Wealth Begets Freedom
Fortune is inherently a private issue that only allows observers a peek from which to surmise the condition of the holder’s lifestyle and budget. However it is from these glimpses that society draws its stereotypes, as there is supposed to exist a set of standards such as clothing, good looks, and automobiles that influence our perception of one another. This system could not be more flawed. Wealth has no universal effect on a populace, as every being is an individual and therefore harbors independent views on the proper uses of wealth. That said, there is one gift which money conveys which, although not universal, is nearly synonymous with wealth; Freedom.
With wealth comes choice, and with choice comes opportunity; the basis of the American dream. Wealth buys opportunity from the very start. An infant born into a wealthy family begins its life a league ahead of its poverty stricken counterpart. This is not so much because of the proximity of money, but because of what that money can do. Having ample funds allows the infants parents the freedom to spend more time with the child and it also makes the entrance of the baby much less traumatic for the family. The other family however will face a much greater economic shock with the coming of a child and as a result will have to devote even more time to work, leaving the child to, in large part, rear itself. This difference in parenting techniques is said to have a large role in the eventual success or failure of the child later in life and therefore the wealthier child already has an advantage. This however, is just the tip of the iceberg as advantages go.
The addition of wealth to a family unit has further consequences for the families’ children all the way through school and into the child’s adult life where the family acts as a safety net. Starting with elementary and secondary education the ability of a family to choose schools for its offspring allows the parents to put an end to bad situations and prevent stagnation in randomly assigned classrooms. The poorer family on the other hand will not be able to afford this choice and instead will have to rely on Chance to see its children through the educational system. In addition to probably attending worse schools, this child will most likely have to take a job in order to help his family and to be able to afford the social trappings that are the survival gear of teenagers today. In contrast, the counterpart child will remain sheltered from the realities of life and be able to concentrate energies on growing up and learning. Assuming that both sets of children excel at school at wish to attend university the gap between them will grow. With good grades, the child of the wealthy family will have the advantage of being funded by his family while he attends the college of its choice. Meanwhile, the poorer child will fight for financial aid packages and have to go where the money is provided, and while attending this college a part time job will probably be necessary to pay for living expenses. By being able to accept at a variety of universities, the first child will open further opportunities for itself while the second child will watch as these same doors open only for a moment before slamming home as his community college education will not cut it in many of the 21st century job places. Once they exit college with degrees the child of poorer heritage will not have the funds to support himself during an extensive job search. This means that he will enter the work force quickly and the same lack of reserve funds in the future will steal the freedom of job choice from him forever. His counterpart however will be able to take time and find something that fits him as well as allows for growth. If perchance they both should lose their jobs or a fiscal calamity should strike, one will be able to fall back on family for financial support, while the other can only expect encouragement. Thus the cycle of life draws to a close as this is the point at which either one of the subject would raise a family, and as shown it is unlikely that either has significantly altered his or her place on the socioeconomic ladder.
This has shown how wealth and degrees of freedom can affect the lives of similar people in a supposedly free and democratic society, but it has ignored to freedoms in the quality of those lives. Once again, wealth fundamentally alters purchasing power and this alteration allows those with the means to live more or less however they want to while their counterparts flounder in government regulations and necessity. Once a family has sunken into poverty they have crossed one of society’s invisible lines and they are no longer privileged to the basic rights that the rest of society tends to take for granted. A family in poverty has little if any privacy as it suddenly becomes the business of greater society what that family does. The finances, the family decisions, and the living conditions are all subject to regulation by government and charity. Instances of child removal and repossession increase dramatically for poor families as compared to middle class families. This happens when a family is already down and out, as though the government where punishing them for misfortune. A welfare family gets periodic reviews of its finances and living situation by government agents, and if anything does not agree with that agents views on family life then the family may be subject to further humiliation. All this occurs because the family does not make enough, and it is all in addition to the inherent losses of freedom that come with poverty.
Freedom and liberty cannot exist without choice and therefore, options to choose from. The most direct effect of wealth is the ability to have more choice in what, where, and how much is purchased, and this indirectly affects almost every other aspect of life. By definition a poor family cannot afford many of the things which a large part of society takes for granted. While poor family is relatively free to move about, they probably cannot afford city to city moves and vacation trips are out of the question. Even mobility within the local area is somewhat restricted as many police and wealthier families harbor innate prejudices against the poor because they associate poverty with crime, and as such the poor must tread carefully when they are not on familiar ground. The freedom of choice in shopping is also restricted for these people as they once again cannot afford to shop anywhere and are confined to thrift shops and discount grocery stores. The loss of the ability to shop anywhere, move anywhere, and even walk freely in a town represents a grave loss of freedoms for these people. Finally, the poor are not even free to live comfortable lives, as most are merely a paycheck away from the street. They cannot coast for even a moment or let down their guard for it only takes a small push to send someone in the delicate balance of poverty spiraling further into the depths of misfortune.
In sharp contrast to this the wealthy are blessed enough to have such horrible situations plague them only in nightmares. For many wealthy families the question of freedom never crosses their minds as they take most of it for granted. Beyond the basic ability to shop and buy what they want, the wealthy can travel freely and have choice in career and education as well as many more intangible freedoms. Members of society that have enough money can do whatever they want with their lives. While a poor man is forced to slave away at work for long hours a wealthy man can not only take time of, but if he has enough money he can choose not to work at all and coast instead. Essentially this man is buying back his free time. He can also go further by hiring men to do every little task from changing light bulbs to mowing the lawn. Although this is a definite extreme case, it is still far from unfeasible. Sickly enough, a man could also choose the other extreme and give away his entire fortune to charity and thereby choose to live the life of a poor man. Of course the difference between this man and another poor man is that this man has chosen his lot in life while the second man had it forced upon him by misfortune. The wealthy also have the freedom to change how society perceives them. If one took the time to examine the punk scene or the skater groups that roam the streets, they may be surprised to find out that the vast majority of these “slackers” who are shrugged off by society actually come from middle class and upper class backgrounds. Because these kids have moneyed families behind them they do not have to worry about the stereotyping and prejudices that they gain along with their clothes and attitudes. If they are jailed for looking suspicious they are quickly bailed out, and even if they commit a crime the bail does not come far behind. Their counterparts among the poor however, would rot in the jails for a longer time and many could not afford to go to jail in the first place, because as stated earlier, many cannot miss a paycheck. The rich kids can also afford the expensive leather jackets and skateboards as well as they can afford Abercrombie & Fitch clothing. In this way the rich have the opportunity to camouflage themselves. The adults to can “dress down” in older clothes to alter their appearance while the poor lack the ability to “dress up” in the expensive outfits.
As with every rule, there is the exception. For some wealth is far from a blessing and instead it becomes a curse. For these few it is indeed the fortune that steals away their freedoms, becoming the master of these souls that become its slave. This growing segment of society is made up of men so hungry for money and the act of acquisition that they slave away evermore to fill their overflowing pockets. This stereotype of man cannot bring himself to stop and enjoy what he has won; instead he drives himself ever forward. This action effectively negates every effect discussed above. By consuming themselves with their fortunes, these few may ignore their children, taking away the advantages that wealthy parents usually convey, and occasional this removal can even have negative effects, causing the child to develop mental abnormalities. This caricature will also refuse to spend freely and therefore refuse the gifts of travel and economic freedom. Finally, individuals such as this worry more about finances than even the poorest of the poor and end up giving up even the peace of mind which normally comes with wealth. Though this depiction is indeed a caricature of men, beware for they do exist and the icy touch of the money monger can mean death to the unprotected.
Wealth in itself is just money; paper that literally isn’t even worth the material it is printed on. But the advantages of wealth still cannot be refuted. At every stage of life and at every step on the socio-economic ladder wealth means choice and choice means freedom. This is the very epitome of wealth and whether they know or not this is the reason that everyone strives for greater economic gains. Deep down almost every person in America realizes that in order to accomplish their dreams they need the cold cash to buy the opportunities.