When we consider rich people, we must realise that their wealth directly comes from the impoverishment of countless poor people.
Not all rich people start out this way. Some people get rich by having a skill that makes them marketable – they make or mend a thing and that making or mending is difficult to do, and in the time between that skill finding paying customers and the value of that skill degrading as more and more people acquire that skill and so its relative value lessens, the skilled can become wealthy.
But to become wealthy and to stay wealthy, one must extract value from others – that is to say, one must convince other people to produce more wealth than you pay them for it, and for you to take the profits. This much is well understood and is uncontentious.
But rich people only get to stay rich because there are poor people – the people who were directly or indirectly affected by the accumulation of wealth by rich people. Housing is the most direct example of this.
In the UK we have enough empty homes to house all of the homeless people. We won’t do this, however. We would rather see unimaginable numbers of people live foreshortened lives marked by stress and poverty and for some, homelessness, to pay money that they can’t afford to other, wealthier people just so that they can have somewhere to live. We have an entire class of people (called landlords) who merely take from others and feel justified in doing so. They take money, they take financial freedom, they take happiness, they take futures, they take years off other people’s lives so that they can live sybaritic existences and they convince themselves that they have worked for this, that they have earned it.
They may have worked to buy a domicile. No amount of that work entitles them to 1/4 to 1/2 of another person’s take-home, after-tax pay just for somewhere to live. It is obscene in the most wretched, unpalatable sense there is. It is the same vile, deadly joke perpetrated on the poor every month. The consequences of not having the money to be in the audience are eviction. A life just thrown out into the street because a landlord could not extract enough of somebody else’s waking life from them in the form of money. Remember, most of us are paid by the hour.
Landlords occupy a level in the pyramid scheme of our economy that funnels wealth to the very top and leaves millions to suffer in one of the richest countries in the world.
How can this be?
The promise is that if you work hard, that if you save, that if you study, that you too will live a life of middle to upper-middle class comfort and that you will be okay. Your comfort will come at the cost of some other people and they will be poorer and have less opportunity and health and well-being than you, but that’s okay, because you won’t have to see them.
That’s the deal.
Money is both imaginary and finite – though numbers are infinite, money is not – well, it is, but confidence in it isn’t. When much of the money in an economy enters the accounts of people who are already so wealthy that they literally have nothing to spend the funds on, people at the bottom of the pyramid suffer. Everybody strives not to be at the bottom – but in a system with no effective safety net, somebody will be at the bottom – a whole lot of somebodys, in fact.
So our employment comes at the expense of others. Our affluence comes from the work of others. If we too get to be rich and stay there, our obscene wealth directly causes the misery and death of others. But it’s okay, because we don’t have to see those people or the effect that their being at the bottom of the pyramid scheme is having on them.
We need UBI and we need a cap on just how wealthy people can become.
Anything else is just anonymised murder.