When governments pass more policy that only enables inequality, I hear some people wonder how they can be so blind. They point to the research that shows all the social ills associated with inequality. They wonder if the government is unaware, or stupid. They expect that governments want to do the right thing but have the wrong ideas about how to go about that.
This expectation has failed the test of experience.
What is becoming increasingly clear to me is that a select few powerful people, none of them anyone any of us think, have made a decision to increase inequality. They have used power and influence to do so through social and economic policy.
Increasing inequality actually makes sense from a long-term perspective. It turns out, people are much more concerned with the little inequalities between us and our neighbours than with the big inequalities that let some fly private jets while others can't afford a bus ticket across town. In fact, the more gradation there is among people - that is, middle and lower economic classes mingling together in town squares, schools and walmarts - the unhappier people are. In the long run, it's probably better for humans to live in two distinct socio-economic classes - rulers and populous. People are happier in poverty if they are all in poverty together.
Increasing inequality makes sense, because it will lead to the larger-scale level of happiness rising. Right?
Except that we have made every human on this planet a beggar from the moment they are born. No longer can a person choose to leave and make their way. Every square inch is guarded and protected by bullies, with set rules and strong enforcement. We are born slaves to these pre-existing conditions of the Earth. Each birth does not inherit a new chance to make whatever they can of their lives with existing resources. Those resources are owned. So the promise of life becomes a compromise, a lie, from birth, in a way that it was not for our ancestors. And the Owners force this condition on the rest of the planet, claiming its resources and animals as spoils for safely passing them from hand to hand through generations. Different Owners, but one guiding idea of Owership.
So it's basically a matter, at this point, of how we will be kept at the bottom. We are the chattel. That's the tied-up-tight of the world by 2013, and it's only going to get tighter and meaner if we stay on course with current government policies. We are resources like the oil. Except, there's an infinite number of us. We just keep churning more out, until we aren't sure what to do with all of them anymore so we invent a new kind of gum for them to manufacture to give the illusion they are "earning" their keep.
It's ingenious - first, tell the human resources that they are not allowed to hunt, grow or make their own food but must buy it. The same with shelter, water, etc. Then, make it their responsibility to convince an Owner to pay them for some effort on their part, and to pay an Owner for a place to live, food to eat, etc. Make it impossible for any human to live on this planet without the sanction of Owners. Literally. Impossible to be alive without their sanction.
In the past, Owners in North America were able to convince governments to give them public resources for free, by promising to share the profits through paying jobs - "keeping" the population. They maintained a close enough track between available jobs and available labour that governments were fooled into believing that jobs were the appropriate way to feed and house a growing population. Robots and computers will soon make light work of the heavy burden the Owners have placed on us. Owners will not need these human machines, which are so expensive and unreliable. Luckily for them, Owners have no legal reciprocal responsibility to the people whose resources they used for free. Governments reversed course on that direction decades ago in favour of allowing the quality of life for The Many to drift significantly from what rapid-fire human innovation makes possible for The Few.
What happens when the majority of the population no longer qualify for private sector employment? When only the Elite and their children have the resources to make the grade? (hint: we're already there, all over North America). The Owners say, well, they will just suffer and die, that's not our problem. The Governments say that they are not responsible for babysitting people, and abdicate their responsibility as they abdicated the responsibility to trade our resources for appropriate recompense. It will only take a generation or three before the weak get weeded out and the ones left are so focused on survival that they will do anything for peace.
Great excess is only possible at extremes.
Unfortunately for us, there's nowhere left to go now that the globe is so full of humans. When we don't like the way things are tied up, there's no new world to strive in, no more chances to take except within the web constructed around us. If that web is based on principles of meanness, "everyone for myself-ness," the conditions at the bottom will remain deplorable, and more of us will be there.
The Owners don't care. At the tip you are last to go under.
They probably even believe that increasing inequality will lead to more happiness in future generations. They now know, as you and I do, that the level of decadence we currently enjoy in North America cannot be sustained with current technologies on current resources for every human alive on the planet. In an ideal state, they hope to concentrate resources in a way that promotes innovation to that next disruptive shift (quantum?) that will make it possible. But in the meantime, they need to lower the population's expectations of what their life should be, while dangling the hope of what it could be. It's reached new heights, this campaign.
These long-term visionaries believe what I have not accepted: that every human life cannot matter equally under current conditions on Earth.
Or, quite possibly, no one has thought about any of this, orchestrated anything, decided on any direction. The "natural flow" of human spirit into the technical depth we've achieved just accidentally leads us to increase our population while decreasing its quality of life, rather than using our resources and know-how to make at least basic life sustenance available to all.
Quite possibly, it's all just a big muck of too many selfish people making selfish and/or stupid decisions. Like when the playdough gets mixed up and turns all these ugly shades of grey. There's no untangling that mess.
I'm not sure whether I'm more disturbed imagining deliberation or accident.