Friday, April 28, 2006

Rich People Don't Start Wars?

Now that Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) is himself rich, he doesn't believe that rich people are Motivated by Money to start wars.
I have a theory that only people who have never been rich would believe that the rich are routinely willing to kill enormous amounts of people to get richer. Personally, I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. And I can speak from first hand experience about how it changes you. I’m far less bloodthirsty than before.
If you have watched too many James Bond films, you will be familiar with the caricature of the evil scheming villain who casually and cold-bloodedly creates destruction for the sake of profit and power. I have not myself visited the White House, nor attended a Haliburton board meeting, but I don't believe any more than Scott does that such characters can be found in the corridors of power.

But in the real world, that's not quite how financial greed influences events. People do things that just happen to make them richer, while telling themselves (and anyone who will listen) of the purity and generosity of their motives. People turn a blind eye to the nasty consequences of their actions (not that there are any of course). A lot of the dirty decisions are taken lower down, by people who want to gain favour from the people at the top.

The rich and powerful are jolly nice people, most of them. Kind and considerate, well-informed and rightly concerned about social and environmental issues. (They can afford to be.) If we were to discover that most of their money is invested in companies that exploit and pollute third world countries, when they preach the opposite, we might think them either naive or hypocritical. But we are unlikely to discover anything so simple, because investments are usually much more complicated and indirect than this. (Convenient, huh?)

The purpose of a system is what it does. When the USA goes to war with Iraq, and then the friends of the US president pick up all the reconstruction contracts, then the effect of the war is to enrich the president's friends. Has Scott ever heard of unconscious purpose?

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