As the democratic debates ramp up, we’re reminded more of the current problems we face as a nation, and we’re also enlightened to about 20 different plans to fix these problems. Of course, this is only one side of solutions that are in the air right now for our nation. It seems that the fundamental differences between these plans right now are, on the left, that we need to address wealth inequality by forcing the rich to help the less fortunate. The reasoning behind this is solid and understandable: The rich are sucking up money and, along with it, opportunities. There are a lot of people who never had the opportunities to succeed on such a substantial level and are now struggling to have their needs met while others buy their fifth house and 10th car without breaking a sweat. There is obviously something wrong with this picture and the solution to the left is to force some wealth redistribution through higher taxation of the rich. This is completely fair given that the rich have a plethora of ways to get out of paying taxes on their businesses and personal assets right now. Amazon is a perfect example, having tens of billions of dollars of revenue yet not paying a single penny in taxes.
On the other side though, the view of the right is that giving money to people who haven’t earned it is unfair to those who have. While it seems this view ignores the fact of unequal opportunities, it almost doesn’t matter in a debate. Their viewpoint comes from a personal perspective. The narrative goes something like this: “I have worked hard for the money and assets that I have, why should anyone else get the money I have earned?” It’s hard to argue against that viewpoint. I think the most effective argument, however, is that when you work you are working to better society not just yourself. That’s the idea of work, not just doing something for a corporation that gets you enough money but doing something for the society to make it better for all individuals. The response to this would be “I am still providing the service to society and my wage is what society owes me for doing that so I can survive.” Again: a really good response. Unfortunately, the conversation rarely, if ever, gets this far and this is where we need to get when having this conversation because it is at the core of the disagreement between the very polarized political parties in the US. I want to talk about this problem, layout a few more responses, and explore the possible solutions. I should note, I do not know where I fall on the issue of solving these problems but I do think there needs to be one while, at times, the right doesn’t seem to care at all because they think the response of “I worked for my money” should end the conversation. I would love to hear feedback and ideas on what people think the right solution to this is. Without further ado:
I’d like to explore what a solution from the right would look like provided that they acknowledge there needs to be one. At the heart of conservative belief lies the idea that institutions should not infringe upon their rights, their money, or their property. This is why the idea of the government taxing the rich, people who, in their eyes, earned their massive wealth, is a complete non-starter. People on the left may quickly become baffled by how this problem can be solved. After all, the rich are all greedy a-holes who need to be forced to help others otherwise they won’t. While there may be some definite validity to that view as it applies to some of the rich it doesn’t apply to everyone. Look at people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet: two of the top three richest people in the world who give away a majority of their wealth to trying to make the world a better place. It could be argued, a well-aligned individual will do more good with massive amounts of wealth than an institution like the government could. I think there is no doubt that that is true with our current government I cannot say whether or not a properly set up system, provided that’s even possible at this point, would be a different story. The altruistic conservatives would definitely take this view. So what’s the difference between the rich that help and the rich that don’t? Valuing human well-being as a whole and clearly understanding what that means. A counter-example would be Jeff Bezos. The richest man in the world who hardly donates any money but thinks his space company is his contribution to humanity. An unclear understanding of what humanity needs right now, if that reasoning isn’t just a PR statement. If it is just a PR statement then the lack of valuing this is the problem. Either way, the right decisions are not being made.
If this is the difference then it seems the solution would be for the rich to be solely people who clearly understand and value human well-being as a whole. How is this solved? Values are instilled in people in a few ways but among the most effective are education and upbringing. If we were to change our education system to reflect the values of human well-being as the top priority this would, in turn, change how society as a whole, now affecting upbringing, values these same things. This increases the chances of someone rich, or anyone at all, holding these values. When a whole society holds these values even if a wealthy individual doesn’t they would feel more pressured by the other rich people around them and anyone they run into to share their wealth in productive ways. It doesn’t just have to be a straight distribution of wealth but instead could be setting up programs and charities that will help over a long period of time. Once something like this is established it doesn’t take as much money to keep it going and it can help self-perpetuate itself which will cause more good than just donating money.
As you can see there are possible solutions on both sides. However, I am not sure which one is better or if we need a mix of these. Either way, this discussion needs to be had and I think it should be brought to the forefront of the political discussions going on right now as a way to help bring both sides of the political spectrum together under one issue and help decrease polarization while addressing and, hopefully, actually getting something done about it.