Today's merit based workplace - not to mention home building requirements - would not have been possible, were it not for the credit driven economy that developed in the 20th century. For decades, debt even provided the illusion it was possible for citizens who were minimally compensated, to reimburse the skill sets of those who were highly compensated - via mutual time coordination. Credit availability bolstered the rationale for meritocratic limits (wealth capture) in time based product - much of which now contributes to a vast and still growing skills divide. And unfortunately, wealth capture does not contribute to prosperity for nations or citizens, as does true wealth creation.
More than anything, the burden of low income debt makes it difficult for individuals to function freely or effectively in the marketplace, given societal expectations for essential life needs. Miles Kimball writes of freedom and consent in a recent post, and highlights a John Locke quote of which I'll provide the beginning (Kimball's post deserves reading in its entirety):
To understand political power right, and derive from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions, and persons, as they think fit...Kimball wraps up his post with these thoughts:
John Locke's perspective of people beginning free and equal is very refreshing in a world still filled with domineering states. The world still has a long way to go on the way to freedom.How can anyone dream of equal beginnings, if basic forms of knowledge use product are no longer within the reach of the lower half of the income spectrum? How can people dream of freedom, when governments and special interests alike find it too tempting to claim income which otherwise might have been applied to discretionary choice? Is it still possible for lower income levels to structure their mutual desires and responsibilities, without need of either credit or the meritocratic structure which eventually leads to extreme skills divisions and dehumanization?
In tradable sector activity, merit based (and asymmetric) time compensation exists to the degree it contributes to production processes and final product. Full use is made of special skill sets where they are most needed, so as to generate full output potential.
However, different incentives are in place for asymmetric compensation in non tradable sector activity. Here, meritocratic rationale for high value skill is not intended as a forerunner of new product formation or marketplace output, but as a permanent state so long as people can afford to pay for it. Non tradable sector time based services do not contribute to optimal output; they contribute to quality output, as rationally intended for those who are able to pay and operate from a similar positioning of economic time value. Hence these groups are only able to organize up to a minimal point, to include time based product for those who are not well suited for mutual economic reciprocity.
There's no need to continue the illusion of either credit availability or all encompassing health insurance, for those who are not in the appropriate income strata for general equilibrium coordination and definition. It could be better for many citizens, to begin an educational process which makes it possible for those with small incomes, to take a more direct role in their destinies. This would include education which draws from the wisdom and pragmatism of the ages, a workplace which requires no debt to organize, and the ability to gradually discover how best to coordinate time so that economic forms of knowledge use need not be limited to a subset of citizens, in the 21st century.