Photo by Micheile
Henderson on Unsplash
56 If not self, who?
When I was in early grade school, the
most popular political satirist was Al Capp. In his comic strip
Li’l Abner, the neighborhood youth in Dogpatch built a spaceship.
The government was not able to do that because of all the red
One of the last articles in my Ernstraud
Magazine described neighborhood cooperation. A tree dropped a
large limb that completely blocked traffic past my house. I set
about sawing off branches and in fifteen minutes four neighbors
with saws had joined me. The street was clear in half an hour. No
city bureaucracy could have beat our record.
Much of our appreciation of ancient
Greece is a legacy from the leisure class, wealthy individuals.
One might say that they put their “idle” time and money to good
use erecting buildings that became lasting monuments.
By now it is apparent that today’s title
is irony. It means “because there is nobody else, therefore,
self.” The government is gridlocked, and the world must be
rescued by people. Yes, that means private people, because
there is nobody else to do it.
We must put selfishness and acrimony
aside and reflect on the long course that led to crippling
gridlock. First, there was a system of greed that gouged wages
and put wealth into the hands of people who were already in
control. The love of money for its own sake led to environmental
desecration. Sham elections presented artificial promises based
on popularity polling rather than proven administration of
justice. Shortsighted goals of the vocal overpowered long-term
wise application of well-managed resources.
Lottery winners quickly descend to their
previous levels on the wealth thermostat. Bad management is not
cured by passing out money. In recognition of human dignity,
resources must be more evenly distributed, but not by
mindlessly spreading cash. Indiscriminately sending families
extra money will not produce a Covid19 vaccine or eliminate
Article 27 pointed out that money is not one of Humans’
Needs. Systemic improvement rests on genuine research carried
out with persistent dedication.
Article 49 recognized private individuals who have
effectively addressed these needs.
Instead of measuring GDP (Gross Domestic
Product), which is increased by prison, war, and natural
disasters, scholars are now defining GNH (Gross National
Happiness). My writings elevate happiness to joy for a reason. We
need to hold before ourselves the vision of the more just, more
evenly served world we are creating.
There is a proverb “gold is where you
find it.” We have a rather good idea where wealth is found.
Humanity requires that it be applied as necessary to maximize
the common good. My faith in humanity increases as that is
Therefore, participation of wealthy
people is essential to immediate improvement. I cannot build a
hospital or a university, but there are many individuals among us
who can. They do not act entirely alone. As good managers, they
know how to aggregate funding and scholarship to accomplish a
major purpose. With vision, that is what they regularly
Wealth is not a number in a single bank
account. It is not generally liquid. Devoting resources to
progress is not check-writing. It is rather dedicated pursuit of
meaningful solutions. Mounting an attack on private wealth is no
more effective than indiscriminate distribution of cash, which is
one possible outcome of such attack. That will not heal society.
Skill in the use of wealth is just as necessary as the wealth
itself. I do not have that skill, and the electorate does not
We should minimize changes in the amount
of cash people handle, avoiding sudden windfalls. It is up to
prudent managers to see to it that this country, and eventually
the world, becomes a happy place where the Humans’ Needs
are equally met for all people. That is a question of
management. I contribute moral judgment but defer practical
implementation to those qualified to achieve it.
Let us praise private benevolence
that improves social conditions in ways that government cannot.
Gridlock and enforced uniformity fail where intelligent empathy
succeeds. When there is no public “who” to do the work, the
sufficiently endowed assign the task to themselves. We
are not fully human until we are all equal in meeting Humans’
Needs, enjoying freedom from want.
Empathy is expressed in different words.
Theology teaches that God provided everything to benefit
everybody. Another viewpoint is that human evolution no longer
needs to weed out the weak, and the species is ready to assure
the fair and equal survival of all its members. Regardless of the
language used, healthy people do not gorge on excess while others
starve. Fairness is the logical symmetry of individuals.
This simple idealism presents significant
work to be done. Obviously, poor people cannot fill in the low
spots, making something out of nothing. Spreading dollar value
equally on a per capita basis does not address systemic
management flaws. As the “little guy” I participate in a complex
system I did not invent. People with significant management skill
have built the necessary production and distribution systems. The
point of social contract theory is that by specializing and
improving, we help each other to a common outcome.
Meeting my needs has nothing to do with
how much money passes through my hands. Our activities vary, and
we do not need identical material surroundings. For example, I am
happier in a smaller house while other people require space for
more activities. Our needs are met, we are free, when our
expectations are satisfied. We do not measure happiness in
money. We realize happiness around us when we are all free from
want. We cannot reach that state alone.
Today I am praising a special kind of
person, the one who steps up and says, “I can do that.” In answer
to the question in the title of the article, there is something
you can do that nobody else can do. What responsibility
then comes to rest on you? Anything you are capable of achieving.
The worker on the assembly line builds a safe car. The person of
means eradicates maternal mortality.
The transformation I describe depends on
education. Let us focus on early childhood education so that a
rising generation will perpetually come on stage with
expectations to do this right.
Resources must be concentrated, not
dispersed, to achieve benefits that we easily take for granted.
Norway provides the world an example. It has significant income
from oil exports. That money is not given out as cash to all the
households. It is used for developing non-monetary benefits to
society at large: infrastructure, education, social services,
research, reserves against bad times. The high standard of living
is spread across the whole population, to assure that individual
Humans’ Needs are fairly and equally met.
Private parties are the ones who can act effectively. It is
therefore required of them to volunteer their means to address
the common needs of society.
Being For Others Blog copyright © 2020 Kent Busse
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