Sometimes the best way to think disruptively about something is to try and imagine it from a completely different perspective – to which end I was trying to imagine what an alien might think some of the oddest human practices and beliefs are. Here we go…
Money and property ownership
Money is one of the oddest things you humans have ever invented. It allows some people to be very rich and have the ability to acquire things beyond what they can really consume – while some people really need to consume something but don’t have the means to acquire it. If you go back to the beginnings of your world, food and shelter were your most basic needs. Food was available and free in nature, as was shelter – but in limited supply that ensured a natural limit on population.
In your world today, there are often situations where a certain group of people needs food or shelter, there is surplus food and shelter available for use, but your rules around property ownership and money prevent it from being used by the people who need it.
Money itself is a neat idea but it needs to be applied to non-necessities. You cannot withhold food and shelter from someone who’s starving or homeless just because they don’t have money. You can withhold a smartphone, car, software or some of the higher order products of life, but not the necessities.
The second element of that which needs examining is the concentration of wealth. If 8 individuals on Earth own as much as the bottom 50% (that’s 3.5 BILLION) of your rapidly growing population, clearly that is an imbalance that needs to be corrected. How? There are many ways – perhaps by increasing tax rates for any income or wealth beyond what is considered a healthy maximum and making that money available for public benefit. Another way is to limit what can be inherited, thus ensuring that the families of the rich do not inherit a permanent, unbalanced advantage. (Infographic from Statista, backlink here)
It is heartening that certain individuals on your planet – notably Bill Gates and Aziz Premji – devote a large part of their resources to helping other people. Nonetheless, it is clear that the vast majority of people with more resources than they need tend to hold on to them rather than redistributing them to those in need.
Why would people work hard then, you might ask? The answer may lie in still allowing for a gap between the ability to have the means to exist at a basic level of human comfort and to have access to finer things in life. Everyone should have access to the basics but only those who go beyond and create greater value are rewarded with the ability to consume non-necessities. Nobody is left with so much purchasing power that they can never use it within their lifetimes, so there is a cap on maximum wealth and income and the rest is used to fund the basics for everyone else.