Attitudes towards uber-rich are changing

I’ve met many people who gleefully predict that a global mega-financial collapse will soon destroy our economic system and return us to an agricultural subsistence economy.

Uber Rich Gentle Revolution

What they’re really yearning for is a revolution.

They yearn for revolution because they believe that most of the uber-rich are selfish, money hungry people who value profits above the health of the planet and the well-being of the people who live upon it.

They yearn for revolution because they feel powerless to bring about change through the normal political system, which they believe the uber-rich have bought with their money.

They yearn for revolution but they are peaceful people who abhor violence and therefore the traditional path of violent revolution is not an option for them. So instead, they resort to dreaming of an economic collapse which will level the playing field again.

Such is their despair that they’d rather endure the poverty of a subsistence lifestyle than to let the uber-rich continue to dominate.

Luckily there’s a third option – a much kinder alternative with much less suffering for everyone.

THE GENTLE REVOLUTION

I think the best revolution is a revolution in thinking – “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

subsistence economy

I think that it’s unwise to yearn for an economic collapse that’ll return us to a subsistence lifestyle because giving up all the technological advances and benefits that the capitalist system has brought us will inflict too much suffering on too many people.

I think the ideal way forward is to keep the good parts of the capitalist system and to remove its extreme edges.

pollution

It’s not just the extreme accumulation of money at the top that’s a major problem, it’s also the things that the uber-rich do in order to accumulate that wealth. If they weren’t so hungry to get richer and richer, they wouldn’t make so many decisions that are bad for the rest of humanity.

I believe the only way to cure this problem once and for all is to change the mindset of the uber-rich themselves – they have to change their thinking so that they see that such extreme wealth is unnecessary and socially unacceptable.

How do we do that?

social disapproval

Easy, first we change everyone else’s thinking.

The uber-rich seek acceptance and social approval just like everyone else. Humans are social animals and we’re born with a strong need for social approval. If we withdraw our social approval from the uber-rich then they’ll feel extreme pressure to change their ways in order to regain our approval, and the approval of their peers.

But many ordinary people aspire to be uber-rich, what can we say to persuade them to change that mindset?

I think the following idea is an extremely powerful tool for this purpose:

Whether consciously or unconsciously, every person with $200 million in wealth has said,

“I won’t give away $100 million to alleviate the suffering of poor, starving children because then I’d only have $100 million and I can’t live happily on that.

I’d rather that many thousands of children suffer hunger and poverty than that I should have to live on only $100 million!”

Think about that.

Could you be happy with 100 million dollars? Do you think that would be enough for you?

luxury yacht

Imagine if I had two piles of money, each with 100 million dollars, and I said to you, “Here, one pile is for you – it’s all yours. But you have to decide what I should do with the other pile, shall I give it to you to buy a big luxury yacht, a lear jet and a couple of holiday mansions that you’ll only use for a few weeks each year, or shall I use it to build orphanages for starving, homeless children?”

What would you say?

orphan

What do you think of someone that can’t be happy with $100 million?

What do you think of someone that also chooses to take that second pile of money and spends it on a big yacht, a jet and the holiday mansions instead of using it to make this world a better place?

What sort of mind thinks like that?

Is that normal?

Is that a healthy mind?

Is that the sort of mind that you admire?

luxury yacht

Next time you see an uber-rich person on tv think about the sort of mind that they have, and the sort of decisions that they’ve made and are continuing to make every day.

I believe that if there was a world-wide campaign to have people think about these questions, that the uber-rich would start feeling very uncomfortable with themselves.

I think that some of them might stop feeling so proud of themselves and start feeling ashamed of themselves.

Then gradually things would snowball from there.

Please read my replies in the comments section below for a more in depth explanation of my thinking on this matter.

If you’d like to be part of this gentle revolution then share this with your friends.

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Comments (8)
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  1. I totally agree. But how to start a worldwide movement? I will keep posting on Twitter for now.

  2. Pingback: Attitudes Towards Uber-rich are Changing | Alternative Views to MSM

  3. Gaz:

    Very thought provoking article Lau.
    I like your “gentle revolution” idea and believe the quote “the pen is mightier than the sword” is correct. I agree wholeheartedly with the first half of you article.
    However there are two topics in your article, money and poverty, and I believe people make some very wrong assumptions about both of them when thinking of a “revolution”, and therefore come up with a less than elegant solution.

    The first assumption is that “poor” people need our help. Unfortunately that “poverty” is often judged by our own standards. Does it really matter that every child in Ethiopia doesn’t have access to a computer? Is it wrong for Microsoft to charge $400 for its operating system in Thailand? Were the poor Yak herders in Tibet really slaves to the “Enlightened Ones”?

    Another assumption is that the poverty, ill health and starvation in 3rd world countries is a problem caused by a lack of money, and that by throwing money at the problem will magically solve it – it won’t and that has been proved over and over again.
    If I were to equally divide 1 billion dollars into India’s population would that end poverty there?
    No because it is a systemic/political/corruption problem, not something that can be fixed with money – in fact that will make the problem worse!

    The last assumption is that the so called “rich” should provide the money for that purpose. The problem here is to define “rich” (and get rid of the “money is evil” thought!).
    If I went to the poorest country on earth I would probably be described as uber-rich, if I went to the richest suburb on earth I would be described as dirt poor!
    Are we talking about the talented artist (or even a sports star/inventor/software developer/small businessman providing a good product or service) who became wealthy by using their god given talents to entertain (or make life easier for) grateful people who then voluntarily gave part of their money to that person?
    Or are we talking about the investor who lent the assets/finance to achieve these goals?
    Or only the ones who extracted the highest profit?
    Are we thinking only about investors like the Rothschilds of this world …or the mums and dads that have a few shares in Microsoft?
    If I doubled my $1000 on Microsoft shares should I feel pressured to donate this to some starving child in a country being torn apart by a tribal war?

    In a “Gentle Revolution” It would make more sense to write letters of condemnation to the worlds politicians, who are charged with solving problems like these, for their lack of effort, rather that to attack an individual someone thinks is “uber-rich”.
    I believe the best way to help the less fortunate would be to reward anyone who donates, without strings attached, with public praise and favour!

    All this requires a change of mindset in the majority of the western world. Most of us still fantasize more about the great life we would lead if we were rich and famous, and therefore idolize and envy the rich, than we think about the worlds less fortunate.

    • Lau Guerreiro:

      Thanks for taking the time to write such a well thought out comment Gaz.

      I agree with almost everything that you say, and I think that where there’s a difference of opinion, it’s mostly due to ill defined boundary conditions and assumptions. I’ll try to define these boundaries and assumptions a little more clearly now.

      Regarding the assumption that “poor” people need our help:
      I agree that poverty is a relative term and not everyone needs to live at western standards in order to be happy. However, I think there is a minimum definition of poverty which everyone would agree upon: If you don’t have sufficient food, shelter and clothing to keep you warm in winter then you are poor.

      I agree that “throwing money at the problem” won’t magically solve the problem. That doesn’t mean, however, that money can’t help. I think that wisely directed money can go a long way to solving the problem. That might mean that some of the money needs to be directed towards reducing disease and corruption, or improving education and electricity supply rather than just to distributing food or giving cash handouts.

      I agree that if you make $1000 profit on your Microsoft shares that you shouldn’t feel pressured to give some of it to charity. I firmly believe that the capitalist profit motive is essential to foster innovation and to produce a steady rise in our standard of living – that’s why I haven’t advocated a communist-like system.

      I believe the best system is what I’m calling “capped capitalism”, which is the same as our current capitalist system except that an upper limit is placed on the allowed wealth. I believe this upper limit improves the system in the following ways:

      1. It reduces the ability for the uber-rich to distort our political system and thus reduces their ability to adversely effect our economic and social systems.

      2. It provides an additional source of money that can be used **wisely** to make life more enjoyable for many more people. (Yes we need to work out how to spend that money wisely, but that’s a seperate issue. We don’t have to work out the perfect solution before acting – as long as we spend it more wisely than the uber-rich currently are then we should proceed. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out a more beneficial use for the money than having bars of gold stashed in a swiss bank.)

      3. It causes the uber-rich to refocus their energies away from increasing their wealth and towards something more beneficial for society.

      Regarding, writing letters to politicians instead of attacking the uber-rich:
      I think this approach has a low likelyhood of success because:

      1. It’s harder to motivate people to write letters to politicians than it is to get them to condemn the uber-rich.

      2. To a significant degree, politicians are “in the pocket” of the uber-rich and therefore attempting to use normal political channels to address the problem is likely to fail. I think there’s a higher probability of first modifying public attitudes towards the uber-rich, which will exert significant pressure on the uber-rich to modify their behaviour.

      Yes I believe that rewarding people with public praise for donating is a key tool at our disposal. I believe that as well as having the annual Fortune Magazine Rich List, there should also be a list of people who donated the most to charity, and another shame list for the people on the Rich List who donated the least to charity as a percentage of their wealth.

      Positive social change will result when the worth of an individual is judged by how much they give away rather than by how much they have. In some uber-rich this may still provide the incentive they need in order to keep innovating and creating new businesses – so that they can earn enough to remain on the top of the list of people who give away the most each year.

      I think it is more than okay to want to be rich – to have a nice house, car and a holiday home and be able to afford overseas vacations. But if your first $100 million doesn’t make you happy then neither will your second $100 million and therefore it’s wasted on you – give it to someone who has the ability to enjoy it.

  4. Gaz:

    I actually agree with your thoughts, I am really only playing devils advocate to clarify some of your points.
    I do worry about peoples perception though, most people are fairly emotional, leading to some very shallow thinking.
    For example, Not too many “ordinary” people read the Fortune’s Rich List and so people will naturally attack the wealthy that are in the public spotlight, like Hollywood and sport stars. Are they really that greedy, are they really the intended target?

    The uber-rich that actually do cause harm to society and distort politics for their own gain usually shun the spotlight except that of their peers, where they reinforce each others bad behavior and further distance themselves away from what “normal” people actually care about.

    We tend to only know about these people when an event that causes much harm to the community is leaked out and many names get thrown about in the blame game.

    I am interested in your thoughts as to how would you “cap” these peoples wealth without spending the rest of your life fighting them?
    Salary limits? Bonus limits? Profit limits? Direct cap at a nominal amount of wealth?

    It’s an interesting discussion!

    • Lau Guerreiro:

      Thanks for taking on the devils advocate role, it gives me the chance to think and write more deeply on this topic.

      I agree that the pop and movie stars aren’t the intended targets, however, in revolutionary circumstances, a certain amount of collateral damage is inevitable.
      If a certain degree of pressure causes people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to become supporters of the movement (even if slightly reluctantly) then that will accelerate the world-wide paradigm shift, and is therefore a good thing.

      While the main targets are the people over $100 million threshold, it’s inevitable that positive changes in the uber-wealthy people’s behaviour resulting from the public’s sentiment change will “trickle down” to the wealthy who are just below the threshold.

      I agree that the uber-rich do their utmost to hide themselves from the public. I believe that their invisibility is a major problem that must be solved in order for this gentle revolution to succeed. Luckily, I believe I have a radical solution to this problem:

      I believe that public demonstrations like the Occupy Movement are useful for building public awareness and recruiting supporters, but that they’re weak at inducing real change at the upper levels of society – they require an enormous number of people in order to induce any change. Only when you have staggering demonstrations like those seen in Egypt do you get change, and even then you require the army on your side.

      I believe that a much better power to protestor ratio can be achieved by having much smaller, ongoing demonstrations that are carefully targeted at the uber-rich. Instead of having one protest, with 10000 people, in a park in Manhattan, have 20 small, perpetual protests that follow around 20 uber-rich individuals.

      Have ongoing protest in front of the homes of people like the Koch brothers and have those demonstrations follow the people around. When they go to a restaurant there are 50 protestors with placards out the front waiting for them to emerge. When they go to the theatre, shopping or to a friend’s place, the demonstrations follow them around. These demonstrations need to be carefully co-ordinated so that protestors allocate themselves on an around the clock protest roster.

      Use of social media and mobile applications will make it very easy to alert potential protestors that an uber-rich person is in their vicinity.

      This approach will make life uncomfortable for the people who have the greatest power to change the system and will thus motivate them to make changes. I believe that one large protest in Central Park is impotent in comparison to months of embarrassment and annoyance caused by small ongoing demonstrations following the uber-rich.

  5. Gaz:

    That is a fairly radical way to protest! Maybe the same needs to be done with the politicians.

    Good luck with finding enough people that wish to be protestors though.
    This would need good education coordination plan too, as the young, with all the energy and enthusiasm, lack the practical experience of life to make the best decisions for the world, the middle age are too busy with their own lives to bother and the elderly just don’t have the energy!
    Most of the youth seem to have very communistic ideas in mind eg just give us some of your wealth! lol

    • Lau Guerreiro:

      Yes it is a radical method of protest. It would need a fairly large organisation to get behind it. I think it would probably work better in the USA than in Australia as there are more people from which to recruit protestors.

      It could start small by running a trial protest targeting just one uber-rich individual during the university summer vacation. Even if you only had 10 individuals protesting at any one time, it would still be effective. That would mean you’d need 100 protestors to fill a weekly roster where each protestor had to spend 16 hours protesting.

      You could use this trial as a learning exercise, plus you could film it and make a documentary that would spread awarness of the campaign, recruit more volunteers and act as a training manual for other groups around the world that wanted to organise their own protests.

      I think that because of the originality of the protest it would be easy to get a lot of publicity for it.

      I’m not sure about targeting politicians, I think they’re already under a fair bit of public scrutiny; and anyway, it would be better if this could be accomplished with as little government regulations as possible (preferably none). At least for the first few years this would be a campaign that did not advocate any government regulation, but simply sought to change public perception and encourage the uber-rich to voluntarily change their ways.

      This will have to be a long term campaign over many years, and will probably require generational change (hard to teach the old dogs new tricks, probably have to wait for them to die off and hopefully their children have been influenced by the campaign.)

      Government regulation will only be necessary to clean up the tough nuts that have not voluntarily changed their ways – but I think that’s at least a couple of decades down the track.

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