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Doug Dugal: Wanting to be rich shouldn't be a negative

5:49 PM, Mar. 1, 2013  |  Comments

People want to become successful and happy in whatever they do and be able to provide a comfortable life for their families. In my book, this is called being rich.

In the early 1950s in India, we in college used to joke around that, if a country ever wanted to become rich quickly, it should declare war on America - and lose! This was primarily based on what the Marshall Plan had done in rebuilding of Germany and Japan after World War II.

I grew up in a well-to-do family with lots of domestic help. America to me was the richest country, where the streets were "paved with gold" and people drove big cars but didn't have to work hard. They just pressed a button and things got done. At least that's what I thought until I reached Darmstadt, Germany, in late 1950s.

In Darmstadt, I met an American family, the six Lawsons. Russell was in the U.S. Air Force and his wife, Clara, was a full-time mom. They had no domestic help. Clara did all the hard chores in taking care of four kids - her hands had calluses from ironing clothes.

Russell and Clara taught me that nothing in life is free. One must work hard, think freely, make honest living wages and share with others who aren't as fortunate. They practiced what they preached. My first exposure to Americans was great.

In 1964, I reached my dreamland, the United States, and landed in Appleton. Over the years, I've worked in small and large companies and owned and managed small businesses. My life has been very satisfying and rewarding, with a great partner, Mona. We both are retired, she as a dietitian and I as a paper scientist.

We're satisfied with what we've done, both professionally and socially. If we made it, arriving in this country with only $1.50 and few loans, anyone can.

I think richness is relative and the standards differ from country to country. For our discussion, I'm proposing to divide richness into two major categories: richness of the government and richness of the people, which includes emotional and financial factors.

Richness of the government is based on how much national reserves the country has. The United States is an economic power but isn't among the wealthy countries in reserves and has a $16 trillion debt.

Richness of the people is based on how much wealth a person has. Forbes says Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico is the world's richest person, followed by Americans Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who have given away much of their fortunes to charity,

Other countries, like China and India, are continuing to add rich people to the world's burgeoning billionaires club.

According to James Crabtree of the Financial Times, "Any economy that grows as quickly as India's is bound to generate enormous human temptations."

He further comments that India's trend toward cronyism is worsening. Politicians are finding ways not just to extract money from the wealthy businesses, but also to become wealthy businessmen themselves. Public anger, he writes, will ultimately force a response from the political system. Democracy has a way of self-correcting, just as it did in similar period in America more than a century ago.

I hope things don't revert to a depressed business environment in America and that the U.S. continues to shine as a beacon for all countries. The U.S. must not make laws that suffocate private businesses, but make laws that allow an environment in which private businesses flourish.

Being rich isn't a crime. It's how you get there and what you do with your riches that counts. In fact, all of us want to do well and become rich.

America was, is and must continue to be a place of opportunity and freedom. So work hard to reach your goals!

- Doug Dugal is an Appleton resident and a Post-Crescent Community Columnist. He can be reached at pcletters@postcrescent.com

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