A week or so ago, I wrote about capitalism’s funnel problem to drive all wealth to a small percentage of the population at a rate we can’t sustain without really harming the rest of the vast majority. I didn’t offer any solution to keep the post a reasonable length, but would not have criticized capitalism if I didn’t have something to offer because I’m not the type to criticize unless I thought there were better alternatives, and realistic alternatives, at that. Here is one. It’s bound to seem to be undoable, but if any alternative did seem doable, do you not think it would have been tried? As for how undoable this or other alternatives you hear about, I would encourage you to think about how many blatantly stupid, reckless, biased, and/or unfair laws and policies we have today, and in recent history, that somehow got the nod to be put in place. These range from economics like redlining (the systematic denial of various services or goods by federal government agencies, local governments, or the private sector either directly or through the selective raising of prices), to inhumane treatment of others like Jim Crow laws (state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United State). Many are so horrible that I just look at them and say if we could do that, then we could do this because it’s minor in comparison for effort and guts required.
What I propose as a solution is actually a simple philosophy. Implementation of the variations is where the work lies, but it’s doable. That philosophy to start rebalancing capitalism would be to make life’s necessities to be a human right to access, and utilities economically, so they can be accessible and affordable to all, and let capitalism exist on life’s luxuries that is the rest of life. Make life’s necessities utilities and let life’s luxuries be capitalistic. Among these life utilities are (though don’t interpret this as an comprehensive list):
- Housing and utility bills
- Food and drink
- Universal healthcare
- Internet access (like in Taiwan)
- Computers and communication devices
- Minimum viable income (though not basic universal income)
With each of these, targets would have to be researched and defined, and different tools would have to be used. For example, housing should not cost more than, say, 20% of disposable income (income after taxes). Another number might be better, but you get the idea. That could be like, both, rent and house price controls. While studies have shown this were not viable for the market, these solutions are not market solutions, but rather market disruption solutions. Put in laws to cap profits on housing, maybe have government step in to contract and build more infrastructure with capped prices, but guaranteed small profits in selling them, or for every housing unit built at whatever price, one has to be built as affordable housing, without all the zoning to segregate the poor or other demographics, etc. If that scares you or makes you want to brush it off as unrealistic, then just ask yourselves is where the housing markets been heading for the past few decades a realistic way to expect to live?
Contrast this to clothing where fast fashion has made clothing rampant that nothing would have to be done besides educating people to buy less to cut down waste.
A better food stamp style solution could be made to keep people out of food poverty, if not just helping people earn more income in a more general solution.
Universal healthcare should be available like in some countries, but much more efficiently to target prevention, not cure, with some wage controls, among other things. So much can be saved here, and far better spent elsewhere, than the way medical costs is being spent these days, especially in the United States!
Education to at least the first post-secondary level degree for locals should be free, with a cap on post-secondary salaries. You might lose some high profile profs, but I would say the more important thing is to get more profs who can teach. The return on free tuition would more than make up for itself in the increased taxes paid in the future from having better jobs with higher salaries. Those from other places would have to pay, which will also incentivize people to stay local longer and reduce brain drain, as they will build more ties as they age and it will be enough to keep some more home.
Internet access is also a no brainer given the rush by so many governments to provide better internet access. Telcoms are ripping off governments and civilians alike. Cap their profits, and open the market to others if the current giants don’t want to participate. It’s not like there’s nobody else willing and able to step in. Better yet, learn what Taiwan is doing, along with any other jurisdictions making internet access a “right”.
Like with Internet access, access to computers and communications devices are a necessity for most to live fully and have a fair chance at success, from education to networking, if not out right work involving digital information. There’s no need to put such a device in everyone’s hands, of course. There are many who don’t need one. But we need to make sure those who do, can afford them, though not the latest and greatest model, of course. Again, like with the housing suggestion, maybe force companies to create an affordable model for every other model they sell at whatever prices. Let the people willing to spend the money on the expensive stuff find their own ways to do so, but let those who just need to get by with such devices be able to get one in order to get by.
As for minimum viable income, this is like government “topping up” income, not universal basic income where everyone is given the same base amount. Conditions would probably be complicated, but people would generally have to be doing something productive, whether working or studying, volunteering, or otherwise. Have some of it apply like welfare for those unable to, of course. As for where and how to apply this, if the minimum wage were below living wage, then start in with topping up wages in a split with business, and reducing that over a handful of years to minimize the impact on businesses. So let’s say the minimum wage was $11 per hour today, but the living wage deemed to be $15 an hour. First year, make the minimum wage increase to $12 per hour while topping up $3.05 per hour to make it $15.05 to keep up with inflation. Second year, make minimum age $13.10 per hour while topping up $2.10 per hour. Fourth year, no topping up with minimum wage at $15.50 per hour, say, to keep up with inflation. Then keep it up with inflation, or a bit more, each year with the biggest reset done. Industry knows what’s coming to plan. If they pass the buck, the limit on profits for the life utility items would still keep those things affordable. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than now.
These are just ideas I have. I’m not saying they’re “right” or will work, and they are definitely not complete or should be solitary options rather than a suite of complementary solutions. What I am more sure about, though, is that solutions that will work exist. We just need to be more innovative and courageous to do this. There will, no doubt, be losers in this, and some may be unfairly so. However, who thinks the world is anywhere even closer to fair now, or in the past centuries for that matter, and that most of the people living under capitalism aren’t losers in the system? Do you really think shake-ups created here could make things worse for the vast majority?