InJustice, what you going to do about it…

Opening with a comparison of current socioeconomic inequality to slavery is a good place to start. Social injustice is then defined as when there is something “unfair” and that unfairness can be corrected by a change in the society. The example given is mini-ramps on the side of sidewalks for people who use wheelchairs. The lack of these changes (why we have social injustice) is pointedly given as: “Injustices do not continue just because of some law of inertia; they continue because people are unwilling to pay the costs to remedy the injustice and they have sufficient power to avoid doing so.”

To illustrate “different “forms of injustice he outlines 3 cases, the first of which Nepotism dictates who a public official will hire, there being a consensus that this is un-just. The next case is of a small business’s succession planning also being only family members, the book contends this is a more gray area, but still probably not fair, the last is “n the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, there are millions of people, children and adults, who live in desperate poverty.”  Which there is much disagreement over, he cites this as a prototypical example of the fair play ideology.

Fair play is describe as the idea that as longs as the rules/competition are fair, the in-equality that may result is likewise fair, think like a football game. This is the current primitive view in America, and while the another makes mention that when lousing a football game the stakes are not life and death ( as they can be in economic competition), he goes on to argue that fixing the basic inequality of education would violate other principles we hold in high esteem. I would argue that there is a moral (and indeed practical) imperative to act in a beneficent manner, that the assumption that the rules COULD be fair is flawed from the start, and I use the farmer as an example (given in the chapter not here) conditions simply cannot be equal, someone is going to have more arable land, fertilizer, cleaner water ect.  Regardless of how hard I work, if I produce more I have a moral imperative to help the neighbor. In the same manner, if our roles were reversed he me. The practical end of this is what we are discussing at large, i.e.: inequality. All the social problems we see (which I will cover in detail when discussing the video/interview) stem from denying this imperative. Image 2 more farm scenarios, 1 in which ( because I’m a smart guy) I use super sweet pesticides and fertilizers and grow a lot more than my neighbor, when winter time comes how will he feel toward me? What actions will he take when he is starving and sees me well fed? Now imagine that instead of claiming that I have mine and he has his, we work together, I freely share my knowledge as best I can and we pool the crops. It is true I might end up with less product (assuming working together we produce the same as when we were working separately) BUT how does he feel towards me now, when he has a fill belly and the knowledge that without my help he would be starving? This idea can be scaled and applied to EVERY level of our society and our world, but rather than accepting or role as our brothers keeper we seem to rather argue about how much we should be able to exploit him before it become “too much” ( read as illegal). At the end of the day the best and brightest among us would rather be kings to a country of slaves that brothers to all humanity. To recap; we are equal in rights, but not in ability, so for any competition to be “fair” it would have to first be able to define and quantify these differences, and two act accordingly, which is impossible for our current level of technology ( and would probably be impractical when we are able to).

The findings by Mr. Wilkinson represent the “cost” of inequality, he demonstrated (I think fairly clearly but he has his detractors) that inequality has a FAR greater correlations with all kinds of social problems than absolute poverty or wealth. He did meta-analysis of many metrics (getting his data from the word bank and unicef) and the more in-equal an areas income was the more problems it had, like mental health, violent crime, infant morality, bullying and about 40 others. I say area because the plots were basically the same regardless if you compared countries or states or Italian providences, it was the inequality not the level of wealth that dictated these things. This stands a fairly strong evidence that the age old notion of “by forcing the poor to work we will have more of everything” is false. He also said that the means that inequality is fought makes no difference. For example; Japan has a smaller window of income( the min and max are closer together) , where Sweden is more redistributionist ( tax and spend) but both countries have more income equality than the U.S. and both do far better on the metrics listed.

As for solutions: Cpt 13 has three answers to poverty, but all 3 must be taken in within the following context :

 “Still, we believe that it is entirely feasible to completely eliminate poverty in America. To do so would require a significant reduction in the overall levels of inequality, and this means that the incomes of people at the top of the income distribution would have to be reduced. Poverty can be eliminated in a rich society. What is not plausible is eliminating poverty while leaving intact the power and privileges of the wealthy.”

Keeping that in mind the first suggestion is to reduce the impact income has on standard of living, by providing to the public health care, public transportation education and so on a person’s income will not have to provide these things, so they will be available for all.

The next idea would be increasing public jobs, almost like a “job subsidy” this would have a 2 fold action, first it would set a bottom limit on wages, 2edly it would increase demand for labor by shrinking the pool. Both these ideas are continuations of programs we have in operation and are addresses in a paragraph each, the author’s real solution to poverty is outline below…

Right to be lazy! Or as phrased in the book “unconditional basic income”, the idea that society should provide all the basics of life to it’s members and not require work in return. The book takes 4+ pages to spell this out, but the idea is simple; everyone gets food, housing, clothing and education offered to them, regardless of income ( kid’s shares are used by the parents). This basic income would place everyone above the poverty line, to the point that if they never wanted to work they would still be able to live enriched lives. This will be paid for by CRAZY taxes on those who chose to work. There are concerns about whether such a system can support its self, if EVERYONE stopped working there would indeed be nothing to distribute, but I do not see this as a likely outcome. Indeed I think a very large portion of society would quit their jobs, but out labor markets need a hearty re-structuring anyhow. When a unconditional basic income is established wages need to be tied to the utility of the work being done, not it’s “market value” to illustrate think a super yacht, it takes 1000’s of skilled man hrs. to produce, tons of raw materials and in the end serves 1 person as a leisure activity. If we keep spending our resources ( human, time, material) in that kind of manner that basic income would NEVER work, but if we focus on what we NEED to produce, food, clothes, shelters ect…  then we would need only a small incentive to produce plenty to keep everyone alive and healthy. The key is ending this ridiculous “invisible hand” bullshit, we have 7 billon people in the world let’s start with a plan to keep them all fed for the rest of time, when that is complete do the same with shelter then cloths then education, when all the needs are accounted for work can start of healthcare and other quality of life things, finally when everybody’s needs are accounted for, and we have a surplus of materials and labor we then start building yachts again, but having individuals grow food and trade for goods is a sweet low-tech way to distribute stuff it is NOT perfect. Indeed we have people pushing a broom their entire life; better for them to not work at all, then to contribute almost nothing but take twenty to thirty lifetimes worth of energy and materials all because the invisible hand is too stupid to understand that food and clean air is worth more than cars and knick-knacks. Furthermore the people who slip through the cracks and see the base un-fairness of the system represent a antisocial element, that if left alone could ( and I argue will) cause trouble in our society the likes of which we are only now beginning to appreciate.

 

If it were up to me to solve poverty I would do it in three simple steps;

1. Enact true transparency on our elected offices.

I am not disenfranchised enough yet to think that our political system is broken beyond repair ( it might be, I’m not convinced) to that end however we have a well established practice of electing people who do not represent our interests. By requiring all elected (and eventually appointed, then just plain all) officials to have all communication recorded and placed on-line for the public we will (slowly) improve the charter of our leaders. Of note: this would include ALL communication, e-mail, text, all speech ext… also NOTHING would excluded ( yes I mean national security stuff) the military would get a pass on this till #2 happened

2. Establish a common language, then 1 world government.

Once we have leaders who understand that there is no good reason to go butchering each other we can start to work on getting everyone on the same page, thinking of themselves as human, not Americans or Algerians or Andirons etc… This will be a multi-generational program, but when we start having a truly “human culture” we can end all large scale armed conflict.

3. Establish a new social contract

The way we fundamentally interact with each other should change, all members of society should dictate their own level of involvement. Those who do not wish to be part of society will be given a chance to do so ( as best we are able to accommodate, but if they truly wish to not be “us” they will not be able to take our wisdom with them) those who accept  the social contract will be provide with all that is needed to live a “good life” as best we can define it and provide for  it, lastly those who wish to go above and beyond shall be rewarded with incentives for doing so, in time of great need these incentives might need to be material, but ideally at some point they should be purely emotional. (We might at the start have to pay people who work just to get enough people working to support the system. But as technology increases and we produce more of what we need and less of what we don’t need we should have plenty enough people who want to make the world better to keep the system going without having to resort to material inequality.

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