“The poor are poor not because the rich are rich,” says Robert J. Samuelson in his Washington Post column reproduced in The Hindu.
In 1968, the sociologist Robert K. Merton coined the phrase ‘the Mathew Effect’ for the phenomenon of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The name Mathew came from the Bible. Jesus said, according to Mathew’s gospel, “For to him who has more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away” [Mathew 13:12].
Jesus did not live in a time which promoted capitalism and its wealth-creating ideology. Jesus was far, far from being a capitalist. In fact, he would have been the ideal communist, had he been allowed to have his way by the various leaders of his time (political as well as religious). What he meant was that those who have the spirit of life in them will be given more of that, and those who are just bullshit will get lost.
But religious scriptures can be interpreted in myriad ways. Even as I did above. And Robert K. Merton interpreted it the way Robert J. Samuelson does it now, half a century later. All interpretations are correct so long as the frameworks are prepared by a carpenter who knows his job.
So, the poor are poor not because the rich are rich. Samuelson’s argument is that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer because of the situation prevailing in the world. The rich flourished because of the access they have/had to wealth-creating avenues such as car dealership, real estate business, and computer software business. More people wanted cars, houses and the digital technology. So those who had access to such business ventures got richer.
Who remain poor today? Those who don’t know how to exploit the prevailing situation? Or those who don’t have the resources?
The answer may be ‘both’.
Samuelson doesn’t say why such people have no right to live their life. Isn’t this coming down to Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest?
If only the fit can survive, what does human civilisation mean?
Who are the fit? Those who have the resources to manipulate the given system?
Was the savage the fit person in the olden days?
Was the witch-hunter and the heretic-burner the fit person in the medieval days?
Is the property-dealer the fit person today?
I’m attaching the link to a video which I had put up in my blog earlier too. I’m putting it up again because it is more, far more articulate than I can ever be ...
It asks the same question: Who is fit?
Will I be more fit a writer if I can get some businessperson to sponsor my writing so that I can quit teaching? [I intend to do it!]
Is the forest dweller less fit a person because he doesn’t know how to use the digital technology?