"The unearned" comes to us in another form as well, and one that requires a response slightly different from gratitude. Just as we cannot fully return the benefits conferred upon us by those who inhabit the top of the pyramid of ability, so we cannot return the benefits conferred upon us by all the producers who have gone before us and who have advanced civilization in ways large and small. For some centuries now, most people in the West have earned goods and services by productive labor and free trade. In that sense, they have paid their own way. But what their labor has been able to buy has differed dramatically. And that difference is something that they have not earned. The sheer fruitfulness of today's economy as compared to the economy of the past, the sheer abundance of capital and knowledge that lies at our disposal, is not a product of our own making.
And here, I suggest, is a role for the concept of "thankfulness," which formerly meant the proper response to gifts from God or Providence. Let us secularize the concept of "thankfulness." Let us use "thankfulness" to mean "an outward expression of appreciation for all who have benefited us by advancing civilization through their achievements and philanthropy." And let us designate Thanksgiving as the day on which we express that appreciation. --http://atlassociety.org/objectivism/a...
Originally posted to Galt's Gulch Online
(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 11/26, 1:02pm)