Friday, January 30, 2009

Poor, Confused Jet Li

While checking on the weather, I encountered this videotaped speech by none other than Jet Li: Ah, poor, poor Mr. Li. Apparently, the stars of Shanghai are just as brainwashed as the stars of Hollywood. He talks of volunteering. He talks of "giving." He talks of the obligations between men as a global family. Mr. Li, I have a few questions for you: 1) If one man may make more money than another, why is this? 2) If one man may produce more with his hands and his skills, why is this? 3) Is it possible that the differences between men may account for the differences in economic output or monetary income which we observe in the real world? Can a genius, or a martial arts master for that matter, really produce so much more for society than the average man, or a man even less than average, that the first ends up a billionaire and the other cannot feed himself? 4) Not including the truly handicapped, which is only a small fraction of the whole population, is it really possible that a man is incapable of producing with his own hands and skills what is required to sustain a reasonably dignified existence with respect to his material wants? 5) If it is not, why is there poverty? Every honest person will know the answers to the first four questions and will answer them in the same way. Those who produce more for society will receive more money, the universal exchange medium for claims to goods in the marketplace. This may result from a variety of differences between them: differences in intelligence, skill, physical strength, etc. However, these differences cannot possibly explain the vast differences in personal wealth we observe. Furthermore, with modern technology and production methods, it is simply impossible that even the least among our "global family" is not capable of supporting a decent and humane existence by his own efforts, save the severely handicapped, for which a humane existence is easily achievable through charity. Nowadays, even quite handicapped individuals can be productive members of society. History has shown that mankind is indeed capable of tremendous levels of productivity, of generating tremendous volumes of material wealth. Even in ancient times, many places enjoyed widespread prosperity. With modern technology, we should be all the more capable of achieving near universal prosperity. Why is it, then, that question #5 stumps so many of us? It is not for lack of giving. It is not for lack of volunteering. If one man may sustain himself with plenty to spare, there is no reason why all might not achieve at least a minimal level of prosperity. Unless, that is, there were more to the story than this. Naturally, there is. If men cannot produce enough for a decent existence, it is either because they are not willing, or it is because they are not allowed. With exceedingly rare exceptions, it cannot be argued that they are not able. When men refuse to respect one another, when they seek to sustain themselves at the expense of others, when they hobble one another's ability and will to seek material prosperity through meddlesome schemes, theft, fraud, and corruption, or when they simply lie about in laziness, only then does poverty raise its ugly head. Charity and voluntarism will not solve such a problem. Only proper human ethics will. Until men decide that they will do what is right by God, themselves, and one another, they will forever wallow in misery. When they fail to abide by even the most basic of their obligations to one another, all the "giving" and voluntarism in the world will be to no avail. Honesty, decency, and respect are far more important to material prosperity than money, and sadly, in far shorter supply. It has been said "Give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime." To which I would add "But when men steal one another's fish and deprive their fellows of the right to catch fish, all will go hungry." Sorry Jet Li. You can sure do some amazing kung fu, but I cannot get on board with your philosophy. It does not solve the problem.

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