Sunday, September 28, 2008

William Graham Sumner: That it is not Wicked to be Rich

Sumner’s view of government inaction in economics is acceptable for me only to certain extent. From the perspective of individual, “they are paid in proportion to the supply and demand of them.” In other words, everyone could become rich as long as they work hard, which is a typical American dream. From the side of government, Sumner argued that limiting one’s wealth is impractical, because “there is a wide margin between their ideas of how rich they would allow their fellow-citizens to become, and of the point at which they would step in to rob a man of his earnings.” But it’s an issue for government to balance between suitable intervention and over intervention, not completely inaction. Sumner’s main conclusion is “there is no reason to desire to limit the property which any man may acquire.” But the reality is, not any man may acquire property no matter how hard they work, which Sumner also agreed that “all aggregated capital will fall more and more under personal control.” That might be a reason why anti-monopoly law occurred later.

It’s interesting to see, both in history and today, Americans debate over whether government should intervene into economics, while Chinese government more and more tries to free its market from a highly controlled economics before. It seems these two opposite ideas need to find a compromise in between, just as what I was taught and still believe that economics works better when an invisible hand, the unconditional principle of free market itself, cooperates with a visible hand, namely, the government intervention. From my point, free market and government intervention should be interactive. Let the principle of economics alone, it naturally has ups and downs, so the government has responsibility to alleviate the unstable economical impact on society to minimum. On the other hand, the government shouldn’t control all aspects of economics or make plans for everything, which is against the nature of economics and proved problematic in a long term.

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