What is the opposite of opportunity? In most cases, people would refer to threats. Yes, of course. But I’d like to go one layer deeper to its root cause: fear. To me, fear is the biggest limiting factor of growth, or progress if you will. Whether a person’s growth, a society’s growth, or a company’s growth.
Let me explain why I think it is crucial to remove as much fear as possible for human beings. And why we need to pay more taxes to get there.
Some personal confessions… 😊
When I started to work, about 20 years ago, I was thinking more in terms of boundaries. All kinds of boundaries:
- Laws – written in the interest of protecting a safe and secure environment…
- Geographical borders – created by people to safeguard the interest of the people within…
- Tax systems – created to achieve a fair balance of contributions to a society… (yeah right…)
- CO2 emission limits – established to know how much a company legally is allowed to emit (or should I say: to destroy nature)…
- Hierarchy – established in companies to avoid being fired…
- Capitalism – working harder to accumulate more financial wealth…
I think, at that time, I just ‘accepted’ that this was how the world was supposed to be.
But boundaries can limit progress
Although boundaries may sound logical at first sight, it took me a while to realize that there is more to gain when you are willing to challenge these boundaries (I guess I am a slow learner… or I was just very naive… or both…).
I have two kids. They make a lot of drawings. Sometimes they ask for a printed colouring page, but most often they just take a clean sheet of paper. As a sentimental dad, I preserve a vast number of their drawings, but hardly ever the ones which they made from a printed colouring page. Why? Drawing within printed lines just doesn’t show creativity. It merely shows the physical capability of a stable hand… I actually just hate the boundaries of a printed colouring page…
And think about this in a broader perspective:
- Geographical borders – imagine a reset of all borders on the globe. You can draw them, but there is one challenge: you have to draw them before you are born and you won’t know where you will be born. I think that many people, with me, would completely leave out the borders.
- Tax systems – in the early days of my career, I really thought that tax evasion via tax paradises made sense, because the laws were established in the way they were. Shame on me… In this way, the wealthy can find structures to lower their taxes, at the expense of the less wealthy who don’t have the means or knowledge to do so.
- Capitalism – in the play of capitalism, wealth is distributed and preserved via laws and regulations. But how would you feel if you would play Monopoly and, at the start, your opponent already has Mayfair and Parklane and have 10 times more money than you? Doesn’t really sound fair, right?
- Socially accepted behavior – I was brought up by my parents not to ask for things. That was impolite. When I was 17 I furiously stepped to my boss at my side job and asked why I never got a raise in 3 years’ time. He then replied: “because you never asked for it…” Ouch… Well… Now, I am teaching my kids to always ask … (Next step will be to get some politeness and tactical smartness in… 😳)
Don’t just accept such boundaries, but challenge them constantly. Dare to ask the question whether pre-set boundaries are right. When you are willing to let go of boundaries, you can start thinking about bigger opportunities.
Fear as the Biggest Blocker
But what is needed to challenge these boundaries and to think in terms of opportunities? I believe there can be many pieces to that puzzle, like willingness to be vocal, having a certain risk appetite, or a severe feeling of injustice. But in this part, I want to talk about perhaps the biggest blocker that I see: Fear.
Fear is around us. It is everywhere. Fear is handy, as it makes (most…) people a bit more cautious in traffic. But there is a lot of unnecessary fear, created by ourselves, by society:
- Fear of different cultures: so many people are afraid of refugees with different ethnic and religious backgrounds coming to their countries and ‘taking their jobs and houses’.
- Fear of not having enough money: so many people cannot make risky investments (which typically have higher returns) because they fear that they cannot pay the rent next month.
- Fear of losing your job: so many people just stick with a lousy boss as they are uncertain about losing their income, or losing their status.
- Fear of being left out: so many people have been bullied when they were younger (or still are) for ‘being different’ or ‘just because’, and still suffer from those anxious moments.
- Fear of crime: so many people are afraid of crime. While some people commit crime just… well… just because they are ###holes . But I would argue that some are just seeing it as a last resort because they are stuck. (and yes, I fear those too, my parents didn’t provide me with superman genes – talking about #missedopportunities).
All these fears just limit the freely available brain capacity to think bigger, to deliver higher quality, to produce more. If your personal RAM memory is full, your brain will just run slower. And the capitalist in me just believes that productivity trumps consumption.
A Fearless Society
We often hear about creating equal opportunities for everyone. I fiercely believe that equal opportunities will lead to increased productivity. And in the end, on a global scale, it is not about having the biggest piece of the cake, but about baking a bigger cake! With more productivity, the cake is bigger, and hence there is more richness to share amongst everybody on this tiny globe.
Less fears in the heads of human beings would create such equal opportunities. And I believe that having a decent level of (financial) wealth is a prerequisite to much less fears. If a person has sufficient cash for a decent living, they can:
- obtain the education they want
- search for the jobs they want
- participate in the riskier investments to generate a return
- care more about nature
- care more about others
- leave out the bullying (bullying behaviour often occurs because of personal fears of the bully)
- establish a business they want
- not be dependent on the income of a partner in life
More Taxes to Eliminate Fears
There are many things that we need to work on to get to a fearless society. Embracing differences in cultures, accepting any preference in gender and sexual orientation, allowing for failures and recovery, equal access to education. #worktobedone. But let me pick one of the less obvious topics to tackle: Paying… More… Taxes…
While in the past, I would have argued that each person can determine their own destiny, I now believe that – with the rich becoming richer (e.g. because of risky tech investments with steep returns and the gap with the not so wealthy becoming larger) – it is time for governments to step in. I never thought that I would ever be saying this… and don’t worry, there still is a lot of capitalistic blood in my veins… 😉
I don’t believe that just letting charities fix it will be sufficient. On this day full of confessions, I have to admit that I think many people with a reasonable financial position will behave in the same way as I do: yes, I am donating to a few charities, but I am not eager to pay more taxes than I officially have to…
Hence I believe that there should be higher taxation for the more affluent people, whether it is on capital gains or labour income. I think it is the only way to let each person start the game of Monopoly with the same financial and emotional bandwidth. (For simplicity sake, I am omitting here how governments should then allocate such tax proceeds… that’s a puzzle for another time…).
I wish everybody to become amongst the highest tax payers in the world.
So: Live without fear, pay more taxes, and a happy 2022!
Any views in this blog are personal views of the author, Stefan Bary. While these views do not necessarily reflect the views of Peak, Stefan cannot resist pushing for fearless lives and equal opportunities within Peak, its portfolio companies and his broader network. #paymoretaxes.
Want to read more inspirational stories of Stefan Bary? Check out one of his other blogs!