Why should we, in an attempt to craft a new ideology, deep-dive into a TV show like Squid Game?
Well, within a few weeks, the Korean production became the most-watched Netflix show of all time. It indeed checks all the boxes to be a hit: it has an intriguing story, drama, violence, good actors, and filming, but… 142 million views in a month? A show can only reach such heights when it connects on a deeper level with its viewers: when it triggers their fears or hopes. And the hyper-capitalistic/survival-of-the-fittest society described in the show is something that many of us can relate to, to some level (remember when reading about billionaires skipping the queue for vaccines?).
In this newsletter, I want to bring you on a short journey in and around Squid Game (no worries, having watched the show or not won’t impact your understanding of my analysis) and share what we can do to fight back against the "Squid Game" societies that we see gaining power over us.
FIRST: WHAT’S SQUID GAME? For those living in a cave that did not see it yet
Edited from Wikipedia’s official page: "Squid Game is a South Korean survival drama television series created by Hwang Dong-hyuk for Netflix. The series revolves around a contest where 456 players in deep financial debt put their lives at risk to play a series of children's games for the chance to win a $38.6 million prize.
The title of the series draws from a similarly named Korean children's game. Hwang had conceived of the idea based on his own economic struggles early in life as well as the class disparity in South Korea. Though he had initially written it in 2009, he was unable to find a production company to fund the idea until Netflix took an interest around 2019 as part of their drive to expand their foreign programming offerings. All nine episodes were written and directed by Hwang. Squid Game was released worldwide on September 17, 2021, to critical acclaim and international attention."
- Ways to contribute: if adults are not doing well in SK, kids are even worse off - donate to ChildFund Korea if you can
- Interesting sources: here is a summary of all episodes, here an eye-opening interview of the Director
SO, DO WE ALL LIVE IN A SQUID GAME?
I wish I could answer "no," but the correct answer is “some do” & the rest " might soon" if we don’t do something about it. Social safety nets are under strain worldwide (when they even exist), and inequalities have widened shockingly. Only during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found that 2.7 billion people - around 1/3 of the population of our planet - did not have publicly funded safety nets to fall back on. Even in extremely wealthy countries that tried to pump money to support the most disadvantaged, the outlook is worsening: in the United Kingdom, millions of people are set to be worse off next year "amid spiraling costs and tax rises."
What's appalling, though, is that while huge chunks of the population are increasingly struggling, the market capitalization of companies and the wealth of a few individuals is soaring. Between March 2020 and October 2021, US billionaires have grown their wealth by 70%, adding $2.1 trillion to their assets.
When shared equitably among people in a society, prosperity is a great thing. However, this is not prosperity: this is a sign that something is broken, and has been for a very long time.
MAKING SOCIETY FAIR: AN EQUITIST UTOPIA OR JUST WHAT WE NEED?
The good news is that - contrary to other monumental challenges like climate change - wealth inequality is something that we know how to tackle. For example, by making taxation more progressive (i.e., taxing super earners and corporations a bit more) and by levying taxes on financial transactions (ever heard about the Tobin Tax?) resources to protect the very fabric of our societies can be deployed. From traditional interventions such as food stamps to social housing to more innovative solutions like Universal Basic Income or reduced working hours to allow for child care or senior care, we are all one google research away from countless actions that can be taken to avoid the horrific numbers shown above.
So, given that solutions are available, why are we in such a scary place for society? The fil rouge uniting all the sources of such as failure is the stubbornness of those in power not to make equity the main driver of public policy decisions. If we were to design a new society, we would never allow for a significant percentage of its population to struggle to put food on the table while others travel to space for fun - it's just illogical, ill-built, and fundamentally flawed. In an age where monetary and physical wealth is abundant, and digital means allow for unprecedented ability to distribute resources, there is no justification for keeping the situation as it stands. When governments work to grow GDP, they should focus on increasing the output and prosperity of the majority of the population (the bottom 80% or 90%), not accommodate the wishes of those already doing very, very well. And even better, GDP must be complemented and even substituted by more comprehensive measures that do focus on the well-being of humans, communities & the planet, before the economic output of a country, which should just be a function of it (e.g., check out Gini Coefficient and the Human Development Index)
As you can see, I am passionate about the topic because it's in the realm of the "possible," and it's a change we can push through in just a few years from now. To do so, we all need to do our part and understand that an increasing amount of resources should be channeled towards uplifting and giving a fair chance to those historically left behind. This might also be at the expense of less productive social expenses (see "golden" pension schemes).
There's a way out of this squid game; we just need to want it.
- Ways to contribute: join Atlas Policy Team, buy this book about the role of government in putting the public first by Mariana Mazzucato, a very cool economist
- Interesting sources: Scott Santents tweets, this conversation between Colombe, myself, Max Ghenis of the UBI center, and Greg Nasif of Humanity Forward
THE EQUITIST CORNER
From our Equitist manifesto: "An Equitist economy controls and steers market forces to decrease inequalities among its members. The paramount indicators of the health of an Equitist economy is a low level of economic inequalities and high living standard of the population, provided that this is mostly achieved through the uplifting of those previously disadvantaged. ""
In our quest to create an equitable society, we produce this daily newsletter, a weekly podcast, and every month together with our 20,000+ members, and we launch a campaign to turn words into action. Do you want to support those that are left behind?
The world will not be changed by those who smile and carry on but by the ones standing tall and acting in the face of adversities. For Equity.
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