A lot has already been written about it, and a lot more will be written about in the future. We have a problem. We can argue that we have a lot of problems, but this one is more striking than any other: The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This isn’t a good thing I believe, and I’m going to write down why I don’t think that’s a good idea.

The distribution of wealth

Wealth is something strange. It makes us have a good life, but it also makes us worry. A lot of people are worried about money. This shouldn’t be the case. In a perfect world (you know, the world where you can find unicorns and rainbows) people can live prosperously without any <economic> worries. This doesn’t mean everybody should have the same amount of money. I mean, we have all seen how good communism and socialism work. (not good!). It does mean that everybody should have access to the basic needs such as education, healthcare, a way to get around the city, … . The rich can have some extras, but only the kind of extras one does not actually need to have a decent life.

ideal-wealth-distribution

In the above picture the ‘perfect’ distribution of wealth is shown, well, perfect according to -apparently- 92% of Americans. And if it’s perfect for them, it’s probably also perfect for us, or any economy, whatever the average wages are. The main goals of any society should be the following: make sure it is possible to get/be rich, create a large middle class and a small ‘poor’ region. However: make sure the poor don’t have to live in moldy homes. Make sure they are happy. Because nobody should have enormous debts.  In a world where everybody needs to take opportunities to be able to ‘make it’, it is very anti-social if not everybody gets the same basis at the start of their life.

Luckily for Belgium the inequality in income, and therefore probably in wealth too, between all groups is not as worse than in some other countries, such as the USA.

income enequality varies between OECD countries

Does it mean everything is great in Belgium? No, it’s clearly not, a documentary shown on Canvas somewhere in June 2013 shows us that things still can be better in Belgium. So a strong social system is important. But that costs a lot of money. Therefore we need to activate as many people in the workforce. We need this social system because once people get down the drain, it’s very hard to move up again. While if you make sure everybody gets a liveable income, and create the right intensives to go work again, things are much easier. The end goal should be to get everybody to work. Not that I think getting everyone to work is possible, it should be the goal anyway. Last week Mr. Demotte said it loud and clear: Everybody should be working in the Walloon region by 2025. Let’s see how they pull that off.

Entrepreneurs will save the world?

One way to get people to work is to attract big companies. Big companies bring big risks. Except if you lived on Mars the last year you see what kind of social dramas are happening all around the country because of those companies closing their setting in Belgium. No, a much better bet is choosing for small companies, for innovation by entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the world-changers. Nobody gives all his time away if he/she doesn’t think they can change to world in just a little way. But even those little things are important for everybody, they make your life nicer and most of the time easier too. And they create jobs. The only problem here is that most people are scared of changes. And of course: not every entrepreneur has the best intentions for with the world, but most of them have. For them it’s not about the money, but it’s about how great their idea is. Belgium, just like every country, should support people with great ideas. That doesn’t happen nearly enough I believe when I read all the negative news about how Belgium goes around with entrepreneurs / small companies.

In the graph below one can see how innovative European countries are.

the difference in innovation between eu countries

Although Belgium seems to not be doing that bad, it’s still under the European level. This should be fixed. I personally believe that is the only way to get over those big companies like Ford and Caterpillar leaving our nice little country. I hear you ask: aren’t most entrepreneurs very technical people creating highly advanced tools, so only people with a certain level of intellect can benefit from that? The answer is easy: No! There are enough examples of new, small companies who create high tech material who still need someone who doesn’t know everything about IT or electronics, because in the end they still need to weld everything together. It’s also my personal believe that if you can get enough people in the ‘higher middle class’ zone a lot more people will be able to work for a decent wage in the personal-services sector. Because in the end it doesn’t matter what kind of job you have, as long as a job makes it easily possible to have a happy life (which of course also means you have to be happy at your job).

Not everybody grows up the same way.

I personally believe that work ethics are the most important reason to get into the extremely poor zone – the zone where poor means you don’t have the possibility to have a good life any more. I know, there are other reasons too, mostly related to bad luck, be it economical or physical, or diseases. Bad work ethics for sure are fixable. Education can play a big role in this, and according to my own experience people are still able to change easily until they are about 30. After that it might become more difficult – But I don’t know if there is real proof to support this theory. This means that young children should not only be educated well – both in sciences as in languages – , they should really learn about ‘how’ to work. A lot of people who enjoy the so called ‘social welfare’ do want to work – Well, they have to, since some of them have a lot of debts – but it seems that they are not capable to work. Being on time, trying your best, accepting failures, these are all things that everybody has to do. Be it blue-collar workers or top managers and everything in between. But be it as it may, some people nowadays lack those abilities. This should be fixed. This is the only way to assure that everybody gets a good life, also the ones that can’t or shouldn’t work due to various reasons (sickness, pension, …), or just want to take a break.. A life without (financial) worries, debts and with a lot of pleasures. This also means that not everybody should go to school until they are 18. Getting the necessary experience from a young age, with enough supervision and guidance can be very helpful for the later life too. Supervision and guidance are clearly the key words here.

me working at a factory

Some people live a different life.

A lot is being written today about how in Belgium there are 2 groups: the rich and the poor. And the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. And what is worse: The rich don’t talk to the poor and vice versa. They go to different schools, when they leave school they get different jobs. And they get on different trains. While I’m probably the last one to disagree with the fact that it’s wrong that there are 2 types of schools, and it is important to make sure everybody gets the same opportunities when they start life, it is also important that the ‘rich’ learn how ‘the working class” work. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the work ethic of some  people is so horrible? Maybe it’s just because the upper class people don’t know how ‘the working class” works. Anyway, from the moment people are 18 things change. One leaves school, goes to university or gets a job, some people have success in their career, others don’t. But that doesn’t matter: as long as everyone is happy with their life. So why would it be bad when the people who have more financial success choose for first class trains? Why would it be bad that the people who have a lot of financial success drive extremely nice cars? If everybody starts with the same basis, but some people follow a different path in life than others, then it’s all but normal you get different types of people. It doesn’t make any sense to be jealous of anyone. Everybody should be able to choose his or her own life and be happy. So have dreams, work on those dreams. If you work and study hard, a lot of things are possible.

So in the end the most important challenge for any country should be to not get anybody in real poverty, to make sure most people get a job. This can be done by supporting small companies and entrepreneurship, because they are the companies who innovate, and who make sure our economy grows. It is also important that every young person gets started with life from the same bases, but people will always be different, both in mental thoughts and in ‘what they can do with their money’. this is not a bad thing and should be supported. However forming ghettos should not be supported at all, since this forms a 2 class system, which would make it impossible to create a group of people with a great work ethic, which we need if we want to stay in this nice little country called Belgium where everybody is welcome and it’s fun to live…