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Letters: How compassionate are the rich?

September 11, 2013

Re "The compassion deficit," Opinion, Sept. 8

It is insulting for Rabbi David Wolpe to conclude from a study that people of extreme wealth somehow lack compassion, which he says can be remedied by volunteering at a soup kitchen or traveling to a poor country, among other things.

Maybe Wolpe should do his own traveling to see the generous philanthropy of the wealthy who have given their time, money and, yes, compassion to benefit the poor throughout the world. The wealthy have given billions to fight hunger, disease and to build major medical centers and universities, museums and performing arts centers.

Our society has benefited greatly from the generosity of those who have shared their vast fortunes.

Janet Polak

Beverly Hills

There is much to like about Wolpe's recommendation that the wealthy be more compassionate. But his dismissal of the idea that the rich cut corners to amass their wealth is off base.

Market mechanisms are useful in allocating resources, but the pursuit of wealth or self-interest should not be enshrined as the end goal of economic activity. On the contrary, it is an essential function of the markets to prevent it from running amok.

The proper objective of economic activity is to meet needs in a better way or at a lower price. If done well, the market rewards the effort with a profit, and properly so.

These principles should not surprise, for they are corollaries of our nature as social beings, dependent on others' willingness to value the common good.

John C. Nangle

Palm Springs

Wolpe did an excellent job describing this elephant in the room.

Rick Felsher

Santa Ana

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