Friday, December 17, 2021

Person of the Year?

In his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) Adam Smith wrote: of the "disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition," which he called "the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments." He continued: "That wealth and greatness are often regarded with the respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; and that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often most unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint of moralists in all ages."

I don't typically get excited about Time Magazine's choice for 'Person of the Year." I suppose if I had to pick someone for that honor for 2021, I might perhaps pick someone like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the public face of our public health fight against the deadly covid pandemic, or perhaps the Capitol Police who courageously protected Congress on January 6 and so saved American constitutional government (at least until the next election), or perhaps the state and local election officials who resisted Republican attempts to corrupt and subvert the electoral process and so saved American constitutional government (at least until the next election). All of the above would have been excellent selections. Instead what did Time do? Whom did Time choose?

Elon Musk may be a creative entrepreneur, and I can understand that that may impress some (maybe many) people. That is yet another notorious instance of what Adam Smith so poignantly described - respect and admiration which should go to wisdom and virtue going instead to wealth and the power that accompanies excess wealth.

Do we really need to see yet another rich capitalist honored? Doesn't wealth already have too much power in our society? Hasn't this pandemic highlighted how much damage is being done by inequalities in wealth? What kind of world does such a selection suggest? I fear it portends a world we do not need and should not want!

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