How Can We Use Our Freedom to Better Our Lives and Others’?

How can we use our freedom to better our lives and others' - GBF BlogIn the United States and various other democracies, the word “freedom” has been so idealized that it gives no direction to what we need to do with said freedom. This is like telling a child to be free and not monitoring their behavior to see if they become excessively self-centered, destructive, addictive, etc. 

Freedom without balance has been one of the critical danger points missed and abused throughout history. Some valuable suggestions to add to “Freedom” would’ve been: 

  • Freedom and Generosity 
  • Freedom and The Collective Good
  • Freedom Enhancement For All People in Poverty
  • Freedom and Integrity
  • Freedom with Limits to Provide Opportunity and Survival for Everyone

Freedom is so often used as a form of unwitting “acceptable narcissism.” But adding a nuance like the above would’ve helped us not repeat the same dangers that have gone on throughout history.

Can you see this and note that all wealthy countries throughout history have hardly taken care of their poor or at all? The addiction to wealth or unlimited desire to accrue more net worth divides societies into us vs. them that virtually guarantees alienation, and creates breeding grounds for gangs and terrorism. Moreover, it allows for accruing wealth at the expense of illness and death to many of the poor and the planet by depleting fossil fuels, natural resources, and increasing carbon emissions.

An increasing division between the wealthy and the poor will aggravate every danger that threatens democracy, our planet, and the most vulnerable people everywhere. This is not meant to be a guilt trip but an appeal to the heart of everyone that is in a fortunate situation to look at the big picture of a life that includes everyone instead of the dominant focus on self and family. 

These statements can be seen as an attack on the wealthy or as an inspiration to crystalize a vision for a country and a world that makes sense and will vastly increase the chances of world survival.  It is my sincere hope that it touches a longing to help our planet survive and take care of those in the greatest need.

In a previous article, we’ve explored the need to set boundaries regarding wealth distribution. With such boundaries, the wealthy will ironically have the best chance of fulfillment by using a significant percentage of their wealth for the betterment of the world. This is also the best way for those who have wealth to take care of their kids and grandkids too.

The importance of balance in freedom

To contribute to a world with less chance of creating war, class division, gangs, terrorism, and global warming creates a better opportunity for fulfillment for the wealthy and the poor. This is not talking about giving money to those in poverty or saving the planet in some omnipotent or single way. It is being presented as a measured, proportional redistribution of job opportunities and living situations to create an authority and partnership from a combination of the private sector, philanthropy, and government. 

This will give a balanced approach to creating boundaries through sensible laws that will address target taxation to the wealthy both during their lives and at death. This would ideally include changing guidelines for the amount of distribution of wealth from foundations annually throughout the world as every accumulator of wealth optimally would become a partner in supporting both world survival and sensibility to those that don’t have present options to work. This would also include the wealth of religions that have accumulated trillions of dollars. It wouldn’t change the general capacity to function as is but takes some of the extra security and distributing it to train, give job opportunities, and support low-income housing to the poor who are willing to work throughout the country and ultimately in the world.

Of course, there will be complications as to how this could be done in an equitable way that doesn’t require unnecessary spending in billions of dollars of accounting and legal fees. This will be a challenge, but not one that would stop the transformational nature of what it means to be a citizen of the world that includes consideration of others in less fortunate circumstances. 

It is not a free giveaway as there will also need to be boundaries to keep those individuals in check who abuse the training or housing and use the opportunity to foster addictions, abuse, or other socially unacceptable use of corruption of funds. Again, the various sectors of private, government, and philanthropic foundations will have to set boundaries, and multiple levels of freedom will need to be restricted for those that are destructive to others or themselves.  

It is easy to see how the reaction to these suggestions would be overwhelming, and I don’t mean to put out a naïve message that pretends to have the answers. This will need to be a process that requires the best minds in the fields of business, policing, administration, philanthropy, and psychology and continuously adjust to the unanticipated consequences and contingencies that are sure to arise in time. 

Knowing the limits to our freedom

Unfortunately, a good example of freedom without boundaries is happening at The Border of Mexico. I believe there is goodwill from the Biden administration to allow more freedom for those disadvantaged to have opportunities to benefit from coming to America. However, I feel strongly that we need to set a clear monthly or yearly limit and make it an international announcement that we will not let more than a certain amount of people cross the border. 

It would make sense to say it truthfully, which is that we cannot responsibly take care of the number of people who are freely coming without being able to operate on a humanitarian level both for the immigrants and American citizens. 

To read more about our comprehensive immigration proposal and a plan that does its best to take care of everyone involved, please check out this blog post and listen to this episode of The Missing Conversation

This is a good example of setting boundaries that are broadly considerate for everyone involved and is right in the center of being open to people facing unimaginable hardships and taking care of our country’s best interests. It also would serve as a model for the rest of the world.

There is a great paradox in that, in general, the wealthy believe they are protecting their wealth by not making a diligent effort to take care of our poorest neighbors. But it’s unwittingly a setup for violence, alienation, police conflicts, and homeless individuals needing to be in neighborhoods throughout the country. It is so ironic, and a form of blindness for the wealthy neighborhoods that the homeless have entered doesn’t lead to a self-reflectiveness as to how we can solve this problem. And further, do we know that we’ve been a major part of creating this problem as well? 

When the wealthy create opportunities at a bare minimum level necessary for survival, work, and housing, it ensures a greater likelihood of less conflict in neighborhoods throughout the country. It wouldn’t even take enough from virtually anyone to change lifestyles. The extra money that would be used efficiently would give the best chance for those most fortunate to be able to enjoy their wealth in peace by sharing prosperity and lessening crime and violence. 

A real-life example to put things in perspective:

Here is a case study from my practice (almost half a century of working as a counselor and therapist):

Charles had a net worth of approx. $100 million. We discussed how he was planning on setting up his will, his trust, and what he might do to make the best use of his money to improve his quality of life. He planned on leaving about 2-3 million dollars to his kids and a similar amount to his female companion. 

I asked how he would set up his will as it didn’t seem like he had anyone to give the rest of his money to, nor did he have any idea of how he would spend it while he was alive.  

This is a common situation for many high-net-worth individuals. Another common situation is planning on leaving all their wealth for their families. Of course, it is well documented and is also present in my practice that the prognosis for children of high net-worth individuals who inherit large sums of money is a significant disincentive for them to have the confidence to pursue their potential. There are also serious mental health issues for those who inherit wealth. More often than not, there is a lack of self-worth as the feeling of self-esteem is reduced when almost anyone receives something major without having a part in creating it. Feelings of worthlessness, fraudulence, and either excessive entitlement or no entitlement are haunting byproducts of this kind of distribution of wealth.

As we continued to explore his best options for both his life and his will, he was confused and realized that if he did nothing, his kids would be inheriting about 45 million each if he didn’t give it more thought. He was and is someone who is philanthropic but hadn’t really considered more than very conservative donations. 

I do tape recordings selectively as a part of my practice when I believe a client isn’t likely to be able to retain what is being said. This led to the longest tape I’ve ever done in a session (20 minutes), and we titled it together “$80,000,000 on Top of Your Coffin.” 

We had some good laughs about it, and it led to a series of changes in his philanthropy, freedom to be generous to himself, and still full of questions. The kind of questions included: How could I really be most fulfilled when I view my wealth as a form of energy and a natural resource? What would allow me to feel I have dealt with my wealth in a way that came from my own contemplation? What do I see as the state of the world, and do I care about making any sort of a difference? If I wasn’t pressured or wasn’t following the patterns of history that I was shown, what would make the most sense to me individually? 

When it comes to giving away money, for those in the so-called lower levels of net worth ($1-3 million), perhaps it would be 5%, and as the net worth goes into the billions, it may be closer to 30-50%. These numbers are based on my work and have not been studied, but it does pose one of the burning questions of our time — How can we translate wealth to serve the survival of our planet, those who are in poverty, and democracy?

The myth of freedom and collective ideals

As a counselor and Co-President of The Global Bridge Foundation, my life includes dealing with the whole spectrum of wealth and poverty. This supports having a perspective of identifying with this broad range of life circumstances. Not only our current society but all very wealthy countries have not addressed what might be called the socially acceptable addiction to wealth. The resulting poverty and psychic and physical warfare are a byproduct of turning a blind eye to this. 

In America, we are the symbols of letting freedom ring, or the land of the free with great fantasy and a lack of seeing the long-term consequences This is so revealing that one of the reasons democracy doesn’t work is that it leaves countries out of balance and lack consideration for everyone. It is a delicate balance between giving incentives to do your best and taking care of everyone. We aren’t even close to the fine balance and have erred in a way that is the exact opposite mistake of communism or socialism in its pure form. We have validated individual freedom with almost no limits and denied collective consideration. One way or the other, we all need to contemplate how this could be more balanced.

The good news is that there is plenty of wealth for everyone if the balance is a natural feature in considering a collective policy.  Giving a moderate percentage that increases the more you are wealthy would serve the benefit of everyone involved and wouldn’t change anyone’s lifestyle except for those in poverty. The most important part is realizing that there’s enough wealth for everyone to have a chance to survive and an opportunity to thrive. 

What would be your ideas and process for getting there?  

Hopefully, this will spur contemplation and conversation, which seems like the only way this turning point for our country and world can face the perils of the ‘civil war’ between a just democracy and corruption and greed.

Freedom seems like a perfect starting point but a perilous ending point

If we don’t contemplate this profound issue for humanity, we won’t have a chance to set up our country or world in a way that can best benefit everyone. We are at an inflection point where we still have most of our freedoms, and there need to be new ideas that bring this form of democracy into a new set of priorities that include everyone more than we have.

Consider what amount of rebalancing and how you would do it regarding the job opportunities and survival with housing and bare minimum needs. It will take billions, if not trillions, to start this ‘Missing Conversation’ to manifest a new reality of what our democracy is in service of.

Freedom allows one very wealthy billionaire to pass on a percentage of their wealth that would take good care of tens of thousands of people. 

It is crucial to hear this not as an attack on wealth or to kill incentive. However, it is to bring an awareness of the impact of the multiple trillions of dollars held in family and foundation fortunes. This would allow for a change of life circumstances for those in poverty. If the priority would be not to change anyone’s basic lifestyle but to give the excess “security and freedom” for opportunities to those that are food-insecure and homeless insecure, then you are reading what is being proposed. 

Here’s a quick look at the current stats: 

  • According to Federal Reserve data released, as of June 2021, the wealthiest 1% of Americans controlled about $41.52 trillion in the first quarter. 
  • According to the Global Wealth Report conducted by Credit Suisse, as of the end of 2020, there were 21,951,000 U.S. millionaires. This number is expected to rise by 28% to 28,055,000 by 2025. 
  • According to Forbes, the number of U.S. billionaires rose from 614 in 2020 to 724 in 2021.

Let’s look at an increasing percentage of taxes dominantly from these groups and let this support the government to give approximately $750-$1000/ month to support low-income housing being built, give job opportunities, and offer rooms or family housing. Again, there is strong evidence to support that, creating job opportunities, will pay for a high percentage of the money being given. 

Using our excess wealth and freedom to help others

Numerous studies have shown that the average homeless person costs the government and the average taxpayer from California $ 3,000/month. This includes emergency room visits, police, crime, disease, violence, and other public nuisance costs. There is no accurate information from substantial studies available for those in poverty who are not homeless. Still, it is evident that the proposed money being given toward job opportunities and housing costs would significantly be reduced or perhaps even eliminated.

In Los Angeles, one of the most expensive cities in the country, there are currently at least three central contractors building duplexes comprising two 5-bedroom, 3-bath units each for approximately $1,000,000. This allows for the cost per bedroom to be $100,000, and when financed with a down payment, it would be about $400/month. 

This means that anyone receiving this government stipend would be able to live safely and comfortably off the streets and out of poverty. The costs for this to be duplicated in most other regions of the country would be significantly less. This is just looking at the gross expenses and not calculating any of the cost savings for the government and society by not spending the extra money on those in poverty.

There is already some optimistic movement in this direction, with Warren Buffet giving away 41 Billion dollars to join the Gates Foundation to create benefits in the world. He also has gathered more than 150 other billionaires who have offered to donate more than half of their fortunes to good causes. This is a great start and would be an example of movements that could happen outside of an orchestrated coordination of the public, philanthropic, and government sectors and just be used in practical life, creating opportunities that can be beneficial to the world. 

Needless to say, there are enough wealthy people to change the course of the world if freedom was understood as the starting point of democracy and was integrated with collective responsibility and ideals. This is not a should or intended to create guilt, as this is clear from my professional experience that something like that will not be effective. However, if the vision is seen individually to be inspirational, it literally could be the seeds of changing the world.

My hope in writing this is to stir conversation with an uprising of new ideas that can collectively include all sectors of our wealthy end of society. 

It is one of the greatest hopes for a change in the course of humanity if we are to use our freedom in a way that can counter the tyranny and corruption that we see in the world and sneaking into our country today. 

Are you in?

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