The people at the top of the pyramid are there because of the pyramid. They literally put their faith in the bricks and mortar made possible by the masses. It is the geometric nature of a pyramid that ongoing exponential growth at the base is essential; without which an increase in elevation is impossible. Think about that for just a moment. If you imagine a pyramid made up of blocks, each time you want to increase the height of the pyramid by one block, you must double as many blocks at it base.
If “trickle-down economics” is to be believed, we may all be in for a much rougher road ahead. Yesterday, Forbes released a special report on the status of the world’s richest people. Suffice it to say, the list of global billionaires shrank by 273 from 1125 to 793, and $1.4 trillion of their collective wealth was wiped out. What does this mean? Does the attrition witnessed at the top of the global pyramid have greater significance to the overall economy, or is it simply another indicator of the rough patch we’ve hit: a real-world example of the old cliché, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”? Yes and no.
Given the explosion in globalization and economic growth over the past decade, especially in developing economies, is it any wonder a correction of some kind was due? The sub-prime mortgage fiasco in the United States that triggered the current financial meltdown was indicative of the tricks and tactics being used by the “masters of the universe” who are at their wits end in terms of reaching for that next level. The sub-prime mortgages and related investments were akin to Egyptians turning to Styrofoam blocks on the Giza plateau.
You can’t blame them, really. I mean, even the best of us can get addicted to the most insignificant of vices: chocolate, junk food, television, video games, gambling, alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc. These “weapons of mass distraction” are so enticing because they are an escape, a comfort in the wake of our fears, anxieties, even self-consciousness and—in the case of self-destructive addictions—self loathing. Now just imagine getting a taste of real power, real escape, the ability to buy global recognition, influence, and alteration. How easy would it be to kick that habit? Moreover, how easy would it be to avoid the classic obsessive compulsive pattern that is at the heart of all addictive behaviour, “the more you get, the more you want?”
Individuals around the globe clamour for that spot at the top of the pyramid. And once there, they have no choice but to build at its base to reach higher (unless, of course, they experience a moment of enlightenment, but that’s another discussion entirely). As for the rest of us, we look up to and admire these movers, shakers, and moguls, and live vicariously through there experience, even saddened to hear of how so many of them have slipped.
But if their elevation was based on the levels and foundations of the pyramid beneath, and they have slipped, what does that say about the strength of the pyramid itself? What if, unlike the Pyramid of Giza which was built to last from solid materials, economics itself was built of straw bricks lacking the endurance to stand the test of time? Is what is happening at the top of the pyramid now a sign that the whole structure may be unsound? In essence, are the bodies falling off the billionaire bandwagon foreshadowing a mass bailing out of the body politic from the capitalist system as a whole? And if so, what then?
Only time will tell. But in the meantime, it is important to ask these questions and shore up some potential solutions, should the thesis be correct. Solutions like SEEconomics.