Headline, February 04 2024/ ''' SUPERRICH SO SELF-FISHY '''



IN A BREAK FROM THE PAST - the Western World's wealthiest people no longer try to support the societies they live in. Why this exceptional selfishness of today's superrich?

These days - the very rich the world over are very selfish. Things it just seems could get very, very ugly.

[ MILAN ] THROUGHOUT MUCH of the Western world's history, the wealthiest have been viewed in their communities as a potentially unfavourable presence, and they have attempted to allay this sentiment by using their riches to support their societies in times of crises like plagues, famines or wars.

This symbiotic relationship no longer exists. Today's rich, their wealth largely preserved through the Great Recession and the Covid-19 pandemic, have opposed reforms aimed at tapping their resources to fund mitigation policies of all kinds.

THIS IS A historically exceptional development. Helping foot the bill of major crises has long been the main social-function attributed to the rich by Western culture.

In the past, when the wealthiest have been perceived to be insensitive to the plight of the masses, and especially when they have been appeared to be profiteering from such plights [ or simply have been suspected of doing so ], society has become unstable, leading to riots, open revolts and anti-rich violence.

As history has the unpleasant feature of repeating itself, we would do well to consider recent developments, including legislators' inability to increase taxes on the rich, from a long-term perspective.

Let us begin with the consideration that the presence of very rich, or even superrich, individuals has always been somewhat troubling for Western societies.

Medieval theologians regarded the rich as sinners and thought that the building of large fortunes should have been discouraged. At the very least, the rich were expected not to appear to be wealthy and provide generous bequests to charitable institutions to the benefits of their souls.

But with times, as new economic opportunities in trade and in finance led to the accumulation of fortunes of unprecedented size, the increased presence of extremely wealthy individuals within the community could no longer be dismissed as an anomaly.

From the 15th century, and beginning with the most economically developed areas of Europe, such as central-northern Italy, the rich were assigned a specific social role : to act as private reserves of money into which the community could tap in times of dire need.

Nobody made this point better than the Tuscan humanist Poggio Bracciolini. In his treatise '' De avaritia '' [ '' On avarice '' ], completed in 1428, he argued that cities that follow the tradition of instituting public granaries to build up food reserves should also be well provided of '' many greedy individuals, in order to constitute a kind of private barn of money able to be of assistance to everybody.''

There is abundant historical evidence that for centuries, across the West, the rich have dutifully fulfilled their role of '' barns of money '' in a variety of ways, which included accepting to pay exceptional taxes during crises or to provide leans to governments.

Often, in early modern times, these were technically '' forced '' loans to ruling authorities, although the fact that they were not a prerogative of absolute monarchies but were also required, usually in wartime, by republican governments such as that of Venice should make us wary of considering them the mere expression of an arbitrary power.

Indeed, the rich merchants who were the main '' victims '' forced loans were also the rulers of patrician republics and understood they were contributing their private resources to the public good.

For example, forced loans were imposed by Venice upon its richest citizens after the terrible plague of 1630 as well as to fund an exhausting war with the Ottoman Empire during 1645-69, although on both occasions the republic was able to raise much greater amounts from its own patricians by means of voluntary loans.

This is not altogether different from the patriotism with which many among the rich subscribed to various emergency loans during the World Wars, such as the Liberty Bonds issued in the United States in 1917-18 to contribute to funding the Allied war effort.

These loans proved to be a poor investment, as the interest tended to become negative in real terms  because of hyperinflation.

But in the 20th century as in the 17th, the boundary between free choice and constriction was blurred, as governments' welcomed any opportunity to increase the social pressure on those reluctant to contribute.

The Publishing of this Opinion continues. The World Students Society thanks Guido Alfani.

With most respectful dedication to all the Superrich and Selfless people of the world and then Students, Professors and Teachers. See You all prepare for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter X !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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