People with great ideas and enthusiasm and committed action often prosper materially within their surrounding social and economic fabric. Such a person represents a source term having strength proportional to his greatness and hard work. His prosperity creates a success gradient in the fabric, which when combined with the his drive, lifts others who benefit because he needs help growing the ideas into reality. The policies of a nation determine properties of the fabric. If the nations planners understand these simple 1st order affects, everyone benefits. If, however, the nations planners view the instantaneous material wealth of a nation as a fixed quantity in time, they will artificially mitigate the diverse source terms and dampen the propagation of the success.
Funny that Jean Valjean was in the top 2% and the people loved him. What if there were certain thinkers in the land who had a platform to tout there ideas and tell the people about how unjust it was that Valjean should have such wealth? What if these thinkers verbalized enmity to the people and handed out “free” taxpayer dollars to the working class in order to win their votes and maintain political power? What would happen to the children of this new disabled class created by the government subsidies? And what about their grandchildren?
Enough politics, but with Hugo’s populism and concern about the poor, I couldn’t help but think about how the populist message of today would ruin his story and the sentiment in this chapter. If Jean Valjean could not start and grow and benefit from his business, the rescue of such a Fantine and Cosette could never actually happen. Instead, these two souls might be held captive in an addictive economic prison, serving their ruling masters who distribute enough crumbs at home to disincentivize them from going outside to engage with their community as a contributor and benefactor.