IN 1990, I visited the Soviet Union for three weeks. The cities were dilapidated; the clothing looked like bags. Yet workers promenaded down the street with a pride I’d never seen in a capitalist country. Ever since, I’ve been struggling with this question of how to create a socialist society that isn’t joyless. Last year I ran for President of the United States. During my campaign, I formulated three new economic structures of society. I present them now.
1) The Lottery Economy is ruled by chance. Here’s how it functions: you work at your job all year, and late in December spin a wheel to determine your salary. The least you can make is $30,000 a year, the most $180,000. If you make the top salary, you can save your money, invest it, spend it — it’s up to you! If you’re lucky, you’ll earn $180,000 nine years in a row! If you’re unlucky, you’ll be stuck at the lowest level for nine years. But economic life will be exciting, even somewhat frightening!
2) The Secret Santa plan is based on an American tradition. At the end of each year, you’re given the name of a fellow citizen — usually a stranger. You must decide which portion of your income to bestow on this person. (Of course, someone is also gifting you at the same time.) Thus every citizen receives an “individualized bonus” every year — not just hedge fund managers. It may be twelve cents or $12 million. Here’s a way of honoring the potlatch tradition of the Kwakwaka’wakw, in which the more status one has, the more valuable goods one gifts to others. After Secret Santa Day, some millionaires will be penniless, and some homeless women will move into the Waldorf Astoria.
3) Celebrationism is my most frivolous proposal. Here’s the idea: each American has a limit of $50 million. Anyone richer than that must throw a party each month costing $1 million. The celebration may be intimate and lavish, or huge and festive. In either case, the guest list cannot be exclusive — everyone must be invited, even hobos and welfare queens. (Attendees will be chosen arbitrarily out of the phone book, or first-come-first-served.) Celebrationism will offer the most free dancing of any economic setup in history.
Can the Lottery Economy, Celebrationism, and the Secret Santa system all be combined? Perhaps a national plebiscite should choose one? Or maybe these three economic blueprints could alternate, one year at a time? Let political thinkers choose the best ways to implement my visionary proposals.
Sparrow plays ocarina in the non-Euclidean pop band Foamola. He appeared here recently with dozens of poems about Donald Trump. Follow him on Twitter (@Sparrow14). How to Survive the Coming Collapse of Civilization (And Other Helpful Hints) is available from our Pushcart.