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Capitalism
Contribution
How much is enough?
Attitude to wealth
Making the world a better place
Retired?

What do various people contribute to society?

People of limited means are forced to work for a living; that work is a large part of their contribution to society.

The wealthy may make a contribution, but they do not need to make a personal contribution to society in order to live comfortably; and I hold that many of them make a negative contribution by using their wealth to corrupt government and disrupt the proper functioning of society for personal gain.

This is a subject that needs to be discussed by those interested in ethics and right and wrong in our society.

Written 2015/01/06, modified 2017/04/30 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com
 
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Capitalism

Capitalism, of the type that has come to dominate the world in the early twenty-first century, has failed to produce a just and fair society. One of the main problems is the concentration of wealth into a few hands and the poverty of vast numbers of people. The poorer half of the world's population own less than 1% of the total wealth while the top 1% own about a half of the world's wealth, and the disparity is increasing.

With wealth comes power; the poor are disempowered by their lack of money. Their poverty itself makes it hard for them to overcome their poverty, while the wealth of the wealthy gives them great power to influence politicians and the political system in order to amass ever more wealth.

Contribution

Before money was invented there was a barter system. If someone wanted a service or a product from someone else they would have to provide a service or product in return.

With capitalism, a person who has capital (perhaps in the form of a company that was inherited from his parents) does not need to make any personal contribution. He can sit back and receive all he needs from the contributions of other people. Where is the justice in this?

Even if that person built up the business himself, once it is built up he need no longer make a personal contribution to society.

Contrast – the wealthy capitalist and the volunteer

This may be contrasted to the millions of volunteers who mostly have very limited financial means but give massively of their time to help other people and to do good works generally.

Negative contribution

It is the people with the most power in this world who are doing the most to stop society taking serious action on climate change. Those in control of fossil fuel companies such as Exxon have been publicly and very vocally denying anthropogenic climate at the same time as being fully aware of the facts. Those who have big money invested in the status-quo are the ones who are most resisting the much needed changes away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.

How much income is enough?

My wife and I live in Australia. We own our home outright and we are in reasonably good health for our age (around 70). Our combined annual income is around $40-50k and we can live on this quite comfortably. If we had more we would not be more happy.

The bosses of big corporations and the big capitalists have incomes in the millions of dollars per year. They do not needed anywhere near so much money; research has shown us that more money does not lead to more happiness.

Too much?

A person generally spends in some sort of proportion to his income. Spending (not investing) generally involves consumption and excessive consumption is one of the main causes of the many environmental problems that the world has.

Is stealing always wrong?

When one person has far more than he can ever need and another person doesn't have enought to feed his family, I would hold that it is justified for the poor person to steal sufficient from the wealthy to buy food and clothes and to pay his rent.

How is it justified? If the poor man steals from the rich man he can feed his family – that is good for them. The wealthy man would not suffer because he would still have quite enough for his needs. He need be no less happy. The poor family gains, the rich man does not suffer.

You might reasonably ask: what if all the poor people stoll from all the wealthy people? It might then come about that wealth of the world was more evenly spread; the wealthy would lose some of the power that they previously had from their money and the poor would live a little better.

Plainly, using the utilitarian justification above, for a man to steal from another who was little or no better off would not be justified.

You might reasonably say: isn't this advocating anarchy? Yes, it is, but perhaps some anarchy would be better for the world and for the great majority of the people than the present great disparity of wealth and power?
 
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Attitude to wealth

The twenty-first century attitude to wealth seems largely to see it as something to be sought after and to see the wealthy as 'successful' and people to be admired and emulated.

We should be despising the wealthy for their greed! We should be looking at how much good they could be doing if they were to put that wealth to work improving the lot of the poor or doing good works for the environment or other worthy causes. The wealthy are especially despicable when they use their wealth to corrupt the political system for purposes such as advancing the coal industry, when that industry is causing enormous harm to the planet through climate change.

In the USA (I am not generally an admirer of the USA) there is at least a tradition of philanthropy among the wealthy, but this seems to be largely lacking among the wealthy in my country, Australia.

Making the world a better place

"I aimed to make the Earth a better place – and failed miserably"
Professor Harry Messell
What I think Professor Messell meant by this is that he believed the world to be a worse place in his old age than it was in his youth; so he had failed to make it a better place. However, had Professor Messell not lived at all the world might have been an even worse place in the early twenty-first century than it is. His efforts probably slowed the decay of the world environment.

In many ways the world is becoming a worse place year by year; see How our civilisation is unsustainable. But we can all try to make the world a better place and, while the world might still steadily become a worse place, our efforts will at least slow the deterioration.

How might retired people contribute?

When a person retires he/she should still contribute, and a great many do. There are many service clubs and there are many things that a person can do on their own.

A retired person is well placed to be active in movements to push for a better society including becoming involved in environmental activism.

It is very easy for a retired person to clean-up his local area; all it takes is some time. They can also get involved in revegetation projects, helping people recover from disasters such as bushfires, working for charitable organisations, etc.

'Grey nomads' are very well placed to contribute as they travel around.

Touring

Tourists are sometimes accused of spoiling the places that they love to visit. If you improve the place, perhaps by picking up some rubbish left by other tourists, then you can know that you have left it a better place than you found.

Index

Attitude to wealth
Capitalism
Contribution
How much income is enough?
Making the world a better place
Negative contribution
Retired people can contribute
Touring
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