The OPHTMM Problem

The OPHTMM problem is hands down the hardest problem that the humanity has faced during its entire history.

I can say this very confidently, because no other problem can boast so much labour and resources spent on solving it, or indeed so many human lives sacrificed in the process – and still remain as elusive as ever.

OPHTMM stands, of course, for Other People Have Too Much Money.

Countless number of coups, revolutions, or simply elections have been fought and won, as well as lost, under the pretence of solving this problem. Numerous laws and decrees enacted. And as far as we can tell, the solution is not in sight.

So it’s probably a waste of time trying to convince people that this problem exists today – it should be already obvious to everyone . Heck, nowadays it’s the worst it’s ever been!

When we’re told that other people have too much money, or have it too good in any other way, we agree wholeheartedly and completely. We require very little proof, and do not try to challenge the notion. Not so if we’re told the situation is the other way around: we will fight any such silliness tooth and nail, demanding more and more proofs and not agreeing to anything.

If you want to sell a political program to the public, tell them it will soak the rich. Don’t bother with the poor – who cares if they are better off or not. As long as the rich are worse off, we’re OK.

It is easy to blame this on the simple human envy – and I’m sure that envy has at least some part in this. But it is unlikely to be everything. There is probably a combination of feelings and emotions that combine together to create such powerful drive – despite anything that reason might suggest.

Take, for example, our ever-present need to belong to a certain group. There always need to be “us” and “them”. And needless to say, we’d like to be on the winning team. We cannot join the rich, because, well, in all likelihood we are not them. So, we find ourselves on the other side of the fence.

We are also very optimistic beings: we are driven by hope. We’d like to hope things will become better, and our hope never dies. If, heaven forbid, an oncologist tells us we have a terminal cancer, and a homeopath promises to sell us a cure, we reach for the wallet – even if we hold a medical degree. Likewise, someone only needs to drop us a hint that our lives can be improved by “taking from the rich” – and we run to vote for them. And in some cases – fight for them, too.

All this, of course, is not to say that other people do not have too much money. They may very well do. But whether they do or do not, we would always, always think that they do. So do they?

Maybe they do, but the obvious quackery that is sometimes offered to us as a “solution” makes this claim much less credible. Into this category would fall any and all suggestions to rebuild our entire society so that there is no longer rich or poor. Invariably of course, we are told that everyone will be rich. And no less invariably, everyone ends up poor – given that they survive the transformation. The wisdom of these solutions is perfectly illustrated by xkcd, using the Chess game as an example. Human society is much more complex than that, and any attempt to change or engineer it looks equally silly.

Much smaller-scale silliness is going on every day in the various legislative bodies that we elect. There, little by little, our representatives forge the framework that revolutionaries tried to put in place in a single transformative action. The “ratchet effect” runs wild: once another step towards Socialism is taken, it can never be reversed. But each of these steps is invariably based on one single premise: Other People Have Too Much Money! So naturally, we’ll have to do something about it.

So here is a modest suggestion: why wouldn’t we, instead of trying to solve the OPHTMM problem – real or not, try to solve another one: the IHTLM, or “I Have Too Little Money”? Maybe if each of us tried to make their private lives better within the existing framework, our collective lives would become better too?

Just a thought.

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