The youth of today were sold a dream that has been consistently left unfulfilled; the dream was this: if they study hard and choose a specialisation to pursue a career in, they could be every bit as prosperous as the people who came before them. The nuclear family has a couple of pets and even more than one car. Instead, people have been disappointingly shunned from the dreams they were sold and told to either work harder or stop complaining. More than 40% of people living in the United States are living paycheck to paycheck, with a staggering 84% of this demographic admitting that they survive off credit from the banks to fill in the gaps.

To solve any problem, we must examine the causes. We use the United States as our leading example because it is capitalism’s historic extreme, to the point that it is almost satirical. The middle class has devolved into what is now known as the aspirational class; in essence, people laugh to save themselves from crying; people laugh together, but the joke's on us. One of the causes of inequality we can examine is corporate entities buying up single-family residential homes for profit, setting the price mostly as they wish, to an extent based on current market trends. One of a handful of these corporate vultures eating at the decaying cadaver of the aspirational class is Blackstone, which has recently nourished its gluttonous portfolio by acquiring $1,000,000,000 worth of new single-family homes in the United States and $2,500,000,000 of apartments in Canada. This perverts the American dream; this takes the power away from the consumer in what ought to be a free market; this should be legislated against by lawmakers in Congress; this is wrong.

The dreams that have been sold to the youth and passed down with each generation are fading much like a real dream long after a person wakes. This is not only true of the U.S.; this is true of many western countries. As a species, we are too proud to say that we have lost our way, that somewhere along the line we got lost, and that our plan for the future didn’t work out. Instead, as people, we play the blame game and wage wars with faraway nations in order to highlight perceived wrongdoing. There is a global lack of humility in admitting that we have not always gotten it right. As the Dutch philosopher Wim Hof once mused, “We are able to shoot people to the Moon and to Mars, but not to become happy, strong, and healthy here and know our purpose. Hey man, let’s go back, let’s go back, because we lost something, and then what we lost is found.”

The band-aid we taped onto the broken bone in a panic? Tiny homes. With smaller resources and diminished earning power come smaller houses and diminished optimism. The inspirational speaker and writer, Alexander Den Heijer (also Dutch) once said, “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” The burden has been placed on the flower to grow in a dark room; this is how historians of the future will describe the early 21st century.

Tiny homes—is this what is left to the youth of today? Framed as innovation and mobility rather than a diminished life dream, have we stopped dreaming of utopia? Are we reading for war only to boost the GDP and repeat a history that only served and will only serve to return us to this same circumstance? Indirectly offering something of an answer to this question, esteemed Nobel laureate Angus Deaton, the British-American economist who won the coveted prize in 2015, proposed that “we live in a mirror image of a Robin Hood society, one in which resources are indeed being redistributed, not downward, from rich to poor, as Robin Hood was reputed to do, but upward, from poor to rich,” going on to say that the economic cycle of wealth distribution has been “broken for several decades.”

Tiny homes are a consequence of this broken system. You might have come across the term'shrinkflation’ or ‘downsizing’ and wondered whether this is a leap forward into a utopian future or a tumble backwards to maintain the status quo for 1% of global wealth-holders and neuter aspirations for the remaining 99%. Aspirations of owning a traditional brick-and-mortar home that sits atop a designated block of land or even owning an apartment outright instead of perpetually renting should never be walked back, least of all to accommodate a broken system. For many countries around the world, if not all of them, this is their citizens’ national dream. Although it is true that 25% of human beings live without access to clean water, shelter is a human right that has been marketed for too long as an aspiration one should clammer for and reach for through constant work and toil. With employers, post-COVID, downsizing their staff to reduce wage costs and paying the bare minimum in order to hoard profits, the frame of perception we all use to view acquiring shelter must be reviewed and reimagined without making this dream any smaller than those held by the generations that have come before.

When it is storming outside, when hail falls and thunder crackles and booms amongst the friction of a dark sky, do we still spare a thought for the man, woman, or child without shelter? The stark reality is that the minority that holds power maintains it by dividing the “have-nots” into superfluous arguments that further fragment an already fragile middle class. The more that people without shelter are seen as lesser or unworthy of shelter, the more we play into the hands of a ruling class. Yanis Varoufakis, economist, politician, and author, has proposed that capitalism has run its course and that, in its wake, it has been replaced by a far worse substitute, what he calls “technofeudalism.” This term relates to the ultra-wealthy, who view themselves more as rulers than philanthropists, using technological advancements to control and persuade their lessers to remain complacent and docile. Tiny homes are a part of this—the diminishment of owning a home with enough space to live comfortably. Over time, we will hear the marketing teams roar praises of how comfortable their tiny homes are; we cannot afford to hear them out without giving up a vital piece of our remaining humanity. The bitter irony in all this is that they could easily choose to distribute their wealth in the manner of superheroes as opposed to hoarding and plotting dominance like supervillains; it is their collective and conscious choice in an effort to obtain farther-reaching power, no doubt the result of ego and narcissism. In biblical terms, money is the root of all evil, and enough of it will quash one's empathy for their fellow man.

Forbes estimated that the net worth of the world's billionaires increased from less than US$1 trillion in 2000 to over $7 trillion in 2015. This reaffirms the idea of a return to feudalism following technological advancement; this is more succinctly seen in the example of NVIDIA (a computer technology company) outpacing other tech giants to be valued at an amount greater than the GDP of Canada. How much power can we expect the rule of law to impose over tech moguls and the billionaires who invest in them, with this in mind?

The New York Times once penned an article titled ‘Henry Ford: When Capitalists Cared.’ So to close out this article, I would like to rephrase what is purportedly one of his quotes on humanity and bring it more into our current times. Ford claimed that “when the middle class stops caring about the poor, that is when humanity is doomed.” I say that when those with the majority of wealth stop caring enough to use their power for the betterment of mankind, that is when hope is lost. The truth doesn’t always have a nice ring to it, so here is another quote from Ford, one that billionaires and trillion-dollar captains of industry would do well to ruminate on: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”