If Richard Burton existed today, what would he have answered to the questionable article of Tim Worstall, contributor to the Forbes magazine? In fact, what would he have answered to all of those who believe that the poor would be much better if they remain poor or even poorer?
“History is a teacher of all things…and all views and opinions find justification through the interpretation of history. The argument used in Worstall’s article is the same used by proslavery against ending slavery. If we end slavery, there will be more unemployment; there will be more inequalities. Today this argument is used against ending “economic slavery”. George Fitzhugh in the 1850 arguing for slavery believed that where the common people are free, they are even worse off than slaves. This is the logic employed here. Where the poor people get more money, they will be even worse than the poor. So if we reverse the logic employed, it would mean that if we make the poor poorer they will be better off than the poor. So let’s get rid of the minimum wage and pay the poor nothing for their work just ensuring that they are fed and clothed. This would be the end of unemployment and of inequalities. Fitzhugh believed that slavery should be extended to the working class for their own good. Worstall’s argument, has convinced me that Fitzhugh was right after all. So the only remaining question is “where can I get me some of these economic slaves or chattel workers?”” Richard Proteau 2014
“The Human race is composed of a certain number of classes, just as all other forms of being, which are generally alike, but specifically unlike. The Rich, or the Wealthy, is the most elevated, and the poor the most subordinate of all classes in their economic structure, and therefore in their faculties. This is fact, unchanging, immovable, everlasting fact, fixed by the hand of the Almighty, but whether so at the beginning of all things, or by subsequent decree of the Eternal, mortals are not permitted to know. We know the fact, and God holds us responsible only for our mode of dealing with it, and when we willfully shut our eyes , disregard and ignore it altogether , and impiously strive to degrade our class down, or to force the Poor up, to “economic subsistence and minimum wage”, or a forbidden level, we are blindly striving to reverse the natural order, and to reform the work of the Almighty. And every man, and every woman too, in this broad world, North and South, East and West, is on one side or the other of this tremendous issue – either impiously and wickedly – helping on a monstrous crusade against the order of nature and decrees of the Eternal – or, however blindly, striving to preserve the normal order and safety of our Financial Institutions. This being so, and it is necessary so – what an awful responsibility rests on every individual, in view of the inequality and hopelessness around us, to get at the truth involved in this matter. The lecture of Worstall, embraced here, will enable all earnest and consciencious mind, who desire it to reach the fundamental truth of this momentous question. He has collected all the reliable modern authorities and through artful calculations demonstrated what the unperverted individual knows – that the poor is a different and subordinate class unworthy of any minimum wage which would only promote indolence while penalizing the industrious. This fundamental fact, clearly apprehended and accepted, becomes the starting point for the economic regeneration of our financial system and the restoration of our faith in the dollar with union and harmony in all classes of our global economy.” J.H. “Modern” Van Evrie, M.D.
OF “THE POOR PLACE IN NATURE.”
“Vices the most notorious seem to be the portion of the poor — idleness, treachery, revenge, cruelty, impudence, stealing, lying, profanity, debauchery, and intemperance, are said to have extinguished the principles of natural law and to have silenced the reproofs of conscience. They are strangers to every sentiment of compassion, and are an awful example of the corruption of man when left to himself.” ‑- Encyclopædia Economica. Art. “Poor” (1797).
MY DEAR Worstall,
I have read with pleasure and profit your able and courageous texts on the economic situation of the poor and their wrongful belief in their right to a minimum wage which goes against ‘Poor’s Place in Nature.’ It shows the reason why, from your last text published in Forbes, you were received with those encouraging sounds, which suggested a mob of Eve’s tempters rather than a scientific assembly of her descendants. Truth -‑ especially new Truth ‑- will ever meet with some such left‑handed compliment – you know my meaning; socialists, communists and all – which is, however, the sincerest homage. Those hisses would have sounded in my ears far sweeter than any cheers.
Like other students of economics, I am truly grateful to you for having so graphically shown the great gulf, moral and physical, separating the poor from the rich, and for having placed in so striking a light the economic cause of the difference ‑- namely, wanting to receive a fair wage; a minimum wage. There is hardly a traveler, however unobservant, who has not remarked the peculiar and precocious intelligence of the poor, his ‘turning lazy’ as the general phrase is, about the age of labor, and the rapid declension of his willingness to work in old age. It is pleasant to see anatomically discovered facts harmonizing with, and accounting for, the provisionary theories of Economic Social Darwinism as we are only registering merely what we have observed; a genetic upper class composed of the wealthy and a dim-witted underclass of the poor to emerge. It is already scientifically proven that ours descendants will be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the “underclass” poor who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.
However there are still those who would deny such natural evolution dreaming of a society that rewards indolence; where the poor who are indolent would tend to fare better than the wealthy who are industrious. The poor having adapted to the conditions of such a society, will be more “fit” than the wealthy who fail to adapt. This would be the ultimate result of not shielding men from the effect of folly by filling the world with the poor. Wasn’t this upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, with Justice Modern Holmes memorably defending government’s right to incarcerate and sterilize the poor by declaring “three generations of poor is enough!” (Poor Buck v. Rich Bell)
This is the essential flaw of economic fairness through such foolhardy ventures as minimum wage, which in privileging the poor and further subjecting the rich, puts society at war. Divinely instituted and universally practiced, economic slavery, promotes community, morality and protection for the industrious. Economic fairness such as minimum wage, on the other hand manufactures human degradation, oppression and selfishness in the poor. The pursuit of free social benefits through such strategy results in moral decline and by sacrificing the communal good for the benefit of the poor, minimum wage will only yield increases in the level of poverty. In eliminating the minimum wage, economic slavery will act as a civilizing force upon the poor elevating the enslaved under the care of the benevolent and paternalistic favor of the rich, making their conditions far superior to the poor laboring under minimum wage.
On all subjects of economic science, the rich and wealthy men, from their position, possess peculiar advantages when they undertake discussion. History, past and cotemporaneous informs all of us the phenomena of other forms of classes and societies, and we see every day around us the peculiarities and characteristics of poor society, of which little is to be learned from the poor. The ancients took it for granted that poverty was natural for most, and never attempted to justify it. The moderns assume that it is wrong, and forthwith proceed to denounce it.
I feel you have called upon me for my experience of the psychological character of the poor in order to reform the assumptions of the moderns. My opinions have been formed mostly by comparing, after ten years of travel, ‘on and off,’ the poor with the rich, amongst whom I have lived eight years, for the most part like one of themselves. This letter is therefore dedicated to you, with the special hope that your blogue, which is a credit to the study of Economics, may, in course of time, be expanded into more economic principles.
After being for some years “paradoxical” in my conviction of the innate and enduring inferiority of the poor which has had so many an opportunity of acquiring industrious civilization, but which has ever deliberately rejected such industrious labor, I find that the rising authors are beginning to express opinions far more decided than mine, and I foresee the futurity of hard compulsory social benefits which the socialist and communist will have brought upon his poor protégé. This socialist‑criminal movement has at last reached, I am told, its limit of exaggeration, and the pendulum begins slowly to swing back. It is the same with the poor, and as globalization becomes more common, and the world starting to ignore him, he will lose its advantages every year. In its case, as with the criminal, though there is little danger of our relapsing into socialism of which we read with shame, yet there is an ill time coming since the poor may demand a fair wage from their employers. Already there is a dawn of belief in a specific difference between the rich and the poor, which, carried out, leads to rightful conclusions. Perhaps ‑- permit me to observe – poverty and all its ills are genetically determined so nature should be allowed to remove the unfortunate as there is no point in helping them. It is William Sumner who said “A drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be, according to the fitness and tendency of things. Nature has set upon him the process of decline and dissolution by which she removes things which have survived their usefulness.”
Before the tribunal of economics, the poor have no more right to life than a rattlesnake; he has no more right to liberty than any wild beast; his right to pursuit of happiness is nothing but a license to maintain the struggle for existence. By empathizing with the poor and offering them a minimum wage we served only to perpetuate poverty and deviance. Instead we should classify, treat, supervise and reform the poor. This task would be to differentiate the poor according to the nature and sources of their problems, separating all those requiring special treatment including the defective class of those who cannot be trained, the lazy, the dumb and the useless and to identify those who are amenable to remedy; those who can through hard and industrious labor pull themselves out of the slumps to become renewed as the Forgotten Man.
Now who is the Forgotten Man? He is the simple, honest laborer, ready to earn his living by productive work. We pass him by because he is independent, self-supporting, and asks no favors. He does not require any minimum wage. He does not appeal to the emotions or excite the sentiments. He only wants to make a contract and fulfill it, with respect on both sides and favor on neither side. He must get his living out of the capital of the country. The larger the capital is; the better living he can get. Every particle of capital which is wasted on the vicious, the idle, the poor and the shiftless is so much taken from the capital available to reward the independent and productive laborer. But we stand with our backs to the independent and productive laborer all the time. We do not remember him because he makes no clamor; but I appeal to you whether he is not the man who ought to be remembered first of all, and whether, on any sound social theory, we ought not to protect him against the burdens of the good-for-nothing and the poor. In these last years I have read hundreds of articles and heard scores of sermons and speeches which were really glorifications of the good-for-nothing and the poor, as if these were the charge of society, recommended by right reason to its care and protection. We are addressed all the time as if those who are wealthy were to blame because some are not so, and as if there were an obligation on the part of those who have done their duty towards those who have not done their duty. Every man is bound to take care of himself and his family and to do his share in the work of society and only the free market shall dictate the nature of the wage he shall receive. It is totally false that one who has done so is bound to bear the care and charge of those who are wretched because they have not done so. The silly popular notion is that the beggars live at the expense of the rich, but the truth is that those who are not industrious live at the expense of those who labor and produce.
I subscribe myself,
My dear Worstall,
Yours very faithfully,
“RICHARD MODERN BURTON.”