We all tend to see things superficially sometimes. The obvious and the true rarely cohabitate. The turkey leg we dish out in a soup kitchen, the tire we change for an elderly neighbor, or the medicine we buy for someone in need all are acts of goodness. We generally do not expect something in return, our reward being the feeling that we get from the act itself
There is nothing wrong with such acts, but there is something wrong with thinking that they define the totality of human virtue. They are but one category of benefiting others–a simple exchange. Absent in this account are the myriad transactions that emanate from doing business–creating wealth for people whom the creator will never meet.
No turkey leg can be served without the person who raised and slaughtered the turkey. No tire can roll without a factory to make it. No medicine can heal without painstaking research and unimaginably complex manufacturing. All these come from a different kind of virtue–productivity, the kind that benefits thousands of people the creator will never meet.
Public policy discussions tend to deteriorate rapidly into vicious arguments about who gets what, right now, rather than how it gets made. The recent tax hullabaloo is a prime example. The Left was enraged when Obama caved in on taxes for the wealthy. Apparently it was OK for the Bush tax cuts to live on, but only if the rich got pinched. What pettiness.
The vast majority of the “rich” are not the political entrepreneurs we justly despise–pigs who constantly root for government acorns. They are the market entrepreneurs and businesspeople who make the things we all use for ourselves or give to others. Their virtue is going to work each day facing an uncertain and increasingly business-hostile world, producing in spite of everything government can throw at them.
Their reward? Little regard, puerile contempt, and condescension from people who could not start a business with a button. By all means, let us praise the visible goodness of givers, but let us not forget the subtler virtue of the creators. These people have more because they do more for others, and they deserve every penny.