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Opinion  

I wanna be a millionaire

A report released this week by British relief agency Oxfam grabbed headlines with the revelation the world’s richest one per cent will soon have more money than the other 99 per cent combined.

That sounds shocking, and indeed it is. But is it such a bad thing?

Wealth is not a four-letter word. Neither is profit.

The widening gap between rich and poor is what’s deplorable, but that doesn’t make it wrong to be rich. The world needs millionaires and billionaires to found corporations and employ the multitudes. A great many of the world’s richest got there through hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. Because they succeeded, does that make them evil?

Hardly. People like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey give millions to charitable causes every year.

Many of the Okanagan’s wealthiest residents are also the biggest supporters of local charities. An example: Kelowna’s own Charles Fipke, who made his fortune discovering diamonds in Canada’s North, donated $6 million to UBC Okanagan to support the creation of a centre for innovative research.

That one billion people live on $1.25 a day is a shocking comparison, but the reality is even the poorest are better off today than they were just a few generations ago. Is it right that they still suffer? Of course not. But it’s not the fault of people who through luck or determination have reaped the benefits of their own efforts.

Perhaps the biggest squeeze is on the beleaguered middle class as high-paying jobs are outsourced to Third World countries, bringing up the standard of living there, but putting the pinch on average Canadians and Americans. Are we victims of our own success? Perhaps.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all aspire to make something more of ourselves. Getting rich, after all, is the American dream.

The failure of communism showed that grand wealth redistribution schemes do not work. We can’t tax our way to equality because if everybody were equal, why would anyone try harder?

The truth is, the average Canadian millionaire could well be the teacher, firefighter, plumber or computer programmer who lives next door.

— News Director Jon Manchester

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