Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's not about class envy


Hey there,

So a friend of mine shared on Facebok a Politico piece, "Ryan’s mom is new face in Medicare wars". A friend of his replied with a response (and I'm paraphrasing) asking about all the rhetoric with regard to class envy, from his friends on the left. And he put it in the context of what is he supposed to teach his sons, if financial responsibility is a character flaw, and being rich is "demonized". To which I responded with this:
[My friend's friend]: I believe you've taken one word/label completely out of context from [my friend]'s comment. I'm not saying it doesn't have the tone you're justifiably reacting to, but I'd try to look at it without having a proverbial axe to grind. Because this isn't about class envy. 
In this context, I would say there's a difference between being "rich" and being "financially responsible", although I prefer the term "financially successful and upwardly mobile". I would also say that the matter is further complicated by one's responsibility to self, and one's responsibility to community. And there is the rub. 
I'll also say that I would warn you against implying that anyone who isn't making a profit professionally (i.e. saving more than their spending) implies that they're financially irresponsible. But that's a whole other bag of worms 
With [my friend]'s use, despite successfully amassing wealth, the implication is that because of Ms. Ryan's financial status, she probably won't be able to speak intelligently to people who aren't in her financial position, much less understand that because of their economic situation they might not have the freedom or options she has. 
So the other point with being responsible is that (again in this context) "rich" people see themselves financially responsible only for themselves, to which I will say that this is indeed a character flaw of such people, as they exist in their community. To beat dead horses, if money is power and with great power comes great responsibility, then I would conclude that the more one is financially successful, the more responsibility they have, as a member of their community, to others. 
And herein lies the rub. For "rich people", it is often perceived that not only is that responsibility a choice, but it's a choice that "rich" people don't make. Because when financially successfully people do make that choice, I believe we tend to call them philanthropists. 
So I would say bring your sons up with the ambition that you seem to have if not more, teach them the need to be financially responsible, but don't stop there. Let them know that it's not about how much they make, but what they decide to do with their financial success that will make them great.
Anyway, it was one of the FB posts where I realized I pretty much just wrote a substantial blog entry, and so wanted to share here. Due to respect for my friend's privacy, instead of linking to the original post, I had to copy mine in it's entirety here. And, to clarify, by no means am I saying that this post is a comprehensive definition of any of these terms. I'm merely breaking down the understanding and implication of "rich" in the context of this post and response.

With that, curious what others think, as I believe this is just scraping the surface of larger debates and discussions that have been going on in the public sphere. I realize that the idea of financial successful people having more responsibility to their community and society is a value judgement on my own part, to which I would attribute I get from my mom, and not just my Catholic upbringing, but really seeing her practice it.

She would practice it to the point where my dad would regularly joke (and it all comes from a place of love), about how many friends and families she helps and sometimes takes care of back in the Philippines. But if you know many older Filipinos, you would know that this is not an uncommon practice. What's remarkable is that it is practiced regardless of how much or how little they make.

But I digress, in this case, here in America, I believe that the difference between rich people and philanthropists, rich people think that being successful in and of itself is what makes you great while philanthropists believe that it doesn't stop there, and it is what you do with your succes that makes you great.

Would like to hear what you think, please let me know in the comments. Share any links that are relevant for you. And definitely share any examples that come to mind, or which you've experienced,

-JR
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