Concerning wealth inequity in America

I was going to talk a bit about the idea that Science has betrayed itself, and humanity. Then I came across this observation:

“The discomfort of the American people is not entirely surprising, given that inequality in America today is twice as bad as in ancient Rome, worse than it was in Tsarist Russia, Gilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republics in Latin America, and worse than experienced by slaves in 1774 colonial America.”

I have to say, I am certainly aware of the inequity that exists in America right now. I am aware that if *minimum wage* in the US had grown along the same lines as the rest of the economy, it would now hover around 20 USD an hour, or about 40,000 usd a year. I am aware that 80% of Americans share about 8% of the economy. And that is just using the US numbers. If one were to look globally, the situation would be MUCH worse.

Now my income is around 18K a year, and I make more than the minimum. I am thinking of how much different my life would be if I made 40K. My weekly paycheck would increase from around 300 a week to 800 a week. Right now I clear my expenses with about ten dollars a week of “disposable” income. I cannot go to a movie, out to dinner, or out for drinks. Yet if you added 500 USD a week to my pay, well, I would have 510 USD disposable income each week! What a massive difference it would make in my life. Of course, there is no talk of keeping the minimum wage in line with the economy, the talk now is about $10.10, or roughly half of that. While this would increase my income from 300 wk to 400, the difference would simply be a slightly better subsistence lifestyle. I would be able to eat a little better, maybe even have a treat once in a while. I would be able to get some badly needed clothes and shoes and the such. But really, it won’t make much of a difference, and when I imagine the inflationary effect of any increase, I simply imagine that my life would largely be unchanged, and the inequities of American Corporatism would remain largely unchanged.

As a conservative, this brings up two issues for me, the first is the belief that a free market is the best economy, and the second is a cautious stance towards any actions by the government, since that means I am less free. When I consider the free market, I realize there is no “free market” in America. 90% of all consumer products are made by 10 Corporations. I believe this is exactly because we have allowed the government to meddle in the Economy is unhealthy ways. This makes me even more hesitant to imagine the government trying to “fix” the inequities America is facing. If society moves too much towards Socialist answers, we will pay the price for it, loss of productivity, loss of innovation, and most seriously, the loss of motivation.

Avarice (greed, for the vocabulary challenged Americans of the 21st century) is one of the “7 deadly sins”. We all know greed is bad, we are all taught as children to share and be nice. Yet, there is no economic definition of greed. there is no point where society looks at a CEO and remarks their actions are immoral. sinful, hurtful. Clearly, anyone would agree that taking all and giving back none is bad, sinful, shameful, but there is no point at which we can say it is happening in any particular situation. I am sure the 1% think this is just fine. I am also sure the other 99% realize something is wrong, but have no compass by which to express it.

To me any meaningful change has to address the ideas of Capitalism and Free Markets. Right now I lean towards the idea of proportional resource distribution, that is, limit growth across the board to keep things fair and equal, and still allow for reasonable rewards for innovation and motivation. Switzerland recently failed to pass a law that I thought was quite a good start. They wanted to limit income within an organization to a 12:1 ratio, meaning no one in any organization could make more than 12 times the least paid individual. In real terms this means that if someone is paid $10 an hour, then no one could make more than $120 an hour with that company. This is exactly what I believe is the core of Regan’s “trickle down economy” and maintains the ability for any motivated individual to be well rewarded for their endeavors, while at the same time setting up a guideline of when one crosses the line into avarice. I read a while ago that in a survey, most Americans were more strict, favoring 10:1 (and, in fact, believe that was the case, more or less).

I am not foolish enough to believe that any of this will ever come to pass without a true miracle. A brief survey of history will confirm that as peasants are lowed to subsistence lifestyles, and then even farther, they will revolt in an attempt to change things, and become the elite, doing the same thing, beginning the same cycle. Perhaps this is what Jefferson meant when he quipped that a Democracy needs a good revolution ever once and again. I fear that this only spreads the wealth on an ocean of blood. Recently, an area of Spain had some massive “communist” revolution, where startups were making all employees shareholders, and trying to improve the distribution of wealth within and organization. It worked. Until they outgrew their staff and had to hire more people, then the existing staff became the shareholders, and the new staff became the slaves. They changed nothing, they simply turned the page. Inequity immediately sprung up everywhere in this semi-utopian dreamland, and I even read the beginnings of Unionization. What goes around, comes around. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I believe there is some good to be had by realizing it doesn’t have to be this way. Perhaps the story of the 100th Monkey is actually true.

In the end, what it comes down to is people want to be happy and free. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. If they do not experience this, they start becoming dissatisfied. Once the dissatisfaction reaches a critical state, then, and only then, will they decide to do something about it. A government that does not keep the citizens from this point deserves what it gets. The people, on the other hand, do not. The horror and bloodshed of a revolution is both unnecessary and unacceptable, especially when it is so easily fixed that an idiotic right wing conservative can find an answer. Of course, in saying that, I wish to point out that the right wing in America is not very conservative, and I find the ignorance and hate flowing from the right in the US now a betrayal of true conservative thought, and a detriment to the American Culture. Hey, but that’s me.

A Perfect Storm

Every generation has, as it advanced in years, declared the world is about to end, and longed for a mythological time known as *the good old days*. The fact that as I approach 60, I have developed these exact feelings can therefore be considered the normal and average response of some of my generation towards the future. This being said, I have to wonder if the other generations that muttered these dark words faced the challenges the modern world does, for it certainly seems to be that there is a perfect storm brewing that doesn’t bode well for humankind.

First, I see the condition of the planet, our home. There is no small amount of argument as to its causes, and very little attention paid to its reality. The water is polluted and filthy, and so is the air. The natural actions of the planet aside, this is reaching a critical point. Whether the planet is warming or cooling, it is most certainly changing, by its own action or the actions of humanity, the conditions are becoming both bizarre and hostile. I have noticed the wind seems both stronger and harsher lately, and so does the weather. The sun is fierce. I won’t even start here on humankind actually meddling with the weather except to say that some are quite proud of their ability to do so, and even have conventions.

And second is the condition of the Human Family. In every aspect, humanity is facing problems undoubtedly of its own making. In my own country I expect to see a revolution, and I actually believe in many ways it has already begun, and I am reminded of the words of John Kennedy: if peaceful revolution does not succeed, violent revolution is inevitable. One thing I notice is that while a portion of the US population tries as it may to change things peacefully, there is a strong movement by officials to militarize against the people.  At the same time these same forces work constantly, and often illegally, to disarm the people so they are unable to defend themselves.

“I used to issue leaflets asking people to enlist as recruits. One of the arguments I had used was distasteful to the Commissioner: ‘Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act of depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.’ The Commissioner refereed to this and said that he appreciated my presence in the conference in spite of the differences between us. And I had to justify my standpoint as courteously as I could.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Peaceful revolution works much better when Kennedy’s “inevitable” is a possible response to continued refusal to accept the will of the people. In the early days of the American experience, secession provided a similar check against an over reaching Federal government. If a state disapproved, it could leave, and they threatened to on a regular basis.

Thomas Jefferson was, ideally, an anarchist. He believed the smaller the government, the freer the people, and no laws to be the ideal state. He realized that such a society would have to be intelligent, well informed and morally responsible. The primary purpose of government is to provide these tools, through education for all citizens, the honest and open access to information and the absolute freedom to seek moral guidance without interference of discrimination.

Gnosticism posits that moral guidance is found through personal reflection on the sacred. Buddha once mentioned “If you see Buddha on the road, kill him”. By this, I believe he meant that any distraction from the seeking of a personal knowledge of the sacred is at best a crutch, at worst a chain. Robert Heinlein would echo this thought in his novel *Stranger In A Strange Land*. Thou art God.

Science and Theology represent the  polarity of knowledge, and as such are bound together by the rules of polarities: opposition, inter-dependence, inter-consuming, inter-supporting and inter-transforming. They oppose each other, yet neither can exist without the other. As one grows, so the other shrinks, Science grows by consuming Theology, and Theology grows by integrating Science. In the end, Science will never supplant Theology, nor can Theology exist without Science, their dance is eternal. These days, it seems to me, Science and Theology have taken stances of opposition, and forsaken the other qualities they share, to their own demise, as well as humankind’s. We have arrived at a time when we can do the unthinkable, and have no moral compass with which to tell us not to do it. Science is, by decree, absent of moral considerations.

The Perfect Storm.