Perhaps the most important benefit of great wealth is the control of time and access to tools that allow you to value your time effectively. This is one of the great differences between the ultra wealthy and other people.
Wealthy people tend to receive a much more direct and immediate payoff for their time which is why they tend to be better about valuing it. This is why the first thing that most ultra-wealthy people I know do upon becoming ultra-wealthy is to hire a driver and start to fly private. — Eugene Wei in Invisible asymptotes
I strongly recommend reading the entire post but this small section caused me to realize something about our future and the massive changes we are facing, currently not very successfully.
As is broadly understood by a great many people the global and national systems collapse that we are facing is driving millions of people to do very stupid things. The cause is variations on anger at the failure to receive a share of the vast wealth created from globalization of trade and economics. The expansion of liberal market economics has been an incredible success over the last sixty years but for the majority of people produced little long term benefit if not very direct negative results as jobs moved freely to cheaper locations.
Unfortunately this growth was arbitrarily structured with near exclusivity for the benefit of an international ultra wealthy class. While this was less extreme in a range of industrial and post industrial countries who had developed and maintained a more equitable public franchise, the extreme forms of predatory capitalism that had been allowed to develop in the largest nations skewed the outcome for all. This accelerated the already obvious failures of the 18th century capitalist/nation state model.
The American political, social, and economic failure currently threatening the entire planet is the lead case of what happens when the public franchise and public trust in the state is destroyed. The neo-fascist reaction in those states without functioning public trust is an aberration that is short term if for no other reason than the nature of the people drawn to try the feudal/fascist game. The only question is the extent of the damage that will result before they fail and need to be removed from authority. America’s problem with a irrational administration beginning to create international trade disasters is the wake up call. Things need to change.
The problem is not with the basic principles of the liberal order developed over the last two hundred years on the earlier European based mercantile/capitalist system. Roughly two hundred years of success is a clear indication of this. But the system needs to change to a new planetary paradigm because of that success. The inherent structural problems of capitalism were very early recognized by Karl Marx as the maintenance of an increasingly rigid oligarchy locking ownership away from the masses. In the early 21st century Thomas Piketty brought Marx’s very early and limited analysis up to date.
The correction required is establishment of a working franchise based on equitable asset allocation for the population of the planet. Currently the planetary wealth, $280 trillion dollars per Credit Suisse, is 50% owned by 1% of the population in November 2017. The success of the liberal world system is shown by that number representing an increase of 6% in that year. Yet the entire system has been attacked due to that gross inequality.
This begins to show the nature of the solution but still hides the complexity of the problem. Obviously the disparity in wealth is a disaster that must be fixed quickly. The combination of problems created by the rapid move to a digital, planetary society with open information destroys any justification for elite centralized wealth. More on this in a bit but let’s look at what this could mean
Based on rough numbers the income cited, if equally distributed to all people would provide approximately $12,000 per year in income planet wide. That is certainly not rich but that, in itself, is an old concept that is not sustainable on one planet facing disastrous global warming. As a note May 2018 was the warmest on record since the 1930s. An annual income of $12,00o would provide a very wide range of wealth dependent on location. For the great majority of of people currently it would provide a solid and livable wage. But this shows the viability already of a Universal Basic Income if we could just figure out how to divide it up.
A more functional approach may be dividing the entire wealth as an asset to the planet’s population. That would be something like $35–40,000 each. But what would you do with that and what about the people who have never had money to invest or would waste it or have it taken by criminal activity? While I don’t have answers for those I would very definitely suggest that these are the problems we should be focusing a significant portion of our attention on in order to prevent the impending disasters (plural).
But, back to the initial concept of time value and return on that time. The crude number above show that we have what it takes to make this a very different and livable planet for everyone if we get our act together. But we have other assets directly as a result of the technology driven paradigm shift. The numbers above would give an equitable shot at hiring a driver let alone buying your plane. These would give you a tremendous boost in ability to do things and gain returns for your time.
We are about to receive that specific set of assets anyway via AI and self driving cars. Google has ordered 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica hybrids for its self driving fleet in North America. The current estimates are that this will produce a huge change in travel by 2023. For North America this means a probable major reduction in short airline flights. Effectively more and more ordinary people will have their own driver to get them to that meeting in Pittsburgh from their home in Virginia whole they work and nap in their car. This is a serious improvement in time management currently available only to the ultra wealthy.
Larry Page of Google has been testing self flying drones as air taxis in New Zealand. This is only a logical next step in the rapid automation of human life. In a few year, perhaps as few as ten, this will become available on broad basis. The use of AI based automation will make these things available at low cost. A major part of that is the elimination of many base level jobs. This is what’s is driving the need to work out the best way to provide UBI. We are going to need it but what will it do for us? Is this a disaster?
With the right fundamental changes in how we organize ourselves and handle the assets of this planet that we share, we will open the opportunities previously only available to the ultra wealthy to a very large part of the population. This will allow opportunity for creation and innovation to billions of people. Think about that. Currently we allow only a tiny portion of our population the resources, freedom, and knowledge to explore. One of the early results of Universal Basic Income experiments is the short and long term benefits as well as effective use of the basic income among the people involved.
I find it ironic that the people who have worked hardest, particularly in the US, to funnel all income to the elite use the contradictory argument that the poor must have the opportunity to gain great wealth to be of value but if given the benefits of great wealth, the time and freedom to act independently, they cannot be trusted to use it. Being on the brink of economic disaster as the great mass of Americans now are without assurance of general health care, education for their children, or any job security is traumatic and destructive. Yet the argument is made that this is essential to motivate people.
Anyone who has worked at all in management should know that people perform best when they are assured of recognition and have ownership in the process that they are working on. It is time to ignore thee old and contradictory clichés designed to prevent competition for the parasitic wealthy who are now destroying both the planet and our societies. Their time has past.