Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Road to Social Cohesion

It's the Same the Whole World Over.” The ever-widening gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” continues to inflame and infuriate people around the world and stands strongly in the way of social cohesion and the benefits it can bring.  This gap has been with us for centuries, but it is rearing its ugly head right now because the gap is increasing at an alarming rate. The social division caused by this gap is even documented in this old folk song:

"It's the same the whole world over,
It's the poor what gets the blame,
It's the rich what gets the pleasure,
Isn't it a blooming shame?"

Obligation of the Rich.  First of all, I want to go on record as saying that I have no harsh feelings for rich people in general. However, when their tremendous wealth comes either directly or indirectly from the sweat and labor of others, then I believe they have a moral obligation to help those people who helped them make their billions.

Our Protectors of Society.  When the elite in our countries fail to to live up to their obligations to society, then society itself must do something about it. Government was founded to preserve, protect and defend our society. They pass laws (presumably for the good of society), administer those laws (presumably in an equitable manner), they punish offenders (also presumably in an equitable manner (although they do not always succeed, and it is usually the wealthy who get the breaks).

Privileged Advantage. I daresay advance the notion that many of the rich have accumulated their massive wealth by enjoying a privileged advantage over the lower socioeconomic groups. In doing so, they have exacted a toll on these groups that is not unlike that of servitude and dependency and, in some cases, have even come close to enslavement.
Formula for Success? With that as a background, here is the basis of my proposal for narrowing the socioeconomic gap and opening the doors to a more cohesive society.

  1. Education leads to better communication among socioeconomic groups.
  2. Communication leads to better understanding among socioeconomic groups
  3. Understanding leads to better cooperation among socioeconomic groups.
  4. Cooperation leads to better results that benefit all socioeconomic groups.

While that might sound simple enough, it may take some stretching of the imagination to swallow the medicine for a cure.

Free Education. There should be equal educational opportunities for all. Government-sponsored scholarships should be awarded to anybody seeking an education that will lead to the student being trained to make worthwhile contributions to society. These scholarships would be based upon need in such a way that those families who have annual earnings above a certain level would be ineligible for these scholarships, inasmuch as they would already have the means to fund education without relying on the rest of society. In addition, these scholarships would allow students to compete for the schools of their choice, and not just the local community or junior colleges. They would be required to take aptitude tests and plan a curriculum around those aptitudes.

Even if they choose a craft or trade, they would still benefit from a general college curriculum that could supplement and be integrated with their career goals.

Communication. By having socio-economic integration within the schools, we should benefit from an increase in communication between the different groups. Indeed, even those students who choose a craft or trade would benefit, not just in their chosen field, could also from courses that increase their communication skills in the outside world.

Understanding. Only through educational integration and social interaction can we hope to have a compelling understanding of how the other socio-economic groups truly live their lives. Our country used to be a melting pot for immigrants. Our educational system can now become our melting pot for the different socio-economic groups. By securing a meaningful education and communication skills, we have the basis for productive interaction among the various groups.

Cooperation. When people of different groups get to know one another, communicate at similar language levels, and get to understand one another, barriers are broken down. Stereotypes are demolished. People of disparate interests and backgrounds will begin to work together as a more cohesive unit to produce desired results.

Results. When they work side by side with one another in a mutually cooperative, cohesive and productive environment, that should also carry over to their private lives as well. Instead of living lives of desperation in a society where the odds are stacked against them from their first breath of life, they will be able to look toward the future with purpose and optimism, and a drive to succeed.

Education + Jobs = Results. Beyond their education, our government should also provide employment for any qualified job prospect. Reliance on private industry to create jobs is totally dependent on making a profit, and not on what is best for one's country. For those who have difficulty in gaining experience to make them more valuable to prospective employers, the government should fund public works projects (roads, highways, bridges, transportation systems, schools, libraries, museums, parks and recreational centers, and other infrastructure projects that have been neglected for many decades).

Show Me the Money. All of this will undoubtedly cost a great deal of money . There is not way I could cost this out for any country – even my own. But I do know the resources are out there and can be made available. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Increased Taxes and Reduced Costs. I see two major sources of revenue as being increased taxation – primarily at the highest levels – and cost reduction – in our social programs (welfare, unemployment compensation, law enforcement, courts, prisons, rehabilitation programs, and many, many others). In our American past, we have had maximum income tax rates as high as 90%, and our economy and society prospered during these times. I would not be averse to a ten-year progressive increase in taxation across the board, even up to the rates implemented in the US in the late 1940s, to give this plan a chance to succeed. If it does not, then we pull the plug on it and go back to what we had before – huge socio-economic gaps, increased tension between groups, social unrest, serious crime rates, a deteriorating infrastructure, and all the kinds of problems that go with social division, as compared to social cohesion.

Additional Benefits.  The country would benefit greatly from having more money put back into the economy from the salaries of the people working on federal projects. And society would benefit from the greatly improved and safer infrastructure.

It would take a far better economic analyst than I could ever be to determine the costs and the offsetting cost savings of these two programs. However, until one comes along to provide such figures, I will remain a cockeyed optimist that it can be and should be done.