The distribution of wealth is too important an issue to be left to economists, sociologists, historians, and philosophers. It is of interest to everyone, and that is a good thing.
More engagement and less ignorance and heated assassination are the new order, or at least should be.
We start with inequality. There will always be a fundamentally subjective and psychological dimension to this. The ownership of capital brings the rich and poor within each country into conflict with one another far more than the collision of countries, though increasingly that is changing with the closing of borders and dangerous rhetoric over failing free trade.
The world of science is being challenged……deniers over climate change and sane economic policy pursue ‘alternative facts’, which is to say, lies.
Heard of trickle-down economics? It doesn’t work unless you are the elite or you live in blissful ignorance. Those who drift to the right use this argument to justify extreme inequalities and to defend the privileges of the winners without much consideration for the losers, and without any real effort to verify whether this very convenient principle does actually explain the changes we observe.
It is not only that the working class has much less access to education, and good education in particular, than people of rank and fortune, but also that the work of the working class gives them far less occasion to cultivate their minds than the work of the privileged.
In order to believe in the equal potential of all human beings, what is crucial is policy emphasis on class related neglect of human talents through the lack of education and the unimaginative nature of the work that many members of the working class are forced to do by economic circumstances.
The shocks of the period 1914 to 1945 played an essential role in the reduction of inequality, and the increase in inequality since 1970 has not been the same everywhere, which suggests that institutional and political factors play a key role.
What were these shocks? The destruction caused by two world wars, bankruptcies caused by the great depression and bad policy (nationalization and unfair taxes).
Income inequality was high in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. This was true not only of Britain, France and Germany but also of Sweden and Denmark, proof that Nordic countries have not always been models of equality.
An explanation for the spectacular increase in income inequality from the 1990s to today is that the skills and productivity of top managers rose suddenly in relation to those of other workers, which is an idea embraced by agents of greed.
Another explanation is that these top managers, by and large, have the power to set their own remuneration, in some cases without limit and in many cases without any clear relation to their individual productivity, and now this great con is being challenged by shareholders in plain view of the public’s disdain.
This is particularly true in the US and UK, but less so in Japan, Germany, France and other European countries – but they are moving in the same direction.
In the long run, the best way to reduce inequalities, increase the average productivity of the work force and overall growth of the economy is to invest in education. Over the long run, education and technology are the decisive determinants of wage levels.
All signs are that the Scandinavian countries, where wage inequality is more moderate than elsewhere, owe this result in large part to the fact that their educational system is more equal and inclusive.
It is important to note that the very high concentration of wealth observed in 1900 to 1910 was the result of a long period without a major war or catastrophe (at least when compared to the extreme violence of 20th-century conflicts) as well as without, or almost without taxes. At the time, the top 1% controlled 60% to 70% of wealth and today that number in the US is 40%.
We will never put an end to the violent conflict which inequality creates because politics is never far behind, but the great leveler, character, may help.
Whoever has taken the trouble to examine idiots with attention, will find that, in many of them, the faculties of understanding are by no means weaker than in other people.
President Trump, who is often accused of being one, is not an idiot, but too often plays it to the line. At 71, his frequent contempt for education, basic reading and writing, and his ill-guided passions are founded in pride and resentment, the irritable part of the soul.
Ambition, animosity, the love of honour, the dread of shame, desire of victory, superiority, and revenge, characterize President Trump, along with his disdain for facts and his disregard for minorities, Mexicans, Latinos, judges of honour who practice the rule of law and of course women……….more than 19 of whom and counting have credibly accused him of groping and being a man of vile count.
His greatest tax reform ever will not flow to the common man who rooted for him in the 2016 Presidential election. Sadly the top 1% and corporations will be the main beneficiaries, and the shift towards a more equal America has now been suspended, along with good government.
A man of reserve and concealment, though seldom a very amiable character, is not disrespected or despised, and these are qualities Mr Trump would do well to embrace. President Obama may not have been praised or beloved, but he was little hated or blamed.
Obama was a MAN (capital letters) of simplistic manners, who lived in good harmony with others and did not enter into intrigue in order to secure public applause. Contrast this with President Trump; the qualities of temperance, decency, modesty, and moderation, which can seldom be directed to any bad end, are not ones you readily associate with the current US President.
Trump exists because 40% of the voting population backed him and were willing to overlook his repellant dark side, a side which is presently infused into European politics.
The world is increasingly shifting right and at the other extreme deep left; places, where history has shown the common man, does not normally benefit.
A place in the middle is where most people can come together. Often less colorful, where the theatre of politics is less extreme, the middle is where inequality can best be tamed and where the character has the best chance of flourishing.
The respectful attention of the world are increasingly being directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and virtuous; and we see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent, and this needs to change.
Russian President Putin, Syrian president Assad and others who practice the dark side of our shameful past are disturbers of the peace and should be removed from the world, and then others, terrified by their fate, may be less inclined to imitate their example.
Among civilized nations, the virtues which are founded on humanity are more cultivated than those which are founded upon self-denial and command of passions.
In pastoral countries where humility trumps darkness, the authority of law is not alone sufficient to give perfect security to every member of the state and so branches of family and community must come together to build neighborhoods. Such a coming together is necessary for the common defense of basic decency and of building a society which is available to everyone who respects basic laws.
In such societies, the magistrate is entrusted with the power not only of preserving the public peace by restraining injustice, but of promoting the prosperity of the world, by establishing good discipline, and by discouraging every sort of vice and impropriety. The UN, IMF, World Bank along with citizens of the world must come together to forge communities of common decency where rules are followed to prohibit mutual injury.
A peek into the recent past and we are reminded of the more than 500,000 slain in the 1994 Rwanda conflict and the genocide in our own backyard in the former Yugoslavia, where there was no common superior to decide disputes, and as a result, the people lived in continual dread and suspicion of one another.
Sovereign countries, expecting little justice from their neighbours, are disposed to treat them poorly, as the centuries-old conflict across the Middle East and divided Korean peninsula are evidence today.
The regard for the laws of nations, or for those rules which independent states profess or pretend to think themselves bound to observe in their dealings with one another, are often no more than a facade. The flows of desperate immigrants fleeing wore torn Syria and other countries of conflict into divided Europe require a new reckoning and commitment so that people of decency may peacefully remain in their own countries.
During the age in which the founders of all the principal sects of ancient philosophy flourished (circa 400 BC), all the different republics of Greece distracted by the most furious factions sought, not merely superiority or dominion, but reducing their enemies to the vilest of all states, that of domestic slavery, and to sell them, man, woman, and child, like so many herds of cattle, to the highest bidder in the market.
During other periods of the ancient where enlightenment was able to exist, virtues of propriety, self-government and self-command were dominant. Fortitude, magnanimity, independency upon fortune, the contempt of all outward accidents, of pain, poverty and death, became the founding principles we see in Conservative politics today, but no longer Republican Conservatism in the US which has been hijacked by Trumpism with its incessant attacks on the independent judiciary and media, the Justice Department along with every branch of the intelligence community.
A source of embarrassment for every nation of decency but not for Trumpian America; if you are poor or without the support and you have the misfortune of becoming ill, your options are limited because healthcare in America is not free. To those with means it is one of the best healthcare systems in the world, and to those without, and especially those whose ailments are life-threatening, Republican unofficial policy remains ‘die quickly’ so as to reduce the burden on society.
Take a moment………breathe deeply and reflect on this.
This is not 1950 America grappling with the affairs of a broken world following a devastating war, but America 2018 where the poor find themselves outside, and where needless deaths occur because of divided politics.
Man is driven to take refuge in society, not by any natural love which bears to his own kind, but because without the assistance of others, he is incapable of subsisting with ease or safety. Virtue is the great support, and vice the great disturber of human society.
Without precaution, civil society would become a scene of bloodshed and disorder, every man revenging himself at his own hand whenever he fancied he was injured.
To prevent the confusion with every man doing justice to himself, the magistrate, in all governments which have acquired any considerable authority, should undertake to do justice to all and promise to hear and to reduce every complaint of injury.
In all well-governed states, judges are appointed for determining the controversies of the individuals, but rules are prescribed for regulating the decisions of those judges; and these rules are, in general, intended to coincide with those of natural justice.
As Thomas Jefferson famously put it, “the earth belongs to the living”, and it is our responsibility to ensure adults with sufficient intellect and curiosity are there to guide the world to a new understanding which Trumps the tyrannical second class approach to world affairs of bigotry and division.
Hatred and anger in their purest forms are the greatest poison to the happiness of good mind, and we would do well as a society to reduce our amusement in these.
Everything may be expected, or at least hoped, from being a child, but very little can be expected from an old man; and so we must now hope that Donald John Trump, 45th President of the United States, and those around the world who pursue divided politics, find some of these childlike qualities for the sake of the living and a 21st century world lurching towards extreme and deep uncertainty.