Why Do We Hate Success?

We hate big business. We hate the wealthy. We hate overachievers. Why? It doesn’t make any sense to me. The amount of contempt I’ve seen recently towards those who are successful is astonishing. Is it part of our society that wishes to bring everyone back to the average? More importantly, could this increasing contempt sabotage our economy? I think quite possibly (and might have already damaged it).

Let’s start with the wealthy. We can include big business in this examination as well since it generates a fair bit of our nation’s wealth and wealthy. Granted there are some in the upper income strata who reside there merely because of family wealth, but a majority of our nation’s most wealthy are first generation success stories. As the book The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy notes, fewer than 20 percent of America’s millionaires inherited 10 percent or more of their wealth, nearly half never received any college tuition from their parents or other relatives, and more than half never received as much as $1 in inheritance.

But, they’re still hated. Chad Lapa agrees,

For some unknown reason we are taught either as kids, or though the left wing media, that people wealthy and successful are born with some special gene that products their success. Due to this unfair power they possess over us, they should be punished and forced to pay crazy high tax rates so their wealth can be re-distributed to the “less fortunate”. [sic]

While I wouldn’t say that people are taught by “the left wing media,” I do agree that “progressive” taxes are the average person’s way of redistributing wealth and, in effect, “punishing” the wealthy. However, the negative repercussions of redistributing wealth are staggering. Frankly, wealth creation is not a zero sum game. Just because one person has it, doesn’t mean another won’t or that it was hostilely taken from another party.

Similarly, big business is often decried as evil. I don’t deny that there is corruption in some companies (see: short term vs. long term). However, they also contribute a majority of our nations productivity gains (read: more wealth) and generate much of our nation’s wealth. By nature, they are more efficient (generally speaking and when they aren’t regulated into inefficiency) and employ a large percentage of the US workforce. Don’t read this to mean I don’t like small/medium businesses or that I believe bigger is better in the business world. My point is that large corporations aren’t inherently evil. Plus, they produce people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who then donate nearly $100 billion back to the world.

But, let’s think smaller. How many smart kids (“overachievers”) are teased and bullied everyday in school? Why do we have terms like nerd, geek, and dweeb? In my experience, people have been bold enough to tell me to my face that they hope I fail. Or, in the web development world, what about the successful 37signals (software company)? Many people laud them, but with each new, successful offering more and more contempt is directed towards them (for more on this: read their blog about any given day).

So, everyone, when did we start to hate success? Is it human nature?

Congressional Record Opinion

Reading Senate Transcripts for Fun and Intrigue

It’s true — I like to cruise through the congressional record. Mind you, I can only do this on an infrequent basis as the general asininity of it is almost more than a mere mortal can digest. What follows are a few nuggets from the Senate Congressional Record of June 6, 2006. I’ve inserted commentary in places where I managed to pull my weakened body and mind out of the deep, dark crevasse that is “The Record.”

The homosexual marriage lobby, as well as the polygamist lobby, shares the goal of essentially breaking down all State-regulated marriage requirements to just one: consent. In doing so, they are paving the way for legal protection of such repugnant practices as: homosexual marriage, unrestricted sexual conduct between adults and children, group marriage, incest, and bestiality. Using this philosophy, activist lawyers and judges are working quickly, State-by-State, through the courts to force same-sex marriage and other practices, such as polygamy, on our country.[…]

We need an amendment that restores and protects our societal definition of marriage, [and] blocks judges from changing that definition.

Senator Inhofe (R-OK)

I have a difficult time putting into words my aversion to the currently popular “we must stop activist judges” adage of which politicians are so very fond. The judicial process is not about what the majority of society (majority in society is in itself at best difficult to determine) feels should happen. God save us if it ever is. Perhaps a lesson in separation of power and the purpose of each branch of government is in order for Senator Inhofe.

I will go to several other countries that have redefined marriage, defined marriage out of existence. In the Netherlands, since proposals for same-sex marriage began to be debated, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has soared. It was a fairly stable country in out-of-wedlock births and was at low rate. […]

What happened to out-of-wedlock birthrates? You can see the situation in the Netherlands, which is particularly important because it was one of the lowest out-of-wedlock birthrate countries in Europe for a number of years, shows that until 1980, below 5 percent of the population was born out of wedlock. When we get the court cases which we have in the United States today saying marriage should be redefined, we see the impact, as well as a Supreme Court case that rules against marriage being the union of a man and a woman. Then we get symbolic marriage registration, registered partnership, same-sex unions, and now we are up to 35 percent as seen in this skyrocketing chart.

Sen. Brownback (R-OK)

If I’m understanding Senator Brownback correctly, he’s attempting to correlate registered partnerships and same-sex unions with the increase of out of wedlock births. Is he kidding? I’m not a senator with a full staff and do not hold an advanced research degree, but even I can see that these are junk “facts” being drawn from non-correlating data. This information, regardless of politics, should be thrown out for its inaccuracy.

I, for one, believe that the institution of marriage and the principles of democracy are too precious to surrender to the whims of a handful of unelected, activist judges. The will of the people should prevail. […]

Sen. Allard (R-CO)

Can’t. Type. Laughing. Too. Hard.

Before I quit of exhaustion from reading the same tired arguments repeatedly and running the same circle of reasoning over (and over and over), I will conclude this piece.

Editor’s note: It is extremely hard to find consistent permanent URLs within the Congressional Record. I’ve tried to add accurate links where possible, but it’s just not possible in all instances.