I mentioned in private conversation recently that I would like to work on making the world a better place. In response I was asked "what does better mean to you?" which sort of perplexed me—it had never occurred to me to try to define it. So in this post I'll present a few Good Ideas I believe is making (or will make) the world a better place.
Affordable education. I strongly believe that free education is not only right—it is also a sound investment against future taxes. Higher education tends to lead to higher salaries, thus a higher educated population ends up paying more tax through their working life.
Equal and generous parental leave. When parental leave is taken wholly or mostly by mothers they tend to be overlooked for promotion and pay rises, or discriminated against when applying for jobs. But when men also can take up to six months leave, women get more protection against discrimination. There are also indications that families where dad take a more active role in child rearing tends to divorce less frequently. Thus, equality with regards to parental leave leads to fewer broken homes.
Unconditional basic income. Let's replace all benefits with a guaranteed basic income for all citizens. I believe this will become a necessity as more and more jobs are being automated away. When mining machines took over the dangerous jobs miners were doing I don't think the they were sorry they couldn't go back—though many were surely distraught that they couldn't support their families any more. If they had basic income to fall back on, less problems could have been the result. Of course it's not a complete solution. Not everyone (myself included) will be content with devoting ourselves to art & culture, so will need to find new things to do. But I believe it's a start: particularly when coupled with free education.
Self-driving cars. I'm optimistic about this, and I hope that my son never has to learn to drive. Traffic accidents are apparently now the biggest killer of young people worldwide. Of course most of the deaths is in developing countries, which will likely not be the first to adopt self-driving cars, but one has to start somewhere. This might incidentally be a catalyst for unconditional basic income due to job losses from self-driving lorries, cabs, and busses.
Tax oil and tobacco companies to within an inch of their profitability. (Or beyond.) It is not right that a few companies should be allowed to get absurdly rich by plundering the planet's last reserves of non-renewable natural resources. Neither is it right that companies peddling the single greatest cause of preventable death globally should be allowed to reap astronomical profits from it.
I don't think any of this is a pipe dream. Most of the above ideas are already implemented in various parts of the world. For example:
- In Scotland—as it is throughout Scandinavia—education is already essentially free, if you exclude living costs.
- In Norway parental leave is 46 weeks at 100% pay, or optionally 56 weeks at 80% pay. Of this 12 weeks is reserved for the father and cannot be transferred to the mother. According to this NY Times article Sweden has a similar scheme.
- Cuba, UK and Egypt are in the lead on the taxation of tobacco. (But probably not by enough.)
- Norway tax petroleum extraction at 78%. The proceeds is put into a fund, and invested for the future.
Unconditional basic income is unfortunately not a reality yet. Though it has seen successful small-scale trials in several countries and Switzerland will apparently be voting on whether to introduce it nationwide in not too long. Finally, Ford predicts self driving cars by 2017.
A man can dream…