Perspectives on Humans and Society

I recently read Ben Wiker’s treatise 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others that Didn’t Help (Regnery, 2008).  He chronicles the thoughts, writings, and impacts of Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, John Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Vladimir Lenin, Margaret Sanger, Simon Freud, Margaret Mead, Adolph Hitler and Alfred Kinsey.  Often, these luminaries’ hallmark books were followed by publications that provided deeply prejudiced perspectives on humans and society.

These thought leaders provide a broad perspective on the true nature of humans and the implications for society and its governance?  The range of views on this includes:

  • Survival of the fittest – the fit survive and prosper; the weak struggle and disappear, the survivors procreate and fitness increases
  • Universal rights to life, liberty & pursuit of happiness – now including health, education, employment, housing, food, etc.?
  • If the needs of the poor and downtrodden are ignored, they eventually revolt, e.g., St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, formerly Bombay (Brook, 2013)

We tax the fittest to fill government coffers:

  • High income people pay most of the federal, state, and local taxes – 50% of Americans pay no income taxes
  • 40% people in the US have received welfare program subsidies. Nearly 50% of Americans believe government spending on social security needs to be increased.
  • A minority of the population financially contributes to the welfare of society.  A majority of the population consumes this financial support, in a variety of forms.

Yet, the overall economy depends on masses of people:

  • To consume food, energy, housing, cars, and entertainment
  • To work in service jobs in construction, factories, health and retail
  • To serve in the military, perhaps giving their lives in the process

In other words, the high income portion of the population would not be high income without the masses of lower income people buying stuff and providing services and doing jobs that the high income folks would rather avoid.  Consequently, there needs to be a broad range of opportunities and adequate associated incomes for society to successfully function. 

The winners in the economic lottery need to contribute more – financially — than the non-winners for the whole system to function effectively.  Of course, the economic differences between the winners and non-winners is strongly effected by public policy, especially taxation.  The Scandinavian countries offer a quite different model than the US.  Their OECD rankings in health and education demonstrate the impacts of their policies.


Brook, D. (2013). A History of Future Cities.  New York: Norton.

Wiker, B. (2008). 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others that Didn’t Help. Washington, DC: Regnery.

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