A Strange View on Wealth


Much has changed in the world since Steve Ahlquist of Uprise RI tweeted out a video by Will James that is sort of like an infomercial for Marxism as COVID-19 worked its tendrils into Rhode Island.

The video starts out noting the influx of “wealthy people… taking a coronavirus vacation in Rhode Island” — that is, arriving at their summer homes earlier than they normally would.  Meanwhile, as if to create a contrast, the video notes that unemployment claims are skyrocketing and “state residents” are having to “share resources.”

The video has stuck with me over the past month because its theme is so incredibly strange.  Let’s take its wealth assumptions about the summer residents as a given.  (That is, let’s put aside considerations like the lifetime of work retirees engaged in, and still may engage in, leading to their ability to enjoy their later years.)  At a time of increased scarcity and global uncertainty, how is it a negative for relatively wealthy people to join “us” in our community?

A conservatives first thought about the video might be to wonder how Ahlquist and James would react to a similar video complaining that poorer people from other countries are coming here to utilize Rhode Island’s resources.  I don’t want to extend this post to that argument, but only present it as a backdrop against which to suggest that something is wrong with your political and economic philosophy if you see people with relatively more resources coming into your area as a bad thing.

The video mentions unemployment… well, here comes a bunch of money to pay for local services.  To be sure, integrating that influx safely without spreading the pandemic was and is a challenge, but that’s all that it is.

Even the argument about limited resources is deeply flawed.  Take toilet paper as an example.  More people coming here means more demand for toilet paper, yes, and it was already in short supply.  Add to that the argument, which I’ve advanced, that prices ought to be allowed to increase in times of heightened demand (aka “price gouging”).  The progressive might respond that this would be a double whammy:  we’d end up with an even bigger shortage of toilet paper, while “the rich” from Florida and New York would snap up whatever is available.

But (1) we already had the shortage, and (2) at a higher price, even “the rich” aren’t going to stock up.  At the same time, people who are year-round locals have a better network to find the limited resources.  Perhaps they  could even resell it to the rich people at a profit.  More importantly, as the total wealth behind the search for toilet paper increases in Rhode Island, our area would have greater pull to get the scarce resource versus other areas.

And again, more wealth in the area means more opportunity for working-class residents to earn an income.  The alternative is a poorer community with less opportunity and less economic pull to address its needs.

Of course, one gets the sense that what progressives really want is for the wealthy to live elsewhere and just send us their money via taxes and Big Government.  That is a larcenous vision.

People are a resource, but they are intrinsically valuable.  While they are not more so because they are wealthy, they are certainly not less so.