If there is one thing that for which Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, can unequivocally be given credit is bringing the subject of economic inequality to the forefront. Some question the relevance of the subject; after all, it’s logical to conclude that a system like Capitalism would produce economic inequality simply as the result of different outcomes related to both skill and luck. Isn’t it reasonable that a small group of people are bound to be wildly successful while the rest enjoy varying degrees of lesser success? In a system built on incentives, doesn’t it stand to reason that an exceptionally small handful of people would exhibit the rare combination of ambition, determination, drive, talent, and intelligence to reach the pinnacle of success as determined by wealth?
To me, it’s kind of odd that we accept this reasoning. In a world of abundance, why is it reasonable that some people have gross excesses of resources while others barely have any? Why are the Darwinian themes of competition and scarcity still playing out in a world in which those concepts have been rendered obsolete by technological advancement?
Capitalism encourages us to think in terms of winners and losers, “haves” and “have-nots.” This type of backwards thinking keeps people starving to death in a world that can easily produce plenty of food for all. It keeps people dying of exposure and disease in a world that can easily produce plenty of shelter and provide plenty of medical care for everyone. Why, as a species, are we still engaged in competition for resources when there are plenty to go around? What drives us to continue to engage in a system that produces a polarity of outcomes when it is no longer necessary to do so?
How can we advance as a species if we aren’t willing to overcome our most base instincts? How can we progress as a society when we are unwilling to overcome our animal impulses? There are some, particularly in the world of technology, who tout the ability of technology to provide for all yet relentlessly champion a Capitalist system that is built on the very premise of ensuring that the resources of our planet are accumulated by a select few at the expense of many. How can the conflicting concepts of abundance and competition co-exist?
The answer is that they can only exist artificially in a system maintained by coercion. Our economic and financial systems along with the legal systems protecting them are maintained by monopolies of force. The wealthy will say that the true monopolies are governments and that government bureaucracies are the cause of the distortions that allow the disparities in economic outcomes in our world. While that may be true, what they will not say is that they are the direct beneficiaries of those monopolies. Capitalism cannot exist without the benefit of arms. It is only with the threat of force that people will tolerate existing in a system that robs them of their time, effort, and passion.
The Currency Paradox is essentially about a fundamental contradiction in our economic system which is unsustainable. But what is truly unsustainable is maintaining an economic system built on the concepts of competition and scarcity in a world that has defeated those concepts. We live in a world of abundance now. When will our economics reflect that? More importantly, when will people wake up to this realization and stop accepting the flawed thinking that allows a select few to benefit at the expense of the many?
When will we, as a species, wake up?