Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Entitlement and Inheritance

Even if you hate money, you need it. We no longer live in a world where you can just go find a plot of land to live off the bounty of nature. Everything has been claimed. I have an issue with hereditary wealth. I think it is the best example of entitlement. Believing that what you have got through the clock, genetic and geographic lottery is yours. It is then very easy to say - the world owes you nothing. 

We have two parents. Four grandparents. Eight... Sixteen... Thirty two... 64...128... 256 (skip 22)... >1,000,000,000 ancestors. 1 Billion. The world population was 1 Billion in 1800. 30 generations of doubling from 2. Obviously there was a lot of love shared between cousins and huge overlaps, but the point is we have little clue how closely we are related to each other. It also won't take that long till all our descendants are related.

The world was mostly living in poverty in 1800. Was all the wealth we have now created since then? No. It took thousands of years to learn to build languages. Then writing. Then roads. The wealth we have now is the cumulative contribution of lessons from Persia, Ancient China, Timbuktu, Greece, Arabia and elsewhere. A widely cast net of ideas.

Islamic Golden Age

I believe in Property Rights. Not as an absolute truth, but something that if we agree on makes things work better. It is hard to build something if you can't have a long term perspective. The pay off for things is often very long term. It is why the very wealthy often think in terms of family wealth. They inherit a lot, but it isn't theirs, they are custodians. The goal being to hand over more to the next generation. It is hard to overstate how powerful a concept thinking in generational terms rather than 5-year plans is. Add compounding, and you will get huge disparities over time between those whose parents and grandparents got that idea, and those who believed in the school of hard knocks. Push the hatchlings from the nest and see if they fly.

So there is the quandary. You can't be opposed to a concept like Universal Basic Income because you don't believe people should get free stuff, and believe in Property Rights and Inheritance. If you believe in providing the financial empowerment to allow people to succeed, if you believe that we should hand the world over in a better state then we found it, and if you believe in the cumulative power of collective learning...

Believe in the power of raising people's eyes from survival to life and creating meaning.
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