“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” — Napolean Hill
In a culture where we’re told from birth that we must struggle to succeed, to earn, to live, it’s no wonder there’s such a debate over the divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots. This idea of society is called a meritocracy. This is the idea that those who succeed and get to experience the nicer things are those who have earned it. Aside from the fact that we don’t actually live in a true meritocracy (just look at the single-mom who works four jobs vs. a trust-fund kid), there is another fundamental problem with viewing the world this way in today’s day and age. The idea of meritocracy was established when it literally did take a ton of work to make it. Where there wasn’t a supermarket every few blocks and there wasn’t technology starting to take over most basic jobs. Rooted in our history of having to go out and find our food, to build our houses, to make our own clothes, the idea of a meritocracy is extremely disconnected from the way most of us make our livelihood. First, most of us do a job that is completely unrelated to any of our basic needs, even if we wanted to live the old way the opportunities and places to do that are quickly diminishing if not already gone. We work this unrelated job, get some paper or increase our number in pixels, go a block away and buy dinner. Aside from the fact that working for a living is now very abstract to anyone coming into this world, most of us now grow up knowing there is enough food being produced to feed everyone! What an amazing feat right?! Until you realize that people are still starving that is.. Have we really accomplished anything then? This is the forgotten formula of society. As the quote above alludes to, the goal of society was to join our efforts together in order to increase the quality of life, the standard of living, for everyone.
The idea that by helping each other we can all live a better life is something most of us aren’t even taught in school. No, instead we’re taught that we must get through these 13+ years of abstract skills to be able to get a good job for ourselves so we can live a nice life. Is this really society? If it is it seems surely doomed. Don’t get me wrong, it is truly amazing that we have figured out how to produce enough food for everyone to eat, that we have started to automate most basic labor jobs, that there is clean drinking water accessible almost everywhere in the country. In fact, these were necessary accomplishments if we ever wanted to upgrade our society, to make a better world. But our idea of meritocracy has stopped us short of truly accomplishing the innate value in these accomplishments: increasing the quality of life, the standard of living, for everyone. For some reason, many people seem simply appalled by the idea that someone being born into a world with an excess of food should be able to eat without having to struggle in some disconnected way to do so. I understand the mindset though. Andrew Yang phrased it as the scarcity mindset vs. the mindset of abundance. The idea that so many people are stuck in the mindset that there is not enough to go around, even if subconsciously. That you must struggle to earn because struggle equals payoff. Again, while this is deeply rooted in our human history the advancements of the last century alone have made this concern null and void. Which, again, is AMAZING.
So, let’s say we get rid of this ideological roadblock to the idea. Then the ‘realists’ show up. Some may say, “Well, there is the logistical economic concern over who would pay for that food if it were simply free? The government? That sounds like communism.” You’re right! That would be communism, but.. I didn’t say it should be free did I? Capitalism cracked a really important code, giving everything a value makes it so everyone can earn and I’m not trying to get rid of that. Of course, I would also argue we haven’t fully fleshed out that idea, see Yang’s policy idea: Human-Centered Capitalism but let’s stay focused on this idea for now. No, instead the proposal is to give a guaranteed earning no matter what to cover the cost of basic necessities. This ensures that no one is losing their income by upgrading our society but people can still experience the great benefits our society COULD have to offer. Now, yes, I know this begs the question of who will pay for it. For this, I’ll direct you to one of my recent posts. In short, however: the companies who aren’t paying their fair share in taxes. This is completely possible right now in terms of resources and in terms of economic activity of the country and individual level.
Not only should we and could we give enough for food but also for rent, utility bills, education, transportation, health insurance, clothing, and hygiene products to every citizen 18 and older RIGHT NOW. How much would that cost? Only $1,000 a month per person. Better yet, this idea is adaptable to when we accomplish greater things as a society. As economic activity increases and more resources are available to be given to everyone we could simply increase the amount to allow that natural distribution that’s built-in to the idea and function of society without disrupting the capitalist system we have in place. This doesn’t mean we end the ability for striving for nicer things though. There are some things that are simply rare so obviously everyone can’t have them which means leaving competition and the idea of a meritocracy for those things just makes sense and is in the spirit of being human, striving for nicer things, showing off the fruits of our labor. Not to mention some people just love competition.
In light of the current coronavirus crisis, it has become glaringly obvious that so many people, no matter how hard they are struggling to live, cannot obtain their necessities. We live in a world where this doesn’t have to be the reality for anyone, why not make it that way? Imagine a world where everyone was already getting a $1,000 check every month and a crisis hit. The level of panic would be much lower, the ability for everyone to quarantine would be much easier. We wouldn’t be in as big of an economic crisis as we are in a health crisis. Would toilet paper still be in short supply? Probably. You can’t fix the instinct of panic and hoarding with money but you can fix the millions of unemployment, financial assistance, and food-stamps fillings. You can fix the millions of people who just missed their rent checks and the millions of children who are having to learn the idea of rationing at such a young age, let alone at all. You can fix the millions of homeless people on the streets exposed with nowhere to go. This is the forgotten formula of society: We work together to improve the circumstances for all instead of going at it alone. We accomplish great things and let everyone experience those benefits once we can. Still think this is a communist idea? No, working together is not communist but having a ruling class is. It’s time to realize we live in a different world than ever before and start exercising the value of society in light of it.