RICH OR POOR – you decide

November 25, 2011 11:50

So, RICH or POOR at this moment, individual Americans are at all times and by innumerable means free (for now) to choose their own paths to wealth or poverty, are free to dream and to pay, or not to pay, the price of their dreams.

By Brad Lyles, M.D.

What are the RICH? Who are they? Where do they come from? How do they get to be RICH? How do they stay RICH? Who cares?

Well, you should, unless you don’t want to be RICH, and who doesn’t want to be RICH?

Now, having chosen a path to RICHNESS, it is necessary we acknowledge the widely accepted notion that one must understand the nature of the “path” to a goal in order to achieve the goal.

Let’s start with the example of the not uncommon goal of becoming a physician. The path to this goal includes a minimum of 11 years of effort after high school.

Typically, the 18 year-old high school graduate who intends to become a doctor is consciously committing to four years of college, four years of medical school and another three to eight years of Residency training. Then, finally, the 18 year old (now 29 year old or older) can anticipate beginning her medical practice – heavily in debt of course.

The path to doctor-hood requires much more than eleven years of time, however. It also requires eleven years of endless study and achievement: A’s (in hard classes) during college, sufficiently high marks in medical school (to remain in medical school), and 12-16 hour days of study, class work, and clinic work, for years.

That’s not all. The path to doctor-hood also requires lots of money – for tuition – for room and board – for years.

There’s more: The path to doctor-hood requires an enormous capacity for deferred pleasure (earning no decent money until age 29 soonest) – and calculated risk (the 18 year-old pre-med student must accept the risk that he or she might die in a car wreck or die of cancer long before being qualified to practice).

Finally, in order to achieve doctor-hood, the 18 year-old must choose to brave eleven years of lost opportunities, what is known in economics as opportunity cost.

To get a feel for this, picture your college friend who went out into the world with his four-year business-major bachelor’s degree while you went off to medical school. Too soon you’re paying tuition for the pleasure of wearing cadaver grease while your friend is making $50,000.00 per year, driving a new car, saving for a house and getting treated like an adult.

Because you were pre-med in college, you were never able to do all the fun things your friend the business major did – you had to study – you had to pay opportunity cost. In medical school you did not have the opportunity to earn decent money, buy a car, get a house, or have people treat you nicely. Residency wasn’t much better.

In conclusion, our example “path,” i.e. the path to doctor-hood, requires a barge-load of hard work, long-hours, nights and weekends, eleven years after high school, significant risk, relentless deferred pleasure, and horrendous opportunity cost.

For the uninitiated, the path to doctor-hood might sound eerily draconian. Not so. The path to RICHNESS is far more challenging.

The path to RICHNESS is far more hazardous. It is strewn with appreciably more uncertainty than the path to doctor-hood. On the path to doctor-hood you know that if you merely survive the journey you’ll end up with financial security (of a sort) and public standing (of a sort).

On the contrary, the path to RICHNESS makes no promises at all. You might work for thirty days and strike it rich or work for thirty years and strike out.

Even so, research tells us that the path to RICHNESS is much like the path to doctor-hood. It requires 80-hour work weeks, commitment, and the willingness to accept ceaseless deferred pleasure, horrible risks and huge opportunity costs.

What about the path to POORNESS?  Clearly, the path to POORNESS is merely the path to RICHNESS, but in the opposite direction. Where else could such a path lead, a path constructed of a choice or inability to defer pleasure, a choice or inability to work hard, a choice or inability to behave appropriately, a choice or inability to “keep on going when the going gets tough,” and a choice or inability to tolerate opportunity cost and risk?

It is commonly assumed (wrongly) that the paths to wealth and poverty could not be as mundane as this, as predictable as this. Yet they are. A brief survey of our communities and of history tells us so.

How could it be otherwise? The law of averages tells the tale. Hard work and dedication will lead to success most of the time whereas no work and lack of initiative will lead to failure most of the time. This holds true even if we include the ‘unfair’ cases of inherited wealth and the tragedy of undeserved failure.

There are always going to be “bad” people who get what they do not deserve and “good” people who lose everything to a tragedy. Life does that.

Is all of this common sense? Certainly. But as Oscar Wilde said, “Common sense is not so common.” Accordingly, even though modern man benefits from 5,000 years of recorded history poised to help him figure out how to create wealth, many modern men persist in the delusion that wishful thinking, majority vote, and willful ignorance will suffice instead.

Many modern men are also relentless in doing everything possible to sabotage the creation of wealth, for themselves, and for society. They create needless bureaucracies that not only

slow, but actually reverse, the creation of wealth. They punish the creation of wealth by heavily taxing it, appropriating it, and diluting it (with inflation). The situation is so dire, now, that it is nearly inconceivable that anyone might become rich any longer.

More is at stake in all of this than merely the ability to afford both mail-order and downloaded versions of Netflix. What is at stake is America’s ability to remain free within its borders and the world’s ability to become more free – ‘as America goes, so goes the world.’

If American society persists in its populist compulsion to punish all of the behaviors by which individuals and societies become wealthy, how will it defend itself when it becomes too impoverished to afford defense? How will it protect the unalienable rights of its citizens when its government finds it necessary to impoverish its citizens – by law – (think Obamacare’s individual mandate, for example)?

So, RICH or POOR at this moment, individual Americans are at all times and by innumerable means free (for now) to choose their own paths to wealth or poverty, are free to dream and to pay, or not to pay, the price of their dreams.

On a single day, however, less than twelve months from now, Americans will collectively decide whether or not they will permit themselves a choice in their own futures, a choice of their own paths, a choice of their own pursuit of happiness. Rather than a choice of mere RICHNESS or POVERTY, however, Americans will ultimately be faced with the choice of liberty or servitude.

Paradoxically, though, if Americans fail to recognize the true nature of the paths to the mundane states of RICHNESS or POVERTY, they will find themselves unintentionally committed to the proverbial road paved with good intentions – to a hell of their own making.

Let us pray that in November, 2012, America will vote for wealth, and for freedom.

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