During his campaign for President of the United States, Bill Clinton coined the phrase, “It is the economy, stupid!” That simple message helped him to win the election. Before him and after him, many people have told us that the economy is the driving force. In every aspect of life, if one does not understand the principles of economics, one is doomed to fail.
I have to declare right in the beginning that I have taken only one economics course in my college education. I took the introductory course because it was required for all history majors. The highest level of financial management that I have done was about 20 years ago. I was the executive director of a non-profit organization that had a budget close to half a million dollars per year.
The only other experiential aspect of my life was living in a communist system for the first 15 years of my life and then the rest in a capitalistic system. In the first system, we were taught the importance of the Marxist-Leninist economy. But by the mid 1980’s, it collapsed in most of the communist countries with the exception of China and Cuba.
In the last five years, the capitalistic system is experiencing major problems. Some of the problems are produced by the extremely rich, some are produced by the middle class, and some are produced by the poor.
As I was pondering what is going around me, I came to the conclusion that the problems are similar. In the 60s, those of us lived in an egalitarian society found out that it was very stratified economically. The members of the communist party and their acolytes made sure that they lived in luxury. Seeing that the elite lived in luxury, the majority of the workers started to steal because things belonged to the state. Therefore, the regime collapsed because there was stealing from the top and the bottom and complete falsification of data. Hypothetically, if there were 100 bushels of wheat in the warehouse, the elites took about 30 bushes, the workers took the same number and the warehouse was left with 40 bushels. The warehouse accountant had to falsify the data as though he sold 100 bushels, but he sold only 40. The system collapsed because the majority of the people were willing to steal, to falsify data and to lie.
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The elite on Wall Street seek to make themselves rich. They give themselves exorbitant salaries. Regardless of their success or failure, they give themselves bonuses. It was abhorrent to see that in the midst of major losses for the entire country, the annual bonuses were bigger than ever before. In the midst of this thievery, we hear the expression: While it was not ethical, it was legal! Is it possible that the law has become unethical or immoral? It is, when the law is made to benefit a particular group.
In the midst of this situation, the students and other people occupying Wall Street think that they deserve a share of what the Wall Street has or at least that the government and other institutions owe them. At the same time one of the lawyers quoted in the Asbury Park Press about the plight of the homeless, argued that the government owes the homeless shelter.
Sometimes I imagine that everybody thinks that the government is this entity that is able to give endlessly as much as everyone needs or desires. The Wall Street people can get rich from it, the students can get their education for free from it, and the poor can get their food and shelter from it. However, the farming principle was that if one did not sow in the spring there was no harvest in the fall. If someone was sowing thorns and thistles in the fields, it destroyed the harvest and it produced less than expected.
The economy is indeed one of the main principles of human life. However, if the economical principles neglect ethics or morals, sooner or later the whole system runs amok.