Many people love the song Imagine by John Lennon. It takes you away to this place where, just for a moment, you think humanity has a chance. Then the song ends and you realize, oh, there still are countries, and there still are many things people are killing and dying for, and possessions, and greed, and the peaceful humanist paradise that is depicted in that three minute song pops like a soap bubble. Though Lennon can be criticized for wishful thinking, at least he was thinking big. The world he imagines is not impossible. Right now, it is very far away. The genius of Imagine is the notion that yes, Lennon's vision is improbable, but wouldn't it be great if it were true! Though the atheist message may alienate some, you have to be a sociopath to conclude that world peace is bad, or that sharing the world is bad. Imagine instills a tiny kernel of hope.
This essay is a direct appeal to the billionaire class. For simplicity, multi-millionaires are lumped in with the billionaires. Social improvement is the responsibility of every citizen, but the billionaires are widely believed to control the American political process, and must buy in to the necessity of a massive social overhaul project. As long as money is important in society, if you want to solve social problems, you have to engage moneyed interests. The billionaires have the most money, which grants them the most influence. If not them, than who?
Like Imagine, the ideas expressed in this essay don't seem very likely right now, even though numerous blueprints for social improvement have been around for a long time. Also, it is difficult to portray a complex world in a five-page essay. The various assertions can all be challenged, especially as oversimplifications. Identifying exceptions to every assertion is not important. What is important is that none of the ideas are impossible. You can only assume the essay envisions an impossible world if you believe humanity is evil. That war, poverty, exploitation, inequality, and social Darwinism are inevitable consequences of human evolution, and we should all just tolerate this. We have seen the formation of leftist and right wing military dictatorships in response to social unrest. Domination is evil.
However, it is incorrect to assume futility with regard to the problems that plague us. Humanity is both good and evil. There have been many victories for the social justice movement throughout history. Humans are effective problem-solvers. Our history need not define our future. Incremental change is the more realistic expectation, but it is a useful exercise to "imagine" sweeping change, without the abhorrent violence of revolution. Finally, this essay is written in the context of the money paradigm. Many would challenge whether the existing money supply is sufficient to fund solutions to complex social problems. That discussion is beyond the scope of this essay.
What follows is an adaptation of Imagine for USA 2016, but no effort at poetry.
THE BILLIONAIRES IMPROVE THE COUNTRY PROJECT
Imagine this realization spread rapidly throughout the American billionaire class: in a stunning act of randomness, fate has granted a miniscule fraction of the population the awesome power to direct the course of human history.
Imagine that every billionaire, regardless of political orientation, convened a summit to decide what to do with this power. They called it the Billionaires Improve the Country Project.
Imagine the billionaires are as sick of the evening news nightmare as the average citizen. They brainstormed a list of interrelated social problems that urgently need to be addressed: poverty, homelessness, violence, health care financing, food insecurity, employment insecurity, endless war and terrorism, criminal justice reform, skyrocketing education costs, and environmental degradation. Forgive the billionaires if they forgot something. They are open to other suggestions.
Imagine the billionaires reviewed the tools of oligarchy: owning politicians and governmental regulation agencies, employing lobbyists, paying lawyers, judges and fixers, financing elections, financing media propaganda machines, employing private security forces and finally, funding political front groups. They said to each other, "These things are expensive!" Funding their charitable organizations is expensive too, and the sporadic implementation of these programs has a minimal effect on social dysfunction as a whole. Charity is not enough.
Imagine the billionaires concluded that political gridlock is harmful. They concluded the funding of the wasteful, poisonous Red vs. Blue political divide must stop.