Inequality: we know it’s bad for everyone. We know we need to reduce it. We want to reduce it – sort of.
The worship of wealth goes deep. The exorbitantly expensive cars, private jets, yachts, mansions, luxurious holiday homes, clothes, the glamorous lifestyles enjoyed by the very wealthy are beguiling. The prestige, the power, the ability to get anything you want whenever you want it. These are things that most people, if they were brutally honest, would find it very hard to say ‘no’ to. Are we ready to give up the dream that one day, with a bit of luck, our horse will come in and we could find ourselves a multimillionaire?
It’s worth noting that the majority of us have everything to gain and nothing to lose by reducing inequality. The myth that everyone can be a multimillionaire is just that, a myth. Only a very few ‘lucky’ ones will become very wealthy. We have a greater chance of joining the much larger number of very ‘unlucky’ people who live out their lives in poverty, without access to appropriate medical care, a healthy diet, or a warm comfortable home to live in.
If we get serious about reducing inequality we will all be better off. Rather than spending our lives wishing for what we can never have, we will have a society that works for us all with a decent income for everyone, less crime, better health outcomes, and a clean, safe environment for generations to come.
The way to reduce inequality is for society to make a pact about how much is enough and how much is too little and stick to it. A ceiling on wealth for everyone – movie stars, rock stars, entrepreneurs, high-tech whizzes, CEOs, lotto winners. And a bottom line below which nobody should ever fall.
Reducing inequality depends not on the very wealthy redistributing some of their wealth as they see fit. It depends on democratically established rules to prevent the accumulation of excessive wealth in the first place.
Are we ready to accept the flatter wage scale, more progressive tax system, restrictions on accumulating and passing on wealth, free healthcare and education, promotion of open source sharing of knowledge and information, and the other measures that will be needed to reduce inequality?
The Greens have made a start by introducing a top tax rate of 40% for income over $150,000. But political parties will only go further if voters insist on it. How much is too much? $200,000? $2million? $20million? How much is too little? What is an acceptable ratio between highest and lowest incomes? We know how much a living wage should be, so why is anyone allowed to pay workers less than that?
Are we ready to talk about these things? Are we ready to get serious about reducing inequality?