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In his column two weeks ago, Gordon Brown praised the principles of local businessman Len Houwers, describing them as "refreshing" and "common sense" (his favourite term when he doesn't have an argument to support his position).
Houwers' principles include:
You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
When half the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
At first glance, this looks like the usual stuff of the wealthy and the powerful who think they owe nothing to the communities from which they come and who wish to hoard their wealth.
After all, what does it mean to "legislate the poor into prosperity"?
Is this what happens when a law is passed which prevents a working person from being sacked from their job and losing their livelihood for no reason?
Is this what happens when citizens are taxed so we can have good schools and technical institutes so we have a skilled workforce?
Is it "legislating the wealthy out of prosperity" when their taxes go towards subsidies, so that small and medium- sized firms can take on apprentices and give our young a chance?
What about public money that goes towards exchange trips to foreign cities so businesspeople like Mr Houwers can make contacts and generate new business?
Does this legislate the wealthy out of prosperity, or does it strengthen communities by supporting people to develop contacts and businesses to seek opportunities?
Then I had a closer look at Houwers' principles and realised that they are an attack on the greedy aspects of the powerful and the wealthy, and rightly so.
Because what are we to make of the absentee landowner who does no work on the land, but simply gathers the rent off the hardworking occupant?
What of the chief executive of a large corporation who has put none of his or her own capital at risk, but who gets an annual salary of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, as well as a huge bonus, an income many times the amount of the average pay in the organisation?
And what do we make of the foreign- exchange dealer whose sole function is to clip the ticket of money sloshing around the world at the click of his or her mouse?
In the latter case, it looks like we elect him as prime minister.
But the point is that these are people who exert no effort. They live off the hard work of others. They receive without working for what they get, and somebody else must work for them to get what they take.
The problem we have today is the example set by big-business leaders. Increasingly, their pay is out of all proportion to the effort and skills they provide. We have a growing generation of people going into management who want top dollars, while those doing the real work struggle to get decent pay and conditions, not to mention basic security and fair treatment at work.
No wonder, when there are fewer and fewer opportunities for our young to get into training or even to get a job, we see folk at the top of Powderham St or Liardet St squirting windows and holding out their hand for some coins.
We could do a lot better to give them a chance to get ahead.
But let's not complain that providing that helping hand is anything other than good for us all.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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