A Mr. Tom Perkins, said to be a multibillionaire, wrote a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal a few days ago in which he says the Occupy Wall Street folk are comparable to the Nazis in the period leading up to WWII. 80 years ago the Nazis were beginning to demonize the Jews — and we know where that led. Now, says Mr. Perkins, there is a trend toward demonizing the wealthy. Can he possibly be thinking the trend is leading in a similar direction? Surely no one could be that dense.
Are the super-rich innocent victims of a potentially deadly evil bias? Hardly. Rather, with perhaps only a few exceptions, they seem to be a class of people who are so devoted to our modern twist of capitalism (in which financial dealings are far more valued than productive contributions to culture and society*) that they are barely capable of perceiving there are moral and ethical dimensions to the “work” they are doing.
They cannot excuse themselves by claiming that the financial world of today is so new that we’ve not had time to develop an appropriate ethical sensitivity. Hear these words spoken by the prophet Amos on behalf of the Lord God nearly 3000 years ago:
“Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals — they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way. . .” Three millennia to learn how unjust it is to make the poor worse off so that the rich can be better off.
There can be no moral justification for the greed that dominates the work of our wealthiest people; no ethical justification for the wealthy profiting by millions and millions of dollars by driving thousands of people out of their homes and out of work.
Even less can there be any justification for the gross insult to the Jews of Europe who suffered so immeasurably in the 30s and 40s: Our wealthy cannot be compared with them in any sane or sensible way at all. Mr. Perkins, I fear, has made himself morally repulsive to men and women who care about justice and righteousness, whether Jew or Gentile.
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*One way to describe the genius of capitalism is that it is a way to create the wealth necessary to invest in producing goods and services. In our modern perversion of capitalism, the creation of wealth is ceasing to be a means to a productive end and has become the goal itself, the measure of “success” in the business world. I can hardly imagine that the word “capitalism” is any longer an apt name for our economic system. Its amoral character is rapidly becoming simply immoral.