A video on the Occupy San Diego website asks mostly young participants in this event to describe how they feel—in one word. Terms like “angry” and “frustrated” are common. Other popular responses concern feelings of exhilaration. The word “thankful,” however, is conspicuously absent from this verbal potpourri.
Gratitude isn’t a sentiment that’s typical among folks who delight in expressing indignation over perceived injustices perpetrated by faceless villains. Individuals obsessed with utopian dreams (“free education for everyone”) also tend to ignore the absurdity of demanding higher pay for teachers who provide a theoretically free service.
A world of rights and free lunches provided by an all-caring government is the vision that permeates the rhetoric of most occupiers.
Well, here’s something for which occupiers in New York, San Diego, and Los Angeles can give thanks: The much-vilified “one percent” isn’t a static group of individuals.
Indeed, economist Thomas Sowell notes that while the percentage of national wealth parked within that category has increased over the years, the “flesh-and-blood people” occupying that one percent in 1996 actually “had their incomes go down…by a whopping 26 percent by 2005.”
These seemingly contradictory statistics become understandable when one realizes that “most people who are in the top 1 percent in a given year do not stay in that bracket.”
Viewed more broadly, folks tend to go up the economic scale as they get older. That’s why households headed by someone 65 or older have, on average, more than 15 times as much wealth (not income) as households headed by persons under 35.
This circumstance indicates that experience and a lifetime of work is typically rewarded in the U.S.—a nation where, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, the poorest five percent of Americans are richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants. That’s a startling statistic, especially in light of the fact that most “poor” Americans will eventually become better off.
At Thanksgiving it’s also instructive to recall that the settlement at Plymouth only flourished after the Pilgrims abandoned the collectivist economic system they initially practiced—with disastrous results.
As Governor William Bradford observed in his diary, the “communism” of goods produced “confusion and discontent” and “retarded much employment.” By contrast, when private property was introduced, the new system “had very good success” and “made all hands industrious.”
That industry was consummated with abundance and gratitude—an attitude that’s perhaps the best indicator of an individual’s (or a society’s) character. Unfortunately, many occupiers seem woefully deficient when it comes to expressing gratitude for blessings (economic and otherwise) that are often taken for granted.