Of the various economic issues emerging in the wake of the Great Recession, wealth disparity has bobbed to the top. It takes center ring in the news media circus, and has become the great concern of political and religious leaders.
The obvious evidence of increasing wealth disparity makes it difficult to refute, and to defend. There are many reasons for the disparity: global free-trade agreements that have eliminated blue-collar jobs and pushed the working class into serfdom while its benefits have flowed mostly to the economic elite; tax codes and government policies that favor big business and the economic elite; incestuous corporate boards that raise executive compensation to atmospheric heights regardless of performance; and, of course, the epidemic greed that has transmogrified most every industry and institution in America — including education, government and medicine — into gorging, gouging, economic cannibals.
We are repeatedly barraged with quick statistics evidencing a wealth schism. Most notably, the reviled 1 percent who are condemned for controlling 40 percent of the nation’s wealth and for having gotten nearly all the new wealth created over the last decade. And now, the most recent quick statistic to stoke public indignation is the Oxfam study reporting that 85 billionaires have as much wealth as do the bottom half of the world’s population.
Is all of this stoking of seething resentment intended to make the public believe that the poor are poor because the rich are rich? With sufficient hyperbolic misinterpretation, a little truth can be leveraged into a big lie. The fact that a small percentage of the population has a disproportionate amount of wealth is not entirely nor necessarily the result of nefarious plutocrats scheming and preying on the broader population.
Inherent in the various statistics evidencing wealth disparity is another factor that is rarely, if ever, discussed or calculated as contributing to the disparity. It is the number of people.
Let’s broaden the statistical analysis with a simple analogy. Imagine a land of 20,000 acres in which dwell two tribes of people numbering 1,000 each who divide the land equally. Each tribe has 10,000 acres. The economy is all agricultural with each tribe having 10 acres per capita.
Over the years one tribe’s population increases to 9,000 while the other tribe maintains its population at 1,000. The larger tribe now has only 1.1 acres per capita while the smaller tribe still has 10. The larger tribe now has less food for its burgeoning population and resents that fact that the smaller tribe, now comprising only a tenth of the total population, controls 50 percent of the land and is much better fed.
If the larger tribe seizes the property of its less populous neighbor and redistributes it there will only be two acres per capita. And, if the larger tribe continues to increase its ranks as it had been doing there will soon be less and less land to support the overall population. Is poverty the result of the greed of a few or the irresponsible selfishness of the many?
If the 85 billionaires are divested of their wealth, estimated at $1.7 trillion, and it is distributed to the 3.5 billion of the earth’s impoverished masses, has the poverty problem been solved? No. The 3.5 billion poor would each get only $484.
The discussion of poverty is typically replete with emotional appeals involving children — hundreds of millions of them without proper nourishment, shelter, medicine, education, etc. Rarely, if ever, however, does the discussion include inquiries as to why people who cannot afford to support children keep having them. There is little objective reasoning about the consequences of aiding impoverished populations without controlling their procreation. In fact, there are furious efforts by misguided moralists to encourage procreation by opposing birth control.
If you save a child from starving, will you keep providing for him or her throughout adulthood? And, if that adult has children he or she cannot support doesn’t the cycle of need expand and intensify? When there are no consequences for irresponsible behavior, it will likely continue.
So much of the debate about income inequality in America centers on this emotional issue of supporting the family — as if having children is a universal right or an unavoidable biological imperative. It is neither, and to expect others to pick up the tab to support your children is selfishly irresponsible.
The human race is not in jeopardy of extinction due to insufficient numbers; rather, human procreation that exceeds finite resources, despoils environment and wipes out other species is mankind’s mindless march to oblivion.
If human population is not brought down to a sustainable level, there is no hope for eliminating poverty, even if the entire world’s wealth is redistributed.