The “Occupy Wall Street” people are right about the sins of the financial system and right about the evil of government supporting and subsidizing this misbehavior. It’s not fair that 1 percent of Americans are rolling in dough while the rest of us are scrimping to pay for our rents and cell phone plans.
But I think the occupiers are wrong about something much more important. They believe in the Zero Sum Fallacy –the idea that there is a fixed amount of the good things in life–meaning that anything I get, I’m taking from you. For example if I have too many slices of pizza, you won’t get anything but the empty pizza box. This would imply that every time we want good things we have to fight with each other to get them. Instead of that, we could join our skills and abilities in order to make more pizza — and more of anything–for all of us. The good things in life are remarkably expandable and it’s mostly done by ordinary people, look at China or India.
The Zero Sum Fallacy is just that, a fallacy. Economic history since the Industrial Revolution proves that many ordinary people can achieve good things in life. The only difference to rich people is that most of the success doesn’t fall into our laps. We can only achieve this with our knowledge, skills and hard work. The only requirement we need for this is, as Rawls pointed out, equal opportunities. But the fact that others achieve more than us, shouldn’t bother us. Actually it should make us feel more comfortable, knowing that there are people out there who have better abilities and skills and who are capable of achieving higher goals then we can. As long as these people give the benefits back to the society.
The only thing we have to ensure is that social and economic inequalities are to be to the greatest benefit of the less advantaged m embers of society. Or as Rawls thinks :”……to the least advantaged members of society”. Either way, the power of the rich among us should be used to make us all better off. This also includes rich people themselves. We can achieve this by motivating rich people to do more for the society -especially more to the poorer ones among us- but also give them the feeling of having done something good. They should think and feel that they are giving something back to the society that made them rich in the first place.
Instead of protesting against the 1% -which by the way makes more and more people upset about the protesters- we should organize more charity events or other kind of events, giving rich people the opportunity to donate money or to do other charitable things.
I also think that everybody should reconsider the advantages they have, before protesting that everything is unfair. Most of us are lucky enough to be born in America, probably to families who are comparatively well off and to be studying at the U of M.
What do you guys think? Aren’t we all a little bit trapped in the Zero Sum Fallacy?