I have called this essay “The Mathematician Speaks” because it was inspired by thinking about the world in a mathematical way; however this essay is also Michael Dunningham the writer and philosopher speaking. After outlining this essay, I will go a bit deeper into its inspiration, and some global financial statistics. Then I will look at the impact of some theoretical financial statistics I have worked out. Then I will compare the concept of competition, which is the major sociological model in the world with cooperation. Finally, I will summarise.
I was thinking about the fact that back in year 2000 it cost $ 500 per day to keep a person in the local psychiatric unit. I estimated that it would probably now cost $ 700 per day and extrapolated various other statistics from that. Then I thought about the financial cost of sustaining the world, and worked out some interesting statistics. My average net income is about $ 380 per week, plus I also get about $ 220 worth of subsidies from various agencies per week, a total of $ 600. I then decided that I could lead an adequate life on net $ 800 per week. Then I decided that there are some people who deserve more than that, but it is wasteful to give a person more than 1,500 per week net. From that I worked out that with the world’s population a 7 billion, if you paid 5 billion adults, and each of their dependants $ 800 net per week, and 2 billion adults and dependants 1,500 net per week, that would cost 7 trillion dollars. I am very out of touch with government expenses, and there are large expenses in running things like airlines and electricity companies etc., so I decided to be generous and call it 28 trillion ($ 4,000 per person), per week. On top of the weekly income, that’s a total of $ 35 trillion a week, or $1,750 trillion a year.
Then I Googled both the number of billionaires and number millionaires in the world. I found the statistics on millionaires more valuable. There are 38 million millionaires in the world. If their average wealth is just over 2 million that means they jointly possess $ 800 trillion, which is enough money to keep every person, company, and government on the planet in good shape for about five months. Never mind the wealth of the other 99.5 % of the world’s population and governmental income. Therefore the world has much more money than it needs, it’s the distribution that’s the issue.
You may ask, why pay lazy people $ 800 per week? Absolutely, some people are lazy, and could contribute more than they do. Even at the rate of $ 800 per week, some people would have to have their money managed for them. Some people waste their money on too many things that aren’t good for them. But if unhealthy commodities were sold in moderation or not at all there would be fewer problems. And if some people want to be lazy, they’re the ones who’ll suffer because of lack of fulfilment. It does more harm than good to make them suffer financially as well. And people would be more likely to work in jobs which genuinely fulfil them.
And now let us look at the impact of distributing money by my proposed model of 1,500 net per week to 2 billion people and $ 800 net to 5 billion people. Please note that there would be some people in between 1,500 per week and $ 800 per week, but these are basic figures to work on. If the Wellington bus company has 400 full time drivers and you put their average wages up by $ 9 per hour, that’s $ 15,000 per week, or less than 800,000 per year. I have just looked on the internet, and the company that owns them made $ 180 million profit last year. I know Infratil owns much more than the Wellington company, but giving the average driver an average $ 350 (gross) per week in wages would cost the company 0.5 % of its profit. I get my figures for how much they should put up their wages by (to about $ 23 gross) from the fact that a couple of years ago a driver told me that he’d been working for them for over ten years and he got fourteen something an hour. From this I extrapolate that most of them are on the minimum wage. They could afford to put 9,000 employee’s wages up by $ 350 per week and still make a profit of $ 15 million per annum. If there are 20 owners of Infratil, that’s a profit of $ 750,000 each per year, or my maximum weeks income of 1,500 per week.
I have also just looked on the internet and found out that the American Government spent $ 663 billion on their military capabilities in 2010. That’s about enough money to provide adequate annual incomes for about 550 million people. I have just found out that the American military employs just on 3 million people. Thus it could adequately employ/give profits to 25 times as many people as it does, or one in five Americans; assuming that a gigantic army was a constructive thing to have in the first place. Just to throw in an extra statistic for good measure, that means that the American Government spend about as much per head of their population on the military, as the New Zealand government spends per head of our population, on the problems caused by drugs and alcohol.
I would be happy if you were still allowed to earn/profit as much as you like, but anything over $ 750,000 per annum per individual goes to the government. You are still allowed to make huge profits for the sake of glory and philanthropy, but not greed. If we lived by my model of income distribution, a lot fewer people would fall through the cracks. Child poverty drains resources from the education system, and when poor children leave the education system they are less able to contribute to society. There’d be less emphasis on the benefits of money and more emphasis on the benefits of friendship, health, spirituality etc. which are also important. Social support has become so commoditised, and I think a lot mere support should be offered out of friendship, particularly by men.
Which leads me to my final issue; the issue of cooperation versus competition. Competition has its place. Winning a competition can make you feel pleased with yourself. If you can’t accept not winning a competition with good grace, don’t enter the competition in the first place. But the thing about competition is, there are always losers. That’s fine if it’s a poetry competition or the Olympics, but when losing means you don’t have enough to live on, that’s a problem. And financial problems generally lead to social problems such as various forms of illness, resentment at being deprived, and turning to addictive substances to try to cope. And when it comes to commercial competition to find the best power company for your needs or the best employee for the job, it’s often not the best one which wins. The one which wins will be the best marketed one, regardless of whether or not they are really the best. It is also the case that some cultures don’t fit in well with the commercial competition model. In fact, I think if you eliminate the problems caused by commercial competition, and the various discriminations: racism, sexism etc, there would be very few social problems.
Cooperation however, sits at the heart of the wellbeing of all cultures, bearing in mind that discrimination and aggression are the antithesis of cooperation. I have seen mental health agencies collaborate, I have seen community church groups cooperate , and I have seen friend and family cooperate. And now I will give an example of this. A couple of months ago a friend of mine who lacks motivation in the morning, asked me if I could randomly phone him at 6 in the morning to help motivate him. I too, lack motivation in the morning, so in return I got him to ring me at 6.45 in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays to go to prayer at a residence almost half an hour’s walk away. I find it easier to motivate myself on a Wednesday, so now I have breakfast three times a week at this household as well, and give them a koha in return. Tuesday is a big work day for me, and after work on Tuesday, I go to their place a decent break, then help with the evening meal and eat with them. This is far more valuable than anything money can buy. I have been friends with this household for a couple of years, but now I have a much deeper and better relationship with them.
So in summary, the earth definitely has more money than it needs, excessive wealth is wasteful and bad for the environment. It’s not fulfilling either, it’s what you do that’s fulfilling. Everyone wins when there is a much more equal distribution of wealth. And while competition has its place, cooperation is usually a better model.
by Michael Dunningham