Image from page 76 of .The life and work of the Rev. E.J. Peck among the Eskimos. (1904)
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I've written a series of articles calling for changes that would lead to wealth re-distribution-- eliminating billionaires, making it a crime to become or be a billionaire, drastically reducing the amount of money and assets allowed to be bequeathed to heirs, for starters.
A category of questions that always comes up is about wealth redistribution.
This article attempts to answer some of the questions and reframe the conversation
First, there are people who say this is horrible and bad, that it will kill incentive to innovate, to create to engage and channel the entrepreneurial spirit. This is unsupported speculation and nonsense.
Let's use an arbitrary number-- $50 million in US dollars. There may be a few hundred thousand people with that much money, and maybe some o f them are creators and innovators. Others are people who took risks, working for early start-ups. More are investors who had money and took risks on investing in creators. The venture capitalists might be de-motivated. Or maybe they won't.
Imagine a business model where too-big is simply not considered acceptable, where the system is designed so that when businesses start to get big they spin-off partners and networks of sharing so there are more managers, more mid-level employees, and where company ownership is handed over to employees and local communities. This will not happen magically. it will develop because government will fund innovative research grants-- like SBIR-- (Small Business Innovative Research) grants aimed at developing new models for keeping businesses small. This will probably include laws preventing acquisitions of companies by bigger companies. There will be alternative ways that companies can share or tap resources.
Imagine a system where people know that they can achieve financial success up to $50 million, and that if they surpass that amount, the money will be re-distributed. They might be careful not to reach their $50 million limit. Then, let's go a step further and envision a world where sharing and re-distribution of wealth is considered the moral, healthy, noble thing to do, and that hoarding money, working simply to acquire money and the power it brings will be seen as a form of mental pathology, a kind of narcissist psychopathology.
Imagine that our culture embraces the teachings of some of the wise visionaries of the past who taught things like the idea that it is easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy person to get into heaven. . Imagine a culture where acts of kindness, justice and sharing are considered emblematic of success, where greed and acquisitiveness and the desire for more, more more consumption of goods are considered in the same category as drug addiction and murder.
Imagine that intelligence, creativity and business savvy are rewarded, but not seen as the only characteristics worthy of reward, where every person who treats others with respect and justice gets respect and justice.
Yes, these are big imaginary leaps to make. But there are communities where they already exist, particularly among those considered "less or not civilized" and among some spiritual communities. Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of civilization has, since the beginning of its development, been hierarchical stratification. For the ten or twelve thousand years that different portions of humanity have experienced civilization, there has been inequality. Before civilization there was far less, inequality and when inequality reared its ugly head, it was more often than not dealt with by killing the greedy or the power-hungry. As one expert told me about the first nation aboriginals in the northernmost reaches of Canada, if someone acted like a psychopath, he would be pushed off an ice floe.
My point is that humanity has a long history during which extreme inequality was not known and where sharing of resources was the norm. These were fully functioning, whole hearted humans, simply lacking some technologies-- including the civilizational technologies.
There is no reason why today's humans, living in civilization, can't function with the compassion, caring and empathy that manifests as concern and advocacy for sharing resources. There's no reason why the "values" of sharing and equality cannot become dominant in our culture.
Fortune magazine discusses how Republicans also call for wealth distribution or re-distribution, just a different kind-- taking from single people and giving to families, for example.
Corporations are happy to have governments share with them in the form of corporate welfare, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.
We can end the massive wealth inequality that now exists. We can choose to create a culture of kindness, empathy, sharing, justice and equality. The first step is to envision that such is possible.