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Prosperity & Compassion: Can These Co-Exist?

12 October 2011   David Wilhelmsen
Can the Occupy Wall Street movement fix the system?

wilhelmsonAmericans wish for a nation where both prosperity and compassion exist side by side. Members of both parties have always aimed at these two ends. The vision of achieving them through big government, however, has been doomed to fail from the start – doomed to fail because it forgets that the strength of our nation begins with its people. The belief that government should meet every need and fight every battle has resulted in nothing more than substantial debt and a lower credit rating. The good news is that our government will change. The only question is whether it will change out of free will or because our creditors demand it.

The Occupy Wall Street movement stems directly from a yearning to fix our system. It recognizes the problems we face and desperately seeks a solution. However, the avenue it advocates will never bring about true improvement – it will never bring about true improvement because it assumes that abuse on Wall Street represents the problem, rather than the symptom of a much greater issue. The tax loop-holes and government subsidies utilized by big business stem from the very people we have put into office. These leaders are a direct result of our choices. After all, every American receives one vote, whether they manage a multi-million dollar corporation or operate a grocery store cash register.

In order to fix our problems, we must embrace two principles which are absolutely true. First, we must accept that the free enterprise system does not leave people behind. People fall behind because they do not have access to the free enterprise system. All over the world, this truism expresses itself every day. Where economic freedom exists, prosperity prevails; in its absence, people struggle to secure basic necessities. Second, we must understand that charity is not the government’s domain. Compassion must reside in the hands of the people.

In promoting the free market, we need to reform the tax code, dramatically reduce government spending, and lower taxes across the board. By creating a simple tax code, all Americans will be held to the same standards. This prevents Warren Buffet from paying less than the secretary he employs. Likewise, a decrease in taxes promotes economic growth by incentivizing people to build new and existing businesses. We do not need new taxes; we need new tax payers. Increased growth accomplishes just that, creating new jobs and supplementing existing incomes.

On the compassion side, caring for others occupies a crucial role in any healthy society. Debates arise only when debating how it should be implemented. There have always been those who believe government should take on this responsibility. They say the private sector is heartless and unwilling to care for those in need - that the government should take care of society, using a variety of entitlement programs such as welfare, universal healthcare, and affirmative action. Unfortunately, this approach has only expanded government spending and added to the national debt. In the long term, it has done little to help society. True compassion comes only through freedom to choice. Forced redistribution of wealth is not compassion. It causes resentment in one party and a baseless sense of entitlement in the other. On the other hand, allowing individuals to help those in need generates a sense of satisfaction in one party and a deep gratitude in the other. Legislating compassion is neither effective nor in tune with the freedom we so cherish.

If we embrace the free market and leave charity to the private sector, we will construct a role for government under which we can come closer than ever before to our vision - a vision where both prosperity and compassion exist side by side.