Over the last thirty years inequality has grown dramatically in many countries. In the US the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled since 1980 from 10 to 20%. For the top 0.01% it has quadrupled to levels never seen before. At a global level, the top 1% (60 million people), and particularly the even more select few in the top 0.01% (600,000 individuals -- there are around 1200 billionaires in the world), the last thirty years has been an incredible feeding frenzy. This is not confined to the US, or indeed to rich countries. In the UK inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens. In China the top 10% now take home nearly 60% of the income. Chinese inequality levels are now similar to those in South Africa, which are now the most unequal country on earth and significantly more unequal than at the end of apartheid. Even in many of the poorest countries, inequality has rapidly grown… There quite simply is a limit to how many luxury yachts a person could want or own. Wages in many countries have barely risen in real terms for many years, with the majority of the gains being to capital instead. If this money were instead more evenly spread across the population then it would give more people more spending power, which in turn would drive growth and drive down inequality. The top 100 billionaires added $240 billion to their wealth in 2012 -- enough to end world poverty four times over.Steeply progressive income and property taxes to fund universal healthcare, education, housing, food, income, and equitable access to law is absolutely and obviously possible -- and since providing everybody the basic security and education from which to consent in legibly informed nonduressed terms to interpersonal commerce and remains perfectly compatible with the existence of personal fortunes for those lucky enough or pathetic enough to accumulate and maintain them, one could just as easily describe advocacy for these outcomes championing free enterprise as calling it socialism.
UPDATE, an exchange with "jollyspaniard" in the Moot to this post:
"jollyspaniard" commented: I've only one caveat to add when this stuff gets talked about. While the playing field should be leveled we can't fool ourselves into thinking that we can solve our problems by increasing consumption by us working class types. You're not mentioning it here but that's usually how this issue is framed when it's brought up. If we trade in billionaire's yachts in exchange for a surge of budget flight driven drinking on the beach holidays that may be more equitable but it isn't ecologicaly sound either. The political will doesn't exsist yet but I'm hoping we can use this idle capital to solve the world's energy and climate problems. And improve the lot of working class people everywhere in ways that don't involve increased ecologicaly unsound consumption.
I agreed and amplified: The 20C faith in perpetual growth and ever increasing consumption definitely hits hard ecological limits well before it eliminates poverty and exploitation in the world, hence redistribution and regulation are necessary to achieve the democratic value of equity-in-diversity. A burgeoning social science and psychological literature also strongly indicates that wealth accumulation beyond the meeting of basic needs does not yield happiness for anybody, and also that wealth concentration corrupts institutions tasked with enforcing meritocratic norms for everybody. It seems to me this research provides ample ground for a new social democratic case that the redistribution necessary for equity need not diminish happiness or prosperity or lifeway diversity. Since it would seem that sustainability and equity cannot be accomplished without such redistribution and regulation that seems a terribly welcome result. When I speak of "[s]teeply progressive income and property taxes to fund universal healthcare, education, housing, food, income, and equitable access to law" it is to create a security floor from which consensual equity-and-diversity can flourish, not to stimulate more consumption or fuel perpetual growth. Such stimulative arguments have a certain utility right now in defiance of macroeconomically illiterate elite calls for austerity, but I agree with you that planetary economics and ecologics ultimately trump these national/ international formulations.