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January 8 2013

Was Bernie Madoff's Problem Just that He Had Too Much Money?

Charlotte Hays

"When you attack success ... you will see under this president less success,” Mitt Romney famously and truthfully said during the presidential campaign.

But President Obama--whose you-didn’t-build-that speech epitomized the attack on success--isn't the only one trying to sell the idea that financial success is morally questionable.

In a post headlined “Teaching Students to Feel Guilty about Financial Success” at the American Thinker, Christopher Pasley shows how the college application essay has become a vehicle for indoctrinating young people against financial success (good luck on that endowment fund, colleges!).

Pasley is commenging on an article in the New York Times about a new trend college application essays: writing about financial matters. At first glance, this might appear to be a wholesome development, promoting financial literacy. Unfortunately, this is not the case: 

How do high school seniors write exemplary essays about "finances," exactly?  One way is by concentrating their writing on corporate thugs like Bernie Madoff.  Lieber states in his article:    

At Pitzer College, a student used the example of the Ponzi schemer Bernard L. Madoff to take a philosophical look at how much money people truly need to be happy. 

Of course,thinking that Madoff's problem was that he has too much money is both morally and intellectually confused. Madoff’s sin wasn’t that he had a lot of money but that he acquired it illegally, ruining many people in the process. To blithely confuse what Bernie Madoff did with what a wildly successful, honest entrepreneur does is sloppy thinking.

College applicants can also write about "finances" by embracing class warfare and calling for higher taxes on the richest 1 percent. Another fruitful avenue is venting about the guilt they about the success of their parents (that would be the success that is allowing them to to go college). Paslay writes:

As a Philadelphia high school English teacher, I'm thinking about taking the NYT up on its invitation for seniors to write about finances.  Although I teach only 10th-graders, I can still begin indoctrinating them to revile the rich and all their financial success and achievement.  I mean, who in his right mind would want to be rich?  Make lots of money and contribute nearly 40 percent of it back to one's fellow man via the U.S. government in federal income taxes?  Who in his right mind would want to have a good quality of life and live in relative comfort?  Better to rail against money and success, become a sheep, and adopt a groupthink mentality; better to engage in class warfare and side with the "takers" over the "makers."

Paslay does take a dim view of nonprofits. Obviously, I work for a nonprofit and believe that we have an enormous role to play. This nonprofit doesn’t denigrate success, and we are here to counteract arguments against the free market. But otherwise, I highly recommend Paslay’s essay.

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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