I found this weird clip today where Canadian capitalist Kevin O’Leary says that it’s fantastic that 85 rich folks owns the same amount of money as the 3,5 billion poorest people on earth. Yeah, he literally says that he “applauds it”, because then the poor gets the motivation to become like the extremely rich. The reporter is stunned, she stands in silence and then just says “really?” O’Leary affirms his crazy applause of global inequality and says “don’t tell me that you want to redistribute wealth again, that’s never gonna happen!”
O’Leary’s statement is incredibly stupid on so many levels, but the thing is that many people in the West do agree with him. Many thinks inequality is not so bad. I’ve debunked many of their arguments in Seven Reasons Why Inequality Sucks, but if I am to comment shortly on O’Leary’s line of thought I would just want to say that:
- Firstly, everyone cannot become as rich as the richest one percent simply because there aren’t enough resources – if everyone lived like the avarage American we would need five earths.
- Secondly, poor people often work harder than rich people, so there is no correlation between hard work and wealth – a lot of wealth is inherited either financially or socially.
- Thirdly, economic inequality is contrary to a belief in that all human beings are equal and have equal rights to a descent life – if we truly believe that all people are created in the image of God, we cannot tolerate economic inequality.
As this clip shows, global economic inequality is enormous. 2 % of the world’s population owns half of its resources. The world’s rich countries are taking more money from the poor than vice versa due to unfair trade rules and tax flight. This is contrary to the Biblical vision. Luke 3:11 says that the one who has two of something should share with those who have nothing, 2 Cor 8:13-15 says that the goal of charity is equality, Acts 2 and 4 shows us that the early church practiced economic equality through community of goods. We need global economic equality. But how should we achieve it?
I’ve already written a paper about how churches can work towards economic equality through increased aid giving and an international church budget standard that forbids churches to get too rich. But what can the rest of society do? I think we would need something similar for them – an international budget standard, both for individuals and states. And I got good news for you: there is such a standard, namely Costa Rica.
It’s simple: if you take the World Gross Product, that is the GDP of the world (minus the D since it isn’t domestic – economists will get what I say), and you divide it with the world population, you get the gross world product per capita which, according to the CIA, is around 13 000 USD (PPP). That’s roughly the same GDP per capita as Costa Rica. And thus, if everybody lived like Costa Ricans we would need one earth. Which is what we got, so that would be rational.
Costa Rica is also #1 in the Happy Planet Index, a index that looks at experienced well being, life expectancy and ecological foot print. What makes Costa Rica so interesting is that its citizens have a long life expectancy even though (or rather, because) they live simply and have a quite low GDP per capita, and thus also a low carbon foot print.
Costa Ricans are Christians as well. And they got sunny beaches and a female democratically elected president. I say that all countries should be like Costa Rica and all people should live like Costa Ricans. Sure, they’re not sinless and they got problems, but while the rest of us are trashing the planet and promote injustice, they are doing quite well. I’d say we give it a shot. If you live on more than 13 000 USD per year, give away your money to the poor until you live on 13 000 USD per year or less. Then tell your friends, politicians and church members to do the same.