Individualistic Indifference and Collective Hatred

As a young boy I was raised in a socialistic family in which values of sharing, interdependence and community contribution where empathized. I remember my good uncle bringing home books and articles on Lenin, Trotsky, Mikhail Gorbachev and the mighty Union Of Soviet Socialist Republic(USSR). USSR was the dream country for me. Then I went to college and embraced the values of independent thinking and personal development and motivation enshrined in the capitalistic ideology of the western world. My college buddies avoided any talk on Jack Welsh or GE because that led to yours truly preaching to them why Jack Welch was the best thing to happen to this (corporate) world.

Socialism:Collective Hatred

Personally i feel, taken in a temperate way, socialism is a noble way of living aimed at reducing injustices created by a class hierarchies in society. It is about sharing this world and contributing significantly to a community you belong to. On the other hand to extremists, socialism is epitomized by a collective hatred of the “rich” by the “poor”. As a young socialist I believed that being rich is “satanic” and I was a favorite of Robin Hood’s “steal from the rich and give to the poor” theme and the story of Jesse James in the movie “American Outlaws”. True socialism then meant hating the rich and having nothing to do with these “greedy bastards”, a collective effort by the poor to hate and fight the rich .

 

Capitalism: Individualistic Indifference

When I went to college I was exposed to ways in which capitalistic men, mostly from America, had challenged widely held beliefs and changed the world. Examples include self-made billionaires like Andrew Carnegie, John D Rockefeller, Henry Ford and recently Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Whilst in college I was lucky to join a group of fired up entrepreneurs in a group called The Success Club that was inspired by Jonah Mungoshi’s Success Coach articles in Fingaz. If the club had to have a handibook it had to be “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki or “Think and Grow” Rich by Napoleon Hill. Our goal was to share resources like books, tapes, videos etc on personal development and wealth generation.

A recent and closer look at the model of capitalism-United States of America has led me to conlude that at the extreme negative end, capitalism is about personal gratification, a focus on personal enrichment without stopping to think about the poor man because the poor man is “generally lazy”. The assumption is wealth is entirely a question of choice and the poor man is poor because he chose poverty-promoting-ways.  One just doesn’t care about what the next man does; on the extreme end its about individualistic indifference.

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Tax and US Presidential Elections

Rich Dad, Poor Dad is an excellent book that brings out fascinating facts on how one can chart their way to riches. One of the valid arguments thrown in the book is how at some point the US government had lost it by taxing the rich more than the poor. From this I learnt that in ‘ideal economic conditions’, individual and societal growth is consequential of a carrot-and-stick policy of taxing the poor more than the rich. This, in ‘ideal conditions’,  works because everyone will strive for riches and as they go up the wealth ladder they pay less and less tax. The carrot is the sweetest of wealth and the stick is the pain of poverty and paying high taxes.  Analysing events in our model of capitalism, the US, reveals that the argument poised by Rich Dad, though valid, is almost unimplementable because ‘ideal economic conditions’ will never exist in this world due, in part, to social injustices.

 

The McCCain-Obama US elections campaigns of 2008 reflect the general thinking of the main positions of politically oriented groups, the left-wing and the right-wing. McCain’s tax policy was aimed at cutting tax for the rich (cut top corporate tax from 35% to 25%, cut top real estate tax from 45% to 15%). Obama’s tax policy on the other hand favors the low to middle class (tax credits of up to $500 to $1000 to poor families and annual college tuition tax credit to $4,000 for students willing to perform 100 hours of community service after graduation). As capitalistic as I’ve become I favoured Obama’s policy (not because of the color of his skin) but because it promotes people to work hard in their communities particularly the tuition credits. Its like a mixture of capitalism and socialism, you are allowed pursue your educational desires but you have to contribute to the well-being of the person next to you through community work. It is optional I suppose but in a true carrot-stick approach.

The point is Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which is very capitalistic, is very factual through and through  but it is incomplete; it leaves out the “ecological” nature of life.

 

Both Extremes Never Work

Capitalism has generally edged socialism as seen by the disintegration of the once mighty USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall and on one hand the economic might of the US and European countries. Socialism failed, in my view, partly, because the Cold War polarized the East into seeing every action of the West as driven by the desire to make more money. They never appreciated the good that capitalistic system offered like individual thinking which fuels innovation and the power of capital in stimulating economic growth. Both Russia and China seem to have realised their mistakes and are slowly embracing the role of capital in society(as evidencd by the Abromaviches). The “umbrella hatred” of the ways of the capitalist seem to be fading in the previously socialistic countries like Libya and to some extent Cuba.  I hope the policies of these countries recognize that allowing individuals to pursue their own endeavors is not bad but stimulates innovation and  that collective hatred of the capitalists blinds them to the good the capitalists does.

However of late there has been a general dislike of US foreign policies because a lot argue that Washington only cares about its economic benefits especially in war-ravaged nations such as Iraq.  This, in my view, is one of the reasons why terrorism is on the increase, a good example being the unfortunate events of 9/11. I hope the US recognises that though independent thinking and survival is essential there is a higher virtue called “interdependence”, and most of US policies reflect some caring for the neighbour next to you and have a genuine desire to share the wealth in this world.  Not caring about the welfare of the next person, individualistic indifference, is sure recipe for disgruntlement among those not benefitting fully from the capitalistic system.

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