Why is it that the remedies for economic injustice — work hard and persevere — seem to be personal and individual, but the obstacles– racism, unfair taxation, unjust legislation, lack of education, lack of opportunity — are structural and systemic?
For many Christians, the emphasis in economics continues to be on the individual element, and not without reason. Hard work needs to be rewarded. But why do Christians perpetuate the lie that wealthier people universally work harder than poorer people? Many poor people do not work hard, but many rich people do not work hard either — they don’t have to.
And let us not delude ourselves with arguments that all who have achieved success have done so simply by virtue of hard work. That is a lie that needs to be exploded. I am an avid reader of a podcast on marketing called “Under the Influence,” by longtime advertising exec and CBC personality Terry O’Reilly. He recounts innumerable stories of marketing success because people had the right idea at the right time, not because they worked harder than their competitors. The history of anti-trust legislation also reveals that truly free market capitalism is a myth that neither serves all people well nor exists in North America today.
My alternative question is this: Why can the remedies for economic injustice not be structural — in the form of laws that level the playing field, taxation that is somehow in proportion to wealth, and wages that are in proportion to need — and the obstacles be what is personal and individual, so that people who fail to succeed do so only because of their own choices, not the choices imposed upon them?