World Peace Is Possible, But Is It Politic?

I'm averse to the term "loser." I was with a friend once watching our team come up short once again and he dismissed them all as losers. I was kind of gobsmacked. The way I saw it, it was just a basketball game but later it explained a lot to me. Losing stings. When we identify with a group or a person in competition and our side comes up short, it affects us in a non-trivial way.

I try to remind myself that what separates us is mostly an illusion, a mash-up of competitive forces, rooted for the most part in the depths of social history. The past isn't even past, and it is usually stupid things that pull us apart. Nevertheless, their ramifications are real and as I've tried to convey elsewhere, sometimes they are all too serious. So how can we achieve something like world peace when we are haunted by past divisions that have true consequences?

One way we can try to build bridges is to forget the tribal lore and the religious tenets and focus on money. The competitive nature of our monetary system makes people angry. Even when certain groups have more than enough, if they envy how others are making more, it can be frustrating. In his book, Escape From Freedom, Eric Fromm noted how it was Germany's lower middle class, not the working class, that fueled the anger cresting in World War II. Similarly, as a study by Stand Up Chicago showed, adjacent areas where income disparities were high resulted in violence.

Over the past few decades, globalization has resulted in losses for that same sector of society. The lower middle class of the industrialized world is feeling desperate because it has gained the least. As a member of this class and having graduated during the Great Recession, I can attest to the fear that comes from the boom and bust cycles.

Winston Churchill, who said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life," also said, "To have freedom, one requires a little money." This was one of the people who guided us through our last period of great stratification. On Freakonomics Radio this past weekend, the program explored the possibility of a basic income guarantee. This is the solution to our problems that I favor the most. I think it's interesting that so many people I admire, from Bernie Sanders to Glenn Greenwald, can explain precisely what's wrong with our current situation without offering many solutions. And basic income is such a simple solution.

I think it's the surest route to world peace. Instead of worrying about saving millions of dollars, we could be saving millions of lives--and getting much better results. With every additional dollar a poor child's family receives, their IQ points go up. Collectively, that makes society much more intellectually capable to solve the problems facing us. Perhaps the Clinton campaign could explore this possibility once again. In 2008, Hillary Clinton floated the idea of baby bonds, which would be something like a basic income.

In sum, I think the tribal stuff is going to be hard to solve. We won't get world peace by converting others to our tribes. We can, however, come together to at least solve the problem of economic insecurity, if not inequality, which would put everyone on a solid footing and ease the tension that is a hallmark of our times. The question is: Will our representatives be bold enough to recognize that the anger is real and it is begging for a true solution?