As the year comes to a close I find myself troubled by a persistent question.
Why doesn’t every good person want to create the best possible world for everyone?
I, of course, understand that there are some sociopathic people who are overwhelmed by their own narcissism that they are consumed by their self-interest. The worst of them actually feel better when they see other people suffering. I know these people exist because I have experienced them in my professional and my personal life. Although this is a small group, 1% of the general population, psychologists have found that there is a disproportionately large number of them in position of power. In a study of hundreds of CEO’s, lawyers, and politicians, 20% of them assessed themselves as “Dark Triad” personalities with antisocial values.
So, I understand that evil is real and some people justify being evil.
Here is what I don’t understand…We absolutely know what conditions create the best opportunity for humans to thrive. Hundreds of international research projects funded by conservative, liberal and nonpartisan groups have found the necessary conditions for the best possible society, which is characterized by the health and happiness of its members, is created by the following:
- Personal safety and security.
- Free universal access to quality education for all.
- Free or affordable universal access to competent healthcare for all.
- Clean water and affordable food, housing, electricity and transportation for all.
- Access to affordable capital to start businesses without paying bribes.
- Fair and equal civil and criminal justice. (non-bias, non-corrupt)
So, here’s my question. Why would a society that could really afford to intelligently provide these things to its citizens choose not to? Why would GOOD people, otherwise decent people actually oppose providing those conditions even if they were possible?
Providing these conditions does not prohibit the wealthy and the favored to attend private schools, or buy premium healthcar, or require them to tear down their mansions or get rid of their Bentleys.
Those conditions do not result in a universal welfare state that rewards laziness and punishes hard work. That is a false argument. Decades of research confirm that over 87% of human beings are intrinsically motivated to work hard as a form of self-expression and personal satisfaction if the rewards of hard work are fair and equitable.
- Wouldn’t it be foolish to build a society that doesn’t provide universal education because a few students may be unmotivated to learn.
- Wouldn’t it be wrong headed not to provide access to capital to the many because some businesses fail?
- Wouldn’t be wrong to have a criminal justice system that severely punished the poor and minorities for the same crimes the rich and the favored got away with.
- Is it really fair to tax the wages of labor at a different rate than the profits of investment?
It seems to me the core of the American Dream, which is now a universal dream, is that where you start in life should not determine your future opportunities. But today U.S. citizens have less upward mobility than at any time in the last 100 years. When compared to the citizens of Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and England, U.S. citizens have the lowest chance of improving their economic status from their birth status. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_mobility)
Why is there a large group of U.S. political leaders and their supporters who are actually opposed to creating the conditions which we know help all people live their best lives. Surely not all of them are sociopaths. Yet they seem deliberate in creating conditions that cause unnecessary suffering.
My mother and father, and the nuns who taught me for 12 grades, ingrained in me that it is immoral to cause human suffering. They also taught me it was immoral not to stop human suffering that can be stopped. I still believe this. But I don’t understand. I don’t understand why other good people don’t believe it.
Persistent or traumatic suffering is not good for people. While it’s true that temporary setbacks and disappointments can build character, persistent or overwhelming suffering damages a persons’ ability to be resilient, self-sufficient and grow.
The most common justification I have heard from politicians that are continuing to tilt our society to favor people and corporations that need no favors is that poor people waste their money on cell phones instead of healthcare, or on movies instead of medicine. (Senators Chuck Grassley and Orin Hatch.) They justify supporting the conditions that actually create human suffering because they believe that people who suffer are the cause of their own suffering. Well maybe they must not be spending any time with people different than themselves.
Anyone who thinks a single mother with two children, who was beaten and abused by her husband, and receives neither alimony or child support, but works in three miserable part-time jobs is lazy and undeserving is morally vacant.
There 13 million households led by single mothers today, whose suffering will increase because otherwise good men continue to pass bad laws and create conditions that make self-sufficiency more difficult. I just don’t understand why such men insist creating these conditions is desirable.
It is not difficult to understand that many people do NOT get what they deserve. And it is not difficult to understand that there are many smart things that a government for the people, and by the people can do for its citizens that can give them a chance for a decent life. For too many people today those conditions do not exist. And for some unexplained reason nice, good men justify causing human suffering rather than solving problems that will make possible for good people in bad circumstances to rise above.
Here’s my bottom line question? If a society has the resources, wealth, technology and ingenuity to provide the six conditions known to enable humans to thrive why don’t our elected leaders and all good people invest our resources and creativity to create those conditions?
I want you to know that my question is sincere. While I understand there are bad, selfish and evil people that don’t give a damn about others, what I don’t understand is why so many “good” people seem to want to create conditions that actually cause human suffering.
In the meantime, I will continue to invest my time and energy helping wise leaders create a better future for all. I believe with Buckminster Fuller…
“If we don’t create a world that works for everyone, we will create a world that works for no one.”