Money Or Happiness?

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What is a good society? A society in which everyone makes as much money as possible, or a society in which as many people as possible are happy and content?

It’s not a theoretical question. Which side of the proposition you accept will determine how you view politics, government policies and media coverage.

Right now, the view among political, business and media elites is that the goal in life is to make as much money as possible and to accumulate as many "toys" as possible. The media are fascinated by the rich and often fawn over them. Politicians are always talking about economic prosperity as if that was the main goal of government. Business people watch every little blip of the stock market like a casino operator watches the daily take. Statistics are pored over like a fortuneteller looking at tea leaves.

Most city governments are indistinguishable from chambers of commerce. They seem to think that their primary function is not to deliver services to the people, but to promote economic development.

I agree, as that wonderful writer Hendrik Willem van Loon put it, that "The story of mankind is the story of a hungry creature in search of food." But after food, shelter and clothing have been acquired, what then? The American ethic would reply that you trade in your old car for a new one, your new one for bigger one; you try to acquire bigger and bigger houses, more and more expensive clothes, boats, Jet Skis, vacation homes, etc. and so forth, until you finally reach the cemetery. Presumably the guy with the most toys is declared a winner — posthumously.

I’ve never bought into that philosophy, though I have nothing against the rich per se or against being rich, provided the price is not too high. But let me clear up one point right away: Trying to romanticize poverty is bunk. Being poor is painful. It means being unable to do things for the people you love. It often means unending labor just for the barest necessities. It means being powerless in a society that can be exploitive, uncaring and cruel.

I believe the proper goal of a society should be not to produce as many millionaires and billionaires as possible, but to elevate as many people as possible from the ranks of the poor to the middle class. That means, in our case, that we stop the export of jobs to cheap-labor foreign countries. It means we plug up our borders so the greedy establishment cannot create a surplus of labor and thus drive down wages in the United States. It means that instead of focusing on American business being "competitive in the global marketplace," we focus on making sure as many Americans as humanly possible have decent incomes, decent homes and adequate health care.

It also means we junk the North American Free Trade Agreement and get out of the World Trade Organization so that America’s trade policy will be once more in the hands of Americans interested in the benefits for Americans.

It also means junking the private central bank, known as the Federal Reserve System, and establishing a stable currency. Inflation is the most heinous form of robbery. I’ve been a wage earner all of my life, and I can tell you that no wage earner can win the race against inflation and taxes in our corrupt system. Inflation steals from our savings accounts and even from our life-insurance policies.

Andrew Jackson called the central bankers of his day a "den of vipers and thieves," and that is certainly true today. The evil corruption that is just now beginning to be revealed on the part of the Wall Street types and big-business executives should warn every American that we need to change our course in this country. We are steadily sailing toward a Third World status, with a small elite of the very rich and a mass of impoverished people.

That is not the kind of America our forefathers gave us, and it is not the kind of America they intended for posterity. Americans, in the most literal sense, do need to take back their country from the special interests that now own most of it and control the rest.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

© 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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