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The Ideal Society

Terry Hung

December 3, 2006  

   What is the best form of society? The dream of building utopia has propelled human beings to try all sorts of political and economic policies.

   On the political side, most of the societies in early human history are governed by monarchies. Each society’s value lies on the military strength and the ruler’s wisdom. But an unfortunate phenomenon was observed: the qualities of those individuals who conquered and built societies were seldom inherited by their heirs. Noble blood seemed to flow randomly and renders monarchy hopelessly inept to be the form of utopia. Nobles were born in adversaries, not in comfort.

   In the 18th century, the United States became the first liberal democratic nation in the world, where most men can vote to shape the form and direction of politics. Shortly after, France also adopted liberal democracy. From that point on, democracy replaced monarchy to become the political framework of choice.

   On the economic side, The ancient economy was mainly based on subsistence farming. In the 18th century, industrial revolution replaced subsistence farming with machinery based industries. The mass production enables a new form of economics: capitalism. The name indicates that the driving force of this kind of economy is the capital that is needed for the machinery. Mass production created massive wealth for the capitalist, and the mass populations share the wealth by working for the capitalist.  

   The nature of capitalism causes excessive uneven wealth concentration that is not sustainable for a functioning society. All sorts of remedies were quickly proposed to prevent catastrophic outcome of the society.

   Several forms of economic policies surfaced during this period of debate. The government sometimes side with the big companies and operate in a form called fascism. In this kind of society, the right of labors are suppressed and the excessively uneven wealth distribution is allowed. To balance the injustices presented by the capitalism, intellects proposed socialism, where the fruit of capitalism is to be curtailed with the redistribution of wealth through accumulative tax or social welfare. Some even proposed a radical form of socialism called communism, where all the production and properties are to be shared by all citizens. This ideal has been tested in Soviet Union and Communist China and suffered complete failure. It became evident that without competition the production decreases.

   After two hundred years of chaos, some mixed form of capitalism and socialism has been accepted as the choice of economic policy in Europe and United States. To avoid repeating the same mistake of communism, this policy should be called democratic capitalism to emphasize that capitalism should always be part of the economic polities because free competition always improve the production.

   The ongoing task is how to curtail the excessively uneven wealth distribution. The principle of democratic capitalism is very simple: free competition is encouraged, but the wealth distribution is controlled to prevent the natural result of capitalism – unsustainable overconcentration of wealth.

   The main method to achieve this goal is accumulative tax, where the range of income discrepancy is reduced. The drawback of this method is that the goal is not explicit. The constant complaint by the rich and the disguised fascist elected government often change the policy secretly.

   The only way democratic capitalism can work in the long run is to create an explicit policy of wealth distribution. A government can for example, announce that a target of  100 times the average wealth for the richest. Anyone who are not satisfied with this level of wealth is free to pursue happiness in another society. The overproduction in modern society has rendered everyone to be replaceable. The 100 times average income can provide more than luxurious life style. And for every rich man who lives in this level, most others will be forced to live in below-average condition. This target though seem unfair to the poor, it is necessary to keep the spirit of capitalism going.

   Democratic capitalism will create the largest portion of middle class in human history. Social injustices will all but disappear. Due to the selfish nature of human kind, the future of democratic captialism is rocky ahead. No matter what form of social policy is to be adopted, there will be fierce opposition by those who already have too much.

   But we are so close to the ideal society that we must not give up trying.


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