Saturday, April 02, 2016

Building Common Wealth (with Sindile)

Trev: 
A Sovereign Wealth Fund is a pool of investments that belongs to a country. The idea being that a country can invest on behalf of it's citizens. The assets can then be anything from around the world rather than the random resources the country starts with. A Universal Income is not a welfare payout. It is a share of the wealth paid out to everyone. It doesn't have the same stigma of social benefits. In the same way very wealthy people don't suffer from a stigma because they have benefited from parents and grandparents who are wealthy. I would like to see a world where we combine these concepts - Sustainable Wealth Funds with Universal Income. Where we become custodians of global wealth, and are freed to pursue non hand-to-mouth aspirations because of our combined resources. 

Sindile: 
I find that very interesting and wonder where South Africa in particular cannot re-organise it's mineral regime in order to realise this. In fact couldn't this be done in many resource rich countries in Africa? Didn't Norway do something like this? For me, I'm not quite sure we are at the point (at least in Africa) where we can simply forgo hand to mouth activities, but what we can do is offset some of the necessary effects of trying to be competitive and achieving growth (such as lower wages) with a universal income. Whether that can be realised is of course up to sound and competent leadership and an active citizenry. This for me could be a much better alternative to the populist resource nationalism of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters). 

Trev: 
I like to think that it isn't up to government doing it. South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States have strong constitutions that protect the liberty of citizens. They are at different levels of wealth, but all struggle with inequality and the need to build community. I don't think that starts with government. It starts at a lower level. We can build Sustainable Wealth Funds ourselves. It is like planning for retirement at an individual level, but expanding the thinking a little. Investing for retirement is diversifying your own individual earning stream, your own internal gold/ oil/ soil. Slowly you get the money working and you buy your financial freedom. We can do this by building small communities. It would be great if government got on side... but we don't need them to. We can do this. 

Releasing Internal Gold

Sindile: 
Wait I need clarity then here. By saying we can build sustainable wealth funds ourselves, who then would be the beneficiaries? In SA something like 70% of the population lives on less than 5k a month. I don't see how that's a sustainable base to build from. 

Trev: 
That is exactly where the problem lies! When we leave it up to government, the numbers get absolutely massive and abstract. What on earth do you do about 37 million people struggling along? Write a tweet with #EndPoverty? But if we think in groups of say 150, then 70% of 150 is 105. There are 45 people earning more than that who can learn the names of those 105. That can go for a run with them. That can have a meal in their house. Thinking about how to make a group of 150 sustainably support themselves is achievable. It is replicable. It is realistic. 

Sindile: 
I agree Trev but I don't think we need to be dichotomous about it. Building strong communities and a strong civil society is up to us, however we shouldn't eschew the gains that can be made from brave, selfless and excellent governance. I think your 150 concept is brilliant in terms of the interpersonal level, but we simply cannot ignore the institutional and systemic level. Another thing for me is how can we begin to integrate regionally and therefore break the power of colonial borders? 
Trev: 
Excellent governance would be awesome, but my expectations are very low. Anywhere in the world. I also think the idea that we can delegate decision making upward is problematic. It is very hard to communicate our concerns even to those deeply involved in our lives. I have more confidence in excellent laws. Sometimes the stars align and the bigger society gets on board. More often people build friendships and change happens. Institutions and systems reflect those friendships over time. Regions and colonial borders are ridiculously easy to break down when thinking in terms of 150 people. Just find friends of friends. Six degrees of separation and all that jazz. Just because British Columbia & Washington State are different countries doesn't stop friends from visiting. Just because the US took over half of Mexico in 1846 doesn't mean there aren't strong cultural bonds. Same with the people of Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Borders don't define us. Friendships do. 



Sindile: 
I agree...... To a certain extent. The forces of tribalism and nationalism are especially strong in our neighbourhood of countries(because of the economic deprivation). The ugliness of our xenophobia proves that. With that said, I believe that we need to align the interests of immigrants in our country with those of the poor black majority in terms of creating a new entrepreneurial class. I do believe that friendship is THE essential ingredient in this, my only question being how do we overcome mistrust?? 

Trev: 
Trust is certainly the key ingredient, and that can only come with time and relationships. It probably also requires a leap of faith in the beginning. A few people to take a chance at giving people the benefit of the doubt. While mistrust is a powerful defence, there will be the few generous souls that venture out of the safe space to build new communities that cross those boundaries. That can imagine a better world. We should support those people. We should be those people. With time, I think that the people who come back with stories to the mistrusters will have tales with more flavour to entice the late adopters, and nibble at the walls that divide us. 

Sindile: 
I believe in the possibilities but my concerns about structural and institutional realities remain. I think the building of community has to go hand in hand with political advocacy, in fact I think true community(across divisive lines) would sharpen our political advocacy. One of the main problems(in SA at least) is that people live in 'bubbles of ignorance'. People don't know enough about each other and haven't humanised each other. Both individual commitment (to community) and a structurally and institutionally healthy society are mutually reinforcing and help shield us against the inevitable excesses that arise from a complex civilisation.

--- Other Guest Posts with Sindile ---

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