A chilling— and true? –quotation by novelist G.K. Chesterton in A Miscellany of Men, on the subject of generosity:
Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.
Today there are many almost accidental millionaires; for example, those whose modest start-up companies are purchased for massive amounts of money by the juggernauts like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. Even an innovator like Bill Gates, one of the richest men on the planet, may not have had the goal of multi-billionaire when he first started fiddling with computers. Along with Mark Zuckerberg, Mr Gates has lofty plans to make the world a better place.
But I understand Mr Chesterton’s meaning, in a broader sense. While great suffering exists in the world, does great wealth become a shameful thing? The bible is quite clear about this:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
—King James Bible
I am a dedicated fan of hard work, and I am not against material possessions; I have several of my own. But when money and the love of money actually rule the world, when corporations are given legal “person” status in the U.S., when wealthy individuals hide behind a corporate facade to avoid the consequences of destructive greed, when the gap between the desperate poor and the obscenely wealthy widens, I have two questions:
- How do such heartless people sleep at night? Is wealth enough?
- Why doesn’t the world revolt?