119 Inequality isn't right, fix it [8 June 2021]
Voluntarism v confiscation
Problem to solve: government is not a
function of taking assets from one party and giving them to
another. However, when the parties realize equality makes them
all better off, they can learn to use government as a tool for
implementing the commonly desired distribution. That puts
government into its rightful perspective as an agent for
accomplishing the common will.
When we are physically or economically associated, we constitute
a society. The sum of our desires and actions determines what
that society will be.
I propose that we think not in
theoretical dogmas but rather in results. I describe my ideal
society starting out with the wish "we all have enough to
eat." When enough of us share that description, we are on
the way to having enough to eat-for all of us!
It is futile to think in terms of government function until we
settle on desired results. Do we want a peaceful society
of mutual support, sharing peace and plenty? Do we want to live
with respect and dignity? Do we want a good foundation for our
children's development? Do we want living conditions
conducive to good health and longevity?
The key, voluntary unselfishness
It disrupts the harmony to add "for
me" to these wishes. There is a symmetry among people-
making allowances for birth defects, inherently all human infants
are equal. Humanism concentrates on this shared condition of life
without labels. Religion posits that we are all children of the
same God. All the expressions conclude that humans count equally.
Therefore, I shape my society to that end.
"Equal" is not "identical." Diversity is the rule, not the exception.
For example, I live my life with much less physical strength than
the average person. I don't see that as unequal. The
environment accommodates the difference. Social contract theory
allows that one person is better at the manual tasks and another
at the mental tasks. There are also people who are much smarter
than I am. In practice we seek compatible levels of activity so
that together the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and,
importantly, every part has a place. Human ingenuity
weaves a rich tapestry.
A grave misunderstanding is the notion that equality means
identical distribution of money. The first fallacy is the idea
that money measures happiness. The next is that money can always
achieve happiness. The next is that happiness can be bestowed. In
fact, happiness is pursued in all its idiosyncratic glory.
Thinking carefully teaches us that we long for equal happiness,
not imposed conformity.
Real equals meaningful
Using meaningful standards is necessary
for defining human equality. I have described the basic
Humans' Needs (FISH, article 27).
Equality means adequacy of all the ingredients, none of which is
money. Our ideal society constitutes meeting all those needs for
Some mental conditions impair appreciation of happiness. There
are unhappy people who appear to have all they need to meet their
requirements (humans' needs). Other people radiate happiness
while appearing to be short of some necessities. Closer
examination is required for more refined understanding of
The differences in what people have and
what they expect are all part of the tapestry. An "ideal
society" is at most an environment or framework in which
people have freedom to work out their happiness. That freedom
does not include learning to starve happily. It is obvious that
physical and mental ingredients must be supplied in sufficient
quantity for health. The balancing, the adjustment of tensions
within the fabric, combines sensitivity and empathy. Happiness
does not mean instantaneous gratification. We are happy when we
are making realistic progress toward the circumstances of our
choosing. We individually and collectively balance our strengths
and our expectations (article 40). To the
extent that our perceptions (sensitivities) are accurate, we
equalize our adequacy in meeting needs.
I or we
This blog has used several articles to
blur the distinction between self and other. The foregoing
paragraphs apply that thinking. As interdependent and
interconnected humans, we dare not think "I want." The
description used in ideal society is "we have." Only by
combining our talents with the common end in mind can we get to
that common end. Politically charged labels destroy the pervasive
sense of happiness that is evidence of good governance.
Self-regulation is the foundation principle of this good
governance. With it, every individual blends voluntarily with
every other individual. That is the measure of our adequacy. This
means we do not equalize by shifting money. Instead, we equalize
by sharing empathy and doing what the vision requires. While
retaining full individuality, we experience mutual adequacy. That
equal dignity is our humanity.
Does the article help you feel better
about paying taxes? Taxation is not confiscation. The process
is a funds aggregator. Imagine all housing construction being
processed through Habitat for Humanity, a praiseworthy
organization that effectively satisfies basic humans' needs.
The rest of the industrialized world outside the United States
already applies the principle to healthcare: funds are not
collected to enrich profits; instead, they universally satisfy a
critical human need. Some countries apply the process to
universal free education tailored to the capacity of the student
and meeting the labor force needs of society. In all these cases
the funds aggregation amounts to shared fair distribution of
costs and benefits. The collection and distribution systems
do not bleed profit.
Consider manufacturing: a factory is built because humans need
what it produces. The function is to meet those humans'
needs, not to reallocate funds into the hands of
"owners." When the factory has enough cash flow to
provide a safety net we call a rainy-day fund, all income above
costs goes equally to the workers, including administrators the
same as personnel on the production floor. Once their pay is up
to standard (average income for the local community), any further
revenue is turned into reduction of prices. This model
efficiently meets payroll and efficiently serves customer needs.
There is no virtue in selfishness in the form of wage or price
gouging. Among morally aware people, this fair sharing model is
There is a bedrock principle: when nobody earns above average,
then, by definition, nobody earns less than average. Keep
in mind that money metric is only a measurement system used to
accomplish the one real goal, which is universally satisfying
humans' needs. The social contract is distribution,
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