Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Global Redistribution of Wealth Could End Poverty

Russell Jaffe, Columnist

The futurists once had a dream: Through technological advancement, all of humanity’s needs would someday be provided for automatically, leaving us free to pursue our passions and aspirations. In the 1930s, for example, economist John Keynes predicted that his grandchildren — now the people of today’s workforce — would need to work a mere 15 hours a week, and their descendents would work even less. Someday, according to this dream, everyone would have a home, enough food to eat and the resources to cultivate ourselves into the very best people we could be, unhindered by a rat race for basic necessities.

And then, miraculously, technology surpassed these expectations. In the United States alone, empty homes outnumber the homeless six to one, the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone on earth and information has never been more widely accessible. When automated machines began to take our jobs, we should have rejoiced, finally free to enjoy our lives rather than just amassing enough income to survive.

However, this is obviously not the case. Somewhere along the way, the futurists’ dream was forgotten. Contrary to Keynes’ prediction, our work hours have only been getting longer, with stress on the rise worldwide. Worse, over 1.6 billion people currently lack adequate housing, more than one in nine people across the globe are malnourished and more than 26 percent of the world’s adult population is considered illiterate. The absurdity of this situation is not just that these problems are fixable but that they are well-known, and yet few people seem willing to even acknowledge them.

In every society in history, there have always been some people who have more than they need and others who need more than they have. Now, even though there are more than enough resources in the world for everyone to have their necessities provided for, the gap between the rich and the poor has never been greater. The eight richest individuals hoard more wealth than the entire poorest half of the world’s population put together. As a result, the issue that seems to be holding back the futurists’ dream is not a matter of society lacking the ability to make it real but rather radically uneven resource distribution.

The wealthy elite will often deny that this disparity is a problem, arguing that they earned their wealth through great contributions to society. Many, like President Donald Trump, even claim that through philanthropy and job creation, their wealth “trickles down” to benefit everyone. In the most extreme cases, some have even gone so far as to argue that realizing the futurists’ dream would have negative impacts, asserting that all necessities are already provided for through welfare and any further resource redistribution would lead to complacency or even idle hedonistic dependency.

However, the rates of world hunger, homelessness and illiteracy are evidence that such unsubstantiated arguments have failed. “Trickle-down” economics have been repeatedly disproven and criticized by the analysis of the International Monetary Fund, the Tax Justice Network and politicians like Damien O’Connor, who refer to the system as “the rich pissing on the poor.” Additionally, neither philanthropy nor welfare satisfactorily has demonstrated the ability to fill even a fraction of the most basic necessities for the nation’s neediest people. More than ever before, the world needs the dream that the futurists once promised us.

Ultimately, achieving the futurists’ dream on a global scale will require global change. The many nations must unite in order to peacefully redistribute resources based on human need, and as citizens, we have a duty to demand this change from our representatives and leaders. Through hearing the voice of the people, the world will have no choice but to acknowledge that there are far more possibilities than the deteriorating present. For this sake, we must always remember that the futurists’ dream cannot precede the futurist. The dream will come true the moment that the world begins to accept it.

 

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Established 1874.
Global Redistribution of Wealth Could End Poverty