On similar subjects...
Societal dysfunction and cancer
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.
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 can donate money and feel he or she need no longer make a personal contribution to society.
A personal contributionDonating blood or plasma (photo on the right) is an example of a personal contribution. At the time I took the photo I was told that only one in thirty Australians donate blood or blood products, yet it is easy, takes only an hour or so and is practically painless.
Contrast – the wealthy capitalist and the volunteerThe wealthy person donating some of his ample money can 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.
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 and the closely related and equally concerning problem of
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
Also, people consume more or less in proportion to their wealth and as consumption increases so do the resultant greenhouse emissions; so wealthy people are responsible for far more per-capita emissions than are poor people.
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 enough 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 stole 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?
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.
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.
Perhaps after our children have become independent adults and after retirement is when we most look for a purpose for continuing to live, something to make us feel that we have a value.
I believe that contributing to society, trying to make the world, or at least our community, a better place, can provide that purpose.
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, community garden, local parks and gardens, 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.
Much of my spair time is spent at Gleeson Wetlands in Clare, South Australia. Three years ago it was unattractive and covered with weeds, since then it has been turned into a beautiful garden area that is an asset to the town. I can assure you that doing something for your community provides far more personal satisfaction than does some sort of pass-time that achieves nothing.
The people who have worked to achieve this have made this small part of the world a better place.
|Gleeson Wetlands, Clare, South Australia|
Attitude to wealth|
How much income is enough?
Making the world a better place
Purpose for living
Retired people can contribute