In a video I will share this weekend, I heard the following phrase: “In the criminal justice system the people are repressed by two separate but equally important important groups: the police who defend private property and the policy makers who criminalize disobedience”. When I heard “the police who defend private property and the policy makers…” my mind spun ahead completing the sentence with “the policy makers who define private property”.
Why did that pop up in my head? Well it is because of the immoral and cruelly corrupt system of human life into which I was born and in which I therefore have had to utterly waste my short time on Earth. It arranges and justifies its inequality and its abuse of people – and even the destruction of our life-supporting environment – on the concept of private property.
And what is that concept of private property? How is it defined for us?
In our infancy, we all go through a phase where we claim that everything we see belongs to us. The mine-mine-mine-everything-is-mine phase. Our elders and peers then bring us to heel assigning things into distributed ownerships. Many of us come out of this phase owning a few cheap toys, while a few come out of this phase owning global corporations, national hotel chains, stocks worth millions or billions of dollars… or inheriting them a few years later anyways.
Odd isn’t it? How did this imbalance get started? For example, why did my parents and I throughout our lives have to pay rent for the roofs of our heads while others owned these roofs? Before the last blink of the eye in humanity’s existence (the period we know as written human history, the last few thousands of years), nobody paid rent to anybody. Tribes living in tent communities or caves or little villages whose huts they built together had no rental housing. How did this change occur that divides us into home owners and home renters, into rent collectors and rent payers?
Well, at least some of us are aware of bullies in the past subjugating the rest of their communities at the tip of a sword. And their offspring inherited their aristocratic or plantation owner positions, in turn passing them on to their offspring, and so on, through the chain of generations. This is why some are born rich and others not. But why did past communities tolerate this usurpation and breakdown of a healthy, collaborative, community spirit? It’s because private property makes sense — to a certain extent, that is. My toys are my toys not to be taken by others. When I grow up, so is the shirt on my back, and maybe so should be my home. But I am getting too far ahead…
I can tell a little personal story. When I transitioned from a music hobby into the life of a professional musician, one of my key experience was when I put together one of my band’s repertoire, arranged our harmonies, created our fliers and website, and – when I arrived at our last practice before a paid presentation – learned that the other band members who did none of this time-consuming peripheral work had decided to divvy out the earnings from this presentation based on equipment ownership.
They, who each owned a loudspeaker or mixer or such, were going to get an extra share (treating these equipment objects like musicians). This naturally reduced the share size and left me with just enough to pay for my gasoline, despite the fact that I was doing most of the work and my instruments, that I had had to acquire or even get custom-made over the course of years on long expensive journeys, were worth as much or more as these other equipment pieces (while the other members had very few and in some cases cheap instruments in comparison), but they had decided that instruments didn’t count as band capital being each musician’s “personal responsibility” instead. On this day, capitalism had taken over the band — the system that had cursed my life since my birth. When I protested the injustice, I was told that maybe they could pay me a one-time $100 fee for the website I had created for the band, while they would continue to rake in extra shares for their speakers and mixer for all eternity. Having grown up and muddled through all their lives in a capitalist system made this seem correct to them.
The idea, of course, was that buying equipment is an investment, and that such a financial sacrifice should be paid back (conveniently leaving out, in this case that they currently had lucrative jobs that allowed them to spend this extra money on their hobby of music whereas I had to subsist on what I was making with the music). They now saw themselves as members of the capitalist owner class and me as a mere worker to be exploited — a process sanctified by our system’s market ideology.
The idea of investment returns makes some sense originally, of course, but it easily goes off the rails creating a domino effect throughout life and across generations in which initial capital gains more income which gains more capital which gains more income which gains more capital… lifting a few to a wealthy top and leaving others behind while shaping human communities and societies into an inequality pyramid running on this pyramid scheme. This approach – which starts out sensibly but all too often has no safety-cap after the investment has been recovered in full – creates a pyramid of wealth and power that determines everyone’s level of income which in turn determines their position in the pyramid thus creating a self-reinforcing structure of endlessly growing inequality.
Again, why do some folks own the homes people like me live in while people like me pay for the homes through our rent, the rent payments keeping us so poor throughout our lives that we can never build or buy our own homes, while the owners of our homes make enough from our rents to possibly build or buy even more homes to rent out? And on top of them sit the banks which make a big additional profit from financing this scheme. And those at the top of the wealth and power pyramid use some of their huge income flow to bribe policy makers, executives, and judiciaries to keep the system in this abusive form, or make it even more unbalanced and oppressive on their behalf. This is where all the decisive money in politics comes from, by the way. If we were living in a fair system, nobody would be so ridiculously rich compared to the rest of us that they could bribe our political parties, politicians, and unelected government officials to turn against the rest of us — a rigging sometimes referred to as crony capitalism.
Currently, our founders’ dream of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is in practice a government of the people, by the puppets, and for the rich — simply because they are way too rich. According to various reports, Oxfam declared in January this year that 26 people are now richer than the bottom half of humanity (that’s 3.8 billion people! – in 2017 those richer than half of us were still a whopping 43… oh that was so much better, right?). This makes each of these ultra rich super billionaires possess more than 146,153,846 fellow human beings born into this world through the same process they were. Yes, each possesses more than 146 million other former me-me-me infants. As adults, they continue in the me-me-me spirit, and to hell with the rest of us. One in ten people on Earth are suffering from chronic food deprivation () while we are producing enough food for everybody but throw away a lot of it, rather than getting it to those who need it, because doing the latter isn’t profitable for the rich who control the system. To be fair, these controllers don’t have to make decisions like “oh, let all those people starve”. Rather, our pyramid scheme of a system has long developed its own dynamic of keeping things going in this awful way while lambasting us with propaganda and brainwashing that makes too many of us think this off-the-rails concept of property rights is A-OK. The languishing wealth of the ultra rich – that is way more than they could ever spend on themselves despite flying golden palaces and mega yacht fleets – they end up putting it into the custody of investment firms that invest in endless war and climate-destroying fossil fuels instead of food distribution because their job is to maximize profits, and people working in investment firms need to keep their jobs like we all do to make our ends meet. Because we are forced to earn money when we are not rich (or even some who are rich but wish to to maintain their coveted high status), we all do jobs that are right or wrong believing that it is the proper thing to do. That’s how wrongness becomes self-running and systemic. This is why we have the old saying that money rules the world. But should it? Should we let it?
Quite frankly, I believe that everybody should get enough to eat as long as we can produce enough food for all. Likewise, I think we all should own our own homes, except maybe in overcrowded cities where real estate is too expensive. And we shouldn’t be taxed on our homes either because living essentials should never be taxed.
On the other hand, those who own countless rental places collecting huge rental payments from other people’s work incomes should be taxed heavily. In fact, anybody whose wealth or capital gains exceed a sound limit beyond which he or she can bribe our politicians and officials into his pockets should be taxed out of that harmfully excessive wealth in order to protect us all. And what to do with this recovered wealth? Return it to those it was stolen from, of course! And who are those? That’s right: all of us who aren’t at the very top. And to make it simple and fair and free from entitlement debates, don’t attach conditions of who gets their fair share and who doesn’t (counting loudspeakers differently from instruments or the contribution of labor, for example).
That, my friends, is the other reason for a universal basic income (UBI) besides the financial stress reduction and healthier economy it would give us. When we dethrone the rich in the process of recovering our stolen goods, then a UBI financed that way (unlike a placating measly handout version of a UBI) is nothing less than the repair of our derailed system.
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