While some folks look at wealth and see something gluttonous or immoral, I see something psychologically miraculous.
The truth is that very intelligent and very clear-thinking people will work very hard—sometimes 16 or 18 hours a day, for decades—in order to accumulate more and more money. This money actually affords them rather modest possibilities. Their cars may look pretty and generate more horse power. They may have big boats to take them for a nice ride or a special vacation. The boxes they live in may be bigger boxes than most, and they may have several such boxes. They can buy clothes that have all the "best" labels sewn into them. They may not have to do their own grocery shopping or clean their own houses. They can watch their favorite teams and have the best views. They skip to the front of some lines.
That’s about it. That’s about all we can offer the folks with extraordinary abilities who sometimes take huge risks with their own capital, power the economy, pay a vast amount of the tax revenue collected to finance our schools, create jobs and give billions to charity each year. We can’t make them immortal. We don’t (and shouldn’t) let them get away with murder. We can’t spare them the grief of losing loved ones or the sadness of lost romance or the ravages of diabetes or major depression or Alzheimer’s Disease.
Money is such a miraculous motivator that people who have more than enough of it to live very well, will frequently continue to work incredibly hard to build their fortunes. They do so to feel "freer" from outside influences or to have even shinier things or to feel more powerful or to build something for their descendants or to express themselves creatively or to feel more sexually desirable, but the fact that they do is an incredibly lucky turn of events for the rest of us.
Because it is from this immeasurable, inexplicable desire to achieve and to be rewarded financially that we had the resources to help rebuild Haiti, to rebuild New Orleans and to save the world from the evil of Nazism. Think about just that last fact: Were it not for capitalism, and the fact that some people will buy 25,000 square foot homes and $150,000 watches and paintings for $25 million, the world would have been controlled by Adolph Hitler. Really. Truly.
I have a friend named Chris Burch. He spends about 16 hours a day—not infrequently, 18 hours a day—creating new companies. He travels all over the world to do it. He created Tory Burch clothing, which employs 600 people. He launched the Jawbone headset and Powermat charging, which employ hundreds more. The first store in his next retail chain C-Wonder will open in New York City during 2011. He doesn’t need any more money, he’s doing this because he thinks it’s fun and that our country has unusual passion for new things and disruptive brands. Go figure.
Hopefully, he will buy a few more watches (or lots more Hershey bars; he loves them).
Money and a free economy are psychologically miraculous. That’s why it’s a kind of sin to undermine the economy with lies like bailouts, stimulus packages, suffocating taxes and a universal health insurance plan that forces people to buy health insurance with their hard-earned “take home” pay—even if they don’t want to. When government starts to strangle free enterprise and demonize the rich, they attack the miraculous force that creates opportunity and liberty and longevity not only for Americans, but people all over the world.
Next time you hear someone talk about how an executive makes too much money, think about what that person really gets for his unusual talent. Hmmm. Twenty-five thousand square-feet from which to ponder the mortality with which we must all come to terms. A real platinum watch to tell the time as it ticks by, relentlessly, stalking even the children he or she loves to the ends of this earth.
Thank God for money. Thank God for a free economy. Thank God for America.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for Fox News Channel and a New York Times best-selling author. His book, “Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty” has launched a self-help movement. Dr. Ablow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.