A capital cap will not be enough to make the world a better place overnight, but it is a good step that will help steer our species towards a better future.
We all work. Working takes up a large portion of our lifetimes. Since our work comes at such a cost, shouldn't we ensure that we are getting the most for our sweat and blood? Yes, we get paid now, but what kind of world are we all working towards? With so many problems in our world, is it so hard to believe there may be a better economic system for us?
If there was a way for us to get more for the same amount of work, if we all stand to gain from an improved system, isn't it worth consideration?
It can be hard for devout capitalists to believe that another ideology could be superior to capitalism – the system we all spend our lives supporting – but opening our minds to new possibilities will allow us to improve our world.
How much is enough? For nearly anyone on the planet, a few US million would go a long way towards getting everything they've ever wanted. With, say, ten million dollars, you would no longer have to worry about financial trouble. You could afford a nice home, receive the best health care, get the best education for your children, live an indulgent lifestyle, and still have enough left over to take care of your family for generations.
What if you have fifty million dollars instead of ten? You would be living it up five times as much, right? Nearly everyone on earth would agree that, yes, US$50,000,000 is enough... and to please send the check right away!
Some of us are fortunate to have way more wealth than is necessary, in the area of billions of dollars. Once a fortune is big enough, essential things like shelter, food, and clothing become trivial. If we can afford everything we need to live, we end up looking for things to buy, shopping the globe for something to spend our money on, like a Ferrari or a trip into space.
If we want something, we will feel satisfied when we get it. However, no matter how much stuff we buy, no matter how many wants we satiate, we will always go on wanting more. Look at the wealthiest humans on the planet, most of whom would still take more if it were available... more money, more power, more fame.
It is easy to believe that having a lot is better than having a little, but once we gain what we want, the feeling of satisfaction is always fleeting. We will always continue to want - to either gain more or gain something else. We all want more... we will always want more. Human beings are insatiable, we can never have enough.
Greed is not evil; it is natural. Greed is essential for perpetuating all life, for without wanting something for one's self there would be no reason to live. Greed is one of the defining qualities of human nature. Without inherent greed we would never have survived and advanced to where we are today.
Human nature is essential to how our world works. Our insatiable desires keep the economy turning and ensure that progress continues. Selfishness ensures that humanity continues to advance. Unfortunately, selfishness is also responsible for a lot of the troubles we face: injustice, pollution, starvation, and war. A system that allows human nature to run unchecked takes it toll on all of us and our planet.
Instead of asking how much is enough, since we are insatiable beings, we should be asking the question “when are we no longer living in need?” It is in the interest of every human to consider an amount of wealth that none of us should be able to exceed.
The capital cap is the point at which we, as a species, decide when someone has enough wealth. Since there is no point where a wealthy person will ever feel like they have enough, we need to collectively agree on one. Like bartenders in a club, we can let the wealthy know when they are cut off.
There are many economic ideologies practiced in our world. For an economic system to be successful, it needs to take into account human nature.
A capitalist system works because it takes into account human nature; we are all inherently selfish. Capitalism is essential to keep people working and ensures progress continues. Few people would seek the million dollar invention without the possibility of earning the million dollars.
Capitalism works well on a local scale. The quest for personal profit drives the economy. Imagine a family owned business with about a hundred employees. Most of the employees gain from hard work, earning promotions, as well as reaping the benefits of working for a successful company. The owners remain efficient to compete in the marketplace, while maintaining a level of quality to keep customers satisfied. This situation works because everyone from the bottom to the top are working with the same goal in mind – to make more.
Capitalism, while working on a local scale, fails on a global scale. A fundamental ideal of capitalism is that the harder one works, the more money they make. That is what we are all taught as children, and it would be true if we all started as equals or there were unlimited resources available to everyone.
Imagine a field of wheat that continually grows and provides more than enough wheat for a whole village. The villagers can go into the field and harvest as much or as little wheat as they want. Those who work less will have less. Those who work harder will reap more wheat, gaining more profit for themselves, thereby earning a higher standard of living.
Now imagine the field of wheat being owned and taxed. The scenario is no longer fair if everyone works except the owners who live off everyone's labour. Yes, hard work still means more profit for the individual. Yes, the hard workers might even own their own fields someday, if they are lucky. But everyone is still taxed by the owners unless they become owners themselves. With everyone wanting to be an owner, soon few can afford to buy a field, no matter how hard they work.
Expand this scenario to the whole world. The villagers become the population of the world, and the wheat fields become our major industries, like agriculture and oil. All our major industries are owned primarily by the financial elite. Most industries have been owned for generations. New markets do develop, but it happens rarely and they are filled quickly, like with Gates and Branson. Unable to climb to the top, most workers of the world pay a tax to the owners, who reap the rewards of humanities labour while providing comparatively little in return.
Even without the owners, capitalism is still imperfect for our world. Capitalism is primarily about immediate rewards... I want it all, and I want it now! Capitalism maximizes profits for the short term, but does not take into account the long term. There is little money in investing in a better future for the world, meaning capitalism does little to ensure a secure future.
An insecure world and a capitalist system can create a cycle of fear and consumption. Reinforced by the media, we get the perception that our future is unstable. If we believe our world is falling apart, then, to ensure our own survival in a worse and worse world, we are motivated to build up our own supplies and strengthen our own castles.
Capitalism is flawed because the negative impacts of our selfish actions only increase our dependency on selfishness. If everyone is out for themselves in a world with an increasing population, it becomes increasingly harder to be able to buy our own security. We should ask ourselves if it's better to have more money in a worse world, or less money in a better world.
The result of a system that drives at uncontrolled levels is a world that is being driven at an unsustainable level. A system that runs at an unsustainable level is bound for failure. We will not be able to run an uncontrolled capitalist system forever.
A system that depends on the goodness of all humans could work, if there was nothing but goodness in the world, but we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world.
Socialism is flawed because it fails to take into account a normal human characteristic - laziness. We are all less likely to work if we get paid the same to do nothing. Progress can slow without the financial opportunities provided by a free market system.
Socialism does have some positive aspects that we can relate to. We are all empathetic to others to some degree, and we all generally care about life and our future. Socialism works on the principal that when we are united with the same cause, we will all achieve more. Socialism is about the long term, ensuring quality of life for all - something we all deserve.
On a global scale, socialism would alleviate much of the suffering we have on our planet. As a species, we have the resources available to provide the necessities of life to all in need. But our own inherent selfishness prevents us from considering a socialist system, for we fear that we will have to share our hard earned money with people who are “undeserving”.
The capital cap system is catered to human nature. To ensure progress continues we need to keep the incentives that make everyone work. We also have to keep a check on greed - we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our home world. A capital cap prevents us from indulging greed and selfishness to the point where it is having detrimental effects on all life on earth.
A capital cap system takes the best parts of both ideologies. Capitalism is catered to the individual, driven by our own selfish drives. Socialism is catered to the whole, driven by empathy. Capitalism works at the individual level while socialism works on a world scale. Capitalism can keep our world turning and socialism can keep our world from falling apart.
The beauty of the capital cap is how few humans and businesses it will have an immediate “negative” impact on. Only a tiny minority of humans (around %0.001) would be adversely affected by a capital cap - you, I, and everyone we know would stand to gain. We can embrace a new paradigm where the profits of our labours come back to us. We can begin to run our world at a sustainable level.
According to the 2004 World Wealth Report, there are around 70,000 people on this planet with over $US30 million, controlling between five and ten trillion dollars of wealth. This is an extraordinary amount for a small group of individuals to have. When you consider that there are around 6.5 billion people on earth, it works out to around $1500 per human. To someone fortunate enough to live in a wealthy nation, a few grand is not a big deal, but to the billions of humans who live on less than $2 a day, even $150 would be a jackpot.
These surplus resources could be used to dramatically improve social services across the world: better living conditions, a better education system and improved health care. While it is true that the capital cap will have a more dramatic effect on the poorest parts of our world, things will not get worse for the wealthy nations, and the long term effects are a more sustainable economy, a more peaceful world, and a brighter future for all life.
We will still have to work, for (at least) the same amount of money, but along with the usual reasons to work, we will have new incentives. Instead of the profits of our labour going to a tiny minority, it will go to the majority. This means our hard work will not only benefit ourselves directly, it will benefit the world.
Any improvement to our world increases our personal quality of life, since we will be living in a better world. A better world can make everyday more enjoyable for everyone, and a happy worker is a productive worker. A superior system that is embraced globally has the potential to make for a cyclically improving world, rather than a world that is steadily in decline.
As our population continues to grow, we become more and more dependent on efficient ways to provide the products and services we need. Big business is an essential resource; we cannot survive without most of the services they provide. Agriculture, natural resources, technology, medicine, entertainment... one way or another, our money eventually goes to the big guys.
These industries - the ones our very existence depends on - are controlled, with the support of legislation, by very small groups of financial elites. A tiny fraction of our population reaps the largest rewards of humanity's labour. They lay claim on something we all need, something we all use. By usurping what everyone needs, they not only control vast amounts of wealth, they also gain power over everyone who depends on the resource they provide, i.e. they control all of us.
Corporations, by their very definition, are designed with only self-interest in mind. The main decisions are usually made by a board of directors lead by the CEO. The CEO's first priority is to the shareholders; not to the employees, not to the customers, not to the people of the world or our future. The only choice a CEO has is to operate solely to maximize profit, for to do otherwise means being replaced by someone who will. This is not a viable long term solution for our planet.
With a cap cap system we won't have to work any harder than we do now, and it won't take much restructuring to transition to a new system. A cap cap won't dramatically alter our working lives. The only change is how the profits are made and where the profits go. To do this, we only need to replace the very top of the organization, making sustainability the main deciding factor instead of profit.
Picture a large business organization. Imagine every cog of this corporate machine, from the very bottom all the way up, driving as efficiently as it does now, with one difference: the very top – the head – is steering the machine in a new direction aimed at making the world a better place for everyone, including its own employees. This would add a bit more grease to the cogs, making the whole machine run more smoothly.
Under a capital cap system, our largest industries and corporations will no longer be run for the profit of the few. Instead of driving solely for their own personal profit, our business communities can strive for sustainable yet efficient productivity, and the profits that are made will go to the employees, the customers, and to the world.
It will be important to have a distinction between a capital cap for individuals and a capital cap for a business. Ideally, we would only want to take control of the world's largest industries – the multi-billion dollar businesses – thereby keeping economic disruptions to a minimum while taking back a significant portion of humanity's resources.
Now, it is true that big business already gives back to the community. Even Bill Gates is (reportedly) planning on giving up nearly all his fortune at some point is his life. As noble a gesture these acts are, the ones who give the “charity” still have the power to choose where the money goes. Even though the elite claim the wealth as their own, it was us - the workers - who earned the profits, and we should have the right to decide where the profits go.
When the largest business communities becomes publicly operated, we will all stand to gain. The efforts of the earth's workforce will come back to all of us.
Changing a dominant institution on a global scale is no easy or simple task. Change will not happen overnight; it can take years, or even lifetimes, for our world to progress towards an improved system. But it is possible to start today, and anyone can help make a better world become a reality. The most important step will be to gain enough support, and to do this we will need to spread the message to everyone we know.
Using anything from word of mouth to the Internet, we need to let those around us know that they could be making more for the same amount of work. We need to inform our friends, family and co-workers of ways we can improve our world's economic system. Like Huey P. Long and many others have done, we need to encourage people to question a system that allows a tiny minority to prosper on the backs of everyone else (i.e. all of us).
It is not always an easy task to share ideas with others, but it can be worth it just to try. It only takes one person, in any walk of life, reaching out to those around them to make a difference.
With enough support we can form a global union of all the workers of the world, giving us the power of solidarity. Together, we will be able to peacefully take control of our world's economy, and thereby take control of world and our future.
“Wait”, someone might say, “Isn't taking away from the elite unfair?” Yes, it is. But think about this... for someone to have so much for themselves and not share with others who have so little, the only rationale could be for the elite to think that life isn't fair. They're right... life isn't fair and never will be. It is unfair for a small few to have so much when everyone else does not, but life has always been this way.
Taking away the power and the wealth from the few for the benefit of us all will not be fair to the few. They will lose their fame, they will lose nearly all of their fortune, and they lose their most important resource – power. They will still be wealthy enough to live their lives in the lap of luxury, but they will no longer be in control of our industries and our world. They will lose the power to rule our lives.
Yes, there always will be winners and losers. But we, the entire human race, can take our power back and decide what is and isn't fair. We have the power, and we have the right! We all deserve more. I say “boo-hoo” for the financial elite, it's time that life was more fair for all of us!
No amount of planning can predict all of the problems that will arise if humanity chooses to shift from one system to another. There will likely be unintended consequences. The fact that complications will occur should not overshadow the desired end result. To every question and problem that will arise, when we work together we will always find the best solution. We can persevere through any obstruction if we maintain a vision and hope for a better future.
Yes, there is a lot of suffering in the world that can be improved by embracing a new paradigm. Yes, a more sustainable world economy is a more viable long term solution for us. Yes, I would rather that humanity does not face extinction. What else could a capital cap system offer me?
Well, for one, it is our work, our toil, that had made the world the way it is, and keeps the world turning. Just as kingdoms where never built by kings alone, humankind has got to where we are today on the backs of the workers. We are the workers and we do all the work. With a capital cap, we all gain immediate rewards – the surplus of our major industries.
We can get more for our labour. Right now, the largest chunk of profits goes to those who provide little to no service whatsoever: the financial elites. We can replace the elites and take control of our major industries, ensuring that we get the most for our work, both today and tomorrow. Even if you don't care about anything other than yourself, know that a capital cap gives you more for the same amount of work. With a capital cap you get more!
Once we take control, our world's industries will no longer be driven solely for profit. We will no longer have to rely on negative tactics to meet the bottom line; things like pollution, sweat shops, and corporate scandals will no longer be a necessity. We can also take charge of the media, using it to spread positive messages and encourage a better world.
We can invest the profits of our labours in areas that will provide long term gains. When education and social services become a priority, everyone's standard of living increases. We can dramatically increase the amount of resources we devote to improving our world.
When faced with the question of implementing a capital cap on our world, we need to ask ourselves if we are likely to be adversely affected by a cap. Most of us will never be lucky enough to become a multi-millionaire, no matter how hard we work. Instead of hanging on to pipe dreams, we can get more for ourselves now by restructuring where the fruits of our labours go.
This is our planet... it belongs to all of us. We are all born here, we all live here, and we will all die here. This is the only planet we will ever call home. We have the right and the responsibility to secure our own future and the future of our world.
Next Chapter: The Financial Elite