Social Question

Paradox25's avatar

What do you think would likely occur if everybody alive was very wealthy?

Asked by Paradox25 (10196points) November 13th, 2011

Assuming that this situation was possible and actually occured what do you think would happen?

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13 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There’s is no wealthy without the poor. The category wouldn’t exist. It is only known in comparison.

Paradox25's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I know but it is hypothetical. If this situation occured even for a few days I’m sure ‘something would give’. I know that technically this is impossible but what if this was done through the way of a controlled social experiment (or whatever)?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If everyone was wealthy, it might not be a biggie if it were just a day. If it were more than a day, there would be big trouble. If everyone were rich in the US, several things would implode. Some of the things that would go South right away. Mass transit, most of the service would shut down. If you managed to find a restaurant open, there would hardly be servers to serve you, if not people to bus the tables etc. National parks, etc. would close, there would be no one to service the porta-potties. Cab? Forget it. Trash would not be collected. Most of the fast food joints would close, and those that are open, the wait would be monstrous. That is just the tip of it, there would be way, way more going bad than that.

Paradox25's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I did ask the question in fun and good spirits but I do have a very serious intention behind it which I’m not getting into on here or even on Fluther. Not only the things you’ve mentioned but many other things such as who would build the products the wealthy depends upon, who would defend their wealth and their families, who would build their houses and ect, etc, etc. I will admit that one of my motives for asking this was to preach the importance of how dependent we all really are upon each other, wealthy, comfortable, middle class and poor and what each of us contributes to society.

flutherother's avatar

It would be great for about ten minutes and then everyone would realise they are very poor. Wealth is being able to take advantage of the labour of others. If everyone was wealthy no one would have this ability. You wouldn’t even be able to order a pizza. Money is not as fundamental as people.

YoBob's avatar

Yep, exactly what @Simone_De_Beauvoir said, wealthy is a relative concept.

Consider that currently what we classify as totally improvised was, in the not too distant past, not all that bad off when compared to the standards of the time. We currently live in a time with the highest overall standard of living in history.

So, are you really asking what the world would be like if everyone on the planet had a magic Santa Clause machine that could deliver any material item they desired at a whim so there was no such thing as rich and poor?

CWOTUS's avatar

There seems to be a lot of very fundamental misunderstanding about what it means to be wealthy.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir was correct at first that “wealthy” is a relative state of affairs: you’re only “wealthy” compared to others who don’t have as much wealth (whether that is money or other material possessions or services that can be had with wealth). But what follows afterward… not so accurate.

It’s not that things would shut down and it would be impossible for everyone to buy services (especially) because everyone quit their jobs. Why do people think that would be so, I wonder?

In fact, compared to most of the rest of the world, most of us are wealthy. Fabulously so, in fact. Yet we don’t all quit our jobs; we trade with the rest of the world on a daily basis.

Oh, I suppose if everyone woke up one day to find a pile of Benjamins on the kitchen floor and a note saying that “It’s all good; this isn’t stolen money, and it’s all for you”, then a number of us might take the day off. Many might even quit their jobs, I suppose, at least for a day. But when things settled out and you discovered that, yes, you can have that pizza, but the price has gone up to a thousand dollars for a “large”, then you’d pretty soon get right back to work… making pizzas, or anything else that you could trade with others to maintain your newfound wealth.

Sunny2's avatar

People would still have a ranking system for who has the most of something. Isn’t there an African tribe that used yams as a symbol of wealth? Whoever had the most yams was considered wealthiest. Where this need to feel ‘greater’ than the next person came from, I have no idea.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@CWOTUS But when things settled out and you discovered that, yes, you can have that pizza, but the price has gone up to a thousand dollars for a “large”, then you’d pretty soon get right back to work… making pizzas, or anything else that you could trade with others to maintain your newfound wealth. Sure, if no one is poor, and all are wealthy +those making pizza will do so because they really love making pizza. But there will be no need to have a $12 pizza when everyone can afford $500 for a large combination. Because those places where pizza is made for the pure joy of it, will be very far, and few between, supply and demand will drive the price higher.

You can say wealth is all suggestive, but that probably comes from those who figure they will never be wealthy, and thus limit the importance of wealth. Like the lid who stinks at sports tried to tell himself sports are not that big.

When all are wealthy then wealth disappears. However, there will still be those who will attempt to acquire more wealth. They will want to have the bigger house than the rest, more cars, more bling, etc. So you might have someone in a Jag, with a Cartier watch and a 7,100Sq ft. house, the next woman will want to have a Lamborghini and a Maybach, a 9,200Sq ft home, English butler, and a stable of 5 thoroughbred ponies. The new poor will be those under 20 million, even though they have 12million, which by today would be wealthy.

CWOTUS's avatar


I don’t think you got my point. No matter how rich we all are, we still have to eat. So unless you do all of your own cooking – and cooking of what, by the way? Who do you think would farm and haul produce for next to nothing if they didn’t have to? And who would work in power plants – which isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun job – to produce the electricity to power your life. Maybe… if they were paid like royalty or rock stars.

That’s the point.

Money is only valuable to the extent that it is sometimes scarce. If you make everyone “wealthy”, then money has very little value any more. At that point, the things that we want become more valuable (in a monetary sense) and you’re at a point where a loaf of bread costs a briefcase full of cash – because the cash has very little value, but the bread has a lot of value to someone who wants to make a sandwich.

Talk to old people about bread that used to cost a nickel for a loaf less than a century ago. Bread routinely costs up to 100 times more than that now. What has changed? Bread has been made more or less the same way for thousands of years. That hasn’t changed much in the past hundred years or so. It certainly isn’t the packaging or distribution. And whether you believe it or not, packaging, transportation, distribution and even retailing costs have been going down for the past hundred years. What has changed is… the money has become worth less. (And someday it will be worthless.)

Paradox25's avatar

@CWOTUS Interesting and this question I did hope would have the capacity to branch out, from reading these responses it did despite the lack of posts. I have another way I look at this as well: What makes money valuable? To me it seems only enforced laws do. Let us even get away from paper currency or credit and stick to gold. What in the end makes gold valuable? Realistically you can’t really do much with it and if there was ever a major crisis where only a few thousand people survived that happened to be wealthy at the time then all of a sudden items that most of us take for granted such as water, food, clothing, shelter, weapons, etc would be much more valuable than even the most expensive diamond or gold jewelry.

That is another way looked at this since services that other people could offer another, skills that some people would have that would be considered important and possessing the essentials for survival would be of the most value, not money or a useless lump of gold metal. What incentive would the lower class people that possess the essential skills/abilities for survival and perhaps to even help provide some comfort have to help the higher class people out? Currency is useless isn’t it, so now it comes down to trading for what items we would directly need or getting what we need/want through the use of sheer force. All of a sudden the most ‘wealthiest’ person isn’t the one who had the most money or power previously but the person/s with the skills and strength required to survive in such an enviroment. In the end everything would probally start over again eventually and return (assuming the human race would survive this scenerio) to the way it was, though it may or may not take a great deal of time.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@CWOTUS I don’t think you got my point. No matter how rich we all are, we still have to eat. I do, remember I said there will still be restaurants, and pizza places, etc, but not because those who work in them have to, they will do so because they really love to cook. Those who work there in non-cooking jobs might do so just to be in connection with people.

I also said, that when all are wealthy, wealth disappears. As you say, the money becomes worthless. That is why a $12 dollar pizza will be a $500 pizza or more. There will be guys who love to work on cars, but they will do so because they want to more than the money.

Wealth will then be redefined, to be wealthy will be to have X amount of millions with X amount of tangible goods. To simply have 18 million, per se, would be poor, and to have 800 million or more would be rich. To have a measly $700,000 would not even be on the board, you would be equal to a homeless, skid row junkie today. The bar of wealth would shift.

CWOTUS's avatar

Whether people love the work or not, they will need to work to earn more. Their postulated future wealth won’t be worth a damn in terms of what ‘wealth’ means to us today. Fifty years ago my father earned an annual salary – from a very good job – that would be considered a poverty-level income these days. That was enough to support a wife who didn’t work for cash income (a housewife, in other words) and five kids, a winter home and a summer home on the lake. And all of us went to college with zero debt. He had a great job.

But that was in a time when money was worth much more than it is worth today.

I don’t work (for many times Dad’s former income, and in the same industry) today just because I love the work: I need the income. The money isn’t worth so much. What you think of as wealthy today would be ‘just scraping by’ if everyone had what you have in terms of income. We’ll work for the same reason we always work: we need the income.

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