Questioning Capitalism: Extreme Wealth, Inequality, and the FutureMark Weiser I Social Economics I Commentary I October 17th, 2014
The economy is not nearly as complex as Wall Street economists and the US government would have you believe. When discussing the economy, we're often talking about things that are not tangible in themselves but rather some very basic cause and effect relationships which affect the conditions and overall health of the economy at any given time. It's important to understand how these cause and effect relationships interplay with each other, and that certain conditions must occur before certain other things can happen. It's impossible to discuss one aspect of the economy without discussing others and how they influence each other. So the goal here is to key in on one or two cause and effect relationships. In a previous essay, we discussed how excessive accumulation of capital in our finite economy is actually an anti-stimulus to the general overall economy - reading that essay may enhance the readers understanding of what's being said here. Once anyone starts to become familiar with how the economic pieces fit together and affect each other, it may start to sound redundant when changing the subject of focus precisely because of the interplay, interdependence and overlap of the various aspects which influence economic conditions and circumstances at any given time.
Just as the capitalist system dictates, the large majority of US citizens, regardless of ambition, talent or qualifications, must remain in the lower and middle echelons of the economic structure. The same system also dictates that a certain small percent of participants will exist in the top income brackets. Legislation and policies pertaining to economics are firmly in place to facilitate the accumulation of wealth and investment of capital, which cause the money to flow predominantly upwards toward the top income levels where a very small percent of people end up accumulating a very large disproportionate amount of all existing wealth. Regardless of law and policy, pure capitalism will generously and automatically favor those who are born with, or are able to accumulate, investment capital or wealth.
It could be argued that those at the top income echelons are smarter than those at the bottom or middle of the structure, or possibly those at the top are more persistent than others. Rather than trying to measure the raw intelligence of those at the top income levels for comparison to the average in our society, a better indicator of why wealth is so over weighted at the top would be to measure and quantify the personal ethics, or lack of ethics, and amount of greed in all those who've helped tailor the system to advance personal gain. At the present time, this tailoring of laws and policies has gone to the extreme with no consideration for maintaining the well-being of the majority in our society. And although the world's resources and amount of what can be produced are finite and limited numbers, our laws have set no limits on the amount of wealth any person or group can accumulate.
In present day America, the reality of basic human "need" has become conflated with economic status. Capitalism is making it difficult for the average working American to enjoy a comfortable standard of living while providing all basic needs. If a significant percentage of people cannot afford healthcare then, absurdly, capitalism has deemed that healthcare is "not needed." Because pure capitalism is a rigid, emotionless system, the system itself can and has decided some people don't "need" to eat or have shelter from the elements. Nor do all people "need" educations; and even if we educated everyone to the level of Ph.D., occupations that consist predominately of manual labor would still remain. The laws and policies pertaining to the economy, combined with human nature, dictate that people will go without fulfilling basic needs today.
Of course, neither the wealthy nor poor "need" financial security, healthcare, education, a home or a stable, nutritious diet for mankind to survive. But if financial security and basic needs are beneficial to civilized society, then a healthy economic structure should strive to provide as much financial stability, security and freedoms for the greatest number of people. So why does American society have such a difficult time discussing political and economic realities affecting our individual, familial and societal well-being as a whole? The simple truth is a great deal of human psychology plays into our political-economic system, and for our purposes, psychological effects can also be termed as the effects of human nature while the two overlap and interplay to a large degree.
The Psychology of Greed
Greed is certainly part of human nature and is much stronger in some when compared to others. Investors are said to be driven by "fear and greed," as the fear of not attaining the benefits of more wealth drives greed. Greed is undoubtedly instinctual on some primitive level, and in theory could arguably be directly related to the "survival of the fittest," as those who have "more" will have a better chance for survival. Indeed, we've all been conditioned by simple observations that wealth in our society gives people advantages whether for purchasing basic needs or luxuries, for providing individual freedoms toward various pursuits, or for providing advantages when it comes to legal and political matters, and hence these realities create and promote greed.
Greed is powerful enough that it has elicited a collusion of deceitfulness in our political-economic system which is now designed to fulfill an exaggerated need and/or the raw desire for greed. This deceitfulness can and often does include self-deception of an individual or group as a whole. Extreme wealth makes it possible to corrupt others, and this corruption has actually become a game for many who control and manipulate the US economy through campaign funding and lobbying for favorable legislation in Washington D.C. It's true to some variable degree that Americans are so conditioned to pursue and accept greed among ourselves, that collectively we've become hardened to the point of rationalizing and tolerating greed in our society while it's being unjustly and unnecessarily imposed on our citizens.
With the developing awareness of how wealth in our society is so disproportionately distributed today, it's not an exaggeration to say some of the callous tolerance and protectiveness towards greed is wearing thin. It doesn't matter whether it's raw greed, or the fear of losing or not gaining advantages which drives greed, the results are still the same in the end. In the case of the extremely wealthy, greed is completely irrational as many already have more than they can reasonably spend in multiple lifetimes. And beyond irrational, this same greed has some innate destructive and restrictive qualities working against the overall well-being of our society and the advancement of mankind in general.
Personal Wealth, Democracy, and Dogma
One aspect of human nature includes irrational adherence to ideological dogma which is inconsistent with how our democratic-economic system is supposed to work for the benefit of "we the people." This hardcore ideological dogma necessitates denial or complete lack of concern regarding the actual cause and effect of certain conditions and other realities which occur in our economy. Regardless of any individual or group's ideological dogma regarding pure capitalism and the accumulation of wealth at the top, there's no sane justification for a relatively very few people accumulating Trillion$ of dollars when those Trillion$, being taken out of the general economy, act as an anti-stimulus - an anti-stimulus which denies basic needs to many while ultimately inhibiting education, scientific research, healthcare and all manner of benefits across the board among average Americans while simultaneously denying advancements and a sense of well-being to our society as a whole. As the saying goes, "one man's gain is another man's loss." In our case today, the Trillion$ in gains for a relative few come at a disproportionate loss to the vast majority of Americans. As the wealthy have continued to accumulate more wealth over recent years, the large majority of Americans are losing wealth and have less actual purchasing power and less freedoms than in other periods of our history.
Because we're so heavily invested in technological industries and energy consumption, when considering the positive effects from advanced education and research, it's extremely important to understand these gains would become multiplied and even exponential over time. Just think of all the time and labor which would have been saved if computer and robotic sciences had been developed fifty, twenty or even ten years earlier. That time and labor which would have been saved is indisputable, and could have easily been applied to education and research for even more advances in medical science or energy saving technologies, or the development of completely new sciences in the production of clean energy is not out of the question and certainly worth pursuing. One medical solution has the potential to spare the life of the one innovative person who could go on to discover that formula for clean and available energy. In consideration for our one earth and life sustaining environment, where time is now of the essence, in some circles it's considered insane to allow excessive greed to stifle education and the advancement of sciences - which could make all the difference for the survival of life on earth well into the future.
Through law and policy, it's entirely possible to change the system towards being much more inclusive and promote the advancement of mankind simply by adjusting the existing distribution formula. I'm now sensing panic among some readers as the thought of change creates personal fear that they'll somehow lose their advantages. This fear again is irrational for several reasons. For one, we're not talking about stopping anyone from benefiting from their own innovation or labor. We will say that less poverty and desperation in our society would automatically reduce crime which can also reduce court and prison expenses. A more comfortable financial situation for all concerned would also reduce stress for individuals, as well as stress in our entire society, and thereby provide health benefits which can lead to greater productivity. Financial comfort can also reduce other types of stress related crimes such as domestic violence and various forms of abuse. Anyone who doesn't understand some of these benefits to be gained has most likely been living a shielded life, and/or they would have to be extremely insensitive to what's resulting from the disparity of wealth distribution in our economic system today. Those health and crime-reducing benefits, along the exponential gains due to scientific advances from accelerated learning and research, are being denied to our entire society simply because of personal greed, or excessive accumulation of wealth if you prefer.
The only thing stopping American citizens from adjusting the present distribution formula is the steady diet of propagandized ideological dogma which we've all been fed and cling to because we don't fully understand what's happening in our capitalist economy. Again, I refer back to how the excessive accumulation of wealth, into the hands of relatively few people, works as an anti-stimulus in our finite general economy. The irony in our case today is that the laws and policies currently pertaining to the economy do not promote capitalistic-democracy as those in power incessantly profess; but instead promote excess for the relative few while promoting exclusion, or limited success at best, for the vast majority. Not only is it our right as American citizens to change the system towards equality and equal representation in law and policy, but it is in fact our duty thanks to the Declaration of Independence; "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
Learning from History and Challenging the Status Quo
There are a number of examples in American history which are absolutely contrary to the democratic principles of equal and unalienable rights with freedom towards various pursuits; and now capitalism has become a prime example in violation of those noble principles. The simple truth is that because our elections and legislative processes are now run and decided by those who make the largest campaign "contributions" (read bribes), the majority of US citizens are being prohibited from exercising their right to have an equal democratic say and equal representation in the workings of our entire political and economic structure. It's become very obvious that neither of our two major political parties are representing "we the people," but instead give great favor to wealth and industry at the peoples expense. Living under financial duress is unhealthy for individuals, families and society as a whole. And yet those in power who legislate our two-party political system, while having the power to change it, cling to and profess the false-reality that the system as implemented is the best that can possibly exist, with no room or need for change. If they, and we, actually believe "that all men are created equal, and have unalienable equal rights," we would all work to promote those rights politically, economically and in all manner of ways.
It cannot be overstated how US laws and economic policies promoting the great disparity of wealth today are absolutely contrary to everyone having equal rights while simultaneously denying those exponential benefits to our overall society. Psychological programming over multi-generations through propagandized ideological dogma is a powerful instrument indeed - and it appears we may have outsmarted ourselves concerning economic ideology. When we can't see reality, or think outside the parameters set by our social conditioning, how can we hope to effect positive change?
When it comes to cases of continued denial concerning human or legal rights, fear of change can transform into an extremely destructive force which at times manifests itself in the realities of war, be it civil or foreign. To unleash the destructive forces of war, or violent conflict, it only takes unreasonableness on one side and the human nature to resist transgressions against human or legal rights on the other. That line of transgression against the American people has, by any honest accounting, long been crossed by mutually corrupted-intellects in the symbiotic collusion of extreme wealth and D.C politicians. If Americans would now arm themselves with truthful informational facts while mobilizing to effect peaceful political change with the overwhelming force of moral intellect, the positive effects to our overall society will more than compensate for the investment of time and energy required to make those changes.