Nowadays the Bureaucratic (aka Democratic) Party has forgotten this lesson. Its partisans do not seem to realize that the converse is true, namely that “A falling tide lowers all boats.” Barack Obama and his allies apparently believe that when you impoverish the rich, somehow everyone else benefits.
Liberals clearly assume that when they transfer resources from the haves to the have-nots, our aggregate wealth increases. This is comparable to imagining that when one takes a bucket of water out of the deep part of the ocean and pours it into the shallows that the ocean as a whole rises.
We glimpse this mindset in operation when the president insists that paying out unemployment benefits indefinitely will somehow create more jobs. Were this true, the sensible policy would be to encourage more people to be fired so that everyone could collect government checks, thereby making the country astronomically well off.
We also see this attitude in proposals to increase the minimum wage. Never mind that a million people would lose their jobs; those who got raises would spend more and hence generate greater employment. Following this logic, the minimum wage should be raised to at least $100 an hour. Think of how much the recipients of this largesse could then purchase.
Liberal blinders are such that they only see the good they propose. They are utterly oblivious to the fact that when they give to some, they must begin by taking away from others. They do not realize that this is worse than a zero-sum game; that it is a game in which everyone loses because the source of wealth has been cut off.
When I worked at a psychiatric hospital, one of our teenage patients was being troublesome. As a result, the staff recommended a behavior modification program in which she would be rewarded for good conduct. The question was: What should this reward be?
It was decided that because she liked to listen to her radio, she should be allowed to do so when she was good. The problem was that they first had to take away her radio — a dreadful punishment. Her response was: You can take that radio and put it where the sun don’t shine.
Is the American public capable of connecting the dots the way this young girl did? Will voters ever realize that by confiscating the wealth of some, they are reducing that available for others? In other words, first we must all get punished and then a few will receive a tiny reward.
Liberals castigate objections to this policy as “trickle down” economics. They say that refusing to steal from the wealthy is tantamount to stealing from the poor. But they are 100 percent wrong. Stealing from any of us is stealing from all of us.
A society that does not reward effort and creativity gets neither. A society that attempts to build up its losers by tearing down its winners begets only more losers. We, as a society, do ourselves no good by allowing envy to dictate our economic policies.
So I say those of us who want everyone to be better off should start advocating “Rising Tide” economics. We should not dissipate our energies by fending off the incursions of the social justice crowd — but actively promote a superior alternative.
“Social Justice,” as championed by liberals, is not justice at all. It is equalized squalor gussied up as a spoonful of sugar. It is not a rising tide, but a mudflat in which no one can drown — but no one can swim. If this is the ideal around which we are supposed to rally, then God help us — especially the poor.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.