Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wealth equality

Last century, societies around the world were profoundly transformed towards more social justice and economic equality of its citizens. Social security, labor laws and access to public education became consistent pillars of socioeconomic development. Slavery saw its definitive end.

Towards the end of the century, the computer revolution of the 90s created a tool that made the average employee many times more efficient. At the beginning of the present century, software development and information and communication technologies (ICTs) revolutionized yet again the employee's capacity to produce far more in the same period of time, and far better than only 15 years before. Nowadays, in fact, work is ubiquitous. An e-mail or a phone call can be taken during the commute or while on vacation, at night, at home, or abroad. 

The combination between formal education and the know-how to use ICTs and software has prompted the arrival of the knowledge era that the world is living today. Connectivity has become a must for governments, private enterprises -mainly transnational ones- academic institutions, NGOs, etc. Despite poverty indexes, countries across the world, from Latin America to China, India and Africa, have access to the benefits of connectivity that the more developed world is also having. 

Nevertheless, despite this exponential enhancement of productivity in employees, instead of this representing the possibility to work less time or earn more for the time worked, the average employee is working more hours (24/7) earning in disproportion to their hyper-effectiveness. 

If this hyper-effectiveness is multiplying the wealth that is being created globally, and employees are still earning a salary without regard of their productivity, this means that the widely acclaimed exploitation that socialists and communists abhorred during the communist hype of the previous century has only gotten much worse. 

As long as the working classes do not come to this realization, then the status quo is safe. Problem is, the present global economic crisis has accelerated awareness on behalf of employees who have lost their jobs or felt threatened to lose it, or have seen how rich some people have become in the last decade and how they have gotten away with wrongdoing in the last few months with the bursting of the financial bubble. 

This awareness has triggered millions of people worldwide to feel cheated. The longer this recession lasts, and the more consumption contracts, the more people will become aware of this unequal situation regarding their work and the retribution they obtain from it.

The world was unable to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the death of communism, because capitalism, as we knew it, lies on its deathbed too. These are the times to review, far more carefully, the political and economic positions around the center of the ideological spectrum. Perhaps it is even time for economists and journalists to start researching more seriously the other half of Adam Smith's capitalist proposition, yet to be discovered: The Theory on Moral Sentiments, where Smith spoke about ethics, morality and justice for capitalism to work as a sustainable system. 

Meanwhile, let's just hope for more equality in wealth distribution, as there is no doubt that in wealth creation humankind has already proven successful.