Wayne Holland: The Irrational Universe

Excessive Wealth

... should be illegal ... January 25, 2011


The practice of using money has been a feature of the human commune for so long that it is only barely an exaggeration to describe it as a genetic marker in our DNA.

So long as we continue to use tokens of currency to manipulate resources (which is essentially all that we are really doing with money), the access to those resources will be less than egalitarian.

There will always be some who manage (or maneuver, or merely stumble upon a position of advantage that enables them) to accumulate excessively more than others.

Please note that I say excessively more. Mere differences are one thing and certainly to be expected. But excessive inequalities are another matter entirely.

Surely the most irksome factor in this distorted dynamic is the fact that money is not even real, yet it has the power to control something that is very real: wealth (just another word for resources).

The fact that money is merely imagined is not in itself objectionable. The lines on the map are also fictitious, but just as highly useful. It is truly difficult to conceive of a modern world being able to function without the abstract concepts of latitude and longitude.

Money has been every bit as useful to us as the lines on the map. It simply has that one major drawback. It is extremely difficult to maintain an even flow of it.

It is basically too volatile.

Money is like muck; not good except it be spread.
(Francis Bacon)

When I consider the foibles of that demon we so casually refer to as human nature, it is difficult to imagine that the manner in which money is currently used (the way it has always been used) will ever result in a more equitably balanced economy.

It is because of our love of (or addiction to) money that it continues to exert its irresistible power over us, and any efforts to change the way we use it may have deleterious effects on our affection for it.

But that is irrelevant. If we do not change it we will simply keep on seeing the same old thing, a lot of wealth in the hands of (under the control of) the few, and very little of it in the hands of the many.

It seems to be the nature of the beast (both money and the soul of Man) that it be this way. Changing it will prove to be very difficult, but I would like to offer a suggestion anyway.

I propose that we simply make it illegal to be excessively wealthy.

This means of course that we would have to define excessive wealth, but I honestly do not see why that would be such a big deal, or so terribly difficult to accomplish.

(And it should be re-emphasized that more would remain acceptable, as would less. It is only the excesses that need to be dealt with.)

By today's standards I believe that everyone would certainly agree that a billion dollars is excessive.

Most would probably agree that even a mere hundred-million is excessive.

Speaking for myself, I know that I could live very well (for the rest of my life) on a paltry million, perhaps even less.

It is true, I do not exactly cherish the same standards that most people do. I have no need, for example, for a big house, or a garage full of cars.

A small, or mid-size, house is fine, if not downright preferred. (Lately I've been enjoying immensely the Tiny House Blog.)

I am certain that I would not buy one of these so-called McMansions if I had ten-billion dollars. They just don't do it for me.

Whatever. I digress.

I think the hundred-million figure would work as a suitable marker for excessive wealth. (If it were up to me, I'd make it twenty-million. If you can't live on twenty-million dollars, you've got a serious problem.)

The government should simply make it illegal for anyone to have any more money than this, which is just another way of saying that no one should be permitted more access to (or the command of more) resources than a hundred-million dollars worth.

I am of the firm conviction that governments demonstrate a form of gross irresponsibility by not putting such restrictions in place. If a government sincerely believes in the equality of all its citizens, why does it not take steps to ensure that that equality will extend to the marketplace (the arena of resource distribution) as well as the voting booth?

Why do we talk so much about political equality but never the economic variety? We believe that the government acts responsibly by ensuring that everyone's vote counts the same. Why then do we not view its inaction in the matter of economic equality as irresponsible, if not downright reprehensible?


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