The Great Leveling

The "Great Leveling" emerged from the oddest coalition of political representatives ever witnessed in this nation. As the abyss between the haves and have-nots widened, the ever-shrinking middle class slipped into power. The mega-wealthy were self-absorbed and driven to amass ever more possessions, while the mega-poor—hopeless and fatigued to the point of complete apathy—abdicated all political interests to a hodgepodge of humanists, do-right proponents, and economists of all persuasions. Only this most unlikely mini-middle class, astonished to find themselves wielding power, could have crafted legislation as improbable as the Great Leveling.

The two-year time frame before the G.L. became law was brilliant. It gave the mega-wealthy a window to regain control and ensure that the law was never enacted, so they could publicly support the good intentions of helping the less fortunate and the patriotism of saving the nation, knowing all the while that their lifestyles were protected. Sure, they had let power slip away, but, like everything else in their world, that was fixable with cash. What they did not foresee was the power of collective hope! Just the prospect of having their basic needs met restored the energy and spirits of the mega-poor and created a sense of belonging. They began to participate in the political process, and thwarted the mega-wealthy and their efforts to turn the Great Leveling into an instrument of charity instead of justice.

The legislation was as odd a mix as its framers: part Biblical Sabbatical-Jubilee, part gush-up economics, and part mean-spirited Old Testament Judgment Day. For all its complexities of tax incentives, penalties, and enforcement, it boiled down to one simple directive: the first shall become last and the last shall become first, in seven-year cycles. The mega-wealthy, finally accepting the situation, began to extravagantly shed possessions with the hope of recovering them at the law’s enactment. Goodwill stores soon filled with diamonds, fur coats, leather furniture, and hot tubs. Parking lots were jammed with pleasure boats and luxury cars, all with the keys inside and hand-written signs pleading "please take." Wills were meaningless. Second-home grand estates were vacated, doors left wide open. The mega-poor were astounded at the bounty now within their reach but also cognizant that whatever riches they took now, they would have to give up in two years. The only stability was in the middle.

The mini-middle class swelled to encompass most of the population. The mega-wealthy discovered the freedom of not being owned by possessions and the mega-poor enjoyed the freedom of being out from under the crushing boot of poverty. The economy boomed as the market for middle-class homes and lifestyles soared. Soon it was equally difficult to judge the "least" from the "first." Each citizen had housing, health care, food, clothes, and basic necessities. There was no security in amassing great proportions of anything and no insecurity in having just what was needed and no more. Great estates became beneficent care centers for elders, the sick, and the lonely. Public parks, green spaces, and communal gathering places abounded in what were formerly exclusive clubs. Pastors and priests moved their congregations from great cathedrals to prisons, where the interaction brought rehabilitation and redemption to both sets of congregants. Hoarded valuables were freed from their suffocating safe-deposit boxes. Great works of art and the contents of private libraries were shared, engendering more creative works. The environment recovered from the toll of conspicuous consumption. Violence subsided. Drug dealers, losing their impoverished clientele to hope and their bored mega-rich customers to meaning-filled lives, joined lobbyists, home security system techs, and the IRS to be re-trained for useful employment. Other nations, observing the booming economy and the well-being of a politically involved citizenry, began to follow suit, thereby enabling diplomacy to replace military intervention and freeing up huge portions of the national budget for domestic needs.

By the time the G.L. became law, it was anticlimactic. The hungry were fed, the naked clothed, the sick cared for, and the imprisoned mainstreamed. But the people of the Truly-United States, better educated, healthier, and more joyful than ever before, celebrated the Great Leveling Day like Christmas, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving all combined. It is faithfully observed every seven years to this day.

Robin Carter

Robin Carter, an admirer of Friends Journal and especially its Milestones column, attended Omaha (Nebr.) Meeting occasionally over a ten-year period and for several years lived too far from meetings to attend, but now lives "tantalizingly close" to Brevard (N.C.) Meeting. She considers herself a "Friend-in-waiting."