My Opinion

There is nothing wrong with wealth or inequality

I recently toured the Biltmore estate, one of my bucket list goals. It did not disappoint and as ostentatious as it was in its time, a lot of good has come from it.

The point of what you will read here is that wealth is not bad, that inequality is not the problem it is made out to be and that private enterprise and wealth creates opportunities and a great deal of sustainable good. And after you read this post, you might want to read this article.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/is-increasing-income-inequality-a-myth

In the late 1800s George W Vanderbilt inherited about $240 million (2018 value) before there were income or estate taxes. So what did he do with his wealth?

For one thing he built the largest house in America, Biltmore in Asheville, NC has 250 rooms, took six years to complete and employed over 1,000 workers. He bought out many farmers to buy the land he needed, land that had been depleted by over farming. He relocated and helped grown an entire black town. He built up a village and added a dairy farm and much more. And then he landscaped the property adding over 100,000 trees. Today that town still benefits greatly from the existence of this major historic attraction.

Vanderbilt was a philanthropist including helping the black community in the Asheville area even paying for one man to become a doctor. He was an innovator in forestry and started a forestry school. After the federal income tax was installed and after his death, his wife sold 97,000 acres of forest to the federal government for $5 an acre thereby forming the core of a new national forest.

Working at Biltmore in the 1890s and early 1900s was a prized job as Vanderbilt paid at New York wage rates. He employed 30 full-time house staff.

Today, the Biltmore is still run by the descendants of George Vanderbilt. The Biltmore Companies employ over 2,400 people who maintain the 8,000 acres of the Biltmore Estate, hotels, winery, restaurants and shops. A 2012 economic study of the area concluded that the Biltmore organization was responsible for the presence of 4,440 jobs in the Asheville area, paying $139 million in wages, generating $238 million in value added, and remitting $27 million in state and local taxes.

By today’s standards of the political left, Vanderbilt should have been heavily taxed on his income and wealth because he represents the epitome of inequality. If you inherited $240 million today, about $92 million would immediately be confiscated by the federal government.

Do you think that $92 million would have created the value and benefits the Biltmore companies have created over the last 123 years?

Our goal should not be equality, but equality of opportunity. Government’s job is to provide incentives for work, to prevent artificial obstacles to opportunity and to provide an educational system and training that enhances the value of every worker. We need to build up, not tear down. We need to help create independence and responsibility and self-sufficiency, not measure success by growing the portion of citizens who rely on government programs.

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6 replies »

  1. Mr. Q, the last paragraph of your post reflects what is essential in getting more Americans to be able to participate in the economy and society. In contrast, our public school system generally aims in the opposite direction. The schools themselves are staffed by personnel who have little economic incentive to perform well. Poor teachers, mediocre teachers and great teachers are paid the same. A modern day wealthy philanthropist, Bill Gates, has made great efforts in trying to improve education. For his efforts he has been pilloried by the public education establishment. I would like to be optimistic. But I honestly cannot.

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  2. It is funny how people forget history. On the History Channel there was a series of The Man Who Built America. These were Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, and Ford. There is no question that they changed America by taking risks and building empires. And so, they were rewarded. They found GE, Ford, US Steel, Standard Oil, Railroads, Banks etc. JP Morgan even bailed out the federal government twice, once in 1893 and again in 1907, preventing the US from defaulting on its debt.

    The anti-trust laws that came about from these men’s empires was not to prevent them from having wealth but to ensure the American dream of opportunity was still possible. Monopolies were bad as was the resulting power of their concentrated wealth. But they didn’t want to take their wealth back then, just let others have a fair chance to make their own wealth.

    Today we have industry titans such as Gates, Bezos, Walton, Musk, Buffet and so many others. They too have changed the way we live and have created new jobs while making others obsolete. But now we want their money that we freely gave them. We did not have to buy their products but we did and now people want their money back?

    The amount of money they have does not matter. They took the risks and have earned the rewards. It is up to the government to ensure that the antitrust laws are followed and that there remains opportunities for others to develop new ideas and businesses just like these men did.

    I cannot think of one good example of innovation that has happen from within a totally socialist or communist society.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ” I cannot think of one good example of innovation that has happen from within a totally socialist or communist society.”

      Even the USSR’s weapons [AK-47 = German StG 44] and space programs were stolen from the Germans. Post-WW2, Stalin literally kidnapped German inventors/scientists and took them to Russia.

      .

      Liked by 1 person

      • The problem is that our education system has been so watered down so everyone can be PC indoctrinated that recent college graduates have never leqrned of the failures of socialism and communism. Current studies show that many millenials believe that capitalism is a failurew and socialism would be much better. Another example of hopw pouring more tax dollars into something doesn’t make it better. Education bufgets have been going up for at least the last 50 years and graduates today can’t even read or write.

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  3. You need to send this to the latest Goldman Sachs reject we have for governor. He probably still won’t understand.

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    • I can assure you that after he accumulated his own $400 million or so, he does not understand or clearly understands, but it doesn’t fit into his PC.

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