November 6, 2010
Ayn Rand blamed the legend of Robin Hood for much of what ails America.
From Atlas Shrugged:
“[Robin Hood] is not remembered as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity.”
The passage goes on to say, “Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive.”
Personally, I think Rand is wrong. Much of Atlas Shrugged equates the ability to produce with virtue. The wealthy from whom Robin Hood stole were wealthy simply by virtue of their birth, not through any ability to produce. In fact, the real production at this time was done by the poor themselves, who were usually serfs or even slaves. They were poor by virtue of their birth and had no avenue for upward economic mobility.
I think the real problem with this country is not that too many people buy into the Robin Hood philosophy, but that too many people have bought into Gordon Gekko philosophy, that greed is good. Like the nobility in Robin Hood, too many are content to let the peasants starve to death. It’s easy to blame poverty on the poor. But imagine what the world might be like if we valued how much we gave instead of how much we had? Imagine if we were more like a gift economy.