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Dogma Premise # 34 

Wealthy people are wealthy because they worked harder, or in any case contributed more to social net utility (and were in turn compensated for that).

Dogma Premise 34 is just a very small extension of Dogma Premises 17 and 33 which purport to show that wealth can only result from voluntary transactions that deliver adequate value. This dogma asserts that wealth accumulations necessarily reflect the result of honest work (Dogma Premise 33) that helped people (Dogma Premise 17), and therefore wealth is a sign of virtue, and should be applauded, not challenged or prevented.

We have already seen in analyzing the underlying Dogma Premises that wealth may as well be accumulated by harming people as helping them, and indeed gaining money by coercive techniques or from people in desperate straits may be the fastest road to building a great fortune. But let us finish the job by understanding the relationship between wealth and virtue.

There are two major problems with Dogma Premise 35.

First, it is empirically false in the sense that there are many ways to make money by harming people. Not counting the extreme examples of fraud, deceit, exploitation, sweatshops, destruction of competition, and slave labor, capitalism also allows and even encourages the accumulation of wealth by internalizing benefits and externalizing costs or risks.

For example, it may frequently occur that failing to invest in safety equipment in a Dow Chemical plant or a BP oil platform may lead to greater profits for the owners, or catastrophic losses to those living in distant places like Bhopal or the Gulf of Mexico. Or the failure to build environmental safeguards in a coal plant may generate additional profits to the owners at the expense of an environment killed by acid rain. There are too many stories of citizens who worked hard but were done in by sharp practices for anyone to reasonably assume that wealthy people originally came by their money through hard work.

And of course the descendants of the wealthy are routinely placed in charge of the family business based on bloodline, rather than demonstrated talent or hard work, so the problem of correlating wealth and hard work actually becomes more difficult over time.

Second, once sufficient wealth has been concentrated to allow the capitalist to exercise economic power, the incentive to work hard vanishes, and the capitalist's wealth continues to grow even while the capitalist is eating, sleeping, swimming, or golfing.

Such capitalists fancy themselves captains of industry, directing the world's affairs from the golf course or on their private jet. Indeed, it looks like they do run the world. Behold their servants, everywhere scurrying to do their bidding without question in hopes of capturing just a few crumbs of the interest accumulating each hour in the capitalist's investment or trust fund.

These economic bosses purchase for themselves the best education, training, information and tools. They network and socialize with others similarly advantaged. They grant themselves any conceivable advantage in decision-making that will might seem to justify their positions of power.

But the idea that these capitalists "work harder" when they are reviewing their stock portfolios or planning some intrigue while onboard their yacht, as compared to real workers who sweat and toil long hours in difficult conditions burdened by the stress and worry that is the lot of those with little means is a putrid kind of lie.

Instead, wealthy capitalists rely almost entirely on the efforts of others to grow their private hoard. It is doubtful whether any capitalist ever earned their wealth themselves without relying on the undercompensated work of others and as well as social infrastructure that they paid very little for but used fully. However, once they have accumulated their wealth, it is sustained and increased without any of the kind of labor that might justify a claim that they "deserved" it.

Dogma Premise 35

All Dogma Premises

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