans