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Give the Money Back

April 18, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Will Wilkinson

Are We Missing the Obvious?

by Will Wilkinson

An online headline proclaims “The ‘Key to Recovery’” — which apparently is rebuilding America’s infrastructure — but then the rest of the article mentions that funds for this have been slashed in the new budget.

Duh.

What’s so difficult about acknowledging the real key to recovery: some Americans have way too much money and some have way too little. So, spread it around.

The idea of “redistributing wealth” surfaced a while back and was immediately branded as a socialist horror. Politicians who preferred to keep their jobs distanced themselves from the concept pronto, but it is the obvious answer. And there’s nothing radical about it at all, actually. What’s radical is what we already have — a huge gap between the rich and the poor.

Think of it this way. You go to the doctor because you’re overweight. It’s not healthy. You’re not feeling good. He tells you that your body is retaining water and suggests some medication, lifestyle changes, etc. to balance your system.

Communist! What’s he thinking?

He’s thinking about health and he knows the obvious: that every part of your body is connected, as is every American, and every citizen of the world. So, what’s the big deal with redistributing wealth, then? Balance makes a body healthy; it makes a society healthy. And what we’ve got right now is a whole lot of chronic imbalance.

Billions of dollars exist as data entries in computer systems. What good is that doing someone who is starving to death in Idaho? When is this rainy day going to come that everyone is hoarding their wealth for, just in case? It’s pouring today, folks!

Give the money back. All you ultra rich folks, sitting on stagnating fortunes — play Santa Claus and start handing out thousands of dollars, millions of dollars. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make. What a great game it could be! Imagine the joy you would bring to friends in need, to total strangers. And imagine what will happen as those folks begin to spend that money.

That’s right, our economy would improve. Right away! Because you can’t spend what you don’t have and people aren’t spending. If they could, if they did? You’d get your money back, processed through the system. And maybe you’d want to give it away again!

Give it up. Get that money in play. It’s not rocket science and this doesn’t need to be done in any sort of orderly way that requires “regulation.” Chaotic, illogical, spontaneous generosity — what a concept.

I know, people with big bucks don’t visit this site so they won’t read this. Well, you’re reading it. Forward to it someone you know who has a few million to dole out. I bet they’ll be happier sharing it than hoarding it. In fact, it could give them the happiness their wealth has failed to deliver.

I know, it’s a radical idea and completely impractical. No it’s not! It’s common sense. It overturns logic, which has gotten us where we are. Look, even if the blessed recipients waste their found money, it’s still going to get into the economy. Which is better than right now with all that dough kept outside the economy, just rusting away in ledgers somewhere.

Come on, fork it over rich guys. Play this game — be the answer we need. Just don’t send me any; I’m busy distributing the little I’ve got as best I can day by day. If I had millions I’d just be busier.

And, on that day when a single wealthy American chooses to give generously to their brothers and sisters, with no strings attached and not even needing a charitable contribution receipt, grace will descend upon this country, restoring our genuine compassion for one another and lighting the way towards what this country has always been destined to become: a beacon in the world for how people treat each other fairly, for the good of all.

Be the first on your block to save America.

Will Wilkinson has just completed collaborating on Forgiving The Unforgivable, a book that recounts how survivors of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack forgave their attackers, and is currently launching a global change initiative, Training for 2012. He lives in Ashland, Oregon — where he writes collaboratively on a range of unusual projects that conspire to explode the illusions that imprison us — and can be reached at: [email protected].

12 Comments to “Give the Money Back”


  1. There is no mystery about the inequality in the USA. It is well documented in the US Census, the Forbes reports, the World Wealth Reports 20011. In the USA there are 310 million people: of which
    43 million people are living in poverty, on less than $30 a day;
    3.1 million have $10.1 trillion, of which 2.87 million are $millionaires, and 413 are billionaires: that is, they live on more than $12000 each a day. Any copy of Forbes will tell you who these billionaires are and where they are.
    Some of these billionaires have realised that such inequality is unjustifiable, and have committed to give most of their wealth to charity.
    There is no such thing as the trickle down effect: the rich get richer…..some by up to 33% over the last 18 months, despite the financial recession.
    Such discrepancies in income can only be countered by redistribution. If you have a $billion, all you have to do is to keep it in global investment funds and it will grow. The point being that the rich do not depend on the USA for their wealth. Their investments are in China, Brazil, Russia, India, Germany and so on.
    It is well to realise that such inequality is world wide. There may be 1211 billionaires out of 6.87 billion people. The World Bank tells us that up to 1.2 billion are starving to death. 5.5billion are trying to survive with less than $10 a day!
    What is a mystery is that many people are convinced that if they work hard, worship their gods, and ‘be good’, they will receive their rewards and become richer.
    Less than 1% of the global population control more than 80% of the wealth, and pay the least taxes.
    $1.4 billion paid to one person, absolute luxury.
    $1.4 billion paid to 1.4 billion people, absolute poverty.
    How can this be justified? sustainable? just?

    go to http://www.kelvynrichards.com : Comments section

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  2. I would like to add a footnote.
    Citizens of the USA should not expect any sympathy from other countries. If you can live on $30 a day, or $67 a day for a family, then you are far better off than the 5.5 billion people who survive on less than $10 a day.
    If we declared that people surviving on between $67[poverty in USA] and $1,25 a day[the UN definition of absolute poverty] this would mean that most people in the world, up to 6.5 billion, would be living in states of relative poverty ………………..while 1211 live in absolute luxury. How can we continue in this way? what is more, how can the billionaire elite ignore the general state of poverty, and do nothing to alleviate poverty?

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    • #1- Billionaires have no money. They have assetts that were obtained with money that is then back in circulation for the masses to use.

      #2 The “billionaire elite” in most cases reinvest their to make more. They (like Ross Peroe) buy muni bond to avoid excessive taxes. The tax free munis pay for roads and bridges and hospitals for the masses- not the billionaires.

      #3 Billionaire’s investments generate jobs that the “least of these” can get to feed their families. If you take their wealth, their will be no incentive to start or invest in new businesses to generate jobs.

      Without private sector jobs the masses depend on governments, (as this nation now does) thereby loosing their freedoms- becoming wards of the state with no incentive to create a better life for ANYBODY. There will be no reason for an inventor or his investors to create a more efficent engine- a more effective medicine, or a clean running generator that uses clean burning fuels.

      The baker does not open at 5 am to bake bread so a government can “redistribute” it. There would be no reason for him to bake better bread at a cheeper cost than any other government baker- no reason to achieve excellence that the masses can take advantage of.

      Check an old history book. Socialism does not work.

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      • Chas,
        I would like to know what history books you have been reading. Socialism has not been tried. Soviet Socialism was ruled by the party leaders; the Peoples Republic of China is controlled by the party elite. The National Socialist government of Germany was organised by the Nazi elite, who proceeded to kill all Jews and Roma. There was no question of allowing the ‘people’ to directly rule the country.
        In fact, the issues of sharing political power, sharing resources, and sharing profits are to do with Democracy.
        We live in a world in which 0.000018% of the population control more than 80% of the global wealth; cash,assets, bonds, shares, investments, profits. You obviously think that is OK. I think that is unfair, unjust, criminal. Action needs to be taken to make the lives of the global majority happier; to provide water and sanitation ; enough food; a home with a roof; with electricity; and heating; paid work for the family. And no, I am not referring only to the citizens of the USA: I am referring to the 6.7billion global citizens trying to survive on less than $10 a day.

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  3. Will, with all due respect- it’s been tried, and tried. It’s failed and failed. History is litered with the corpses of failed socilist governments – ours is next in line. Right now- TODAY, there are millions suffering the results of “spreding the money around”. Pick up a copy of “Atlas Shrugged” read it. Watch this debate between Milton Freidman and Phil Donahue (see url below). You and Donahue mean well, but the results of what you advocate cause the least among us to suffer unmercifully.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

    It really does sum it up.

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  4. don salmon says:

    Hi,

    I may be missing the obvious here, but I think that Wil is saying something quite radical here, quite different from what both Chas and JKR are addressing.

    For Chas: I didn’t see anywhere in Wil’s article that he was advocating communism or socialism (or rejecting it either, but that’s another thing:>)) He was suggesting something that even Ayn Rand never had a problem with – if a billionaire decides he VOLUNTARILY wants to give away some of his money (rand was big on volunteerism) that’s fine

    JKR: I like the points you made, strong points about existing inequality, which seem as far as I get the spirit of your responses, to call for a political response.

    But I don’t think that’s what Wil’s asking us to think about. It feels to me like he’s asking us to think VERY differently about these issues. It’s a simple fact that we’re all connected – even the rankest of materialists believes that we live in “one” interconnected universe – wil doesn’t sound like one of the materialists to me, but that’s another issue – he’s saying, I think, that perhaps a change of attitude – yes, something as simple as a mere change of attitude – without regulations (did you catch that Chas, near the beginning of the article, no need for complex regulations – no socialist heavy-statist solutions here), a mere change of attitude might bring the “body politic” (as it does in the matter of our body’s health) into balance; no “spreading the wealth” according to edicts on high; rather, a spontaneous, organic movement of compassion.

    Just like in a family of working parents, the parents are a fabulously wealthy elite compared to a 5 or 6 year old kid who has no assets at all (well, except for their kids laptop, cell phone, etc:>). The child can’t afford health care? The wealthy elite mom or dad voluntarily, with no laws or regulations needed, gives johnny or jason some money.

    perhaps the parent/child analogy to the wealthy and the poor doens’t work. well, if you’re my friend, truly my friend, and i have extra money, and you’re in need, nobody (i hope!) needs to lay down the law for me to voluntarily give you something to help out.

    Or to put it in real simple terms, maybe what wil is suggesting here is that love – wise, mature love – may actually have a profound part to play in how we all manage our economic and political affairs, not just our personal relationships.

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  5. I appreciate all the detailed comments.

    What’s missing from the dialogue is the concept of generosity and spontaneous appreciation. My wife and I are fortunate to live in a small community rich with shared resources. I helped a friend start a Time Bank and it’s really heartening to see how much “commerce” is beginning to happen without money at all

    Particularly, it’s fascinating to witness people enjoying their giving as much as their receiving. That spirit, methinks, is really missing in any sort of socialist system I’ve become aware of. They seem drab, where individuals are “equal” not unique.

    I don’t expect my views or recommendations to make much of a splash in the mainstream but there is a growing minority of us who are experimenting with radically different economic systems, based on the enjoyment of exchanging with each other, rathe than profit or fairness models.

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  6. I agree that if we are to move towards communities that are collaborative and cooperative, and citizens who care and share, changes of attitudes are most important. However, I would invite you to read the following and ask you to decide how you would react to such societies, and what solutions are possible.
    From the earliest times, the recognition that human safety depends on collaboration has been a motivating factor for the formation of nomad tribes, village communities, towns. cities, and nation-states. At present, the social ecology movement, in the USA and in Norway, and Finland demand that direct, participatory democracy, with the citizens working together for the benefits of the municipality and the local environment, is the sole hallmark of a social ecological approach to living.
    The current World Development Report, published by the World Bank group in April 2011, has offered evidence that indicates that this direct democracy model is not relevant for many communities and countries in other parts of the world. Whereas the direct democracy model assumes that the communities are at peace, secure and law abiding, willing to debate and negotiate, to give and to repay, are not in conflict, nor fragile, and not violent nor criminal, the World Development teams observed that in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence, insecurity has become the primary development challenge of our time.

    They reported that at least one-and-a-half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organized criminal violence. The World Development teams visited twenty low- and middle income countries including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen.
    They concluded that :
    No low-income, fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single United Nations Millennium Development Goal (UN MDG);
    New threats—organized crime and trafficking, civil unrest due to global economic shocks, terrorism—have supplemented continued preoccupations with conventional war between and within countries;
    Violence and conflict have not been banished: one in four people on the planet, more than
    1.5 billion, live in fragile and conflict-affected states or in countries with very high levels of criminal violence.

    Many countries and regions now face cycles of repeated violence, weak governance, and instability. These conflicts often are not one-off events, but are ongoing and repeated: 90 percent of the last decade’s civil wars occurred in countries that had already had a civil war in the last 30 years. New forms of conflict and violence threaten development: many countries that have successfully negotiated political and peace agreements after violent political conflicts, such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and South Africa, now face high levels of violent crime, constraining their development. People in fragile and conflict-affected states are more than twice as likely to be undernourished as those in other developing countries, more than three times as likely to be unable to send their children to school, twice as likely to see their children die before age five, and more than twice as likely to lack clean water.
    In highly violent societies, many people experience the death of a son or daughter before their time: when children are late coming home, a parent has good reason to fear for their lives and physical safety. Everyday experiences, such as going to school, to work, or to market, become occasions for fear. People hesitate to build houses or invest in small businesses because these can be destroyed in a moment.
    The direct impact of violence falls primarily on young males—the majority of fighting forces and gang members— but women and children often suffer disproportionately from the indirect effects. Men make up 96 percent of detainees and 90 percent of the missing; women and children are close to 80 percent of refugees and those internally displaced.
    And violence begets violence: male children who witness abuses have a higher tendency to perpetrate violence later in life.
    Drug and human trafficking, money laundering, illegal exploitation of natural resources and wildlife, counterfeiting, and violations of intellectual property rights are lucrative criminal activities, which facilitate the penetration by organized crime of the already vulnerable sociopolitical, judicial, and security structures in developing countries.
    In Central America, for example, several countries that regained political stability two decades ago are now facing the decay of the state, whose institutions lack the strength to face this onslaught. Transnational organized crime has converted some Caribbean countries into corridors for the movement of illegal drugs and persons toward Europe and North America. Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru, continue to be the main global cocaine producers, while Mexico is facing an unprecedented wave of violence given its border with the largest immigrant, drug consumption, and arms producing market of the USA. West Africa has become the newest passage of drugs coming from South America and destined for Europe. Several African countries suffer the illegal exploitation of their natural resources, while Asia is a hub for tons of opiates originating from Afghanistan. The unprecedented progression of organized crime could spell the collapse of many weak states as their institutions fall prey to the associated violence. The precarious economic development observed in many regions of the world provides a stimulus for consolidating these illegal activities, which will continue to thrive as a consequence of the impunity they encounter in developing countries.
    Drugs provide the money that enables organized criminals to corrupt and manipulate even the most powerful societies—to the ultimate detriment of the urban poor, who provide most of the criminals’ foot-soldiers and who find themselves trapped in environments traumatized by criminal violence. The most vulnerable groups in society are frequently most affected by violence. Tied to their homes or places of work, the vulnerable have little of the protection that money or well-placed contacts afford. Poor child nutrition for those displaced or unable to earn incomes due to violence has lasting effects, impairing physical and cognitive functioning. Violence destroys school infrastructure, displaces teachers, and interrupts schooling, often for an entire generation of poor children.
    War, looting, and crime destroy the household assets of the poor, and fear of violent attacks prevents them from tilling their fields or traveling to schools, clinics, workplaces,and markets.
    People in fragile and conflict-affected states are more likely to be impoverished, to miss out on schooling, and to lack access to basic health services. Children born in a fragile or conflict-affected state are twice as likely to be undernourished and nearly twice as likely to lack access to improved water; those of primary-school age are three times as likely not to be enrolled in school; and they are nearly twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday. Over the last two decades, infant mortality has been falling in nearly all countries, but the reduction in infant mortality in fragile and conflict-affected countries has lagged behind .
    As the world takes stock of progress on the MDGs, it is apparent that the gap between violence-prone countries and other developing countries is widening. Organized crime networks engage in a wide variety of illicit activities, including trafficking drugs, people, and small arms and light weapons; financial crimes; and money laundering. These illicit activities require the absence of the rule of law and, therefore, often thrive in countries affected by other forms of violence. According to various studies, organized crime generates annual revenues ranging from US$120 billion to as high as US$330 billion, with drug trafficking the most profitable. Other estimates suggest that the world’s shadow economy, including organized crime, could be as high as 10 percent of GDP globally: that is, up to $6 trillion.

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  7. don salmon says:

    j kelvyn – at the risk of seeming overly stubborn, i go back to my original sense of will’s piece, and his follow up comment – love and appreciation, spontaneous giving, may be far more powerful than we imagine. rather than assuming that certain areas of the world – 25% or more – are immune from this, try – just on this forum – to step aside from customary views , the usual way of looking at things. there’s no need to exclusively focus on what’s right or wrong, correct or incorrect, just try on – for a few seconds, really try on, without any holding back, a really different view of things and see what it feels like to feel/think that way. that 25% may look really really different from within that view

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  8. gnome chomskie says:

    dont usually forward wiki links but this is a pretty good summary of the “gift economy” with some of the subtle differences even fleshed out plus some good references to mauss kropotkin sahlins and others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy

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  9. If you live in a small community rich with shared resources, this is the exception, not the rule.
    Many people do live in small communities, but their resources are stolen, or abused, or misused by their neighbours or by visitors, by dissidents, criminals, officials, drug dealers, traffickers. And when they try to love and welcome such visitors, they are rewarded by all their belongings being taken, and their children and women raped.
    The many millions of people, the one in four of the global population, who live in areas of conflict and violence, try to survive by linking with, and loving their families and friends for protection.
    Don, you seem to be saying that their trials and tribulations are as nothing, and they, and I, should try to love our persecutors. Well, we could do that, but they do not attack me and others out of hate or love. They are indifferent, and see such others as objects, or pieces in their games of conflict and abuse, and profit.
    It is worth remembering that these games are played out by employers as well as dealers and criminals……..as has been illustrated by the post today about the struggles of unions and workers in San Francisco.

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  10. don salmon says:

    I’m not sure what if anything i can say to you JKR, i’m not saying anything like wht you’re saying, and it seems like what i wrote was very clear. Well, i’ll just say again, I think will wrote a wonderful article and I agree with it fully, and welcome his invitation to look below the surface and see the roots of our problems in our inability to live out of a sense of generosity, appreciation and ultimately, out of a sense of Oneness.

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