The chasm between haves and have nots, between rich and poor, is becoming deeper and wider. Especially in de United States, but as usual, Europe is following at some distance. Some interesting books by Joseph Stiglitz, Timothy Noah, George Packer address this problem. In the US this means the end of the American Dream: the perspective on a better life. Also in Europe the hope amongst the lower and lower middle class for a better future is vaporizing.*)
What are the consequences of this process? First on an individual level in the middle and lower class: a belief of having no prospect of success, a sense of failure, low self-esteem, a latent anger or even rage, apathy. And in higher classes: vague, often suppressed feelings of uneasiness and guilt. Secondly on the collective level: the rise of extremist and populist movements, social instability, maybe even violence, and, interestingly, economic damage. So far for the neo-liberal ideology and practice.
The solution lies not in a direct government intervention in income. What we need is a complete different economy, such as the one that I described in my book: Voor niets gaat de zon op – blauwdruk voor een nieuwe wereld (unfortunately in Dutch only). I there called it a considerate, caring economy. It means a letting go of the of the neo-liberal ideology. Such a caring economy had four characteristics. First it is a common economy. This implies that many common goods, such as soil, air, nature, resources, water, shouldn’t be privately owned or exploited. Secondly this economy is a fair economy. This implies a complete reorganization of the banking system, a different tax system, a law against economic discrimination of women and minorities, and powerful legal and administrative supervision. Thirdly this economy is a sober economy. This implies less material consumption, and a tax system that takes the real production and transportation costs into account (including the cost for the environment). And last but not least this economy is a sustainable economy. It is circular, in the sense that ALL (raw) materials are re-used, and that the energy we use is only coming from sustainable sources (non-fuel).
Do you find such an economy attractive? Then you have to take responsibility for that. From the deprived ones improvement shall not come. It all depends on you. So, be aware, develop compassion, keep looking, inform yourself and gain insight, speak, act , vote. Then maybe, maybe, you can help to prevent a world that will collapse into violence.
*) Source: NRC/Handelsblad, 16/8/2013 (Marc Chavannes)
(I apologize for mistakes in my English. Blogs are cursory – not stuff for correction by a native speaker)