Monday, 19 January 2015

Why am I so poor?

Ok, so I'm not that poor. In fact I'd say I'm doing ok despite about £10k of unsecured debt I can't pay off. The question though is a more general one, especially given the suggestion that the so-called 1% will have more wealth than the rest of us in a year. 

I've always had a pretty relaxed idea about how wealthy I'd like to be. I dream of owning a little cottage in the middle of nowhere. A kind of rustic affair that is self-sufficient and, apart from an awesome internet connection and being warm & clean, is pretty basic.

As dreams go it's quite boring. It should, on the face of it, be pretty darn easy to achieve too. Of course in this particular scenario the only work I have to do involves the garden and maybe making the odd website if I want to. In fact, it's not that dissimilar to my brother's life.

The thing is though, I have some debt. I also have kids and a partner. I like to own various toys as well, which need paying for. I need to get around, which requires funds. I enjoy watching US shows, which aren't that cheap. In other words, money makes my lifestyle.

The thing is though, it isn't money that makes my lifestyle. It's actually decisions that do so. A lot of these decisions were made centuries ago, when societies were first being set up based upon a system of exchange involving coinage and bits of paper.

Unfortunately that particular system of exchange has led us to where we are now. Global inequality is falling according to some, yet figures have been published by Oxfam suggesting that 1% of people will own more than the other 99% of people by next year.

The system we live in, the global economy, requires our labour to exist. We contribute to the whole, so that wealth can be created. We pay our taxes, so that we can be supported when we need it, and so that others can be supported besides ourselves when they need it.

We may resent supporting others to the extent that we do. We may wish we had more. It may seem unfair that we work 40, 50, 60 or 100 hours a week at jobs we hate just to let someone else contribute less. But if we want the great house, or the cool toys, we do it.

But there is a big lie in all this. The system we work for only exists because we allow it to. The 1% have what they have because we let them keep it. Our focus on the everyday lets them focus on their everyday, accruing more and more wealth as we quibble over crumbs.

Well I don't want a big slice of the pie. I want a roof over my head and a few toys to relax with of an evening. Is that too much to ask? Not in my view it isn't. If money disappeared tomorrow, I reckon there would be enough resources and enough work to go round.

Maybe that's the solution, we scrap it all and start over. We put everything in a great big pile and everyone gets an equal share. Then we all keep working and keep sharing it all and see where we go from there. It's an interesting idea. For now though, I'm working for the 1%.

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