A Modest Proposal for a Level Playing Field
I was wondering the other day how different things would be if the concept of inheritance no longer existed. What I mean is, when you move on from this life, your leftover wealth gets distributed among the entire tribe instead of to your immediate relatives.
Wow. Wouldn’t that change things? What would the great names be? Carnegie? Rockefeller? Forbes? How would you become great if you couldn’t pass your loot along to, say, Paris Hilton? What would happen to us if the incentive to make way more money than we can spend in a lifetime went away? I imagine some people would still do it because that’s what they enjoy. But I’m wondering if a whole lot of others might snap out of their collective stupor and maybe do something else.
Okay, there are some hitches in the plan. What I think I’m describing is a form of socialism, which hasn’t really performed well when compared to pure capitalism. But what if we removed the royalty from capitalism and leveled the playing field? You still get to choose your job and make money whatever legal way you wish, but you come out of the shoot no better or worse off than the guy in the next birthing room. All you give up is the opportunity to perpetuate a class of financially secure antecedents who can work or not work as they see fit. Is that bad?
I guess what I’m wondering is if there would be more for the rest of us if a handful wasn’t hogging a majority of the world’s wealth. Or would we wind up a post-WWII Soviet Union with a royal class (some comrades more equal than others) and as much corruption as we have in our capitalist democracy? I’m sure the government would have to be involved in the redistribution of the deceased’s wealth, so there’s plenty of room for corruption there. Or is there? Isn’t that what the IRS does with inheritance tax? This would just be a whole lot more. I wonder if it could be done.
I keep dreaming of a world in which people become baseball players because they love to play baseball and don’t really have any other career urge. I dream of world where teachers become teachers because they love to teach, not because they’ve decided to trade earning a large income for having the summers off. Or doctors who have a primary interest in keeping people healthy, not making the big bucks (okay, the inheritance thing wouldn’t prevent that, but maybe it’s time we look at the salary scale as well). Or lawyers who dig justice more than winning. How about publishers more interested in presenting the truth than in selling copies?
I’m a little tired of patting rich people on the back for their philanthropic largesse when their contributions don’t really diminish their capacity for living large. I’m sure I’d have a different opinion of all this if I were one of the moneyed elite. But my materialism gland has nearly gone dry over the years. I plan to be buried with my assets–unless the embalmer happens to grab the spare change out my pocket before I go in the hole.