Income inequality is a perennial problem that characterizes societal growth in many countries. It refers to the unequal distribution of wealth across different social and economic groups. The concept connotes different social indicators such as social opportunities, life expectancy, and equity (among others). People have varied opinions about its effects on the society.
Some say inequality is good for attracting investments, while others believe it undermines social cohesion. Regardless of a person’s view on this matter, there is little disagreement about the negative effects of “too much” income inequality. Consequently, societies understand the need to decrease the gap between the rich and the poor.
Using the arguments of two authors, Orwell (3) and Huxley (1), in 1984 and Brave New World, this paper argues that free information flow could decrease the gap between the rich and the poor. However, to do so, people need to embrace new technology because it decreases information exchange barriers. This way, societies would be “more equal.”
Why Increased Information Flow and Technology Could Reduce Income Inequality
Orwell (10) explained most of his beliefs on income inequality through “war perspectives.” Particularly, he paid a close attention to the role of technology in changing modern warfare techniques. He also explored how societies could use technological innovations to change people’s standards of living (Orwell 10). Using this logic, he opposed the view of modern warfare proponents who advocated for the use of advanced machinery to bring world order (Orwell 10). He said such people (only) wanted to “experiment” with these machines by starting wars.
They were not interested in raising people’s standards of living (Orwell 3). This intention betrays the will of well-meaning people who think that technology could end human suffering. Orwell (236) affirms this fact by saying that if people used technology for the sole purpose of ending human suffering, they would easily end poverty, disease, and ignorance. Based on this observation, many people ask, if the solution to ending poverty is obvious, why are some people poor?
The answer to the above question lies in understanding the role that poverty plays in creating today’s social and economic differences (the hierarchical society). As Orwell (236) says, the social and economic differences that exist today are creations of elitist groups. They make sure that poverty and illiteracy exist because if people become richer and more literate, they would realize that wealthy people are “useless.”
The rich understand this fact because they know if this happens, wealth would confer no social or economic distinctions in human societies. Orwell (258) explains this fact by saying that the ruling 1% of the inner party, which controls Oceania, would have found no relevance in the society if their subjects were wealthy. This statement shows that rich people manipulate political and economic systems to support their dominance in the society.
Again, to explain how wealthy people seek relevance through information control, Orwell (236) says that literate people often “threaten” the rich. He explains this fact by highlighting how the inner party surveyed the outer party, which is 15% of the population (Orwell 258). Members of this party have some resources and are knowledgeable about state activities.
Therefore, the inner party (which is 1% of the population) always makes sure outer party members do not use these powers to dismantle social and economic hierarchies. Consequently, they always watch their activities by surveying their subjects. Comprehensively, this analysis shows that the distinction between the rich and the poor is “artificial.” It is carefully constructed by the rich (through information control) to support their relevance in modern society.
Technology has a huge role to play in changing this situation because it creates a free information flow. Indeed, Orwell (255) explained how the inner party manipulated public information, in Oceania, (by printing incorrect information and rewriting history) to support their power and relevance in the society. Although this strategy created a hierarchical society, technology could easily lessen information barriers and empower people all over the world. The modern-day equivalent is the internet because people could easily know how to do things and empower themselves in the same regard. Therefore, technology has the power to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich.
Huxley (1) also affirms the power of free information flow in uplifting human societies by explaining its usefulness in creating an informed and empowered society. Like Orwell (255), he refers to a conspiracy by elitist groups to deprive people of their right to empowerment (through information control). However, unlike Orwell (255), he did not fear that these groups would give people wrong information; instead, he feared that the elites would give people too much information and “drown” them with many irrelevant data.
Therefore, people would not know what information is useful and what is not. Consequently, they would become passive and fail to change their standards of living. This is a carefully orchestrated attempt by elitist groups to prevent people from knowing the truth about wealth creation. As Huxley (65) says, wealthy people exploit the infinite appetite for distractions by human beings. Therefore, unlike Orwell (128), who said human fear would cause human stagnation, Huxley (65) said our desire for pleasure could lead to the same outcome. Nonetheless, both researchers show how technological growth could decrease income inequalities.
Moffett (1) leads a group of critics who view technology as a tool that causes social and economic inequalities in the society. For example, they blame technological progress for income inequalities between traditionally unequal societies, such as America, and traditionally equal societies, such as Denmark and Sweden (Moffett 1).
To support this view, they say that technology has created an increased demand for skilled labor in the world (Moffett 3). Consequently, people who can provide such labor have more income than people who cannot. In this regard, Moffett (5) says the incomes of skilled laborers rise faster than the incomes of unskilled laborers. Traditionally, skilled labor comes from highly educated societies (usually in wealthy countries). Globalization excludes low-income societies this way.
Therefore, they can only watch how technological advancements enrich wealthy countries and do nothing about it. Moffett (6) adds that increased reliance on technology has further worsened the conditions of poor societies because they depend on wealthy nations to produce and develop these technologies. Often, they become indebted to these nations and spend a huge percentage of their national budget paying them.
Therefore, the money that such governments could have used to invest in improving their welfare is “lost” in paying debts. Since this cycle traps many developing economies, critics of technological advancement show that technological dependence increases the gap between the rich and the poor because it denies them the resources they could have used for personal growth (Moffett 6).
Technology affects the information flow in the society. Low-income societies suffer from the lack of information, while wealthy societies thrive on information control. Orwell (255) and Huxley (65) show how elitist groups create the gap between the rich and poor by exploiting human fear and desire (through information control).
In line with their observations, some global institutions say poverty reduction could occur through technological adoption. For example, the World Bank (2) says that developing economies have reduced poverty from about 29% to 18% through technological development (these statistics apply to technological adoption by developing countries in the 1990s).
To counter the views of people who believe that technological development increases the gap between the rich and poor, the World Bank (3) also says newer technologies are simpler to use. Therefore, they do not need skilled labor, as old technologies did. Moreover, technology companies have disseminated newer technologies faster than they did older technologies. Overall, these findings show that improved technology could decrease the gap between poor and rich people.
This paper highlights the role of information control in defining the gap between the rich and the poor. It shows that excessive information control has created cycles of dependency and illiteracy, which create poverty. However, technology could easily increase information flow and empower people, both at personal and community levels.
Although critics argue that technology could increase the rich-poor divide, this paper shows that newer technologies are easily transferable. Similarly, they do not need highly specialized skills to use. These facts discredit the “dependency cycle” view, which critics of technological development support. Therefore, technology could increase information flow and reduce socioeconomic inequalities between wealthy and low-income societies.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World, London, UK: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.
Moffett, Sebastian. Technology Widens Gap Between Rich and Poor. 2011.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four, New York, NY: 1st World Publishing, 2004. Print.
World Bank. Tech Progress Helps Developing Countries Reduce Poverty. 2008.