College Students at a cafeteria table:
(STUDENT 1) “So it became a fight, you know, because the rich didn’t want to pay any more taxes. So she just came back, in a few weeks, and started talking about wealth. How much wealth was good and when it became obscene.”
(STUDENT 2) “And about the extremes, you know. Was it ethical to have very, very poor people in a society, when there were filthy rich around.”
(STUDENT 3) “Yeah, I remember her chart, how she said you had to shift the mountain more towards the middle. That was cool. I was a kid and I never forgot that.”
(RICH LADY WITH LOTS OF JEWELS) “She was logical, you know. She explained it in a way that even the rich could see. That it was to their advantage to let go of some money, to do good things. After all nobody wants to be Marie Antoinette, and have her head chopped off.”
(FARMER) “She ridiculed their ideas. Without being rude or anything. But she would say, This is nonsense. This is nonsense. You can’t say that wealth is unlimited and after the rich get all of theirs some will trickle down to the poor. We are not pigs, after all. You cannot throw a bucket of slop to the masses and have them jostle and squeal to get their just share.”
21 of March, Year 2
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Parliament of Aussland,
While still adhering to the positive aspects of capitalism I would like to engage in some re-conceptualization of it by exploring the question of “What is wealth?”
A great visionary once said: “Wealth is highly commendable, provided the entire population is wealthy.”
I ask you: can there be any circumstance under which wealth is not commendable? Is not wealth a neutral thing?
We must ask ourselves, does it follow then, that wealth is NOT commendable if the entire population is not wealthy? Or is it just when some are extremely wealthy while others are extremely poor that wealth is not commendable?
Some would propose that wealth is only commendable if the means by which it is attained are honest or ethical. Some would take it even further and suggest that wealth is commendable only based on the manner in which it is expended. Some believe that wealth can be purified if a certain percentage is returned to the Provider of that wealth.
In any event, we must admit that our society is obsessed with wealth and generally disregards the question of how that wealth is obtained or how it is expended.
So let us imagine that there is a graph in front of us and on it a flat line, one end of a line represents the rich and one end represents the poor. There is a mountain on that line, labeled “WEALTH.” Right now that mountain sits in the extreme left of that line, squarely on top of the side labeled, the rich. How can we move that mountain more in the direction of the middle without resorting to a communist system of forced redistribution of wealth?
Well, it is simple, actually. Once we have analyzed wealth and how it is obtained and expended, we can determine what are the boundaries we wish to impose, or let us say, the norms we wish to impose on that obtaining and expending. Mostly, I would say, we can impose regulations on the manner of obtaining wealth, and incentives on the manner in which it is expended. All of this based on the principle of “eliminating extremes of wealth and poverty.” But the fundamental mechanism here is that extreme poverty cannot be eliminated if the mountain called wealth is not moved more to the center of our graph. Some will argue that wealth is unlimited and therefore any safeguards to assure that some wealth is left for the poor are unnecessary, but I believe this is simply nonsensical. Throughout history we have seen that protections of the poor are needed to prevent the unscrupulous exploitation of children, persons of color, ethnic minorities, coal miners, women, agricultural workers, etc. this point of fact cannot be argued.
So let us busy ourselves with determining what safeguards are needed for the generation of wealth. I would propose that there are two:
1. Wealth that is obtained thru the purchase of labor must take into account that the worker shares in the ownership of the fruits of that labor. That is to say, intellectual property and the fruit of labor are not under the sole ownership of capital.
So, very simply, this would require that the profits be shared between capital and labor, according to proportions to be legislated after a process of deliberation by this body.
2. As we have already stated in our proposals concerning WORK, the wages for labor must at least be equal to the level of subsistence of the worker. In other words, if there is a degree of wealth being derived by the employer that prevents the employee from having a living wage then there is something wrong in the way that wealth is being obtained. The cost of production of a good must include a reasonable, living wage, even if this cuts down on the capitalists’ profit margin.
By re-adjusting wages in this manner, the mountain will be moving more towards the middle and hopefully extreme poverty will be avoided. In this point, it is seemly for this body to establish safeguards.
In the expending of wealth, let us agree, that in the context of our current society extreme wealth is somewhat obscene. Wealth brings with it a burden of responsibility.
1. The rich, like everyone else, must pay their fair share of taxes. Any exceptions to this rule will simply throw the body politic into chaos. It is unsustainable, chimeric and downright dangerous.
2. Beyond that, all forms of incentives must be found so that the rich may voluntarily reintegrate a portion of their wealth back into the community for the benefit of society. However, their voluntary contributions to programs of benefit to society must not be purchased by means injurious to society. That is to say, it may only serve to exempt them from flat taxation on that income.
Now, I understand that over many generations we have developed a tax code in this country that is daunting to reform. Indeed, we would not be human if we were not overwhelmed at the mere thought of it. That is why I am proposing the simplest principles to guide us in our work. If we leave all special interest aside, and dedicate ourselves to reform solely on the basis of principle, the principle of justice and equity, we could quickly untangle the mess we find ourselves in. No doubt the people would be on our side and would support us in what needs to be done.
As reported by Rhea Harmsen