1% and the Rest: How do we Approach the Wealth Gap?

The second event held by the Maastricht Chapter of BridgeEurope was a great success! Participants focused on the main topic of the evening: the global wealth gap. Emir, one of the researchers, presented various facts about the distribution of wealth. The most shocking of these was that less than 1% of the world owns almost 50% of its wealth. He then opened up this discussion with a polarizing question: ‘do you think this is fair?’ Quickly, the discussion turned to equality of opportunity, and whether or not we should guarantee equal opportunities to all member of societies. Should this include closing private schools? Should this be promoted through state support? Quickly, another participant interjected to state that ‘money is power’, and that those with money would always find a way to the top. Along the same lines of equality of opportunity, the discussion also shifted to cover topics such as housing, with the specific example of Berlin being brought up.

After about half of the discussion time had passed, the focus shifted from figuring out what has been going wrong, to how we could change this in the future. This half of the discussion focused on three main elements: understanding the power of our consumption choices, dismantling the system of tax evasion, and the possibility of a universal basic income (UBI). Several participants noted that we can use our power as consumers to shift away from large corporations in order to focus more attention on companies and organizations that promote equality. Of course, the impact of this will remain limited as large corporations are often able to avoid paying taxes.

We all know that tax evasion happens, and we know it’s a problem. Corporations have an immense amount of power, and they use that power to impact legislation enabling them to continue with this practice. Moving forward, we, therefore, need to determine who is ultimately responsible for igniting change, be it the corporations themselves, or the state. Finally, the idea of a UBI was introduced as a means to achieve the end of decreasing the wealth gap. Feasibility here is the issue. Who will pay for this? Where will the money come from?

Overall, this was a very dynamic, very engaging discussion where many different topics were introduced. It was clear that those who participated in the discussion left with an increased understanding of the complexities involved in the wealth gap, and this is a great thing for us as an organization to observe.

Text: Femke Laauwen | Photos: Nora Berg