10/20/2012: Wealth & Responsibility

There is a conspicuous division between the affluent and the destitute within the United States. Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed, claims how the poor are responsible for the smallest, yet significant, undesirable tasks which go unnoticed while the wealthy 20 percent includes “decision makers, opinion shapers, culture creators” and political power holders (215). As a Birmingham public school student, it is often difficult to recognize a financially struggling person amongst the fog of prosperous families. With wealth, comes great responsibility and individuals who are within the top 20 percent of society should give back to the less fortunate through financial support.

The financially successful should understand the benefits of a society that is able to maintain an achievable and comfortable standard of living. If every individual did not have to concern themselves about where they are going to sleep or when they will have their next meal, there would be a significant reduction in criminal statistics. People would become less inclined to rob each other, damage property, and take the lives of their fellow human beings, especially of the wealthier Americans. Moreover, if everyone was content with an adequate financial situation through employment, there would be substantial improvements to the economic status quo of the entire country. Full employment would efficiently mobilize the resource of labor better, which corresponds to an increase in productivity. As a result, there would be significant infrastructure developments, advancements in technology and medicine with increased incentives to attend school. When productivity is increased, there is a greater circulation of money which stimulates the overall level of spending and the demand for goods and services which benefits the financially affluent since they are the ones who control the vast majority of corporations. Meaning, the monetarily top 20 percent of American would be content with their increase in profits while the poor will no longer reside below the poverty line.

Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest historical entrepreneurs in America and author of The Gospel of Wealth, left an important legacy by stating that the responsibility that comes along to being wealthy is to engage in effective philanthropy. Simply donating money to charity does not constitute as effective benevolence since it may create dependency on the rich. The purpose of generosity is not to sustain society through senseless charity, but to provide individuals with the opportunity to construct their own character in order to become self-sufficient. Instead of gambling on the expectation of individuals to improve themselves by donating money, it is more efficient to invest in the social environment. Meaning, the wealthy should fund the creation of useful institutions that inspire and assist the impoverished. For example, establishing more churches would be able to preach about the importance of staying away from self-destructing act, such as consuming alcohol and abusing drugs in addition to teaching people how to make moral and ethical decisions. Improvements in the educational system may lead to students to become proficient learners who will continue to make valuable advancements in society. Also, development in the health sector would give medical companies a greater ability to discover cures for diseases while reducing costs for those who are on the borderline of affording treatment.

Those who take upon the responsibility to assist the disadvantaged will leave a priceless legacy and inspire other wealthy individuals to live up to benevolent expectations.  Overall, responsibility is not a measure in dollars; it is a measure of a person’s character and intentions.

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