Prior to the advent of agriculture human wealth consisted primarily of food, dwellings & territory. Private wealth was limited to what people could carry (clothing, decorative trinkets, weapons). Equitable sharing is reported by anthropologists to be the cultural norm of the hunter/gatherer tribes that survived into the 20th century. Hence this general principle: humanity evolved on the basis of equity – the fair sharing of social wealth. Storing wealth began when agriculture generated food surpluses in settlements, and the organised defence against raiders created military hierarchies, further empowering rulers and privatising social wealth. The resultant patriarchy entrenched its systemic ownership of social wealth via the doctrine of private property rights and laws to enforce them.
Today the residual patriarchy employs a fig-leaf of gender-equity to mask its moral nudity, traditional privileges and vested interests. The historical collusion of the political right and left has proven to be an effective strategy in maintaining the control system. The powers that be took a gamble on democracy in the 19th century, betting that a competitive charade would captivate voters much as children were captivated by the Punch & Judy show at fairs and carnivals in the pre-television era: if you can't see the puppet-master, the conflict appears real. The ongoing belief of adults that political competition is real has been ubiquitous, enduring, and a marvel to behold: perceptive observers notice that apparently intelligent adults act in the political process as if they have a mental age of five. So they keep voting for the system that controls and exploits them, switching from the left-hand puppet to the right-hand puppet and back according to whichever option the controllers present as more desirable at the time. Democracy works as required.
Democracy has also proven useful in eliminating the threat from any radical advocate of a better social system. Fear of the unknown and anarchy lurks in the collective psyche of voters, so they can always be stampeded to choose once again the safety and security of the largely mythical trickle-down voting option. They can no longer be persuaded to vote for tax increases, because socialists created bloated bureaucracy whose operational inefficiency alienated most people and destroyed socialism as a result.
However it is possible to do what the left has been failing to do since the 1980s: provide a viable alternative to the status quo – by using an intelligent design. A novel design that reverses the current tendency of the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer is what the situation requires. I suggest we use a poll of suitable options to obtain consensus in favour of a satisfactory ratio of top to bottom incomes. I suggest the Green Party model this solution for the general public. Doing so will prove that we are giving people what they need. We will then be seen as the genuine leading-edge of politics. Voting papers ought to include these options: 1 to 3, 1 to 4, 1 to 5, 1 to 6, 1 to 7, 1 to 8, plus a voter-specified other ratio, to give voters seven ways to choose a limited income-distribution. Reporting of the poll result must specify the total vote for each option. If a large proportion of voters choose the voter-specified other ratio, the detailed results for that must be available to researchers and reporters.
Those of us who prefer more social equity will vote for a lower income ratio; those who prefer to incentivise enterprise will vote for a higher ratio. The spectrum of votes within our party will reflect the relative numbers of red-greens & blue-greens, but the outcome will be decided by the bulk of us who self-identify as neither left nor right (as was decisively evident in the show of hands at the recent national policy conference).
This exercise will capture the public imagination if we publicise both the choices and results and advocate a referendum with the same design. People will see that they can restore a considerable measure of our lost social equity by popular vote. Knowledge that wealth is generated by business is widespread, so the general public can be expected to generate consensus around a higher median than those of us who prefer equity to money (they'd rather encourage business).
Nevertheless, past anecdotal reporting suggests a consensus within the range I have specified. I read somewhere that Plato advised an income ratio of 1:6 for Athens in ancient times. The past 30 years have seen the ratio in western civilisation stretch out from dozens into hundreds. Creating a public consensus on what ratio best serves our common interests will be a serious wake-up call for those who take refuge in the apparent public acquiescence in increasing exploitation!
Dennis Frank, 28/2/15