|The Campaign for Universal Inheritance
|FOR GREATER EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
An Evolutionary Diversion>From "Universal Inheritance" by Dane Clouston, published by Campaign for Universal Inheritance, 1998
Universal Inheritance is an evolutionary - not a revolutionary -idea. Its effect will be to transform open democratic capitalist countries in a way that will enable them to continue to be stable and to survive, thrive and grow in number, to the great benefit of all.
The idea of evolution, which is at the heart of our modern understanding of our place in the cosmos, has helped us to realise that all of life is a constantly developing process, never staying the same, never repeating itself, always changing and always adapting or transforming in novel ways. Even the entire awe-inspiring beautiful universe itself, of which our world and humanity are an as yet cosmically insignificant but also beautiful part, complex on many different scales, it now seems may be the result of evolution. It is inspiring to think that there may be evolution of innumerable successive and/or parallel universes by natural selection into the kind of universe, with about a hundred thousand million galaxies each with about a hundred thousand million stars, of which our sun is one, which maximises the creation of black holes and thus more universes. At the same time evolution enables life and understanding to evolve on planets like our world whirling round stars like the sun.(1) On our planet, we too have evolved as a species, from the amoebae and beyond, by natural selection.
Our political economies have evolved - and some are still evolving - from tribal societies to open capitalist democracies. We are all part of the evolution of ideas and of the spirit as well as of the body. We are lucky to be alive, to be able to take part in the process of the evolution of political, scientific and other ideas and systems. We all have a part to play, in the ideas we share and the ideals we support. They rub off on to others. Everything we do or think makes a difference. Universal Suffrage, the idea that all men and women should have an equal vote, evolved out of the first imperfect stirrings of democracy in ancient Greek society. Democracy has been a successful idea: it has survived and evolved. But the vote is not enough. In capitalist democracies, the whole structure of the law is concerned with defending the rights of capital, as well as those of the person. Just as the idea of Universal Suffrage brought about a new age in the evolution of political economies, which is now being flawed by the excessive concentration of capital in too few hands, so will the spread of the idea of Universal Inheritance in its turn bring about a new age of popular, fairer, more stable, capitalist, democratic open societies in which every young adult at the age of 25 has more of a stake in her or his country.
There was strong opposition to Universal Suffrage from the ranks of the powerful and the wealthy. But it developed and survived from a dream into a reality and gave birth to a new age. Universal Inheritance will do the same. However evolution requires diversity. So let us keep our nation states separate but cooperative, free to experiment in their own ways, while of course adapting, changing and strengthening the United Nations and other international organisations so as to keep the peace between nations and to strengthen open societies within nations. It would seem easier to get new ideas first adopted within smaller countries, in which people understand each other and have a sense of community, than in huge federations. Each country leads the way in different fields. Parliamentary democracy and the privatisation of the provision of goods and services except for those that cannot or ought not to be rationed by price, have been good examples of Britain leading the way.
It would be good if the United States - open as Americans are to new ideas - introduced American Universal Inheritance before Britain. However the present USA government is planning to move in the opposite direction and abolish the Estate Tax. There should be a Campaign for USA Universal Inheritance, just as there should be campaigns for Australian, Canadian, Japanese, South African, New Zealand and Nigerian Universal Inheritance - for a start. European Universal Inheritance, too, would be good. But the European Union ruling bureaucrats - with their tax-free existence - may not immediately take to the idea of their children paying tax on inheritance in order that other children will receive a decent minimum inheritance of capital. We shall see. However there is not at present a sufficient sense of community throughout Europe for the idea to take hold. So Britain, or indeed an independent France, Germany or Japan, is more likely to be better placed to lead the way. Every British-born citizen receiving a minimum inheritance from the previous generation will give greater cohesion and sense of community to our independent country.
Democratic capitalism within an open society gives rein to innovation, science, technology, etc. while giving large amounts of freedom - of speech, from fear, from arbitrary arrest, from restrictions of movement, etc. But it cannot be taken for granted. A consequence of dynastic capitalism is the increasing concentration of great wealth in the hands of the few, while at the same time there are very, very many who have never, and will never, have any capital at all, apart from pension rights. Twenty years ago one British citizen in twenty used to have no assets at all. Now one British citizen in ten has no assets whatsoever. This is intolerable. Increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, alongside greater communication, will weaken the consensus upon which the open society is founded. Communism, as an alternative to democratic capitalism in an open society, has collapsed. Now the danger is that increasing inequality and consequent loss of community will eventually lead to social collapse and lawlessness - with increasing numbers of riots in the streets - or alternatively severely authoritarian rule.
The dangers arising from the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth can only be averted in an open, democratic, capitalist society by ensuring that wealth is spread more widely in each new generation. "Unless liberty is allied to equality, instead of inequality, it will not survive"(2).
(1) From Lee Smolin, The Life of the Cosmos - Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1997
(2) Dane Clouston, New Outlook, Inheritance for All - (March 1976).