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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2006 / 2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767

Envy is bad economics

By Paul Johnson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In London the media have been foaming at the mouth over the fact that the average chief executive in Britain's top 100 companies is paid 127 times more than the average wage earner. Such high pay has been widely denounced as "excessive," with business leaders joining in the hue and cry. Such indignation is misconceived and pointless. If remuneration at 127 times the average wage is wrong, what is right? One hundred times? Fifty? Twenty? Twice? Who's to say? The market determines these things. If you don't like the market's decisions, the alternative is wage controls, with bureaucrats fixing the scales. Who wants that? And when has it ever worked?


Pay is best seen in terms of spending power or the relative ability to live well. As such, there have always been huge differences throughout history. In England the Domesday survey of 1086 was the first ever undertaken of individual assets in a country. It reveals a bottomless gap between the nobles, bishops and abbots (about 100 men) at the top of society and the serfs at the bottom. The ratio was probably 1,000-to-1 or more.


However, these wealthy men were obligated to supply the crown with what was called knight service, a specific number of fully armored and mounted men, trained for battle and able to serve the crown for 40 to 60 days each year. The number of men so supplied was determined by the amount of land the noble or churchman held. This system led to endless rows and legal actions between the wealthy and the crown, which sometimes fueled rebellions. The rich claimed they were being "ruined" by the tax. One example of a universal truth: There are hidden disadvantages to being really wealthy.


During the Renaissance the head of the Medici bank in Florence had, no doubt, an annual income that was at least 1,000 times the spending power of the average Italian peasant. To defend his assets the banker had to go into expensive civic politics, build fortresslike city houses and fortified country villas and maintain a large contingent of armed horsemen. Moreover, he was expected to devote huge sums of money to the glory of God and the splendor of his family by building and endowing churches or private chapels in cathedrals and embellishing them with altarpieces created by the day's leading Tuscan and Flemish painters.


This art patronage was highly competitive and expensive. A Florentine banker might pay heavily to have a painter such as Hans Memling in Bruges produce a major (9-foot-wide) multipaneled work and then have it transported to Antwerp, shipped to Italy and carted overland to Florence, where, once there, it required ten porters just to carry it across the city.


In every age the rich have had inescapable obligations concerning their wealth. I've just been reading David Cannadine's biography of Andrew Mellon, the Pittsburgh entrepreneur and banker who founded some of America's greatest businesses and then served as Treasury Secretary for 11 years (1921 — 32). During the last years of his long life Mellon was rewarded for his public service by being prosecuted for imaginary tax evasion by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a man who, though a lifelong recipient of unearned income, seems to have believed that creating great wealth is somehow immoral. Mellon seems to have spent little of his wealth in self-indulgence of any kind, instead using it to buy works of art that he eventually presented to the nation when founding the glorious National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


I don't believe people earning average incomes are as envious of the rich as media commentary supposes. The kind of relativity people care about is that their incomes rise, their assets are greater than their parents' and their children do even better than they've done.


Such progress is certainly taking place, especially in countries like the U.S. and Britain that run relatively unshackled market economies. In the Oct. 2 issue of FORBES I learned that in the five years since the attack on the Twin Towers, America's GDP has increased by $3 trillion. This increase alone is roughly equivalent to the entire output of the world's fastest-growing economy, China. Clearly, scores of millions of Americans are doing better than ever before. That being so, the astronomical sums earned by a few on Wall Street are of small importance. In my observation great wealth brings more worries than happiness: several different homes to maintain and protect from thieves, squabbles with servants, the terror of a litigious divorce and fights with demanding children, as well as the fear of the wealth and all its trappings vanishing like fairy gold.

When a Difference Matters
Of course, huge differentials between countries present real problems. Average incomes in the richest countries can easily be as high as 100 times those in the poorest. This wouldn't matter as much if the really poor countries were slowly improving. But, because of bad government and internal wars, these countries are growing poorer, both relatively and absolutely.


At the same time China and India — once the world's two poorest big countries — are making giant strides toward affluence, each year pulling tens of millions of their citizens into the lighted circle of the good life. I believe that in due course the really wretched parts of the world will learn more from the India-China experience than they have ever been able to absorb from the West. The once poor can teach the still poor. I take an optimistic view of these things.


Envy is a foolish and self-destructive emotion. It is also thoroughly bad economics.

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Previously:

10/11/06: Better to Borrow or Lend? Rethinking conventional wisdom
08/22/06: Don't practice legal terrorism
08/08/06: A summer rhapsody for a pedal-bike
08/03/06: Why is there no workable philosophy of music?
07/11/06: Historically speaking, energy crisis is America's opportunity
07/06/06: The misleading dimensions of persons and lives
06/06/06: First editions are not gold
05/23/06: A downright ugly man need never despair of attracting women, even pretty ones
04/25/06: Was Washington right about political parties?
04/12/06: Let's Have More Babies!
04/05/06: For the love of trains
03/29/06: Lincoln and the Compensation Culture
03/22/06: Bottle-beauties and the globalised blond beast
03/15/06: Europe's utopian hangover
03/08/06: Kindly write on only one side of the paper
02/28/06: Creators versus critics
02/21/06: The Rhino Principle

© 2006, Paul Johnson

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