Monday, May 12, 2014

Redistribution of Wealth...since the 50's

In a previous post I mentioned that I was reading physicist Richard Feynman's book, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!".  In one of the stories near the end, titled "Is Electricity Fire?", he talks about a conference he was invited to in the fifties on "the ethics of equality".

He describes a speech given by a particular individual at the conference.  See if this reminds you of anyone.

"It was a good speech, and he was a very good speaker, so while it sounds crazy now, when I'm telling about it, at that time his main idea sounded completely obvious and true.  He talked about the big differences in the welfare of various countries, which cause jealousy, which leads to conflict, and now that we have atomic weapons, any war and we're doomed, so therefore the right way out is to strive for peace [is] by making sure there are no great differences from place to place, and since we have so much in the United States, we should give up nearly everything to the other countries until we're all even.  Everybody was listening to this, and we were all full of sacrificial feeling, and all thinking we ought to do this.  But I came back to my senses on the way home."
The next day, when someone else from the conference asked him about the speech, he says,

"I started to say that the idea of distributing everything evenly is based on a theory that there's only X amount of stuff in the world, that somehow we took it away from the poorer countries in the first place, and therefore we should give it back to them.  But this theory doesn't take into account the real reason for the differences between countries - that is, the development of new techniques for growing food, the development of machinery to grow food and to do other things, and the fact that all this machinery requires the concentration of capital.  It isn't the stuff, but the power to make the stuff, that is important.  But I realize now that these people were not in science; they didn't understand it.  They didn't understand technology; they didn't understand their time."
Finally he gets around to the real crux of the problem.

"There were a lot of fools at that conference -- pompous fools -- and pompous fools drive me up the wall.  Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out.  But pompous fools -- guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus --  THAT, I CANNOT STAND!  An ordinary fool isn't a faker;  an honest fool is all right.  But a dishonest fool is terrible!  And that's what I got at the conference, a  bunch of pompous fools, and I got very upset.  I'm not going to get upset like that again, so I won't participate in interdisciplinary conferences any more."


This "redistribution of wealth amongst countries" argument from the 50's sounds just like the "redistribution of wealth amongst individuals" prattle that the left ( including the President ) is trying to foist up the American people in our current day.

 It is an equally flawed idea and equally foolish.





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