This week, I had an amazing experience. We’ve been talking about capitalism and its role in Creative Industries in one module, and in another, we had a look at the Pirate Bay case. So I’m sitting in class and suddenly I just have the equivalent of a lightning storm in my mind. It all just came together. I sat there frantically making notes, trying to pin down the explosion of ideas pouring through my mind. Three pages later it comes down to this: neither capitalism nor socialism has worked*. We need something completely new.
As the week progressed, my thoughts did, too. Why did neither system work? Because in each and every system that has been widespread in human societal organisation, those holding power worked out how to work it to funnel ever more wealth and power their way, and push those without power further into a position of precariousness and fear. The masses have to be too preoccupied with avoiding poverty to have time to think about how unfair things are, and revolt. But they must also be kept just far enough away from hardship to not be motivated to revolt. There’s a sweet spot where we the people have to be kept. So we need a new system, and it must be one that aims to address this problem.
I believe in universal basic income. People more informed about economics and stuff have explained and written about it at length so I’ll not do so here. So I think we should pay a universal basic income, and then we sould cap wealth. Earnings over a certain amount get taxed at 95%. Because you know what, an individual can only spend that much in their lifetime. You don’t need a hundred million euro, you don’t even need fifty million euro, and at those amounts there is no way you could have earned it without massive help and participation from all of society. That wealth doesn’t belong to you alone. There should be a cap on wealth.
But let’s not decide how much the cap should be. Let’s let the wealthy and powerful decide the cap – make it a multiple of the minimum wage. Want to earn more? Lift up the lowest. You go nowhere without them.
Of course no economic system can be that simple. Yet the foundational principles of it can. I’ve no doubt none of these ideas are brand new, but I think we need to stop being scared of change and be prepared to think in wholly different ways.
*My idea of a system that works is one that brings the greatest amount of happiness to the most people. Capitalism has delivered widespread poverty and increasing inequality. It forces a definition of human worth on us which values you based on what amount of monetisable product you can deliver (if we also think of service as a product).