We all loathe inequality yet we continue to feed the system that creates even further inequality! Why is that?
Unbalanced Power and The Blinding Effect
‘Knowledge is power’, but only as long as it translates into access to basics, wellbeing or money. But money doesn’t disappoint in putting food on the table, paying the bills and luxuries if you have more. So, money is absolute power. If you need a phone for example, you can risk jail — use your muscle power to steal one from a shop, use a gun power to threaten the seller, or nonviolently use money to pay for it.
If we go by the quote “Between 1980 and 2016 the poorest 50% only captured 12 cents in every dollar of global income growth while the top 1% captured 27 cents” World Inequality Report, it then goes that for every dollar we spend daily, we are distributing not just money but power. So, in essence our spent dollar extends the power of the top1% 27 times more and that of the 50%, 12 times more. Multiply that by the average daily expenditure and the population and you know how much power we collectively give each group every day.
What do the top 1% purchase with this massive excess power? Everyone will tell you every good and evil thing — they buy government favors, think tanks, philanthropy, do more rent seeking, etc. but their biggest purchase which bytheway comes at no cost at all is our empathy. The power gap created by the system using our daily purchases creates massive justification that strengthens the system and further increases the gap for centuries.
We all believe and idolize the rich — and for good reason, if they have achieved, then their beliefs, cultures, methods, systems, processes, techniques, worldviews and wisdom must be impeccable — aren’t they. We should all follow their footsteps if we want to succeed — right.
We all want success, so what do we do? We blindly follow the elite, the rich’s footsteps even with evils embedded. If not for this idolistic blinding effect, how else do you justify slavery, racial segregation and other exploitative evils to decent people for centuries and to the extent that even the oppressed sometimes willingly support the oppressor?
“The allure of extreme wealth can contort human sympathies, causing the public to admire the wealthy and shun the poor. “Adam Smith
Smith also says the “disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition” is “the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”
Here is a real emotional (video) tale of how blinding a system can be from John Seigenthaler — Nashville resident, about racial segregation during the civil rights movement in USA.
“I grew up in the south, a child of good decent parents, we had women who worked in our household, sometimes surrogate mothers. They were invisible women to me, I can’t believe I couldn’t see them, I don’t know where my head or heart was, I don’t know where my parents’ heads or hearts were, or my teacher, I never heard it from the prophet. We were blind to the realities of racism, and afraid I guess — of change.”
The blinding effect actually incentivizes an unbalanced power system which in turn reinforces the blinding effect. The more we are blinded by its meagre benefits, the stronger the system gets. More slave labour gets you more money, and then more power and then more others will see slavery as the solution to success.
The more profits we send to shareholders through the flawed capitalist ownership model, the stronger it gets, and the more everyone adopts the model and soon it’s the gold standard.
Absence of Alternatives
If you are blinded, what you can accomplish is limited to the other senses — you work within your means, within the box or your environment. It’s why slave trade, apartheid, colonialism and others lasted centuries until the masses were woken up. But an underrated force of change is the availability of better alternatives.
During the agricultural revolution for example massive labour was needed, which made slave trade a lucrative business. But as the industrial revolution clocked in with agricultural mechanization, there was little need for slaves since machines increased productivity far more than slaves — it’s possible slaves became costly compared to machines.
Isn’t it likely that without the alternative of agricultural technology the elite rich would still pay think tanks and policies to justify slavery even today — or at least far longer than its end times? Same thing with colonialism and racial segregation, if we didn’t have better leaders to awaken us up, these evils would still be normal and pretty much taboo to talk against.
But this one evil — the winner takes all capitalist-ownership still hasn’t found it’s liberating technology nor better-leadership alternative to uproot its injustices. It’s been well justified and well incentivized and its blinding effect defensibly fortified over several millennia — it’s just invisibly microscopic.
Particularly, the fiat means of value exchange limited earlier market designers’ ability to delineate ‘planet’ and ‘society’s share from business and government’s shares. How could Adam Smith in 1790 for example think of digital payments or cryptocurrencies when there was no computer, let alone electricity?
Adam Smith’s main concern was the poor, “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable”.