Survival of the richest

Financial solutions for reliance on wealth potentially impossible

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ANH NGO

Commerce has been around for centuries and has contributed to the advancement of our society. However, it is important to recognize its faults.

JUSTIN WASHINGTON, Evergreen reporter, columnist

I have always said if you want to control someone’s life, all you need to do is make them financially dependent on you.

It is eerie, but it is true. Money is what gives us access to our most basic needs, ranging from nourishment to shelter. It is our key to opportunity. It is the deciding factor between life and death.

Everyone knows this whether or not they are truly aware of it. This is how dangerous practices like prostitution and drug dealing are formed. People are so desperate for cash that they will go so far as to kill in the most extreme scenarios. 

My logical side wants to remind myself that it is only natural for the human race to be dominated by currency.

Trading is essential to society; we have learned that the main way to get something is to give something. In the case of money, we are being given resources in exchange for payment.

But my emotional side cannot shake the discomfort I feel with this being the status quo.

Why is it that in order to eat, be warm and receive medical treatment, you have to have money? Why are these basic needs stripped from millions of people because they do not have the means to pay for them?

This is a sentiment that resonates with a lot of people. It is why some have proposed solutions like universal healthcare and universal basic income.

Recently, Chicago and Los Angeles have put plans into place to incorporate universal basic income for low-income families. However, being able to fund the program long term could require tax increases for citizens.

Therefore, there is a caveat to these ideas. While they are good-natured, even the most charitable actions come at a cost. “Free” does not always mean free per se — at some point we always have to pay for what has been given to us, whether that be higher taxes or decreased funding in other areas. Nothing is ever truly just given to us.

We are thus stuck in an inescapable vacuum of monetary despair. Achieving financial utopia — or even financial stability — feels impossible for us. As long as life revolves around money, there will be this constant struggle of needing it to live another day.

Anthony Corigliano, senior civil engineering major, said money is pretty important to him and he understands it is important as a tool of commerce because without it, trading would be a nightmare.

However, he said he can understand people’s annoyance that we need to have money in order to survive.

“I feel the real problem comes from the amount of money we need to survive as humans today,” he said. “Everything just seems so much more expensive and harder to get these days.”

Corigliano said he believes there is hope to end financial crises like homelessness and poverty but said that things will get worse before they get better.

This is especially true due to the pandemic, where millions of people will likely face financial instability for years on end.

Brandon Lloyd, sophomore mechanical engineering major, said he wants to be financially successful so that financial instability is not an issue for him or his family.

However, he said he would prefer an enjoyable career and time for family and friends over more wealth.

When bringing up the frustration some might have that money is demanded for survival, Lloyd said the trading system of goods and services in exchange for money is a core feature of human societies. It is impossible to stray away from that.

“I don’t think it’s disturbing or fair either way, it’s just how it is,” he said. “But I do think it’s a good thing. It allows us as a species to advance all sorts of important things: education, government and scientific knowledge, to name a few.”

Lloyd said he does not think we will escape the crises of homelessness and poverty in our lifetimes. He believes it is hard to devise social innovations that can eliminate these crises when we have tried different solutions over the years.

“No, we won’t be able to end it, but any system has room for improvement,” he said. “I think that there is a lot to still be done before we give up on the situation.”

Humans have lived by the principle of “survival of the fittest” since the beginning of our existence. During primitive times, the strong survived and the weak perished. 

But now we seem to operate under the principle of “survival of the richest.” We no longer need a range of physical abilities to survive but instead, we need money. 

It is a rigged system. Oftentimes, the rich are born rich and the poor are born poor. Only in notable exceptions does one become the other. There might never be an escape in this scenario.

However, when it comes to creating a more stable society, two things come to mind.

One, college education should be affordable and easy to access so that more people can get high-paying jobs. Two, more living-wage jobs are needed for low-income or homeless individuals who do not have access to higher education.

That is what it all comes down to. I do not believe we should get rid of commerce. America would collapse within a matter of days — if not hours. 

But if we are going to maintain a system in which a person’s survival is dependent upon their wealth, it is only fair that we strive for equal access to opportunities where people can earn a sustainable income.