Brummett Deconstruction Time Again
Jim Walton: Brummett disagreed with Walton's action, but in a tepid, measured, respectful tone much different from the acid-throwing style he uses on us non-billionaires.
I am normally thankful for John Brummett's attempts at writing. Having them as a foil make this a better blog than it would be without them. At least it used to. Frankly, he has been on a run lately where what he was writing actually made some sense. That alarmed me. There was nothing to take issue with, much less offense to. What a killjoy the man was becoming! Finally, that slackard has churned one out that has my juices flowing again. Thanks John.
I refer to his "We're all in a Lottery" column. The header to this post already hints at my first objection- the vast double-standard in tone when he objects to the actions of a billionaire with a penchant for buying newspapers vs. when he is using his platform to shout down relatively powerless private citizens like Lori Taylor or Debbie Pelley, or even his continued piling on of the now-private citizens called Holts and Duggars after practically making a living off of bad-mouthing them.
But that is mere hypocrisy. The only ones among us who don't have at least a little of that in them are the shamelessly wicked. It is the logical processes, or lack thereof, along with the flawed premises, that interest me here.
Let's start with his statement, "I merely wish to point out that you could say that Walton already won his lottery.
His winning number was to come into this world as the son of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart."
His reasoning seems to be based on the premise that wealth is morally neutral. That is, it makes no difference how it was attained. The Walton Family wealth was attained because they found a better way to serve people's wants and needs than did their competitors. A lottery winner's wealth is attained by the luck of the draw. They served no one. The money they won was simply money that everyone else lost. They did not trade for it in a vast number of mutually beneficial transactions as did the Waltons.
Brummett's point seems to be that since John Walton came into earned wealth by inheiritence, he should not oppose some one else getting a chance to come into unearned wealth by winning a lottery. It is true that John Walton did not earn the whole of his fortune, but that fortune was well-earned. Any of us have the chance to improve our lot by finding a better way to serve the needs of our fellow citizens, and leaving our estate to our progeny.
It is bad for society to equate inheiriting a justly-earned fortune with winning a lottery. Once it becomes stuck in the people's minds that one form of getting money is just as worthy as any other, the idea of getting wealthy through service to others will be completely gone. And that willingness to serve, before the scamsters and government thieves crept in, is what once made our economy great. "It is a pleasure to serve you" is a saying that was once common in the United States and an alien concept to most of the world.
Ayn Rand said it well in "Atlas Shrugged": " Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?
"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth – the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve that mind that cannot match it.
Jim Walton is no worthless heir. Readers of this space know that I am a Wal-mart critic when I think they are in the wrong. And when I do, I don't tip-toe in like Brummett does. I let them have it with the bark on. Still, Jim Walton is not smaller than his money. He has not corrupted his money. How many stories have we read about lottery winners who then make a complete mess of their lives? Walton not only inheirited the fortune, he inheirited a great measure of the virtue that made the fortune possible.
(continued on the jump)