Now, with the property worth roughly $60,000 less than the balance of their mortgage, Martin, 68, has been giving serious thought to just walking away, a process lenders call “strategic default.”
“Guilt and morality are one side, and objective financial analysis are on the other side,” Martin said. “They’re coming to two opposite conclusions. I wonder how many other people are struggling with the same question.” [Emphasis added.]
Actually, there is nothing at all immoral about walking away from an underwater mortgage. Yes, people (particularly Christians) are generally morally bound to pay their debts. But here’s the thing: If you default, your debts will be paid.
In a general mortgage agreement, the borrower agrees to borrow a certain amount of money at a specified price (called interest) from a lender. Since houses tend to be expensive, lenders don’t generally give out unsecured loans; in fact, lenders generally demand some type of security—also known as collateral—to secure the loan. In general, a mortgage is secured by the property being purchased with the mortgage.
This means that if a borrower misses a specified number of payments (known as default), the lender has the right to confiscate the property pledged as security as compensation for the loan. Stated another way, if you default on your loan, your lender will confiscate your pledged property. In essence, by confiscating your property, your debt is considered paid in full by the lender. You therefore owe the lender nothing, for the lender has stated, per the terms of the contract, that ownership of property offered as security will suffice as repayment in lieu of currency.
That the lender may take a loss on the loan is the concern solely of the lender. The lender has a moral responsibility to do due diligence on each loan, in order to maximize profit. If a lender fails to anticipate a declining housing market, that is his own problem. If a lender fails to anticipate high inflation, that is also his own problem. The borrower is not responsible for ensuring the lender’s profits, the lender is. If the lender is a fool, it is not the borrower’s job to save the lender from his foolishness.
As such, it is not inherently immoral to walk away from an underwater loan. If the lender contractually accepts the property used as security as sufficient for repayment, then there is no problem with using that property to repay the loan. The only question the borrower has to ask himself is which payment method is cheaper—cash or property—and act accordingly.
Note: obviously, this is a general moral guideline, not specific legal advice. Treat it as such. If you are considering a strategic default, consult with an attorney first.
The other day, my brother emailed me to ask if it was wrong to play the stock market. Since I was going to take the time to write him, I thought I’d share my response on my blog.
In the first place, it’s important to note that the stock market is inherently neutral, morally. By this I mean that the stock market, as a non-human entity, cannot go to heaven or hell and, as such, cannot be inherently moral or immoral by its own state of nature.
In the second place, it’s important to note the sources of immorality within the stock market. Karl Denninger has documented massive amounts of fraud among traders, particularly among firms that engage in automated trades. Furthermore, many companies traded on the stock exchange engage in illegal and immoral business practices. Many trades are based on fraud (think of businesses that lie about their balance sheets and income statements). Also, many people engaging stock trades are highly immoral.
Does this then mean that one can never trade stocks? Of course not. If it were immoral to trade with those who are immoral, then no one could buy groceries or clothes, or engage in any kind of trade. And it is not inherently immoral to be the victim of fraud (though it is foolish). Interacting with those who are immoral does not cause their immorality to transfer to you by the merits of trade.
However, those who are immoral can end up having an influence simply by the virtue of your continued interaction with them. This does not mean that the venue of your interaction is immoral. Rather, your decision to allow those who are immoral to drag you down to their level is immoral, and it is you who will bear the guilt and blame for that decision, not the stock market.
It is worth noting, though, that if playing the stock market troubles your conscience then you should refrain from playing the stock market (cf. Romans 14). And it is also worth noting that there are many major players in the stock market who are simply looking for a sucker of which to take advantage, and that the government has often turned a blind eye to the fraud that usually accompanies this. As such, though it is perfectly moral to play the market, it is at this point in time quite foolish to do so.
One of the benefits I have obtained from reading Nicholas Phillipson’s excellent book, ‘Adam Smith, an Enlightened Life’ is a better understanding of what Smith was trying to achieve in writing ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ (TMS). He apparently saw the book as a contribution to a ‘science of man’ based on the observation of human nature and human history. As such, it provided a theory of sociability as well as a theory of ethics.
Phillipson suggests that TMS can be viewed as a response to earlier writings of other scholars. In the interests of brevity, an appropriate place to begin the story is with David Hume’s view that human personality had been refined by the civilizing process – that humans were happiest when they were active and were best able to live an active life in a commercial society. By contrast, Jean Jacques Rousseau claimed that humans were naturally indolent and had only been truly at one with themselves in the ‘savage state’, before they discovered commerce and developed a vain desire for superiority over one another. Smith agreed with Hume – the TMS provides his view of how humans learn morality from the experience of common life and how this can lead to the improvement of society.
Smith acknowledged that everyone wants to better their condition. At one point he even seems to imply that everyone places higher priority on improving their relative position in society than on achieving an easier and more pleasurable life (TMS: 50). (My grandmother, whose life became easier and more pleasurable in the 1950s after she obtained her first refrigerator and washing machine, might have thought that comment to suggest that Smith was not sufficiently aware that he lived a privileged life. But I digress!)
Smith also makes the point that individuals should be responsible for looking after their own interests: ‘Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care; and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so’ (TMS: 82). (I think Smith makes a stronger case for individual freedom here than who make the dubious claim that each individual is always the best judge of his or her own interests. But I digress again!)
Impartial spectators condemn violations of fair play among individuals competing to better themselves:
‘In the race for wealth, and honours and preferments, he may run as hard as he can, and strain every nerve and every muscle, in order to outstrip all his competitors. But if he should justle, or throw down any of them, the indulgence of the spectators is at an end. It is a violation of fair play that they cannot admit of’ (TMS: 83).
Smith’s ethics is based on the simple proposition that when individuals reflect upon their own past actions from the viewpoint of an impartial spectator they feel remorse when they have acted unjustly. His response to critics who suggested that he was reducing the principles of ethics to popular culture was that while children might seek to be universally agreeable, mature people who have important interests to manage find that they cannot please everyone. While some people might be content to follow popular culture, those who are morally responsible and fitted for public life have to establish their own impartial spectators as a judges in their own minds (Phillipson, p164-165).
Irrespective of whether we find it useful to imagine an impartial spectator embodied within our selves, it is clear that humans do have the capacity to reflect on their own behaviour and to follow the dictates of conscience rather than always seeking immediate pleasure or following selfish interests. This is not always easy, however. As Jonathan Haidt points out, our efforts to become morally responsible may be hindered by our inner lawyers who seek to excuse us and blame others for our misdeeds. Haidt suggests that it is worthwhile acknowledging our faults to ourselves:
‘When you find a fault it will hurt, briefly, but if you keep going and acknowledge the fault, you are likely to be rewarded with a flash of pleasure that is mixed, oddly, with a hint of pride. It is the pleasure of taking responsibility for your own behaviour. It is the feeling of honor’ (‘The Happiness Hypothesis’, p79).
Identity economics, developed by George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton, may provide a useful framework to consider the process of character development that Adam Smith was discussing. Everyone obtains satisfaction from acting in accordance with their identity and is discomforted by acting contrary to it. A person who perceives himself or herself as the kind of person who respects the rights of others is likely to obtain satisfaction from acting in accordance with this ideal. This person may develop a reputation for trustworthiness and is likely to be trusted.
However, I don’t think it is particularly useful to try to think about development of identity and character outside the context of social interactions that reward particular behaviours and penalize others. It seems to me to be a fact of life that a person who identifies strongly as a member of a small community and has limited social interactions outside that community is less likely to feel conscience-stricken if he or she acts unjustly towards a stranger than towards another community member. The ethics of respect for the rights of strangers is no doubt encouraged to some extent by abstract ideals that would be endorsed by impartial spectators, but is likely to be more strongly encouraged by mutually beneficial commerce which offers ongoing rewards for ongoing cooperation between strangers.
If big government is taking us towards a brave new world we might expect this to show up in differences in values held by people in countries with big and small governments. As discussed in my last post there seems to be some evidence that people in high-income countries with big governments tend to hold more secular-rational values than those in high-income countries with small governments. In this post I explore this further by looking particularly at differences in the values that children are encouraged to learn at home.
World Values Surveys ask a directly relevant question about what qualities it is especially important for children to be encouraged to learn at home. Respondents are asked to choose from the following list: good manners, independence, hard work, feeling of responsibility, imagination, tolerance and respect for other people, thrift (saving money and things), determination/ perseverance, religious faith, unselfishness and obedience.
I have focused on the 14 high-income countries with protestant or catholic heritage for which data is available from the most recent World Values Survey (WVS 2005 – 2008). These countries have been ranked by size of government, using government spending as a percentage of GDP as an indicator of size of government (OECD Economic Outlook data on general government outlays as a percentage of nominal GDP, averaged over the three years 2005–08).
Child qualities which apparently differ in importance between the countries with big and relatively small governments were identified by looking at the differences between the averages for the four countries with largest and smallest size of government. The differences were greatest (relative to the mean) in the case of hard work, thrift, religious faith and unselfishness.
The results are shown in the following table in which countries are ranked by size of government. For each variable the five highest numbers are shown against a red background and the five lowest ratings are shown against a blue background.
The results suggest that hard work tends to be more strongly encouraged in the countries with relatively small governments, while thrift tends to be more strongly encouraged in countries with big governments. (I find that result surprising because hard work and thrift often tend to be linked together as traditional virtues.) The results for religious faith and unselfishness do not appear to be consistently related to size of government.
It will be interesting to see whether any consistent patterns emerge from an examination of other values that apparently differ according to size of government.
In my last post I gave several reasons why I think the ‘good society’ is a useful concept. There is another reason. The concept of a ‘good society’ may help us to think more clearly about progress.
What is the problem with progress? I am just about old enough to remember the 1950s when the most persuasive point used in favour of any change in Australia seemed to be: “You can’t stand in the way of progress”. A lot of good things were done in the name of progress but other things, particularly uneconomic public investment in dam building etc. gave progress a bad name. More recently the concept of progress has been confused by well-meaning people who have combined national accounting concepts with idiosyncratic values to produce meaningless indicators of “genuine progress”. Further confusion results from the tendency for people who still cling to long-discredited collectivist political views to be described as progressives.
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The article in “The Economist” this week (19 Dec ’09 to 1 Jan ‘10) about progress and its perils discusses the popular view that while technology and GDP advance, morals and society are either treading water or sinking back into decadence and barbarism. The general message is that despite a general tendency to shy away from judgementalism many people yearn for a sense of moral purpose. The article ends by quoting Susan Neiman, a philosopher, who asks people to reject the false choice between Utopia and degeneracy: “Moral progress, she writes, is neither guaranteed nor is it hopeless. Instead it is up to us”.
I agree that people need a sense of moral purpose. A large part of the apparent decline in sense of moral purpose, however, can be attributed to a lack of moral clarity. In particular, there seems to be a great deal of confusion about the morality of modern consumer society. It is common to hear even avid users of new technology suggesting that the production of this stuff uses scarce resources but does little to add to their happiness in the long run. So why do they buy it and use it? Could it be because such stuff provides them with improvements in communications etc that are of enduring benefit, even though it has little effect on their emotional states in the longer term? The moral issue, whether it is good for us to have such stuff, does not depend on its transitory impact on our emotional states.
In terms of public policy, if progress means anything it must mean movement toward a good society, or movement from a good society to a better society. Changes can be counted as progress if they improve our capacity to live together in peace, provide us with greater opportunities to flourish or provide us with greater security.
However, the idea of progress also embodies optimism about the future of humanity – the idea that there has been a tendency for material, political, social, intellectual and moral conditions to improve throughout human history and that such improvement will continue in the foreseeable future. Roger Kerr has recently reminded us how inspiring the idea of progress was in the 18th Century. He argues that the idea that life tends to get better over the longer term still has potential to be inspiring today.
It seems to me that despite all the existing and potential problems faced by humanity there is a basis for optimism that advance of knowledge will continue to enable people to enjoy progressively better lives in coming decades.
Amidst the madness (March and otherwise), around America we have been seeing signs of outrage at all sorts of characters, from our elected officials to AIG execs to foreclosure auctioneers. Indeed worldwide, the signs of growing unrest amongst the populace are beginning to spread. But while people are angered by all sorts of errors, they are failing to see the causes of these errors. Indeed, in many cases they are pointing their fingers in the wrong places, blaming for example the unbridled free market or greedy profit-seekers for bringing us all down. The truth is that we are very far removed from true free market capitalism, and have been since well before the recent nationalizing of various sectors of the economy. Regarding greed, it is greed that has brought us the opulence and luxury that we take for granted. It is greed that leads us through voluntary trade to obtain products that we cannot produce in order to better our condition. It is greed that drives a company to produce a better product than its competitor at a lower price. It is greed that allows us to survive and thrive, instead of sacrificing our lives to others. But enough about greed.
More fundamentally, what we are lacking is morality. To this end, the title of this post mocking Paul Krugman is meant to signal that it is the liberal (little l, not big L) flavor of morality that is what is killing us. When we begin to examine things from a moral level, this will lead us to see the proper path to peace and prosperity.
One of the principle beliefs in liberalism is that it is the job of the government to better the conditions of its people. If this were limited to protecting individuals from the harm of other individuals, this would be a noble and just undertaking. But liberals would like to accomplish this goal by going far beyond the limited scope granted to the state by the Constitution, and instead seeking to impose their brand of morality through a host of programs that in the end amount to stripping the people of their most cherished liberties, often with chosen groups benefiting at the cost of society as a whole. If we examine our system of political economy under this scope, it becomes much clearer to see that what we are living under is an entirely immoral system, in which liberals through the academia and media have used their sophistry to serve their perversely unjust agenda.
First, let’s take a look at the central bank. The Federal Reserve, a government-granted monopoly, was instituted because it was felt that banking crises in the past were too painful, and a central bank could prevent against them. With the noble goals of price stability and full employment, it would appear that the central bank would be a boon to prosperity in America. However, the central bank in fact insures that neither of its dual mandates can be met. First, the Federal Reserve has the sole power to set interest rates for the entire financial system and through this process also control the money supply. It is through these powers enhanced by a fractional-reserve monetary system and legal tender laws in which no other banks can compete with their own currencies that the government crystallizes the boom-and-bust cycle (ensuring periods of mass unemployment), inflates (destroying the purchasing power of one’s store of wealth, causing price instability and helping banking institutions at the cost of other businesses) and moreover creates through the power of law an inherently insolvent financial system. Inflation decreases debts, and so public debtors like the government benefit in being able to pay for social programs with cheaper money at the expense of the taxpayer, while private debtors like individuals benefit at the expense of the creditor. The banking system as a whole of course is technically insolvent because were there to be runs on every single bank, since banks only hold around 10% of funds in reserves, they would be unable to pay their depositors their money back in full. The FDIC further could not cover all the funds needed (unless push comes to shove they decided to ask the Fed to print money, meaning massive inflation), and in itself represents a moral hazard, but that is not essential to our discussion. The principle stands that a cornerstone political entity which is supposed to help people hurts all of us (though bankers and other people with access to artificially cheap credit may benefit for a time at our sake). Further, it stands as a fraud in its ability to print infinite money out of thin air and its insolvence. In other words, it is immoral.
Let us take a look at some other recent examples of liberals trying to help Americans through regulations. In order to protect American unions, Congress voted to stop Mexican truckers from being allowed to travel through the US, violating NAFTA. In theory, it seems like it would hurt American truckers to allow competition from Mexico. Yet what is the end result of this seemingly well-intended policy? Mexico will now be slapping tariffs of between 10 and 45% on approximately 90 US industrial and agricultural products. Are the gains from the blocking of free trade to support a specific union greater than the losses to the American people in having to pay for more expensive goods? Ask yourself whether that rhetorical question seems moral.
Another example of the fallacy that these types of regulations help would be the SEC. The Ponzi scheme of Mr. Madoff if anything should have shown that the SEC is an incompetent entity, and further one that creates moral hazard, hurting all consumers. They failed to pick up on the scheme despite repeated efforts by individuals to prove the firm to be a fraud, and in their incompetence took down investors who assumed that the operation was legitimate given the rubber stamp of the United States government. This same situation has been replayed in other fraudulent schemes as well only now being uncovered. But this is exactly what happens when you have a government entity given monopoly power over regulating companies. In a system in which private investors were responsible for their investing decisions, as opposed to having a government institution their to insure safety, these problems would be avoided. In fact, private firms have been all over these frauds in the past, but have lacked the power to stop the fraud because of the SEC’s complacence. Is it really so hard to envision a system in which firms competed against each other to provide the best oversight of companies for investors? Instead, again we see a situation in which a state agency ostensibly there to protect the public ends up hurting the public through its incompetence in stopping fraud, and in its lulling of the public into a false sense of security. Verdict? Immoral.
Another hallmark of leftists is the belief in the use of the state to promote equality and fairness. Take a goal the lefties have like shrinking the inequality gap in incomes. In order to do this, the government developed a system of progressive income taxation whereby those earning more would sacrifice greater percentages of their incomes in order to subsidize those who were worse off through various programs. This system of redistribution has led to a tax regime in which 60% of people pay income taxes, subsidizing the 40% of people who do not.
Yet leaving aside the grave injustice that such a large percentage of people get the benefits of programs paid for by others, progressive taxation ends up hurting the very people it purports to help. Since those earning more are taxed at a higher rate, this discourages productivity, meaning that businessmen will be disincentivized to generate better products at cheaper prices. This will mean smaller profits, which means lower wages for the employees, and for the consumers, worse and more expensive products. Thus, everyone loses as a result of progressive taxation.
Further, in principle, it seems immoral to my mind that people should be penalized for being more financially successful than others. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that people are punished for success and rewarded for failure in order to level the playing field? Should a dominant right-handed pitcher have to pitch lefty in order to make it more fair for opposing batters? Should a Nobel Prize winner have to incur a few concussions so as to knock his intellect down a few notches?
One can see that this principle pervades not just the tax structure, but also the way in which we have dealt with our entire financial crisis in that financial institutions that made poor decisions are being propped up by everyone, specifically at the cost of the financial institutions that were superior who deserved to gain market share as a result of the failures of their competitors, and who could use the assets being wasted by the poorer institutions productively. In addition, again all of us are paying through direct taxation, debts which will have to be paid in future taxes and/or inflation a more deceptive but equally odious tax for the failures of a given group. Forcing everyone to pay for private failure is immoral, especially when we are burdening yet-to-be-born generations of American citizens in doing so.
Another example of this perversion of morality is in affirmative action. By taking into account race and sex when it comes to college admissions or employment in businesses, we have institutionalized an inherently racist and sexist system. I find this to be degrading in that we are judging people not on their merit but on traits they are born with. I feel especially bad for someone like Clarence Thomas, a brilliant jurist who unfortunately has had his whole career doubted because of affirmative action. In other situations, an individual lacking in merit may be put in a position in which they are ill-equipped to thrive due to preferential treatment from affirmative action. In this case, the employer or school is left with an underperforming employee or student. In the case of business, the shareholder and/or consumer is left with a worse investment and/or product. And again, just thinking logically, imagine if you managed a baseball team where in evaluating a player you had to add 50 points to the batting average of anyone with red hair. Not a good way to succeed, and a pretty arbitrary way to pick a team if you ask me. This is akin to affirmative action. In sum, as a result of trying to break down social barriers, these barriers are erected and all bear the cost of falsely trying to help those seeking redress for prior injustices. Members of the “minority” and “majority” alike suffer.
Going back to the financial crisis, many people have spoken to the notion that housing is the key to fixing the crisis. Indeed, many of the assets crippling the financial institutions are those tied to non-performing mortgages. So the government, in an attempt to stem this problem has sought to keep people in their homes by allowing judges to alter contracts to lessen the debt burdens on those with mortgages they cannot afford. Again, this seems like a noble policy in which the state is trying to help out some of its people, just like the noble policy that the state pursued through the CRA and Fannie and Freddie in attempting to put every citizen into a home (note implied sarcasm here). It is this entitlement mindset however that hurts society as a whole.
Witness the collapse of Fannie and Freddie and the drain on taxpayers funding it, all of the homeowners now underwater who purchased houses they could not afford as a result of the easy credit fueled by the Federal Reserve and the inane policies that the government pushed upon lenders to put people into these homes. Then, perhaps even worse, remember that those who do not have mortgages or who can pay their mortgage are now being forced to subsidize those who can’t. This creates a moral hazard in signaling that it is okay for people to live in houses they cannot afford. This hurts renters who would otherwise be able to live in these vacant houses but who cannot because of the bailed out mortgage holders. This hurts the lenders who are being forced to take haircuts on properties that they will still probably not receive interest and principal on. This hurts people who have the desire and the means to be able to purchase these homes that should have been foreclosed. To blame the auctioneers of the homes, the ones who are helping stabilize the housing market by matching buyers with sellers makes me apoplectic.
At root and behind this by no means exhaustive and rather poorly organized list of various instances of government intervention with seemingly beneficial goals that end up having the direct opposite effects, plundering almost all citizens while benefiting small groups of others is the belief in democracy, immorality’s bedfellow. As Madison noted in Federalist #10, “…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” In fact it was Karl Marx himself who said that “Democracy is the road to socialism.” Not once is the word democracy mentioned in our Constitution, and the founding father’s ardently defended against it throughout the Federalist Papers. Yet everywhere today, people speak of America as a democracy, and we know we have become one based upon the previous examples. The political system has become a free-for-all in which every single group has sought to gain power at the expense of every other group through government fiat. Our prescient old friend Frederic Bastiat describes the process by which we have ended up here:
Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter — by peaceful or revolutionary means — into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.
Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails among the mass victims of lawful plunder when they, in turn, seize the power to make laws! Until that happens, the few practice lawful plunder upon the many, a common practice where the right to participate in the making of law is limited to a few persons. But then, participation in the making of law becomes universal. And then, men seek to balance their conflicting interests by universal plunder. Instead of rooting out the injustices found in society, they make these injustices general. As soon as the plundered classes gain political power, they establish a system of reprisals against other classes. They do not abolish legal plunder. (This objective would demand more enlightenment than they possess.) Instead, they emulate their evil predecessors by participating in this legal plunder, even though it is against their own interests.
In summation, all of our problems are a result of the inversion of morality by the sophistry of leftists, and a gullible public that deludes itself into believing that the government is working for fairness, equality, charity, security, peace and prosperity, the very things it undermines through its policies. The belief in the US as a progressive democracy has aided this cause. A simple dose of true morality however would provide the antidote for all that ails us.
It is this conception of morality in the tradition of classical Liberalism that was built into our Constitution, insuring that the state solely preserve our natural rights to life, liberty and property against the aggression of other individuals, and moreover against the tyranny of the majority. It was this system of government with limited powers, in which people could choose their own form of morality over that imposed by the force of the state. This choice of what was moral could be made at one’s own peril: people could choose to accumulate as much wealth as possible or sacrifice all of their wealth to charity; businessesmen could operate for consumers at a profit or for the “public good” at a loss; soul-searchers could choose to live good Christian lives or become pot-smoking hippies or dwell in hedonistic communes.
The point is that people had choice, and they were responsible for their choices and protected from harmful choices of others by the rule of law. Until we rekindle this system of limited government standing to protect free markets and free people — a system firmly grounded in morality — we will be doomed to mob rule and the perpetuation of the aforementioned immoral follies.
Egalitarianism is the ideal that everyone should be equal. It does not mean equal in the sense of equal treatment under the law, regardless of skin color, height, gender, religion or level of wealth. It means that everyone ends up the same. It means that everyone finishes the race together, even if that entails placing heavy weights on the faster runners. Many assume that egalitarianism is the moral high ground, that inequality of conditions is inherently bad, and that equality equals justice. To the contrary, however, egalitarianism is the repudiation of reason, of all of economics, of morality, of human intelligence and of life itself.
It is quite evident that no two situations are alike. Someone who chooses to live in the desert will have certain resources that are available and specific limitations as to what he can produce. The same person doing the same thing in fertile valleys or in a rain forest or in the arctic tundra will have a different set of resources and limitations. Obviously, geographical location will give certain advantages and disadvantages, unequal productivity and unequal wealth for identical people in each of those situations. That is neither bad nor good. It just is. To say it shouldn’t be is like saying gravity shouldn’t exist.
When you consider the vast differences in intellect, native talent, size, dexterity and a thousand other attributes of human beings, the large differences due to geography are magnified. Some people are exceptionally bright, some are exceptionally dull. Again, that is not good or bad, it just is. It is nature, it is life.
Some people in society get to be surgeons. No matter how bright the individual is, that doesn’t happen accidentally or automatically. A surgeon becomes so by making a decision and paying the very high price to get there. While the economic cost is high, there are far more important costs to take into consideration. It takes many years of grueling study, hard work, long hours and unpleasant conditions to make it to the point where a doctor can excel at his or her work. That is true, to some extent, for almost any profession. There are many capable people who choose not to pay the personal price and, in so doing, choose a lower paying career.
Some unfortunate souls who have paid the price find out after the fact that the ongoing personal cost is not worth the higher pay. I know an engineer, for example, who was successful, but didn’t want the rat race. He gave up an engineer’s salary to become a farmer. His income was less and farming was harder physical work and required longer hours, but to him, it was worth it. He made a tradeoff because he believed that some things were worth more than a high salary. Not everyone agrees with him.
Thus, we can see that much more enters into the picture than just innate abilities or geography. All humans make tradeoffs in their daily lives which affect the future. Students at all levels of education take actions each day that affect their future, their careers and their lives. There are some who are not exceptionally intelligent, but they work very hard and become exceptional. There are others who have a high level of native intelligence and skill, but they choose not to use them for whatever reason. It is reasonable to expect that the economic results of those two will likely be significantly different. In general, those with higher intelligence, those with specific innate skills and those who work harder and longer will earn more money and be able to do things that those less intelligent or skilled or hard working will not. That is very good because it rewards people for being productive, and thus contributing to society.
What is bad is when someone takes something that does not belong to them. Theft and physical aggression, whether actual or threatened, are almost universally thought of as bad. Throughout history, morality has centered around respect for the life and property of the individual. Further, what is immoral for one person to do is also immoral for presidents, congressmen or any collection of people to do. The biggest, most effective predators in modern times are large centralized governments, who use the flag of equality to cover their sins and to justify massive legalized theft and interference in the lives of citizens. It is past time for thinking people to take back the high ground and recognize the inherent immorality of egalitarianism.