The debate on inequality and wealth distribution has fired up again following “Fat Cat Wednesday”…
… subsequent interventions by the leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn …
… and even amongst the global movers and shakers at Davos with the World Economic Forum recognising that this is one of the top challenges for the year ahead …
So, is it right to get all fired up about income and wealth inequality? Perhaps we should be more relaxed about the “obscenely” wealthy?
Well, I hate to come over all sensible and “middle-way” but there truly is a balance to be struck here.
The rising inequality at home and globally should be deeply worrying for all of us, not because of the green-eyed monster of income envy or class-war, but because it directly contributes to the rising disenchantment with society, the economy and politics. It looks like (and indeed can increasingly be that) the rules of the game are being written by a powerful elite for their own benefit.
Moreover, when one large group of people (the now mythologised 99%) are told to accept their poorer lot in life, and a smaller (the equally mythologised 1%) other segment get to live like modern version of the Medici, it not only feels bad, but it causes bad things to happen.
But as much as we should aim to reverse the growing wealth and income inequality gap, we also need to be careful to encourage the entrepreneur and successful business leader– from the White Van Man or Woman to the tech-wizard to the CEO – to go out there and create successful businesses, grow them and grow the jobs, take the risk and receive due reward, and pay good wages and pay the progressive taxes to fund our collectively provided public services like schools and hospitals and highways and more.
Rising inequality is bad. Wealth creation is not. Government and political leaders need to be on the side of wealth creators and also on the more equal distribution of wealth.
Of course the wealth creators are the entrepreneurs and top CEOs and business leaders. But they are also the productive shop-floor and factory-floor workers without whom no business could function, and the public sector and para-public and other workers (like teachers and health workers, housing associations staff and many others) who hone and sustain those healthy productive citizens.
They all contribute to wealth creation, and all deserve a fair share of the rewards. Note: I don’t say the same reward, but it needs to be a darn sight fairer than it is now. Too much cream isn’t good for anyone, so it’s in the interest of the 1% as well as the 99% that we share it around a bit more fairly.
This is a moral imperative, but it’s also an economic and political necessity too. People feel in their gut that things are getting out of hand. If politicians just say “that’s just the way it is” then expect the public disengagement and distrust of politics to worsen.
It does not have to be this way. It’s up to us to fix it.