Take from the rich and give to the poor. A grand idea, but for some reason it’s wildly unpopular with the rich. Rich people hate to part with their shillings, which of course has something to do with how they got rich in the first place. Rich people like being rich. Poor people tend to snipe at them, they want their share, or what they perceive to be their share. They want to be the people they hate.
Anyway, the Robin Hood story is all about the wonderful life in Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood and his band of merry men lay in wait for those evil rich people to happen by. You’d think word would get around and the rich people would take the business bypass. But no, they kept heading into the forest where Robin Hood relieved them of their farthings. According to the story, the loot Robin Hood took was handed out to poor people, who have always been easy to find. This went on for a while — not sure how long. But at the end of the week, they were still poor. Money can easily slip away.
Many years ago in Baltimore we were excited because the state of Maryland started a lottery and everybody had dreams of getting rich fast without working for it. That of course is the idea of a lottery — people can reap big rewards for doing nothing. It seems an awful concept to me, but like you, I have on occasion purchased a few lottery tickets. Turns out they were all worth exactly what I paid for them, nothing. But then again, that’s the idea. Since lottery fever swept the nation, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent by mostly by people who don’t understand math. Some of them buy two tickets because, according to their logic, that doubles their chance of winning.
The first big winner in Maryland was a feckless dude who worked at a doughnut shop. He immediately quit his job and started spending. Before the year was out, his money was gone. Budgeting apparently was not his thing. He wasn’t big on investing either. He went back to work at the doughnut shop.
The story of Robin Hood predates medieval times. (That’s hundreds of years ago for those who don’t know much about pre-medieval stuff.) Most people were poor, but there were a few who cleverly collected all the money there was to be had, and as I indicated earlier, they didn’t want to part with it. The fear of poverty is almost as bad as poverty itself, or at least that’s what seems to drive the wealthy to guarantee they stay wealthy. During the Middle Ages there was no welfare to speak of. Most people subscribed to the trickle-down theory of economics though they didn’t know what that was. Actually we still don’t. It’s an economic system preferred and perpetuated by those with the financial ability to buy candidates. Very little money trickles down. When it does, it’s a trickle at most.
Still, we all like the idea. Even the wealthy like it as long as they don’t have to participate. They give to charity to the point of tax advantages but few go beyond that. If they gave until it hurt, well, that would hurt.
In fairness, many wealthy people give generously to worthy causes. But, I don’t know of many who give to the point of jeopardizing their wealth. That would be silly because then they couldn’t give any more. They get tax breaks for supporting the United Way or the ballet. Some of us would prefer that the ballet be supported by those who like the ballet, but that’s just an opinion of us who’ve managed to get through life without tutus. In a perfect world there would be tax breaks for supporting professional wrestling. I guess not.
The main point is that the story of Robin Hood sends a powerful message that has endured for hundreds of years for one reason and one reason only: We like it! It’s not because it’s a true story.
Because it isn’t. S
Gene Cox is an author and inventor who recently retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @genecoxrva.