What is it that we demand when we demand ‘economic equality’? A charge often leveled at those who demand ‘economic equality’ is that this demand rests on the false premise that there is a finite amount of wealth in the world. The idea being that there is a finite amount of money, and that when someone else has more money, it is at the cost of others having less. I agree with right-wing detractors that consider this idea to be false. It is in fact that the world can be ‘richer’, if I create a new computer program spending some hours creating it, and this allows people to exchange information in a manner that was previously impossible, the world is richer one extra program, whereas, had I gone to the beach, the world would not have this additional wealth for its benefit.

However, it is completely mistaken to believe that demands for ‘economic equality’ arise from a belief that there is a finite amount of wealth to go around. For those that make the false assumption that there is a finite amount of wealth, it is often because they equate wealth with money, and at any given time, there is a finite amount of money in the world. But much of the ‘wealth’ that we have is created by people and has no monetary exchange value. Consider the time spent by a social worker with a client. This has no monetary exchange taking place, but they add to the wealth of the world by creating a happier human being, that themselves can then go on to spend time on creative activity. Or consider the operating system Linux, it’s code is completely free for anybody to use, read and edit and was created by people in their spare time, and is given away freely. It powers 80% of web-servers. It contributes enormously to the net wealth in the world. A world without Linux is a poorer world. Yet it has no monetary value, there is no finite amount of it, the code may be endlessly duplicated as long as someone needs to use it.

Far from relying on the belief that there is a ‘finite’ amount of wealth in the world, the demand for economic equality acknowledges the power of human creativity to create wealth, and laments that not all humans are so empowered to be able to use their full creative capacity. When a large portion of ones day is spent trying to access food or find a place to sleep when such things could be easily provided, the world looses wealth by not empowering such individuals to exercise their creative capacity.

A WTO and neo-liberal endorsed response to this issue talks about ‘job-creation’, the idea being that such people need to be given a job in which to exercise their creative capacity. The problem with this is that it commits the mistake of equating wealth with money. In an area that industrializes, such as in rural China, people may go from a state of strong family relations, guaranteed land, a reliable schooling and food supply, and free time, things which were previously accessed without money, into a city where these things are no longer guaranteed the only way to access these things becomes through monetary means. On the books these people are ‘richer’ because they earn more money, but in fact their net wealth may have declined, and they then become absolutely tied to work.

When the left demands ‘Economic Equality’, they are not demanding a redistribution of money, or a so called ‘trickle-down’, they are demanding that people be given a state of living in which they may be free to exercise their natural creative capacities, and not compelled to in order to survive.

So when the left talks about wealth redistribution, they are really talking about redistributing the power to create wealth evenly, so that every human being may have the chance to act upon the world, and do what they think is right and most valuable. Ultimately, this leads to a wealthier world, and a more efficient system.