Can our contemporary world be saved from the problems that ail us, from climate change and oil dependency, from AIDS and religious extremism, from poverty and inequality? Foreign Policy, the world’s most prestigious global affairs journal, is tackling this weighty question head on, in a new issue that asks 21 of our earth’s most thoughtful observers to suggest the “one solution that would make the world a better place.”That “one solution,” suggests Howard Gardner, the Harvard-based psychologist whose widely acclaimed books on human intelligence have been translated into 26 languages, ought to be a cap on the income and wealth that any one individual can accumulate.
The United States needs an income cap, Gardner posits in the new Foreign Policy, that limits the amount of money a single individual can annually take home to no more than “100 times as much money as the average worker in a society earns in a year.”
“If the average worker makes $40,000,” Gardner proposes, “the top compensated individual may keep $4 million a year.”
Gardner’s Foreign Policy contribution also advocates a cap on wealth, proposing that “no individual should be allowed to accumulate an estate more than 50 times the allowed annual income.”
If that allowed annual income were $4 million, then Gardner’s proposal would allow no one, at death, to bequest a fortune greater than $200 million. Any individual wealth above that would have to “be contributed to charity or donated to the government.”
What’s driving Gardner, a psychologist, to an economic prescription?
“Most people in the United States cannot even envision a society that doesn’t revolve around an untrammeled market,” Gardner writes, noting the “widespread assumption,” particularly among today’s young people, “that the most accurate measure of success is how much money you have accumulated, indeed that general merit can best be gauged by one’s net worth.” These assumptions, says the Harvard psychologist, have nurtured a society where accumulation “has gone way too far,” where a “hedge fund manager can take home a sum reminiscent of the gross national product of a small country.”
A cap on income and riches, Gardner adds, would raise billions, even trillions, “to begin to solve the problems about which others are writing in this collection of solutions to save the world.”
Attacks on Gardner’s proposal are already emerging. One nationally syndicated critique — from foundation president Clifford May — labeled Gardner’s antidote to inequality “preposterous.” Gardner’s Foreign Policy piece anticipates that sort of outraged reaction.
“To those who would scream ‘foul’ to such limits on personal wealth,” Gardner notes, “I would remind them that just 50 years ago, this proposal would have seemed reasonable, even generous.”
Sums up the Harvard scholar: “Our standards of ‘enough’ have become irrationally greedy. Were these proposals enacted, I predict that they would be accepted with amazing speed, and individuals would wonder why they had not always been in effect.”
Unrestrained capital will never even consider this, 100 to 1, hardly socialism. Even this week the super rich of the private equity mafia threatened the UK with not even paying the tiny amount of tax that they do if any moves are made to treat their income in the same way as everyone else’s. God forbid equality reared its ugly head, the global capitalist elite will not countenance anything getting in the way of their hoarding, such hoards also of course giving them great influence, fundamentally undemocratic. But then they never were, that was for saps to keep the cold war going. Their acquisitive fugue is now a threat to the very earth that supports us their greed is utterly irrational and everywhere culture shouts how great it is to celebrate such hoarding and opulence. Perhaps once the ecocide has become acute we can enjoy ‘Pimp My Biodome’ to keep our minds off our looming death in the wastelands. It’ll be on right before the new season of ‘Thunderdome Extreme Live- 2 Celebrities Enter, Only One Can Leave’ with your host Misterrrrrr Simon Cowell!