The Flinchum File

Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions
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Noblesse Oblige

My Republican friends laugh when I describe Jimmy Carter as our greatest ex-President.  A wealthy man, he has devoted his post-presidential life to helping others.  However, only Trump-Republicans laugh when I describe Barbara Bush as our greatest ex-First Lady.  After all, she was not a Trump-Republican.  But, she worked tirelessly raising money to fight illiteracy, raising close to $200 million dollars for that cause.

Whatever happened to wealthy people who felt the need to help others?  Was philosopher Ayn Rand responsible? She famously decried that anything which supported poor people only encouraged them to produce more poor people – a classic abuse of Austrian economics?  Was it partisan spillover that characterized the mammoth charitable giving of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates (known Democrats) as mere self-glorification?  I don’t know, but I miss it.

It was called noblesse oblige, a French expression that translates as “nobility obliges.”  It means there is an obligation to do “good” things.  As a client once told me, “now that I’ve done well, I want to do good.”  Yes, he donated money, but he also physically worked to repair old churches and sought no self-glorification.

Barbara Bush was the epitome of noblesse oblige and a grand lady.  There was room for disagreement in her world but no room for rudeness or bad manners.  She is missed!