A Game Anyone Can Play
Less messy than guillotines and worldwide collapse, and more fun and participatory than actually letting things get that far out of hand, the Billionaire’s Cap is a game of strategy and skill for the whole family to enjoy. The objective is simple: work your way through life until you’ve earned $1 billion dollars, and bingo! You’re declared a winner and allowed to merrily spend that repatriated and federally taxed hard-earned cash however you see fit. But the perks of winning don’t just end there!
As a Billionaire’s Cap winner, your income will be dutifully capped until your net worth falls to $100 million (or some other agreed upon threshold). No more pesky earnings reports, inflated deductions, giant government welfare checks or needless disaster profiteering. No more rat race mentality debasing your beautiful mind by making it spend all of its waking hours hewing ruthlessly to the bottom line. Nosirree.
You’ll be free to do what people are supposed to do in a consumer economy; circulate those dollars by actually spending money on goods and services instead of siphoning them up, hoarding them and devising ever more outrageous ways for them to multiply in the financial sector’s fantastical gaming tables. (You know; the crapshoots where the general public and the planet itself cover your losses, but you get to pocket any record earnings made in between?) It’s not time to cash in, it’s time to spend out.
In an ironic nod to those good old days of the last thirty years and to your former obsession with the bottom line, all future profits generated by your amassed and capped fortune, whether through stock portfolio increases or interest payments or maturing bonds, will be automatically electronically wired to a special national account which will apply any earnings directly to your home country’s non-military debt.
And by whittling down your personal reserves to that of a small country’s through spending in the consumer economy, you’ll be reinvigorating the economic ecosystem, helping to correct systemic imbalances and getting ample free time to discern the deeper mysteries of life. Should you weary of a daily routine bereft of deal-making and generating millions of dollars while you sleep, no one is stopping you from either returning to the office to work for free or offloading all of your cash until your net worth falls to the threshold point at which you may resume making a profit.
But why bother? If we’re here to make a living, and you’ve made several lifetimes’ worth already, why stick around just to keep running up the score? Wouldn’t it be more judicious to move on to the next most important thing in life now that you’ve got the food, shelter, resources thing covered? You’re in a position that 99.99% of the human population will never be in; shouldn’t you be using this opportunity to explore and solve the next set of questions one reaches when freed from the lifelong struggle for basic necessities? By capping your income and net worth at an obscenely high level, the Billionaire’s Cap provides you with a chance to do just that. Enacted globally, the Billionaire’s Cap could be a real stepping stone to the next phase of human development.
When is Enough Enough?
There are estimates of $20, $30, perhaps upwards of $40 trillion dollars hidden in offshore accounts around the world. Given the nature of financial gamesmanship, I’m inclined to go along with the higher ballpark figures. Cumulative global debt stands at around $41 trillion dollars. The global economy in its entirety is approximately $70 trillion dollars. The world’s largest nine banks have over $225 trillion in derivatives exposure which is roughly three times the world’s economy. These mind-boggling sums are concentrated in the relatively few hands of around 2500 individuals (1150 recognized billionaires) and parent companies around the world. In terms of their ability to negatively affect the global populace at large, they are stronger than, have a greater impact upon, and exude a much wider reach over the planet than all of the great armies of the past combined.
To their way of thinking, money is not only considered free speech, it is an instrument of propaganda which shapes public opinion, distorts perceived reality and muddles the trail of accountability. In this skewed worldview, corporations aren’t just outrageously considered ‘persons’, they’re deferred to over living and breathing human beings. Vast sums of concentrated wealth are used in methodology as tools of terror. Wars, coups, bailouts, environmental catastrophes, the crushing of populist uprisings. Threatening sovereign nations with economic austerity blackmail unless they agree to open up any nationalized industries or banks to the vulture capitalists. Speculating on world food prices and energy costs, driving down national currencies and overloading them with debt, outsourcing entire industries to the places where they can pay and be overseen the least while polluting and profiting the most.
Destabilizing governments and endangering poorer communities unless their industry is allowed its way in those countries. Back room deals, bribery, dead end paper trails. Flooding the world with weapons shipments and arming both sides in a conflict should it suit their ends. Money laundering billions and trillions of dollars, manipulating market value and key exchange rates (as in LIBOR), insider trading. Bypassing and defanging regulatory agencies, demonizing and attacking watchdog organizations, partnering with military dictatorships, silencing witnesses and whistleblowers.
No compendium of laws or agreements will ever wipe out criminality and corruption. Individuals, groups and governments devoted to ‘the dark side’ of things will always exist. But by recognizing the disproportionate and detrimental effects that concentrated wealth accumulation can have, both in the hands of billionaires and in the service of limited liability corporate entities, we as a society can certainly begin to tame the undue influence that empirical individual fortunes and incorporated legal fictions have on our livelihoods, resources and societies. The Billionaire’s Cap is a step in that direction. It is not meant to be a standalone solution by any means.
There will never be an accord or policy directive that all of the citizens of the world will unanimously agree upon. But by beginning to discuss and put into place safeguards that preempt or prevent some of the more egregious outrages committed by the few upon the many, we can start to build a world where bottomless greed is not so duly rewarded (and thus encouraged). A world where we can start to responsibly take note of the various challenges and tipping points that our ecosystems, societies and financial systems face; and where a majority of us can finally stand up and say: “Enough is enough.”
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The Billionaire’s Cap series is an ongoing set of articles, musings and policy suggestions which intermittently appears as if by magic on the internetz. The Billionaire’s Cap is published exclusively on LifeIsMelody.com and firedoglake.com. The series introduction can be found here and/or here. The author is a 99%-er who is neither jealous of wealthy individuals nor interested in ‘punishing success’. He is interested in hearing your suggestions, critiques and proposals for reducing concentrated wealth accumulation and income disparity while also increasing the stability and integrity of both our ecosystems and our economic systems towards sustainable ends. Upcoming topics include “The Necessity of Building Pressure Valves Into a System” and “How to Make a Billion Dollars.”