Is This What We Bargained For?

 

Illustrations from sergemaksimov.com

Much as we wold like to think otherwise, we haven’t progressed all that far from the caves we originally inhabited.

 

But we have to go back that far to figure out how we got to where we are today. We indisputably live in a country where the most of the wealth of the country now resides in a very small portion of the population.

I read  a blog post by Robert Reich yesterday, and it got me to thinking. Reich says that we are at a defining point: we must determine what we think government is for. I tend to agree with him, mostly because I think we have long forgot its original intent.

Thomas Hobbes taught that primitive man was both brutish and short-lived. He lived in a world of chaos, with danger ever at his door, and hunger never far from his mind. Each day was an exercise in simple survival.

I tend to agree with that. For whatever reason, pure evolution or something more transcendent, we are bred for community. We learned that banding together helped ensure greater safety and we were more able to secure enough food.

As time goes on, and communities enlarge, we build on the past. Like a very few other evolved animals, we are able to transfer lessons learned. So we begin to herd animals, and we begin to farm. We in essence begin to settle in place at least for parts of the year. And with that come a host of new problems.

Problems that need to be addressed communally. Who is to farm, who is to hunt, who provides security. Who makes weapons, and bowls, and clothing. And how to trade ones services for the necessities of shelter and food? All these are discussed, and agreements are made.

Over time, this develops into a form of government. A class of citizens are allowed to build roads, provide security, teach youngsters, provide healing and so forth. And we do this by freely giving up some of our autonomy as individuals. We give of our assets (taxes) to provide for our common good.

And such things work fairly well, especially when everyone has an equal vote, and those that are in the minority are not severely burdened with the results, at least no more so than the majority.

But we as humans are by nature not equal. We are individuals, and therefore, some are naturally brighter than others, some are more ambitious, and frankly some are just luckier at crucial points. And thus, over time, some become “wealthier” than their neighbors.

Now, that is not important in and of itself, since what one does with wealth is not universal. Some will turn it over to the community to build a new dam, or build new canoes. But others will use it to hire help to do their share of work while they go off to other pursuits. Some will enjoy the accumulation for its own sake. Some will see the possibilities of “getting their way” with the power of their money. The offer of a dam can be used to extract some desire.

We have, over several hundred years, concluded that a free enterprise or free market system is the fairest method of engaging in wealth building and the distribution of services. We all grew up with learning about the laws of supply and demand. People won’t buy what they don’t want, but they will what they do. Those who build what people want, will succeed, and so will their workers, who will get higher wages, and thus buy more themselves.

Everybody is happy.

But then, the world greatly enlarges, and we aren’t just competing locally for the dollar of the consumer. Other countries with their goods and services make offers. And they may, in order to get the business, offer lower prices, and better services. And so a free market is jeopardized. Today, our government subsidies farming, energy, drugs, and a host of industries, all to “level the field” in some way, or to keep things running smoothly.

I am no economist. I just know what I see. And our “free markets” largely unregulated, has led to a place where government seems to work only for the rich, enhancing and growing their wealth at an alarming rate, while the middle class has nearly gone extinct, and the lower class and poor grows exponentially.

I read yesterday where a Russian just paid 88 MILLION DOLLARS FOR A CONDO IN MANHATTAN. This is simply insane.

Republicans think the answer is to free the markets even more.

Democrats think that the rich need to be taxed of their excess.

Neither side may be right. Perhaps, we must accept the fact that the free market model is no longer appropriate to the global world we live in.

If this model were set out before us, as we sat about the fire in the community cave, would we agree to it?

I rather doubt it. This is not the government any of us 99%’s would think was fair.

Some folks are more capable than others, and apparently over time, they will take over the system. They are like card counters in a game of Blackjack. The game is rigged. There are no bootstraps to pull up. There is not amount of “hard work” that will or can make a difference any more to average people.

It’s time to redesign our economic system to account for the world as it is today. We need to compact for a form a government that works for all of us, not just some.  What might that be? Don’t ask me.

I seldom have answers, I just have the questions. Do you have any ideas?