Over the last couple of weeks my family and I have been on a staycation. In the last couple of years we have done some travelling, paid for wedding (my eldest daughter) and then about a month ago we realised that the roof on our house needed to be replaced. So a few days at home, away from work, “a staycation” seemed the most prudent thing to do.
During our staycation we decided to visit some of our stately homes. Many of them are owned by the National Trust, an organisation set up about 100 years ago. After the Second World War the then new labour government brought in our National Health Service, and the concept of the welfare state. The welfare state would look after people, whenever they needed it, from the “cradle to the grave.”
One of the ways to pay for this was to increase death duties to 80%. Many families could not pay and they either handed the keys of these homes over to the National Trust, or in many cases destroyed them to avoid paying the tax. I have read that during the 1950’s, on average, one stately home per week was being destroyed to avoid the tax.
Walking around these wonderful buildings from the 17th-19th centuries I started to wonder “where did the money come from.” These buildings would have cost an enormous amount to construct and maintain. The owners were the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s of their time. The contrast between them and the local people must have been unimaginable.
I began to think about what it would be like to live in a world where money had no significance. A place where I was so rich, that I could buy a Rolls Royce in the morning, drive it into the city, leave it outside the place I was visiting, have it towed away and then have another one delivered to get me home. Not just once, but every day for the rest of my life. A place where I could probably buy the poorest 50 countries in the world, all at once.
Here, in the UK, it has been calculated that the amount of income required to achieve “happiness” is $40,000 per year. This is enough to provide food, shelter, warmth and clothing, The Duke of Westminster who owns most of the land in central London is said to suffer from depression, in spite of his wealth.
So although I applaud the decisions of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, I ask myself, what else could you do with so much money? Are they the best people to decide who should benefit from the endowments they will bestow on the poor and needy, and do they help mend a broken roof?
For all the hatred in the USA for the European Welfare systems, the most powerful and wealthy have by passed the government and the people, and set up their own welfare state. They have understood when enough is enough.