Posted: Thu, January 24, 2013 | By: Hank Pellissier
Egalitarians, like the authors of the best-seller, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, believe inequity leads to a plethora of social ills. For example:
1. Inequity corrodes trust, community life, and social mobility
2. Inequity increases anxiety and excessive consumption
3. Inequity contributes to mental and physical illness, drug use, imprisonment, obesity, teen pregnancy, violence, and other corrosive psycho-social maladies.
My own recent examination of Denmark observed that the little Nordic nation was simultaneously ranked #1 in “Egalitarianism” on the GINI Index and #1 in “Happiness” by Forbes. My conclusion from this is that:
SAME SOCIAL STATUS + SHARING = SMILES
Egalitarianism appears to be a desirable societal goal, but how can we achieve it? When I pitched this question to six different transhumanists, a sextet of suggestions bounced back.
James Hughes (author of Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future) believes democratization aided by technology is the best medicine to cure inequality. He suggests that education would be more equitable if we developed the “visionary, handheld AI tutor that Neal Stephenson imagined in The Diamond Age that maps the child’s developmental needs, and leads them through a personalized dialogue to knowledge and critical thinking, drawing on the best pedagogies.”
Hughes also believes that economic progress in poor nations would benefit if we could “develop cheaper ways to build roads, communication networks, public sanitation, and health service delivery.” Additionally, he believes the United Nations would be able to equitably distribute wealth if it was enabled by “technologies that break down nation-states and ethnic identities and replace them with transnational political identities, organizations, and campaigns.”
Alex Lightman (author of Brave New Unwired World: the Digital Big Bang and the Infinite Internet) does not regard economic disparity as the root cause of suffering. Instead, he asserts, “the fundamental inequalities are intelligence, imagination, ambition, and action. Someone with 10% more of all four than his chiral twin could have four orders of magnitude more wealth over a lifetime.”
Lightman regards “increasing intelligence as the primary objective of a more egalitarian planet.” He’d uplift IQ in multiple ways, including “biofeedback of brain waves, nootropics, like the movie Limitless, only more limited, and exercise—read Spark by John Ratey.”
Imagination can be enhanced, he claims, by “promoting reading of science fiction. Teach it in schools.” Ambition can be strengthened if we “get people to exercise more, which will fix addiction, depression, and other mental issues that reduce ambition.” And finally, action? Lightman’s plan is to offer, “free classes in how to stop procrastinating, for everyone, in lieu of welfare, pensions, subsidies.”
David Pearce (author of The Hedonistic Imperative) has advice that mirrors his dedication to the abolition of suffering. Like Lightman, he does not regard equity in wealth and class as the ultimate goal.
“Happiness based on social status is a so-called ‘positional good’,” he said. “No amount of material wealth can create more happiness. Suicide rates and other ‘objective’ indices… depression, etc.—are actually worse today than they were for our hunter-gatherer ancestors on the African savannah. In my opinion, only genetically recalibrating our ‘hedonic set-point’ can radically enhance our well-being.”
Pearce believes his proposal is “technically feasible right now. For example, benign genes for our children via preimplantation genetic diagnosis could potentially enrich everyone’s quality of life—and allow all humans to be born ‘winners’.” He suggests “BioHappiness Education” as a policy measure for egalitarian bliss.
Giulio Prisco (author of Engineering Transcendence) offered a proposal inspired by the work of a German anarchist.
“Extreme inequality depends on how the economy is structured,” he explained. “A possible solution to this is the idea of Perishable Money—money with an expiration date, a concept originally devised by Silvio Gesell. In this system, there are no taxes and you keep all the money you make, but as soon as you are paid money, it starts to ‘decay’—perhaps losing all value after one month, or a certain % per day. So, you want to spend all your money on basic goods like food and rent. If you wish to accumulate money and save it for later, you must go to an exchange center operated by the community and convert your extra money to a non-perishable form, but you must pay fees to do this. The fees would be the equivalent of taxes, they would provide the money that the community needed for public works, health care, etc.”
In Prisco’s analysis, “this system… would be very easy to implement now, with e-money.”
Mike Treder (former Managing Director of IEET) believes “each person’s financial income should not be regarded as a personal possession, but as a provisionally assigned piece of the total pie.”
“In truth,” says Treder, “whatever wealth you possess is not ‘your money’. You didn’t earn it by yourself with no help from others. It’s simply a share of total production—and often, because the system is imperfect, that share gets distributed unfairly. Adjusting income tax rates progressively can help to restore an appropriate balance.”
Joern Pallensen (Danish blogger, Transhumanisten.com) says, “Denmark is the most equal in the world in terms of income. For example, a doctor at a public hospital makes less than $70,000/year (starting wages) and a garbage collector—or, to use the politically-correct term, “Renovation Technician”—also earns $70,000 on average. In Denmark, the income for the 10% richest is only five times higher than the 10% at the other end of the scale, whereas in the USA the difference is 16 times higher.”
“To make a nation more egalitarian,” he continues, “I would mandate, for starters: public childcare, higher minimum wage, more equal pay, more flexible work schedules for families, and redesigned family and medical work leave.”
The policies listed above are only a few of the innumerable ideas that could propel our planet towards egalitarianism. Readers, even if you despise egalitarianism, post your own ideas, rants, initiatives, and outside-the-box-brain-dumps in the comments section below.