• Matilde

Overview effect

This July, we’ve seen billionaires setting off to space in a race to become the #1 on the Forbes list. Yes, history has been created, with the inaugural voyages of “space tourism”. For these billionaires, it is important to reach peak performance and obtain all the knowledge and innovations from the research that led to these trips.

Yet, it is only human to wonder if this space race is the priority in a world ravaged by poverty, where millions starve every day and so many more are hoping for a life-saving vaccine against COVID-19. During this, we see billionaires patting themselves on the back as they receive 28 million dollars per seat sold in an 11-minute drive in space.

These inequalities in the United States have been aggravated significantly in the last 30 years and have only become worse with the pandemic. The pandemic drove a K-shaped recovery, which means that the highest income group recovered far more quickly than the lowest wages employees, even after stimulus checks were issued to combat this disparity.

The U.S. income divide has not always been as vast as it is today. After the catastrophic shocks caused by the World Wars and financial crash, multiple initiatives diminished the difference in incomes until the 1980s. This decade saw President Ronald Reagan implement measures such as massive tax cuts for the rich, to stimulate trickle-down economics. This means that having the wealthiest in society paying fewer taxes would provide them with more resources to improve their companies and pay higher wages, leading to long-term growth for the less well-off. In reality, this has not worked. As an IMF Staff Discussion Note concludes, “if the income share of the top 20% (the rich) increases, then GDP growth declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20% (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth. The poor and the middle class matter the most for growth via several interrelated economic, social, and political channels.”

And these flagrant displays of wealth by billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson come to remind us that we don’t live in a poor world, just a very unequal one. There is a psychological shift on astronauts known as the Overview Effect, which evaluates that upon seeing the Earth from space, it appears seemingly fragile and ephemeral, this causes one to become more aware of how delicate life is and comes down to Earth with a new perspective. If there is such a thing, maybe, hopefully, we’ll see billionaires investing money that could help eradicate diseases such as COVID-19, or reduce world hunger, or house the homeless, instead of burning money for a few minutes of fun.

For more on this subject I highly recommend visiting: https://inequality.org/