Twenty-one year old reality tv heiress Kylie Jenner has been called a “self-made” billionaire by Forbes Magazine. Given the wealthy family in which she was born and other massive unearned privileges, many are laughing at that claim. The key to being rich is being born rich, as evidenced by the lavish #StormiWorld amusement park party in which her one year old received her first Chanel purse.
Displays such as this raise deep questions about what it means to live in a country where the wealthy easily multiply their fortune (see the chart below), while 41% are lacking in the most basic necessities and are becoming downwardly mobile. Our educational systems keep the average person in the United States reading at the level of a 7th or 8th grader.
Tweet Kylie at @KylieJenner, and urge her to give a child in a need a fair start, relative to her start in life.
Climate change is now exacerbating this inequity as it disproportionately affects impoverished communities and drives up the painful costs of being poor. Is the playing field so slanted that it’s finally time to take bottom-up direct action to level it?
Solutions like the Green New Deal fall short for the same reasons that all other new reforms fall short. They make the same mistake we have made for centuries – by failing to see the responsibility we have to future generations. This is not some abstract duty – it involves ensuring every child born a fair start in life. But we have made, and continue to make, that mistake in part because of built-in cognitive biases against long-term (and especially effective) planning. Those biases blocked thoughtful, sustainable, and cooperative family planning that – had it been instituted decades ago – would have prevented the climate change, massive inequality, and failing child welfare systems that threaten us today.
All of this stems from the fact that our understanding of the social contract that legitimates our system of government is deeply flawed. How does it account for the fact that United States, through its climate change policies, has become a national security threat to itself? Our social contract is only valid to the extent it ensures we remain free and equal people. That includes preventing the dystopian future of a degraded environment, massive inequality, a weaker voice in democracy, and the consolidation of power of the few over the many – the path on which we are heading.
What then are we doing to protect those future generations, today?
The Fair Start family planning model, corrects that shortsightedness and legitimates the social contract by putting children’s interests first. It does so by making the beginning of the social contract a simple two part agreement: Communities ensure that parents have the resources to plan families and guarantee that all kids have the resources they need for a fair start in life. And parents delay having kids, and have small, sustainable families that put less demand on our shared resources and our world.
That agreement creates the first term of the social contract – the first human right, the “we” in “We the People”. It creates an ecologically sustainable (if not regenerative) society of people who receive a fair start in life. It builds human rights-based democracies from the ground up by ensuring all kids get what they need growing up, or a truly level playing field, and is simultaneously the most effective way to mitigate the threat of climate change and other environmental crises. It is, hands down, the most effective way, to protect kids, animals and the environment.
Unlike the current version of the Green New Deal, the real deal of child-first Fair Start planning appeals to the ideals of the most thoughtful conservatives and libertarians, as well as liberals. The model recognizes that 1) long-term planning and ensuring the actual development of each child is the most effective way to addresses our greatest threats, 2) that both Big Wealth and Big Government have utterly failed their obligations to ensure that development, and 3) that the assets of both should would best be redirected – by the people – towards Fair Start funds, in an override of any claims people like Kylie might have to unlimited wealth, as well as any obligation to pay tax dollars that may simply be wasted. That’s the real deal – one between us and future generations to build democracy from the ground up – out of the actual people that will comprise it.
Non-partisanship aside, this is key: Because Fair Start family planning is lexically prior to all other rights in the social contract (the first term), it overrides anything with which it conflicts. We are before we do. All kids have a fundamental human right to a fair start in life – which can be secured by any means effective. What does all of this mean? The right to a fair start in life, as the first human right, overrides both private property rights and tax obligations. The Fair Start model is a non-partisan real deal for conservatives and liberals to both make concessions. Big wealth and big government both need to decentralize influence and use resources to empower future generations and make them resilient.
Our world, and future, is defined by the people in it. But they are mostly defined by the conditions in which they were born and raised. Fair Start family planning ensures that all kids have the resources they need for a fair start – not a head start for a few, like Kylie. Fair Start family planning is a real deal – focusing on the creation of future generations, and it should be the foundation of modern attempts to revise the social contract, like the Green New Deal.
What would you do to protect future generations and ensure they get what they need? What have prior generations sacrificed to protect us, and ensure our freedom? Could the resources of the elite be put to the best use preventing climate change through the most effective means possible – better family planning? The ground to encourage and ensure Fair Start family planning lies everywhere in this country. Every person is a potential freedom fighter to create a real social contract. Kylie, and especially those bad actors like Exxon that have profited from creating the threat of climate change, should not underestimate what parents will do to protect their kids once they learn to question the legitimacy of unlimited property rights and other unquestionables that the elite take for granted.
Someone like Kylie, who has colossal influence should openly endorse better family planning to help ensure other kids a fair start in life relative to her own and her daughter’s. Furthermore, the taxes that she and the rest of the ultra-rich are paying could be partially shifted into Fair Start funds. Ensuring all kids a fair start in life should not be a morally controversial thing. Together we can work together to make it happen – a much preferable scenario to the alternative.