Even Money Needs Limits
When is enough enough? Is it possible that some people just have too much money? Living in a laissez faire capitalistic society like the Unites States has trained many of us to think that we can never have enough, that the goal should always be to have more, but perhaps when some billionaires have the financial resources to shoot themselves into outer space in penis-shaped rockets, it is time to rethink that equation. Perhaps it is time to place limits on just how much wealth any one person can amass in this country. Perhaps it is time to discuss the idea of limitarianism.
“Just what is limitariaism?” you ask. Limitarianism is the idea that there should be a hard cap placed on the material resources any one individual can possess at any point during their lifetime. It suggests that there be a limit to wealth. And that’s where I know a whole bunch of you just got really pissed off.
But hear me out for a second. This idea is not as revolutionary or subversive as you might think. In fact, Ingrid Robeyns, professor of philosophy and holder of the Ethics and Institutions Chair at the Utrecht University, has recently won a 2 million euro grant from the European Research Council to pursue her research on “limitarianism” over the next five years. Her project is called “Can Limitarianism Be Justified? A Philosophical Analysis of Limits on the Distribution of Economic and Ecological Resources,” or Fair Limits, for short. And the ideas she is pursuing might just be the one thing that can save us from the societal uprising that many of us see as inevitable.
As we all know, wealth inequality has widen dramatically over the past several decades. Federal Reserve data indicates that as of 2021, the top 1% of households in the United States held 32.3% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 50% held 2.6%. Even worse, the data is skewing the wrong direction over time. The share of wealth held by the top 1 percent rose from 30 percent in 1989 to 39 percent in 2016, while the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent. If it feels like the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer, it’s because they are. Half of the world’s net wealth belongs to the top 1%, top 10% of adults hold 85%, while the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth. This model simply isn’t sustainable.
In a recent episode of TRUTH, I discussed how this disproportionate wealth distribution led to marked increases in crime, but it fuels other social ills as well. Poverty contributes to malnourishment, health concerns, mental illness, lower education, and social strife.
But what does this have to do with some people making too much? Why is it their fault that other people are poor? The fact is that the economy only generates so many financial resources to go around. In order to combat the various social ills we currently face, we absolutely must come to a furthered awareness of the interdependent nature of our nation’s economy and the inherent allocation of its finite fiscal resources. Think of our national GDP as a giant, chocolate birthday cake. Unfortunately, there’s only so much of it and it must be shared by everyone. But when some greedy little fuck face like Jeff Bezos comes along and eats up half the cake, there’s now not enough left for everyone else. And we all know what happens when Norman doesn’t get a slice of the birthday cake.
They say that those that do not learn from History are doomed to repeat it. Well, I may not have been a History major in college, but I do recall that the French and Russian Revolutions ended badly and that both were precipitated by the proletariat rising up against the bourgeoisie when the schism in wealth distribution became so untenable that they felt they had no other option than to equal the scales of economic opportunity through violence, just like Marx said they would. We would be wise to learn from their mistakes lest we see a similar uprising, only this time with a populace that is armed to the teeth with a lot more than just a guillotine.
Now I can already hear many of you decrying the removal of the economic incentive that drives much of the innovation and development that have made America what it is today. But say we put the limit at a net worth of $100 million. Do you really think that only being able to make $100 million is going to dissuade innovators and investors from pushing their ideas forward? How much incentive does one person need? And what exactly can you buy with billions of dollars that you can’t buy with $100 million? And before you go answering that question, let me just stop you right now and tell you that anything you put in that blank, anything you name from this point forward that isn’t the true, unflinching love of Taylor Swift is only going to immediately reveal you as a callous, unfeeling asshole because let’s face it, there is nothing you can afford only if you have over $100 million that justifies depriving the rest of your fellow Americans of the basic necessities for a decent life.
Because we have to start to understand that that is exactly what is going on here. Right now, 761 billionaires own almost twice as much wealth ($4.56 trillion) as the bottom half of Americans combined ($2.62 trillion). If we were to leave each of these poor souls with just a measly $100 million and put the rest into our national coffers, we could fund universal health care. We could end homelessness by building shelters for all. Shoot, we could even pay down a significant portion of our national debt.
And hey, If Jeff Bezos still needs to ride a penis rocket, we can just let him have a prime spot in next year’s Gay Pride parade.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com