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But the Wall Street Occupiers and their sympathizers in the Democratic Party can’t seem to grasp these wealth-creating powers of a free-market economy. They’re stuck in a pre-modern notion of wealth as something limited, like land or gold, so that if someone has more, someone else must have less. But two centuries of capitalism have demonstrated that wealth can be continually created and thus distributed to more and more people, which accounts for the astonishing rise in living standards of the past two hundred years. What is historically miraculous is not the volume of wealth the top 1% possesses, but the amount enjoyed by everybody else.
A consequence of this success is that the one in seven Americans the government categorizes as poor in the United States enjoys nutrition, leisure, entertainment, and health care superior to those available to the king of Spain in the 16th century. As The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield write, “In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.” Indeed, so successful has capitalism been at raising living standards that obesity, once a sign of wealth, is now a disease of the poor. And let’s not forget that the protesters themselves have the leisure to protest and the cell-phones to record their antics only because capitalism has created the surplus wealth that has freed them from backbreaking drudgery and abject poverty.
The supposed malign effects of “income inequality” on well-being, then, aren’t really the issue for the left. The faux-populist rhetoric of income inequality is the camouflage for the true goal. As one protester instructed another: “It’s about taking down systems, it doesn’t matter what you’re protesting.” Capitalism must go in order to redistribute wealth as a means for advancing ideological preferences and goals, and achieving the radical egalitarianism that the left considers to be “social justice”––the same old socialist dream that littered the 20th century with corpses, and whose milder yet still pernicious forms have brought several European countries to the brink of insolvency. In the end, what the protesters are really angry about is that the world of reality does not live up to the world of their utopian dreams.
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