Understanding Societal Wealth and Inequality
On a general basis, wealth is an accumulation of physical entities which hold great importance to us.These entities are objects such as money, land, jewelries, gold, precious stones and so much more.It is also a means were by people grade themselves or attain superiority over others.
Wealth comes with power, prestige, honor, and integrity. Wealth is a very important tool in a society and that is the very means of survival in today’s world. In Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory, he speaks of “survival of the fittest”.
In today’s modern world when fittest is mentioned it actually means wisest, more intelligent or brilliant or clever. Even the strongest in a society cannot attain power without wealth. What an irony but that is the situation of the world and now people are misusing this privilege. The unreasonable use of this opportunity is what is causing inequality in a society. According to the founder or father of economics, Adam smith, he explains that the wealth of a nation is not based on land or other forms of property but on the labor gotten from the nation.
What he tries to explain from this is that the amount of working power in a society gives rise to the power in terms of wealth of the nation. Even if a society has abundance in land, both fertile and unfertile, the society is useless without the working force of the society (Smith). Every human being in a society is entitled to the wealth provided by the society because when people are created they didn’t place a part of the society to them naturally. The moment people start claiming the wealth of the nation; many people will be left out. This is called private wealth which causes inequality amongst people in a community.
Even if private wealth was a good thing, greed which is part of human nature makes it very bad in a society. One man wants to accumulate everything for himself and his family members and this wealth is passed down from one generation to the next. Others in the society have no way of accessing that wealth which belongs to all of them. In Jean Jacque Rousseau’s book Discourse on the origin of inequality published by Marc Michael Rey in1755, Holland, he talks about types of inequality. The types of inequality are natural or physical inequality and moral or political or ethical inequality.
The natural inequality he explains that yes every one wasn’t born with the same physical structure. Some might be born strong or weak, tall or short and so on and so forth but that doesn’t mean that inequality should exist. Everyone is born with one skill or the other which enables one to survive in the society and it’s those skills that enable the society to develop very fast and well. The type of inequality that he focuses on is the moral inequality which is caused by people’s ideas which are brought forward and authorized because it favors them.
This inequality is a detriment to the development of a society. People come up with the idea of private wealth and the moment everyone starts seeing things in their eyes they begin to accept it as a way of life which is not so (Rousseau). From this idea of private wealth, people who have, start taking advantage of it. They keep on accumulating more wealth from there they gain power, prestige, importance in the society and they begin to oppress others with it. Issue of superiority and inferiority start surfacing and stratification occurs.
The less privileged ones become slaves to the rich people and that is how slavery starts which is a form of stratification in a society. People fall into this category because of survival. The thought of slavery is inhuman, why should somebody be a slave to another person because of material possessions? It’s not right. Slavery was initially based on debt or the violation of a more or defeat in war. Slavery based on debt is the subject matter. The rich knew that if they accumulated everything the poor or peasants would be forced to borrow from them.
They went into contracts with them and the contract entailed that if they didn’t pay at the designated time with interest, they would be forced to pay up their debt with labor which meant they would become slaves to them. This was called bonded service or indentured service. This was a common psychology the rich used to oppress the poor and this continued from one generation to the next. In some circumstances if the father and the mother cannot pay up even after death, the child (ren) take the debt and work for the rich person till the ebt is paid. This occurred in the United States of America until Slavery was based on color. In some areas in Ghana when debt was not paid in time, the rich person will collect the girl child of that family and she becomes his own until he is satisfied with her probably when she is in her fifties. Nothing was done about this, girls suffered because of private wealth. People used it to their advantage and people suffered. This form of slavery continued in Ghana until a militant president broke the bond or contract.
Now those girls who were taken from their house at an early age live in shame, they walk nude on the streets of Ghana because they have been stripped of their purity at an early age. Stratification of a society is the after effect of private wealth. Stratification of societies has evolved through the ages from slavery to caste to estate and to class system which is the modern day form of stratification. Slavery as a type of stratification system is what I have previously explained. The next stratification system is the caste system.
The Indian caste system is a typical example of the intense effect of stratification. The system is ascribed meaning one cannot choose his or her class because it is given to you and it is based on religious reasons.It is a rigid system and its characteristics or features entail endogamy, it’s practically a taboo to marry outside your caste. The Brahmans being the apex of the society are the only ones that can teach other Brahman children. It doesn’t matter if you have a good education standing, your ideas or teachings are regarded as useless.
Functionalist sociologists, Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore suggested that society must offer rewards to ensure that important social positions are filled by the most competent people (Rowell). This doesn’t look like what the functionalist theorist said about being rewarded because of your ability. The Brahmans are the richest in the society, they do no work and they get all the privileges the society has to offer. The other castes present in the system are the Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishay (merchants), Shudra (laborers/farmers), and Dalit (untouchables).
This system is so rigid and it is almost impossible to change ones caste. Another caste system which existed in South Africa because of colonialism was the Apartheid caste system. We should note that colonialism was a form of amassing wealth. In this case a country is taking the wealth of another nation to add to its own wealth and they never stop accumulating wealth. It is a macro-view of man and greed when looked at properly. When I talk of macro-view I mean when a developed or civilized country oppress the underdeveloped or uncivilized people and use their scarce resources to make them wallow in poverty.
At that time in South Africa, the nation was divided in four, white, colored, black and Bantu. Privileges were giving according to caste level. The people at the bottom of the caste suffered because they received less. So we now see that the problem of private wealth is an issue even amongst countries. The estate system which is another form of stratification was evident in the middle ages. In this period the political system was feudalism. There were three classes in this system namely, clergy, nobles and the commoners.
The clergy and the nobles are about 1% of the society’s population and the remaining 99% belonged to the commoners which most of them were dirt poor or peasants. This system existed because the nobles owned vast amount of land and because of that they practiced feudalism which is a system of government by land ownership. This land ownership is still a form of private wealth because the nobles own the land which is the means of production and the peasants work their heads off to survive. Slavery, caste, and estate system were all means of stratification in the old era.
The people were controlled by the divine rights which meant that the people were subjected to the nobles or kings because it was an authority from God to obey them and anyone that questions that authority would be put to death. The modern era of stratification has changed because people are now enlightened but how enlightened are they? The effects of private wealth cannot be left behind because as I said before, human greed is inevitable. The modern era of stratification is an open class or social class which is divided in three, upper class, middle class and the lower class.
It is called the open class because it is flexible and it is achieved not ascribed, now that is ideal but not real because the elites in the society want to maintain that form of stratification they create institutions that help maintain that private wealth because even in the grave they still want to dominate. Yes it is undeniable that you should be rewarded for one’s hard work, which is where private wealth becomes positive in a society. That chance of working and being rewarded is limited to a few in the society and that few are known as the elites of the society.
They pass this chance from one generation to the next in other to ensure that the system or order is not disrupted. They maintain this stratification by controlling ideas, information and use of force. All this is possible by the introduction of institutions such as, legal, educational, police and military institutions. They control the ideas through the educational system, they tell what children should believe and not question it. They also make it possible that only the rich can attend schools because if one is not literate, the chances of the person rising to a higher status in the society would be limited.
The elites control the price of educational institutions in the society allowing only a limited amount of children to gain access and as the world is, the children that are given this privilege are the children of the elites. When education fails to impact what they desire, they move on to using the legal institutions. As we all know not everyone has the money to acquire a lawyer in a court case and that is why a public defendant is setup. The elites own the legal institutions especially the public ones and the moment a lower class citizen comes with a court case, he or she knows that the case has already being won by the rich or elite.
They fill up these institutions with their own kind and in the course of that they protected from the law. The law was not implemented to create orderliness in a society, that’s what we all think but the real issue is that the law was placed to suppress the poor. Legal institutions are placed to justify the rich and their actions so that no one can question it. When the rich realize that a poor individual is about to gain access to private wealth, false evidence is planted to strip the poor of their right to the private wealth. Is that just? I doubt.
The police institution was created by the elites to protect what they have and their lives from the poor. Mostly in nations it is noticed that the elites move around with convoys while the poor have no protection because they have nothing to lose. The police are also there to ensure that the poor doesn’t revolt on the inequality or stratification order. The moment the police isn’t effective enough they call in the military institutions. They mostly do this in times of riot and strike. In these cases they use force to maintain the stratification of the society.
We see that the educational institution is used to control ideas and information while the legal institution is used to influence the behavior of the lower class and the military and the police institution is used to exert force on the people when they cannot influence or change their reasoning. In Karl Marx’s book, the communist manifesto, he suggests that the society is stratified according to those who won the means of production (bourgeoisie) and the laborers (proletariats). The bourgeois give the proletariats false consciousness and exploit them with these.
He suggests that when the proletariats develop class conscious, there would be an overthrown, but it will happen violently (karl Marx). A violent revolution would take place and the society would go form capitalism to socialism and then communism. This communism entails a classless society but is achieving a classless society possible? When the former Soviet Union practiced communism it was ruthless and harsh. They misunderstood the true ideology of communism. They used violent means to achieve it and in the process tried to have ultimate power. The people of the Former Soviet Union had to give to the state a large amount of their products.
During the communist the early communist period over 20 million people were killed whether by hunger or in war. There was no freedom of speech; people who revolted against it were killed immediately by a political police that was set up. The regulations were imposed by deporting people to Siberia, shooting them or provoking starvation to death. The economy failed because creativity was not enhanced. In a society, no individual will be willing to bring new ideas if they are not going to be rewarded for it. The government dictated what kind of products to produce and it was monotonous.
Trade of goods became limited even the goods they had, countries were no longer interested in them because they had nothing new to offer. A classless society could not be achieved in the Former Soviet Union because the government which was 0. 5% of the society ruled and had ultimate power and the moment someone can influence your behavior without objections from the individual, it is said to be superiority and inequality comes to play. Communism led to revolutionary acts which caused a lot of victims especially in areas such as western Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia in 1953, USSR in 1962, and Poland in 1956 and 1970.
Resources were wasted since the government was in charge. This happened in poorly developed countries owned by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union used up their resources to build strong armies to be able to compete with nations such as the USA. Communism would have survived but because people have greed for power, a dictatorship rule would be developed and all dictators hate competition and revolt. Massive killings would erupt because of insecurity from the dictator’s side. Another problem with communism is the income. Like in China the income was very poor.
Peasants in china received $71 and 32 cents annually and the average workers and workers in state industries earned $459 yearly. Productivity reduced drastically because some accelerators for adequate production were unavailable to the people, which included fertilizers, machineries, basic farm tools, preservative equipment etc. Management activities were very poor because the amount of people handling it was very little and division of labor was not encouraged. They also suffered from inflation pressure because prices of goods rose due to expenses made on the production of the goods (Prybyla).
Capitalism is what most countries practice and yes it has helped their economic standards when USA is used to compare but we should not forget that this same capitalism is what is causing the effects of the private wealth such as social class which is a type of stratification. People use capitalism to exploit others since they dictate the wages of the workers. They ensure that the wages of their workers are very low so that the profit can be very large. They enjoy but the workers suffer immensely because they can’t take care of their family and this is the reason nations are stratified. All past efforts towards a free market economy, world trade, globalization, industrialization, the pursuit of high living standards, unlimited economic growth and every other form of capitalist endeavor have benefited only a small minority; the big players” (Kumar). He explains that capitalism is has proved to be a detriment to the society by benefitting only the rich and we should note that capitalism doesn’t increase the economy of the nation rather the wealth of the capitalist in the society who are the elites.
If capitalism increases the wealth of the society then why almost 70% of the society suffering from poverty, starvation are etc.? …capitalism is incapable of solving the problems of humanity, but in fact hunger, pollution, the breakdown of social fabric, human unhappiness and many other problems are caused by capitalism” (Kumar). As I have mentioned before, it is only ideal for capitalist to think they are improving the economy but the real thing is that people are exploited for their labor just as Karl Marx indicated. Now that I have established the fact that capitalism and communism cannot solve the problems of inequality in the society, it is time to establish my own solution.
I believe that the two can work hand in hand and success can be achieved out of to some extent. Of cause nothing comes with a disadvantage but if it can solve 80% of the problem then I think it is a wonderful solution. A hybrid of communism and capitalism would be utmost importance. A communist government and a capitalist economy is the hybrid I am talking about. This hybrid actually means a form of communal living. No one is superior to the other but that doesn’t mean one cannot have more money than the other if he works for it.
Communal living entails that everyone is entitled to the scarce resources in the land and the government has a say in the business of the citizens. A breakdown of the services and the wages are given to the government and the total money gotten from the business is calculated and estimated if the salary of the workers is not fair enough then the person doesn’t get the contract to execute the business. An agreed of the percent of the total investment or profit is dedicated to the payment of the workers. By that everyone is comfortable and living well and the poverty issue and starvation is reduced.
If the opportunity is used to exploit the labor of the people then the privilege is taken from one and given from one and this is where reward is functional. This hybrid brings good reforms such as free education (primary and secondary level) to enable one to have a little experience to support ones self, subsidized health care, availability of employment for the masses and social amenities made available. All business activities executed in the nation is open to the government and they pay taxes according to what they earn since they are using the resources of the nation.
The tax is used to build the society by contributing to education, health care, social amenities, and protection (police and military services). The agricultural sector is supported by the government by subsidizing cost of machineries and educating people in the agriculture to enable quality and quantifiable products. With this the issue of starvation is reduced. A good example of this idea is the Chinese political and economic system. The communist party realized that communism wasn’t working so they sent the people out to make money.
China had a drastic change in economy and it happened in a short time. They experienced double digit GDP growth from 2003 to 2007 –hitting a high of 13%. In 2008, the government launched a $586 billion stimulus plan and they lifted millions out of poverty. China was established as the world’s second largest economic power (Rizzi). Once the problems associated with private wealth have been dissolved, the only problem left to worry about is man’s greed. Man in recent times has learned to control his greed and the only reason it was a major reason was because the law authorized it indirectly.
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