Goodman on Wealth
By David Henderson
I think I can safely say that I have never met a person in an ordinary walk of life who complained about society’s distribution of income. I’ve never heard a normal person say the world would be better off per se if Bill Gates and Warren Buffett earned less money. No waitress. No taxi driver. No deli operator. No one in the business world.
But there are a tiny, tiny number of people who do think that way. In fact, they are obsessed about it. If J.K. Rowling is a welfare mother, they would never think of calling her a leech on society who is not paying her own way. But if she writes Harry Potter books that give people pleasure and enables Hollywood to produce movies people enjoy and becomes one of the richest people in the world,…..well…..let’s just say there is a small cadre of folks who go through the emotional equivalent of the St. Vitus dance. They write as if Rowling (and others like her) have committed some great wrong. As if she has taken more than her share of “society’s income” and is somehow responsible for other people’s poverty.
This is an excerpt from “Why I Want More People to be Rich,” one of the best blog posts John Goodman has written. He does it beautifully. I can’t say that the first paragraph reflects my experience. I can think of one main person who, whatever he actually thought, certainly talked as if he thought the world would be better off without such people. That was my father. In “Whose Income? Who’s Distributing?”, Chapter 9 of my book, The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey, I tell how economics helped me get over my envy that I learned from him.