Income inequality, which is a natural feature of an economy because people do contribute more or less on average than others, can be carried to an extreme that destroys the country in which it occurs. France, new Russia (which has only increased its economic disparities since its abandonment of the fictional equality of communism) and even the United States, where the Great Depression could have tilted the country into revolution, are historical examples.
The impact of money in politics diminishes the democracy, but not by amplifying some voices more than others. In an answers economy, money is tied to existing forms of production that money defends well past its useful life. The benefits to the few may justify the diminished democracy in the judgment of those few, but eventually everyone recognizes that the inefficiencies that result are destroying the economy from the inside out. At that point in the life of a democracy, the rascals get thrown out of office; in a country without democracy, the weapons come out — on both sides.
The availability of money in great volumes allows a fraction of society to adopt new strategies and tactics which are not available to the general population. Money can bankroll a candidate dedicated to destroying public decision-making for years past the time that, without the propaganda for the established order, would have resulted in that politician being tossed out by voters or, in several notable cases, by other legislators who are sickened by abuses.
The failure of moneyed parties, which includes the Tea Party and the Rands, both of which are convenient fools who money stands up as “rebellious” alternatives, to accept compromise is stark evidence of their being funded beyond the ability of the democracy to respond to misinformation. Compromise is the essence of governance, though great leaders can grow by knowing when to push for the unpopular option. But money, far greater than the popular rebellions stoked by great wealth, owns both political parties, as well.
It’s not that wealth is speaking more often or at a higher volume than advocates of change — of any degree, at this point in American history — but that the wealthy are playing a different game, one where the interests of great wealth (their interests) overwhelm all alternatives by stone-walling through bought-and-sold politicians. That requires very few politicians, and the remainder are branded by wealth as class warriors or with the humiliation of some other form of extremism or personal fault. The social mobility provided by capitalism, albeit in less and less generous doses, now provides much bigger paydays for succeeding in penetrating the veil of great wealth (the Bezos, Gates and Zuckerbergs, among others). These newcomers who provide the suggestion of potential change in wealth by introducing “new blood” and “new ideas,” are typically bound by their success to defend their solution above all others, even if all consumers are 90% indifferent to the solution but are marketed to heavily enough to accept the delta between what they want and what they get. Billionaires are made by creating new perspectives, but those highly charged transformations, of computing in the home or the friend networks of Facebook almost always retreat to defending their existing solutions instead of innovating more. We the people are force-fed answers that “worked in the past” from which we’ve “fallen” or contemporary answers that are modified just enough to retain customers. In the end, we are only offered an array of answers across the economic, social and political spectra while being forced to swallow appalling compromises with our needs.
A questions economy, which values new ideas and, by extension, more change in society, would not produce the same income inequality. It would be up to those who put the questions into action to ensure economic results reflect fairness. My writing this does not mean I believe I am not susceptible to doing what makes sense in our current economic system, preserving my advantage by systematically communicating the necessity for compromise with my customers’ needs. But if we live through a system that surfaces the beginnings of a change-driven social or economic progress, rather than today’s change-resistant system, the cost of holding things in place will be clearly recognizable to all participants.