When I was a kid, my favorite board game was Monopoly. Everyone started with the exact same thing – $200. But, eventually, one person owned every piece of property on the board and collected rent from all of the other players. At that point the game was over, but if I was the one on top, I never wanted it to end. It is fun to own everything and leverage that into more power, wealth and income.
Even as a kid, I considered how the game would be different if the players all started with different amounts of money. Or, what if the game kept going and we just passed our position onto another person – our children?
While the real world is obviously not the same as a game of Monopoly, the concentration of power, wealth and income has a significant affect on our society. The issue of income inequality dominates discussions surrounding the 2016 presidential elections and has propelled unconventional candidates in both the republican and democratic parties. Unfortunately, the conversation is likely to be louder in 2020 and even louder every election thereafter.
Very few solutions seem to have a reasonable chance of closing the gap between those few people who are winning the game and the majority who are losing. And, all of the proposed solutions seem to be political solutions.
We hear the statistics on an almost daily basis. The top 0.1% take in over 184 times the income of the bottom 90%. The 400 richest Americans have significantly more wealth than all 16 million African-American families in the United States. The statistics are shocking.
The proposed solutions consist of reducing student debt and increasing access to educational options, increasing the minimum wage by a few dollars per hour, reducing workplace discrimination, strengthening families and reducing teenage pregnancy and, of course, various tax policies. Most people view these potential policy solutions as unlikely to significantly affect income and wealth disparity.
But, it is possible that the people who make up the 90% do have the power to impact wealth and income disparity on their own, regardless of policy. There is nothing more powerful than the people, and it might be our responsibility to create the change that we want. So, the challenge is for us to work together to create change.
We are all constantly transferring wealth. When a person buys a new iPhone, they are transferring their wealth to Apple. When a person pays rent or a mortgage, they are transferring their wealth to the company that owns their apartment building or the financial institution that holds their mortgage. When we use Facebook, we are giving our data away to transfer wealth to the handful of people that own the majority of Facebook. Will it make a difference if we coordinate our transfer of wealth or stipulate the terms of transferring our limited wealth?
Our personal data is in fact wealth. It is an asset that can produce a stream of income. Right now, billions of people give this asset away to numerous different companies owned by a handful of people. The bottom 90% literally give their wealth to the top 1% in exchange for using an app or a service.
ShareAway proposes that you keep the asset that is your personal data and keep your wealth. Users of ShareAway in the bottom 1%, the top 1% and everyone in between will own their own data and they will own the company that is ShareAway. Of course, ShareAway is a small start, but the hope is that ShareAway will grow and there will be other opportunities for people to keep their own wealth and perhaps grow their own wealth.
Without a significant change in the way our economy works, it seems likely that the income inequality gap will continue to grow. Even if ShareAway is not the method by which we close the gap, it is time for us to start considering other ways to address this problem.