A Troubling Trend of Class Warfare

November 21, 2012
By

Robin Hood only exists in storybooks, and personally, that’s where I think he should stay.

That’s because he’s a story – a fantasy based on emotion and myth.

But, unfortunately, there are more and more American leaders who have resurrected that story and successfully sold it to the American public as a realistic path for the future of our country.

Of all the insanities that transpired in this past election cycle, nothing was more troubling than the overwhelming trend towards class warfare. We saw it quite noticeably with the constant references to “millionaires and billionaires” and, earlier in the campaigning, the “fat cats on Wall Street.” This is something I have literally never seen in my adult life – a strong push to demonize the very people who, throughout history, have been innovative, smart and successful.

Since when did success become so unacceptable?

America has always been a place where there were opportunities to make it big, despite one’s background. It has never taken the approach of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor as Robin Hood did.

I can only hope that such rhetoric will be backed off of now that the election is over.

America and Americans have always been bred with the hope that one day they might find big successes. Our country is built upon the idea that someone can be in the right place at the right time and strike it rich.

Some of the biggest names in our history are those who have come from nothing – only to be innovative, smart and in the right place at the right time.

One of those names is John D. Rockefeller, one of my favorite characters in U.S. History.

Rockefeller came from nothing.

His father was a vagabond, a con man and an absentee parent. They moved constantly and his mother tried to teach him good lessons in the midst of their poverty.

Rockefeller took advantage of his opportunities, and found unique ways of making money as a kid – resorting to raising turkeys at one time and finding it profitable.

He understood business and cut his teeth at the bottom working the books for produce companies, further understanding how things could become more efficient and streamlined.

Finally, he made his own investments and soon found himself in the oil refinery business in Cleveland. Though he couldn’t have known it beforehand, Rockefeller had put himself in a prime position to capitalize on America’s new need for oil products. Forming Standard Oil, Rockefeller used his knowledge of business (especially shipping cost controls) to become the richest man in American history.

He certainly worked hard to get there. He certainly used his brain to get there. And he certainly wasn’t inherently evil for having rose from nothing to gain tremendous success (and set the standard for modern philanthropy in the process).

We would all like to have his story, and some have lived out versions of that story. However, more and more, innovators in our country are tarred and feathered for creating something out of nothing.

Take Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter, who has recently been raked over the coals for making too much money while his pizza delivery drivers make far less. Of course, the part of the story that is omitted is that Schnatter is a former pizza delivery man himself – who founded a better pizza delivery system and made it big. His is a true rags to riches story where he sold his car as a college student to get the money to start serving pizza in his father’s Indiana dive bar.

Now his company has 4,000 locations (including one in Revere) and he’s enjoying the fruits of a lot of hard, hard work in building that business from nothing to something.

Should Schnatter have stopped when he had mediocre success? Should Rockefeller have thrown in the towel after making $100,000? Do we want excellence at the top or just endless, undistinguished fields of mediocrity?

In the final estimate, I think it’s all about jealousy and entitlement – as well as opportunistic politicians who capitalize on those emotions running through the veins of the public. Many of us won’t find our way onto the money train, and that’s just the way it is. However, tagging on to a movement in which we want to take away the fruits of those who have rightfully earned their place on the money train is frightening and dangerous.

Class warfare will get us nothing but another war to wage.

Let’s keep Robin Hood in the storybooks where he belongs.


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