Einstein's take on inequality and injustice in the world, and how they could be solved.
Einstein makes several points in this short essay:
It is hard for economy, as a science, to be objective, because it tends to justify the privileges of the ruling class/people, either consciously (in order to preserve the system) or unconsciously (economists are born, formed and educated within that system, and usually share its values).
Science can not and does not provide ends (goals of achieving a better society), but can only supply the means; the ends are conceived within the individuals. Thus the achievement of these ends (and evolution of the society) can not be seen through scientific methods. (I guess this is in direct opposition to Marx)
Man is at the same time a solitary and a social being - he tries to satisfy personal desires, protect the existence and well being of himself and those closest to him, but on the other hand he is concerned with his place in society, seeks to gain recognition and affection of a wider circle or people around him. The ratio of these two opposed drives, Einstein says, is mostly innate, but the personality is mostly formed within and influenced by society. Society to a great degree influences the types and qualities of interactions between the individuals. Man’s nature can not be changed, but the circumstances within which he is formed can be improved.
“The economic anarchy of capitalist society … is the real source of the evil”. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, who take advantage of it to control the means of production and rent the labour of the workers. They become owners of any products of that work, while the workers’ pay is independent from the value of the product - they tend to be paid the least amount possible. This unjust system is established legally, and the wealth also controls all mechanisms that could change or replace that system - it controls education, sources of information, political process…
Thus, Einstein concludes, “there is only one way to eliminate these great evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals”. The means of production would be owned by society itself and utilized in a planned fashion, according to the needs of the community, and the work would be distributed among all those able to work guaranteeing the livelihood of every man, woman and child.
In the end Einstein warns that planned economy is not yet socialism, and that it may be closely tied with totalitarianism and complete enslavement of the individual.
I think that Einstein adds nothing new to the table with this essay - he recognizes and acknowledges some injustices but does not dare to propose a way out of them. He is well off in the society as it is, but can’t help not to notice that many people are suffering. Socialism is a type of society where means of production are owned and controlled by workers, and there can hardly be a peaceful way to transition the current capitalist society (where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few) towards such socialist society. However, Einstein shies away from proposing any radical change or revolution…