We have rules and limits for everything in this world; some are linked to your age (drinking alcohol), some to your nationality (visas to specific countries), some to your performance (grades to enter a uni), so on and so forth. One of the things we don’t have a limit for is your income and consequently, how much you consume.
The amount of millionaires, billionaires and super rich increase every day and with them, their exclusive products and services. They are sometimes idolised and the way they spend their money envied and followed.
We now have a society so focused on consumerism it’s unreal; this is brilliantly summarised by Tyler Durden: “We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.” All the industries produce as much as they can and try to push their products down your throat.
Everything is mass produced — from meat to shoes; it has to be cheap, it has to be good, but of course, it cannot last; you’ll have to buy it again. So the world is slowly being destroyed (deforestation for soy or palmtree plantations, pollution everywhere, etc) and the gap between the rich and poor continuously increasing, which is definitely something we don’t want. It has already been proved that the bigger the gap, the worse off a country is — more violence, poverty and general sadness.
Nowadays governments try to tackle this issue by taxing the rich and empowering the poor — giving them benefits, housing, food stamps, the Brazilian Bolsa Família, etc. Although it does help with the problem, it will never solve it. People downright dodge the taxes or are too rich to care.
What to do then?
Limit the personal income; install a maximum wage.
For me this solution is obvious.; you’re attacking head on one of the insidious root problems: greed. One car is not enough; one house is not enough; one shirt; one company; one pair of shoes. Will it ever be enough? There should be a maximum wage (50k, 60k or 80k year) and that’s it.
Does it make sense that one person owns a jet, a few houses, cars and their company’s profits are higher than a country’s gross domestic product? No.
This way you would level the gap, you would make sure there are no crazy extravagances; yes there would be richer people, but not filthy rich who can control people and countries with their money.
Would you not then eliminate the very reason many people strive to become successful? They want power and money — I appreciate the fact that not all people are like that, but sadly, many only feel fulfilled with some sort of substantial financial return. What if the gratification was the job itself? The person being happy doing their job of choice should be enough, as long as they could live a dignified life. Money should not be the main focus.
And what about the surplus? What would be done with the extra profit they could not keep? Why not make the world a better place? Invest in art, charity, technology, protecting the environment etc, the options are endless and the one thing they have in common is “generosity” — you’re thinking about the others, not yourself.
Following this line of thought comes the Universal Income concept, another interesting way of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. The basic idea is that everyone on the planet earth should receive an income regardless of age, race, employment status, etc.
This might, in my opinion, make the lives of human beings in extreme poverty easier; it would give them a chance to receive proper nutrition throughout their childhood and could help them become healthier adults.
If you think everyone has the same opportunities in life, you’re incredibly wrong my friend. You just need to travel a little bit; leave your own bubble and realise there are thousands of people suffering a lot right now. This concept would not depend on your will to help those in need; it would be a given, because they’re being helped regardless.
Maximum wage and universal income are incredible and disrupting ideas that if installed could change the world. I don’t know how to go about applying these concepts; or even if they’re a real possibility. Could it go terribly wrong? Maybe.
What if the people only use that money to buy drugs or unhealthy food?
What if instead of nurturing themselves they would spend money on unnecessary items?
Would we hinder business competition as we limit their profits?
Would these changes destroy the environment instead of protecting it?
What if we created a nation of lazy people?
Would we need both concepts together? Or the maximum wage alone would be a good start?
But then again, what if it didn’t go terribly wrong? What if it did help and made the world a better place? Wouldn’t it be worth fighting for?
I’m not an economist and I don’t claim to understand the full consequences of adopting such measures. They just sound like the right thing to do. I’m eager to know what you have to say, especially those with strong knowledge of economics/social services.