Dear Reader, I know that one should consider the source, but it turns out that native Michigan muckraker, Michael Moore is mostly right in his assertion that 400 families have more wealth than half of America's households. I heard it as 400 have more than 180 million, but the actually number of Americans in that 50% is soft. Households can vary in how many people are in them, right? So let's leave the number of people aside.
That 400 households can have so much, and 50% can have so little, is the point. Yes, even the rich work hard and no system of wealth redistribution is just, but we can even ignore the moral arguments from both sides and see this as a simply pragmatic problem.
The key to preserving a free state is that every citizen is politically equal to every other one. Notice I did not say socially or economically. That may be good, even just, but practically speaking, a free state cannot give more political power to some than to others. Slavery was the great example for us, memorably summarized by Abraham Lincoln when he said, "I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free."
He was right. Great wealth brings great power. Why this is true is both self evident and too complicated to show here. But this fact produces two further facts:
- When 400 families have more wealth than the half of the country, the poor have no reason to believe the nation has their interests at heart.
- When 400 families have more wealth than half of the country, the rich have no need for government at all. One has no stake in the nation, the other has no need.
How is this different from when Lincoln quoted scripture in the same speech, saying "A house divided against itself cannot stand?" I have no answer. But I have an idea.
Release their tax forms. The 400 I mean. We need to know who they are and what they have. The price of power in a democracy is scrutiny. We ask elected officials to reveal their stake, why should the unelected powers?
Democracy means that citizens can choose different political leaders if they don't like them. Those of great wealth are just as powerful in their way. Notice that the 400 are fewer in number than the US Congress and probably know each other even if we don't know them. Since we can't take away their power we at least deserve to know who they are and how they got their power.
But it's not going to happen, of course.