Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

A Rich Man's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness

Reported by Marie Therese - January 31, 2007 -

Last Saturday morning during a heated debate on the Bush health care plan, Cashin' In panel member Jonathan Hoenig of CapitalistPig.com said this to Jonas Max Ferris: "You can show me the most beautiful Power Point presentation and a grand plan for socialized health care. I'm sorry. It it not American, to your point, Jonas. I mean, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Jonas. My pursuit of that happiness doesn't cost you anything. But, if I gotta pay to keep you on a respirator for ten years because you smoked your whole life, that's what it is. It's making your needs my obligation."

To his credit, Ferris told Hoenig to "lose the craziness".

However, Jonathan Hoenig's remarks are echoed by many of the wealthy and are indicative of a larger world view expressed by an elite group of individuals whose operant philosophy is reminiscent of the robber barons of old. They believe - these "special ones" - that they stand above the fray, functioning as beneficent "givers", creators of wealth, jobs and capital. As such they feel that they deserve to be treated with a higher degree of respect than you or I. To these "free market capitalists" anyone who isn't rich has a character flaw. Taken to its illogical and absurd conclusion, their economic theory postulates that there is enough capital available in the world to allow every person on the planet to become rich, if only they would pull themselves up by their bootstraps and work harder. Of course, sane people know that this is ridiculous. But adhering to illusion (and writing the occasional tax-deductible check to charity) is how people like Jonathan Hoenig are able to live with themselves.

Their actions with their own money give the lie to the very "free market" theory they espouse. Rather than spread it around, they horde their treasure, shelter it, nurture it, protect it, flaunt it and fight like cornered rats any time the "litte people" try to level the playing field by asking for a living wage or health benefits. Their attitude is "I've got mine and I'll destroy you if you try to take it away from me."

Hoenig and his ilk live in a self-absorbed dream world where they truly believe that their pursuit of happiness does not impact others.

In reality, the situation is quite the opposite.

For example, the following scenario based on an eyewitness recollection by a friend several years ago offers one example that contradicts Hoenig's claims. It is one of thousands, perhaps millions, of interactions that occur every day between the "special ones" and the hoi polloi.

An extremely wealthy man routinely entertains guests and runs up $500.00 bar tabs in posh eatery in the Napa Valley, California. He leaves a $1.00 tip each time. The net loss to waitperson is $49 to $74 plus IRS mandatory tax on assumed 8% tip ($8.00).

The rich guy is happy because he saved money.

Waitperson is unhappy because he/she lost money.

The rich man's pursuit of happiness does indeed "cost" someone else, in this case, a waiter or waitress.

John Donne had it right.

"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness...No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Jonathan Hoenig had better pray faithfully every day to the Great Green God Dollar that he continues to make enough money in the hedge fund business to afford health insurance.

Otherwise, his needs will become my obligation and my tax dollars will have to fund his medical care.

Fortunately for Mr. Hoenig, I (and millions like me) actually believe that we are all part of an organic whole and that universal health care is a right, not a privilege.

In my world, he would get his medical care.

In his world, those without health insurance would be left to die in alleyways while he gorged himself on gooseliver pate and washed it down with a bottle of Clos du Mesnil 1995.