Kristopher Malan explained himself to The Gazette after another morning selling art on the street. I'm "trying to be something more," he texted.
Reporter Kaitlin Durbin wrote the inspirational story of Malan, who anchored in Colorado Springs after aimlessly hitchhiking from California in 2015. Like so many among the city's growing population of homeless migrants, Malan stood at street corners and begged for cash. Givers received nothing of market value in return.
It was a familiar downward spiral, for Malan and the community, without much hope in sight.
Malan found begging a degrading and embarrassing chore. Someone yelled "get a job."
"That was the catalyst he needed to pick up a paintbrush," Durbin wrote.
Malan turns raw materials, even from the trash, into works of art the market values.
At least 800 passers-by have found his creations more desirable than the dollars in their pockets, which they have happily traded. On a banner day, Malan earned $480. A single painting traded for $100. Buyer, seller and society advance with each transaction. Malan feels useful, no longer degraded.
Imagine a world in which nearly everyone, regardless of any socially ascribed grievance status or personal challenge, tried to "be something more" by producing for others. Our standard of living would soar, prompting reports about the "Gross Domestic Product."
If society were an island of castaways, the socioeconomic value of personal innovation would seem obvious. Wealth would be sod shelters, tree-fiber cots, food gleaned from flora and fauna and water cleaned by an innovative still. Artistic expression would enhance the standard of living beyond survival. Those creating the most would have more than others to trade, but all would benefit from endeavors motivated by an organic system of free production and trade.
In modern societies - confused by currency presses, debt and confiscatory redistribution - poverty and wealth are mysterious conditions that require increasing manipulation of markets.
We see it among politicians who think an immigrant's meal comes, without exception, at the expense of a more-entitled native. We see it among social activists who think a rich person's fortune causes a poor person's plight, even when the wealthy buy paintings from artists on sidewalks. We hear it when critics of capitalist prosperity conflate "income inequality" with poverty or scarcity.
The culture's widespread poverty mentality perceives one person's gain as another person's loss. Societies only give, take, share and distribute. We are rendered to grapple with the lifeboat ethics of "who should get what" as dependence will inevitably grow. The pie goes only so far, and no one bakes pie.
Malan, like most individuals, likes to bake pie. The wealth mentality assumes consumers in free societies will create, on average in excess of consumption. A culture of wealth should weigh the potential of panhandling drifters against the social costs of their lives. It should offer a hand up, defaulting to handouts as measures of last resort to avert suffering and despair.
The world has never been more populated and has never enjoyed a higher standard of living. That's because people ranging from Bill Gates to street-level artists produce more than they consume. World poverty is plummeting like never before, as growing populations with advancing capabilities outproduce consumption.
Modern political agendas sadly pit white against black, native against newcomer, man against woman and rich against poor. They elevate grievance and identity over the value of countless individuals who work hard "to be something more."
The Gazette editorial board