Sunday, May 26, 2019

How wealthy is America

We have a lot of wealth per capita. Why can't we share it?

Image Credit: Pictures of Money/ flickr CC 2.0

How wealthy is America?  It’s hard to tell even if you Google like mad, but it would appear that the average net wealth is $301,000 but the median net wealth is $45,000.  And what does this mean?

The median net wealth means that half of all Americans have more that $45,000 and half have less.  But the average means that if you add up the total wealth and divide by the population whose wealth you are assessing, the number is $301,000.  And that means that the truly wealthy have far more that $301,000

But it also means that if you divided up all the wealth evenly, every individual would get $301,000.  Now, that’s a lot of money. Because if the average family has four people, that family should have far more than $1 million.

Please excuse me if I sound like a socialist.  Because (I guess) that’s what I am. When I was young, I read many of the books by utopian socialists, and I’ve never understood why that system has not been universally adopted and succeeded.  

Let’s consider a society in which every member believes that the hard work and ideas of every member is valuable, and that regardless of your job, you should do your best, and you are paid the same as everyone else.  This would be a society in which all of the assets of the society are owned collectively, but you would have your own private home (with family or friends, as you choose). Everyone would receive a universal basic income, in the form of an electronic transfer to a charge card.  You would pay for what you want with the card. In a family, the mother or father would be able to charge for all the children.

Could you earn more than the UBI?  Yes, if you gave to the society. For example, you might be driving a car down the street.  Not your car, but you pick up a car anywhere you can find a vacant one for a reasonable rental.  You see someone trying to hitch a ride (to save on gas and rental money). You get them into the car with you, and you get a credit for helping a neighbor.  Or, you go shopping and do shopping for a neighbor. You get a credit for that. Your normal work day is 8 hours but today you work 10. So you get a credit for that.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a garbage collector, a teacher, a doctor, or whatever.  You earn the same hourly rate as everyone else. You’re encouraged to work hard, to come up with good ideas, to help others.  If you do things that improves the society, you get a reward in the form of more hourly earnings. Moreover, you get celebrated in your neighborhood and your city  The society does anything it can to get the individuals to make the society better.

The society does not tax anyone directly, but it uses the communal production to give services.  Transportation by bus and train is basically free. If you want to pay for the use of a car, that costs you by a charge against your card.  You get education and medical services for free. If you want to live in a place with shared bedrooms, living room, dining room and kitchen, you pay a basic sum.  The more privacy and size you want, the more you pay off your charge card. The society encourages sharing.

Houses have specific rentals.  The government has an electronic waiting list.  Eventually, your place in line gets you the right to rent the sort of place you want and can afford.  And the same thing happens with jobs. The young people get the rough jobs. Garbage collection. Industrial production.  If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, you’re on a list, you get free education, and eventually you move up to that sort of job that’s more interesting  and is less physical. Your pay isn’t any better, but certain jobs make you feel better doing them. But a good garbage collector can get celebrated for what he or she does.

You order the things you want or need (clothing, food, books, etc.) off an all inclusive website.  Prices are set by the supplier (the government, through the organizations that produce things for it) based on availability and demand.  When you get experience working, you could become the supplier of chickens, aprons, hats, books. You probably won’t be the national supplier (unless the particular good isn’t in high demand) but it’s your job to produce high quality goods and make them available to the government supply center.

Most things are accomplished on the internet.  As a member of society, you can vote on important (and even unimportant) things.  You can start petitions to encourage other members of society to get things done. For instance, if your part of town doesn’t have a swimming pool, you can get others to help you petition the government to building one.  If you’re the only one who wants the swimming pool, there’s not likely to be a positive response, but if you can get ten other people to join you, your idea will go on the petition list and doubtless be accomplished in a few years.   You can get a group together to volunteer money and time to make completion of the project quicker. The idea of society is that it should be responsive. And a shared good (like a swimming pool) is something the society wants to complete.

These are just ideas to make the society better.  I think a society building on love and cooperation would work a lot better than a capitalist society.  We could borrow some of the better things from our present society but eliminate the inequality, poverty, etc.  I really don’t see that people wouldn’t be motivated by trying to make their society better. Under the structure I am suggesting, everyone would have a way to gaining power in society and making the society better.

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