A cost/benefit analysis of economic oppression

The benefits of economic oppression are obvious, and they can be summed up in three words: comfort, freedom and legacy. Comfort is obvious. The wealthiest people in the world can enjoy whatever comforts they can imagine. At the snap of a finger they can have things many people would have to work their entire lives for and most people will only ever dream about.

The wealthiest people in the world are the only people who are truly free. They’re free to spend their time however they want. They don’t have to give their time to anyone, and nobody has the control to tell them what to do for 9 hours a day. They’re free to work however, whenever and wherever they want. They’re free to travel wherever they want whenever and however they want. Barring going on a shooting spree in a shopping mall they’re free to break most laws. Even if they do have charges brought against them they can hire a team of lawyers to bend the law for them so they’ll be let go or they might get charged a fee that represents such a miniscule percentage of their wealth that the legal consequences are utterly inconsequential to them.

The wealthiest people in the world have more money than they could spend in their lives, and most of that money is sitting in investment vehicles that will continue to make money after they’re dead. So unless their descendants are completely irresponsible they could live comfortable, free lives indefinitely.

The benefits of being wealthy are undeniably desirable. People have been killed for less. If all you have to do to live that kind of life is sign a piece of paper approving the exploitation of workers you’ll never meet who need jobs anyway and are willing to work for slave wages, I doubt many people would pass up the opportunity.

But then there’s the cost to consider. Now, I’m not even going to bother exploring the moral arguments against economic exploitation. If you’ve succeeded in becoming one of the wealthiest people in the world you’re either a sociopath who has no conscience and wouldn’t be moved by moral arguments or you’ve already built a wall of excuses to justify your actions. So arguing morality with you would be as futile as arguing with a Christian over the divinity of the Bible.

So let’s talk about the empirical, real world costs of economic exploitation starting with comfort. Consider the kings who ruled in the Middle Ages. They squandered their wealth and lived more comfortably than the serfs could ever imagine, and yet the serfs of today live more comfortably than the kings of antiquity could have imagined. The reason we live so much more comfortably is because of technological progress. Technological progress is the result of billions of people all over the world applying their time and education to scientific inquiry. The more people who collaborate on research, the faster it generates results. In fact, the speed of progress increases exponentially as the number of people working on it increases.

If, instead of forcing everyone to devote the bulk of their lives to menial work for just enough money to survive, we devoted our resources to giving as many people as much education and free time as possible we could speed up humanity’s technological development exponentially. If we didn’t have our priorities so backwards we could easily be living on Mars before Generation X dies of old age.

If we’d never oppressed anyone in the history of mankind we would have probably started building on Mars hundreds of years ago. By now we would have built artificial intelligence and servant robots. If you’re a millionaire CEO, there’s probably someone who works for your company for barely enough money to survive who would have contributed something that would have significantly improved or saved your life, but you chose to squeeze a few dollars out of their misery instead.

Also, even though wealthy people may be freer than the oppressed, much of their freedom comes at unnecessary cost. For example, a wealthy person could walk through an inner city ghetto safely, but they’d need to hire paramilitary escorts. Wealthy people are free to sleep soundly without fear of burglars, but that’s only because they have million dollar security systems and security guards. Wealthy people can bypass the cumbersome and demeaning security measures at airports by flying in their own planes, but why do we need security measures in airports at all? Why do we need locks on our doors? Why do we need bodyguards?

We need security because there are billions of stupid and/or desperate people in the world. The reason there are billions of stupid and/or desperate people in the world instead of billions of intelligent, content, philosophers is because the leaders of the world have designed the system to oppress the majority of the world’s population. If we dedicated our resources to helping people instead of oppressing them we wouldn’t need to lock our doors or carry guns or have metal detectors at airports and schools. We probably wouldn’t even need armies because everybody would have enough and wouldn’t need to fight each other. Until that day comes, freedom will always be so expensive that only the wealthy will be able to afford it, and it will always be an unnecessary expense for the rich…an expense that was created by the rich.

It would be so easy for rich people to leave their children a utopian world. All they need to do is treat everyone as equal human beings. Granted, this will come at a cost. The rich wouldn’t be able to horde more money than they could ever possibly spend. They’d still have enough money to live like a king though. So they won’t necessarily lose any quality of life. But maybe I’m completely wrong here. Maybe there is some long-term moral and practical benefit I can’t see that makes it worth causing billions of people to suffer so a few people can horde money they’ll never use.

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2 responses to “A cost/benefit analysis of economic oppression

  • Linda Gerstmann

    One day, I was listening to a progressive talk-show broadcast from Toronto, Ontario Canada. The host had on his show a man who had attended a butler school somewhere in England(it’s apparently fashionable now for the rich to have butlers with English accents). Anyway, he wound up working at a handful of very wealthy households. He said that the one thing above all else he noticed about the family members was that for the most part they were extremely unhappy. Sometimes the atmosphere was so toxic that he wound up quitting. He said he didn’t admire or envy them at all. Mostly he felt sorry for them. The rich may be able to get their way with just about everything, but what is that worth if happiness is always elusive? Why even bother living if you can’t be happy just enjoying a sunset or hugging a puppy or making love to a good-looking man and having a fantastical multiple-orgasm that almost takes the top of your head off? I get to enjoy all three of those things, and I can attest to you that I’m tremendously happy. Not rich, just happy. Sincerely, L.G.

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  • Ron B

    Hey, me again… oh, what a dilemna! And to think the obscenely wealthy and those who side with them are so enraged by the losers on public assistance!! Oops, I’m including ponzie-scheme entitlements, too. (Those people actually spend that monthy pittance at the store… but I digress.) Anyway, why be mad at people who won’t lift an ass off the couch? Self-hate? Ass in Bentley, ass on couch pretending to drive a Porche… what’s the difference? Sloth is sloth. Corporate Raider killing off a company to own it, King Pin knocking off the rival leader in a drive-by… what’s the difference?

    Seriously, though… I don’t hate people and I make fun of everything. I realize this is a crazy world. Best to mind your family and loved ones, keep an eye out for predators of all kinds (industry PR as well as who your friends are), and try to have an open mind (but err on the side of caution). Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get rid of the predators in life… and that’s why we have soooo many “activists” and “causes” too. (And locks on doors.)

    You’re correct about education and how significant that is over-and-beyond warring, both financially (for us peons) and well, yeah, in actually establishing some peace. The information age is moving fast because of technology (and making money), but it still needs time to sink in that the internet is not just for entertainment, advertising and data-mining (though you’d think we’ll never get passed that the way it looks now). We won’t be rid of these, but it should get better eventually.

    Geeks like you will (hopefully) teach grade-school kids how to block bullshit from their puters. (OMG, that could start a war. Can you imagine teaching kids how to filter propaganda?? And why haven’t we already done that?) Then those kids will go to college to get an MBA so they can hustle the “word-of-mouth” and “viral” marketing lie that tries to disguise Madison Avenue, Wall Street or some huge humanitarian or political concern as the next local “grass-roots” movement. (How funny is that?)

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