wealth-distribution

This has been kindly flagged by a colleague on LinkedIn’s Business against Poverty group.

If all we have to do (as the video says) is realise how wealth is shared out, then we’ve done that. One fallacy is that we are paid for how hard we work rather than for how valuable our work is to those who want to pay us for it. In that respect, a CEO who can steer a multinational to make billion-dollar returns for its shareholders is worth much, much, much more than someone who can just drive a bus or do what I do. The most important thing on the graph is the poverty-line, a regrettable thing to have to draw for any country, but would Americans like to swop their economy with, say, Sudan’s, where income-distribution may well be fairer? An interesting trend to see would be the direction in which that poverty-line is moving. I bet that (at least over the past 10 or 20 decades) it’s mainly up.

If we’re still appalled about wealth-sharing, what do we want to do to change things? The very rich will be giving work to the rest of us and paying at least some tax. Here in the UK, the top one percent pay some 30% of all income-tax.

If we think it right to expropriate more of rich people’s wealth (more, that is, than we already do through taxation), how can we ethically justify it, particularly with money that the rich have obtained legally? Would we perform a one-off grab of their money and, if so, how many poor people would that feed for how long? If we put it into government-projects, they’d be inefficient and, sooner or later, will be back for more cash. If we give it to the poor outright, will they know how to make best use of it or will they (perhaps understandably) blow it on the good things they must crave bigtime?

How would we stop the very rich from completely offshoring if they think they’re going to be hit for even more tax? Remember, they’re not all criminals. Many have come by their money through legitimate inheritance and/or by creating something (like Facebook, Google or Twitter) that has satisfied the needs of millions.

Yes, it’s a remarkable situation (just as is the situation over the world’s usable arable land or the sheer size of the oceans) but identifying the apparent problem regrettably doesn’t carry with an easy means for its solution. Those high income-earners are getting those incomes because other folks plainly think they’re worth it; they just keep paying and would fire the big CEOs if they stopped doing whatever it is they’re doing so well. Do we stop the CEOs from doing that thing? One way of stopping them would be to tax them some more, and what would we do then if the corporations they ran started to lose money and needed to sack their workers? Wouldn’t that then be our fault?

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