Today there is a great deal of demagoguery around the stereotype of nameless, faceless, anonymous persons called "the one percent," who have an undeservedly large income and share of wealth and are somehow the cause of our economic situation.
I wish to argue that this stereotype is false and place the activities of the "one percenters" and their contributions to our community in the correct perspective.
Based on a recent population count of about 130,000 people in Blair County, there are likely about 1,300 "one percenters" in our midst.
Where can we find some of these people and how do they command their income and wealth?
"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest," wrote Adam Smith in 1776.
Individuals who successfully start or operate a business do so to increase their income and wealth. The more customers they please, the more income they earn and the wealthier they get.
Some likely "one percenters" are local people who own and operate highly successful businesses and provide us with many of the things we purchase - from gasoline and hot coffee to pharmaceuticals and health items to groceries and so on.
They build the roads and bridges we traverse; the homes we live in; and the offices and factories in which we work, as well as their furnishings. In short, they are all around us. There are a number of positive byproducts of their success.
One is that they employ others to produce their wares and serve their customers. These enterprises support employment for thousands in this area.
Another byproduct is the charitable generosity the owners and their families demonstrate toward this community.
However, starting and operating a business is not a certain road to wealth. Statistically we know that nine of 10 new businesses fail, and even established businesses are subject to intense competition from other "one percenters" and those who aspire to be.
Other "one percenters" reside in the medical community. They, among other things, remove deadly cancers from our bodies, implant stents in our arteries and veins, generally keep us alive longer, lift cataracts from our eyes and even give the really lucky ones the visual capability of a 21 year old.
To perform these miracles they often study and practice between three and six years after college, which is a huge investment of their time and money.
I gladly pay them for their services and do not resent their financial success as I am better off as well.
To more fully appreciate the role the "one percenters' play in our daily lives, and using just a few examples from above, imagine how inconvenient life would be without convenience stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, local surgical services, etc.
In a competitive market economy like ours, it really is true that individuals acting in their own self interest are led, as if by an invisible hand, to serve the needs of society.
The demagogic stereotype of good for nothing "one percenters" who inherited their wealth and do not contribute to society is, in my 40 years of experience in wealth management, seldom seen. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who might fit that description.
The ultimate irony is that even those few seem to dissipate their wealth rather quickly among the rest of us. Do not be misled by the demagogues. In our economic system, there will always be "one percenters" - thankfully.
Christopher Gable lives in Altoona.