How Much Should Each Person Get?

In 1843, Thomas Hood wrote his famous poem- “The Song of the Shirt” describing the pitiful life of a poor Seamstress.-
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread —

Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the “Song of the Shirt.”

………… ………. ……..
“Work — work — work!
My labour never flags;
And what are its wages? A bed of straw,
A crust of bread — and rags,

That shattered roof — this naked floor —
A table — a broken chair —
And a wall so blank, my shadow I thank
For sometimes falling there! “

….. ……. ……..
A century and a half later we observe that conditions of work and of living, for many people in many parts of the world are not very different from that of the poor seamstress. They work for long hours in inhuman conditions for meagre pay.

Others- more fortunate- live in luxury, while doing very little work.

So we feel that there should be a more equitable distribution of wealth.

In his excellent book- “The Intelligent Woman’s guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism ” the famous Irish playwright, G.B.Shaw has discussed the question of distribution of wealth. He has put forward the conclusion that Socialism is the best political system and absolute equality of income its proper goal.

Everyone will not agree with his conclusion, but we have to admire the logical manner in which the arguments are presented in the book.

The question of distribution of a country’s wealth was important a hundred years ago, and is still important today.

My question today to my blogger friends is this-
How do you think our nation’s wealth should be distributed to this end? ( So that the distribution is equitable.)

There are many ways to distribute wealth ( G.B.Shaw has examined some of them wonderfully in his book) – we have to choose which would be the best.

* Everyone should get an equal share. This seems to be equitable, but has some drawbacks.
One is that if each person got the same share regardless of how hard he worked, there would be no incentive to work harder. Also, in the absence of profits in a business why would entrepreneurs take risks?

* Everyone should get what they produce.
But there are many people in society who produce nothing (in terms of material goods or services). If this criteria is followed, what would young children, elderly people, handicapped people do?

* Everyone should get what they need.
Since a country’s wealth is limited, a choice would have to be made. In a city- do children need parks more than motorists need wider roads? What should the available space be used for?

* A person should get what he/she really wants.
I remember reading a story some years ago. A boy’s parents had bought a violin for him, intending to send him to learn to play it.

One day the boy’s friend came to play at his house. This friend had learned to play the violin beautifully on an old, worn-out instrument, his parents not being able to afford a new one. He looked at his friend’s new violin with such longing!

The boy gave his own new violin to his friend and later explained to his parents “He wanted it more than I did.”

There are many more criteria that we could think of – for example – Wealth could be distributed so that everyone gets what they deserve.

So, how do you think our country’s wealth should be distributed?



  1. I don't know…All I know is that communism doesn't work because humans are capitalist…I don't think there is a fair solution but there needs to be enough taxation and redistribution to ensure a basic standard of living that everyone deserves while allowing people to keep a fair share of what they have earned…I think the Scandinavian model of high taxation and socialism will not really appeal to many…


  2. Equitable distribution of wealth is a good idea. And an idealistic one at that. right from the days of the early civilsations, man has been possessed with the idea of 'ownership' and that has spurned on capitalism ! Years of experiment with a socialistic leaning didnt get us very far. And the divide between the rich and the poor get enlarged through the day ! And one only wonders where it will take us !We are a large population. And perhaps more innovative solutions need to come. I dont know what…Actually !


  3. Its a very interesting discussion but sadly it never reaches to a conclusion. As there are lot of preferences that countries have and all to ensure equitable distribution of money .. like socialism (even India followed that and i guess now again its moving towards that with Govt rolling out money.. after a brief flirting with reforms and capitalism.. ) communism that Soviet followed … than a type of mix of capitalism and socialism which many European countries follow where Govt controls and manages lot of social welfare schemes .. then the model by China .. All these have done well at different times .. There was a very good article by SA AIYAR (Swaminomics) on this one. I do not if you have seen that before but here is the link


  4. Sraboney- Communism certainly was not successful in Russia and other countries.I agree that there may not be a solution that is completely fair, but that everyone should be assured of a minimum standard of living.Kavi- Years of experiment with a socialistic leaning didnt get us very far.That's true.Unbridled Capitalism seems to be no better, though. Our small-scale/cottage industries were put out of business by the advent of Liberalisation…I agree that innovative solutions may be needed. I think that we should not blindly adopt Western models, but formulate solutions keeping in mind our specific requirements.


  5. SP – Thanks for the link to the interesting article by S. Aiyar. His conclusion that a safer Capitalism would be best, is likely to be correct.As you say, this sort of discussion never reaches a conclusion. But I do not think there can be any lasting conclusion. A specific economic/political system does well for some time and then flaws begin to appear. Seems to be a cycle.


  6. I dont know what system to call this, but we need to be able to have smaller mangeable setups , where we pay attention to the human and family needs. A system that handles 2 million people is at best a number cruncher, with no feelings. In the older days, we had smaller kingdoms, which were more manageable, and attention was paid in an enlightened manner to the subjects and their welfare, whether it was food, education or shelter. Within a Local set up(reporting to higher authorities,but deciding on its own) once basic needs are fulfilled, people will be free to be entrepreneurial, clever, lazy, or whatever, but then everychild that stands near an Ambani car at a signal, will actually go to school.Maybe Utopian. But then we are so good at making BIG plans….


  7. It is a difficult one to answer,but,everyone in this country has put in efforts to generate the wealth.Be it a worker,Labourer,white collared man,scienctists etc.The least has been contributed by the political class.Unfortunately for this country,those who have contributed the least, are the ones who are getting the maximum.It is really the 80-20 formula.20% are enjoying 80% wealth and 80% are getting the rest 20%Now as the author of this post you decide how should the be distributed.


  8. Ugich Konitari- I agree that smaller setups are desirable. When everything is centralised local needs are not given importance, also, as you have pointed out, there is less attention to human and family needs.BK Chowla- Yes, the reality is that those who have contributed the least are getting the most.As to deciding the best method of distribution, I am no expert, perhaps we should take a vote here?:)


  9. This question has gained some importance because capitalism has taken a big knock, thanks mainly to the unbridled greed of a few. Notwithstanding this scam, no one can deny that it is capitalism that made America the land of opportunity, the richest and greatest nation ever on earth. In contrast, we saw what the Soviets gave to their countrymen in the name of equality: millions of deaths and a hollow economy.So, I still believe that capitalism is still the best system going, though some checks, but very few and not the kind put in place by India's babus and politicians to enrich themselves, need to put solely to avoid a repetition of what happened last year.


  10. Vinodji- I agree that Capitalism is still the best system. Perhaps Capitalists should keep in mind Mahatma Gandhi's idea of 'Trusteeship'. They should assume responsibility for putting to use for the greater good, the economic and political power they possess.


  11. Indeed. That would smoothen all the rough selfish, greedy edges that make the "haves" quite insensitive to the "havenots". Perhaps, some changes need to be made to the educational system to lay greater emphasis on ethics and corporate responsibility.


  12. This is very difficult to achieve – the perfect balance.. I do think that capitalism , but with socialist ideas of ensuring that everybody has access to basic wages, healthcare in place.. It would be great if the country could provide social security, free health care, basic amenities to the under privileged in a capitalist system. Not sure if this is even practical though..Manju, I am so late in commenting at your – I can't access your comments section from my phone 😦


  13. I'm not a political or economic expert, but wouldn't it be nice to have a socialized "minimum" with the opportunity for capitalist growth? In every community you will find people who are wasteful and resourceful. Lazy and ambitious. Healthy and unhealthy.It would be nice to know that everyone could be guaranteed a meal, safety, and a roof over their heads. If they wish to do more, they will acquire more. But it is just not that simple. There's so many other factors like what consumers value. We tip our waitress at a restaurant 15% but give nothing to our children's teachers. The list of inequalities is endless.


  14. Smitha- In most countries minimum health care, basic amenities are provided. I think that in India the government provides for less than in wealthier countries because we simply cannot afford it.Weeble- Yes, in an ideal system, a minimum standard of living for everyone would be ensured.


  15. (This is a comment by Anrosh sent by e-mail.) there is a study which said that even if we distributed all the wealth of the world equally with everybody, 2 percent of the population would collect back 95% of the wealth !


  16. Manju this was a very interesting post:))reminded me of the debates we used to have about communism and capitalism in college:)and we could never agree on whatw as best..I was about to mention Gandhiji's idea of trusteeship but you have already mentioned it:)I do think that an idea like trusteeship could work except that sometimes it seems too idealistic to me.that link provided by SP speaks volumes..and SA aiyer does seem to be right about this..If you like you could add a poll to this post or in the sidebar:))then we could vote:))PS:-sorry I landed here so late:)) been bloghopping since yesterday and catching up on all my blogs:))))


  17. Neha has sent a comment by e-mail-I feel wealth should not be distributed. Power, position, money and fame are best when earned.Yes, std of living(SOL) has to be improved, but not by charity.If everyone becomes industrious, GDP will improve, and SOL will automatically rise.


Do share your views here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s