Doing what you can is important

“There are a finite amount of goods and services available on this earth. Economics is the way it is distributed.” With increases in technology we can produce more but, no matter, the amount will always be finite.

How this bounty is distributed is determined by the economic system of society. The more one group, the “top one percent” in the United States for example, gets, the less there is to divide among everyone else.

The system itself is not bad. The basis is that if you work hard you should be rewarded accordingly. If you’re smarter than your competition you should be more successful. The question I have is, how much “more successful” should that smarter harder working individual be? There will always be unfair competition, political influence in enacting laws or, in some cases, outright criminal actions. If a person works harder and is smarter they shouldn’t need an illegal or immoral edge. Let’s press on under the assumption that the system will, on its own, operate fairly and efficiently.

Answer this question. Who or what determined which of us was born “smarter”? What determined which of us was born into a family able to provide education and opportunity? What celestial lottery determined that a child is born to a struggling single mother in the inner-city or maybe to a family struggling in a third-world nation, Bangladesh for example, where the minimum wage is the equivalent of $38 per month? Children born in these circumstances will lack even basic education and, without education, there is no hope of ever overcoming poverty. Some kind of help is needed.

The cynical among us will simply respond that that’s the way the world is. And they’re right. But shouldn’t someone somewhere be trying something to change that? Think of that $38 a month wage the next time you read or hear of someone buying a dirty sweat-soaked T-shirt once worn by Elvis Presley and paying several million dollars for it. There are children here, in the United States, our own country, the richest nation on earth, going to bed hungry. Who is it to which “several million dollars” is valued so little as to be invested in a dirty, sweat soaked T-shirt?

Our churches are regularly filled with people singing hymns and professing to “believe” in Judeo-Christian ethics. That belief seems reach about as far as the door. From the more considerate there may be a shrug of the shoulders, a feeling that the few dollars they contributed to the collection plate is their attempt to help. That shrug would be followed by the comment, “Well, that’s the way things are.”

Again the problem is that they’re right. That is the way things are. Those of us who own stock in various companies that are doing business in those third world countries regularly cash dividend checks provided by that $38 a month wage earner. Wouldn’t it seem that we owe them something more?

That problem is growing and right here in the United States, within our own labor market. The division of the wealth in our nation is being influenced, fairly or unfairly, by economic interests, interests who seem to see more value in Elvis Presley’s old T-shirt than in helping that single mother’s hungry children. But we shouldn’t simply dole out money. We must create an atmosphere, conditions wherein those folks can work with pride to earn a decent wage. Those hungry children are going to remember the situation they grew with. Isn’t that what’s happened/happening in the middle-east countries we hear of in the evening news?

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We should also contemplate what we might have right here, “where we are,” if we don’t do something. That collection plate is a start but we’re going to have to do much more.

Editors note: Ben Mukkala is an award-winning northern Michigan author whose several books on life and living are available in printed and e-book form. Books are available in bookstores and gift shops or through his website,