There is a fundamental rift in Western society that is causing tremendous instability and damage. The rift is more fundamental than the one between Left and Right, which, as I’ll argue, is a false dichotomy. Rather, it is the rift between two often incompatible power systems: the democratic republic structure of government, exemplified by the U.S. Constitution, and the hierarchical business structure that tends to characterize the private sector. In the first, power and control are ideally regulated by democratic processes: one person, one vote. In the corporate world it is one share, one vote, which is linearly proportional to one dollar, one vote. As a result, critical decisions, which may have serious externalities, are made by the largest shareholders – the ones who have the most dollars invested in the company. Therefore the accumulation of power in the public sector comes from the accumulation of popular support, while in the private sector it is from the accumulation of capital*.
This rift, then, causes an unavoidable tension as two very different forms of power contend with each other. The United States in particular has tended to defer more and more power to the private sector in recent decades. Almost any tendency for a stronger government role in the economy today, including by adding tighter regulations, is decried as a form of “socialism” or “coercion,” and the private sector of course has a vested interest in perpetuating that perception. Ironically the fear of “socialism” has led many voters to support policies that make them less free, as, crucially, the private sector leverages its own form of coercion: it requires capital to survive in America, and for most people, that means employment by a hierarchical (non-democratic) organization. On the other hand, those who wish to further democratize society see as their only option an appeal to government power, the only serious democratic power in contemporary Western society. But neither side has any illusions as to shortcomings of government: it is only a matter of whether one believes whether (relatively) democratic government power or hierarchical corporate power is preferable. This, as I’ve said, is a false (and tragic) dichotomy, or at least ought to be.
I wish to sidestep the interminable debate as to whether increased governmental intervention is appropriate for solving Western civilization’s many urgent problems, other than to say that it would seem that the private sector as it stands will not take drastic, or even significant, steps to save a sinking ship unless the market demands it (and it may even try to convince the market that the ship is, in fact, not actually sinking).
Instead, I would like to argue that the best approach, at least in a culture that is currently and historically deeply suspicious of government power, is the democratization of the private sector. In practice, this means one person, one vote, instead of one dollar, one vote, in the private sector. There are precedents for this: a for-profit democratic cooperative structure, for example, in which the board of directors is elected by the membership, but not in proportion to the shares held by each member. Another example is the non-profit, which can be hierarchical or member-controlled, like a cooperative. In both cases, decision-making in the private sector can be democratized and wealth inequality can be addressed, without any sort of tax adjustments, income redistribution, or any government intervention whatsoever.
A democratized private sector addresses many of the problems brought about by the status quo: first, the demand for endless growth of each individual publicly-traded company, and the corresponding endless financialization that has accompanied that demand, has ironically destroyed many otherwise financially sustainable companies that were making products that people wanted. Rushkoff uses the example of Twitter, which was making half a billion dollars a quarter, or two billion dollars a year, for a fairly simple messaging application. But, as Rushkoff points out, once Twitter went public, its stock had to grow. And grow. And grow. So all of a sudden, a fairly stable and popular business bringing in $2 billion a year had to mutate, or “pivot”. Its initial stock price was based on the assumption of much higher revenue, many times higher than what Twitter was making. So Twitter was legally obligated to change, to transform the company in order to justify its enormous valuation to investors.
This sort of pivoting, incidentally, is one of the main driving forces of surveillance capitalism: the notion of making money spying on people, profiling them, and selling their data (including to the government**), who, meanwhile are becoming more and more suspicious (and rightfully so) of the big tech companies, who depend on surveillance technologies to sustain the growth they are required to deliver. And, as Rushkoff points out, many of the people who are unhappy with this situation depend on these companies to grow for their 401k’s. To quote Laura Penney, “it’s the genius of capitalism,” folks! But I would argue that that takes us back to the false dichotomy: it’s not so much capitalism, in my view, that is the issue here as much as its current growth-oriented, debt-oriented, hierarchical form. Had Twitter remained private, or better yet, become a cooperative, it might not have raised quite the same amount of money, but it also would have been able to provide a stable income to many people, in addition to making many people rich, without pivoting.
RJR Nabisco is another compelling example: even though the company was extremely successful, its stock price was pretty flat, because people will buy only so many Oreos, and smoke only so many cigarettes. And it had no prospects of serious growth on the horizon. And why should it? The company made the products it made, it made them well, and made a lot of money doing it. The market was saturated. But when there is an incessant demand for growth, changes have to be made. The company was famously acquired in 1988 in a leveraged buyout, through which it took on enormous debt to justify its buyout price, and once again, had to “pivot” to pay it all back. That meant selling off large portions of the company, and more importantly, layoffs.
Then there’s Boeing, where corporate decisions cost lives. Robert Prentice discusses Peter Robison’s “Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing”: “As Robison explains it, Boeing’s downfall began when it merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and managerial power over the new combined company shifted from the engineers who had run Boeing to the financial engineers who had already run McDonnell Douglas into the ground.”
The danger now is that democracy, society and the planet itself are being run into the ground. This is financialization at work: a stable company is disrupted or destroyed, as are the lives of many who depend on these companies for their products or services, or for employment, for the sake of open-ended growth which doesn’t actually makes sense for the company or its business. Again, to quote Rushkoff, “it’s bad business.” The list goes on: stock buybacks, where executives use the company treasury to purchase billions of dollars in the company’s stock, so that their own stocks (often given to them as bonuses) go up in value. Planned obsolescence, where products are built to fall apart so consumers have to come back and buy them again (this topic alone merits its own essay, for both its ecological impact as well as its more subtle impact on morale). And certainly outsourcing is a cost-cutting measure that society has learned to live with. But it is hard to imagine a worker-owned cooperative voting to outsource their own jobs.
Cooperatives still need accountants, managers, lawyers, marketers, designers, engineers and so on, not to mention electricians, plumbers, drivers, custodians, skilled laborers, etc. For the vast majority of employees, there is no reason their income should be affected whatsoever working for a stable and successful cooperative. After all, who makes how much would be the employees’ own decisions. Their main concern would instead be on stable production and revenue, and remaining competitive. That alone would increase morale and pride, not to mention a larger share of the company’s profits as dividends (if the employees so choose), and vastly increased empowerment.
There are several major obstacles to the adoption of democratically-managed businesses that I can see. The main one, though, is the need for capital and people to kickstart these projects. Most of the big money is either in hierarchical corporations or the public sector. Billions need to go into founding and growing democratic organizations that produce. Also, (I assume) the majority of business literature presupposes hierarchical ownership or management structures. Much more research has to be done on how to build and run a democratic company successfully, and people who are interested in working for these sorts of organizations need a way to learn more about how to do it, whether in business school or elsewhere. And to me the most urgent question is how to scale the democratic private production model. Can democratic private institutions scale to meet civilization’s many needs? If so, how? I suspect that what may be needed is a federated model (similar to the United States itself), where many smaller cooperatives elect representatives to a larger body that serves the purpose of coordinating them. And there may be many such bodies, competing with each other.
Trebor Scholtz has coined the term platform cooperativism (https://platform.coop/about/vision-and-advantages/), which seeks to bring the cooperative model to the tech industry, especially when it comes to things like social media, ride-sharing, video conferencing, etc. Platform cooperativism appeals to me at least partially because of its potentially low startup cost. But platform cooperativism, while urgently critical and highly feasible, is not nearly enough. There should be cooperatively-owned infrastructure, cloud computing, hardware production, and software development in the tech industry, for starters. The latter is already well underway: while not necessarily incorporated as cooperative structures, many prominent free and open source projects can easily be imagined as being developed by cooperative or otherwise democratic ventures**. Many are managed by non-profit foundations.
It is my hope that I’ve demonstrated how democratic private production is not only an alternative to the tired, polarizing and unnecessary socialism/capitalism debate, but may alleviate the costs, especially social costs, that either extreme bring with them.
A very quick afterword about blockchain, crypto, and other such developing technologies: I have little idea which technologies would best suit more democratic business structures. I consider the web to have tremendously rich potential in this regard, but by virtue of being more decentralized the blockchain may have some democratic advantages.
* Of course, the accumulation of capital tends to require popular support in the form of the market, but this form of “democracy” is largely an illusion: a consumer’s purchasing power, which again is largely determined by how much capital (or credit) they have, determines how much influence they have on the market. When it comes to yachts and skyscrapers and large-scale advertising, most people have zero influence on those markets. So we are back to one dollar, one vote, and obviously the votes are therefore distributed unevenly.
The lines blur, unfortunately, in that a political candidate must raise capital in order to reach mass audiences, but that has more to do with the realities of the private media landscape and its role in popular culture than the structural nature of the democratic process. That problem would be solved by an educated, informed and proactive electorate.
** In the 21st century, software freedom (aka free software) is an essential component of human freedom, and tends to make much more sense in a cooperative structure than in a hierarchical one. After all, proprietary software is first and foremost about control.
Please Help Save The Planet.
The heat is rising. The oceans are rising. Hatred is rising. We do not have much time left. Humanity must, as a collective body, get it together in love and respect if we are to avert total catastrophe on our planet, whether in the form of a nuclear war or unsurvivable climate change, either of which would render our beautiful crystal planet uninhabitable for Life in general. And that would be a tragedy that would reverberate throughout the Universe.
Whatever your priorities are at the moment, be they family, career, a project or a “cause,” your aspirations depend on a livable planet.
All the many crises humanity is facing right now is a reflection of the collective human consciousness. All people must now look to their own role in the collective consciousness if humanity, if this planet, is to survive. As Phyllis Krystal writes in her 1998 book, “Reconnecting the Love Energy,” [a] worldwide catastrophe could occur due to our lack of awareness of the seriousness of the imbalance resulting from the universal absence of caring… It has become desperately important for all of us to do whatever we can to help bring about a change, but we must do it first in ourselves.”
It would be too simple to call it sin. What is really going on is cause and effect: a global “me first” ideology that separates and isolates people and encourages endless competition in all spheres of human life, growing tribalism and nativism, and an unprecedented worldwide distortion of truth are reflected and manifested as chaos, turmoil and suffering.
The global religions have largely failed in their various missions to end suffering, spread goodwill and love to all, repair the world and/or bring humanity and all life closer to G-d. Instead they have too often engendered bickering, exclusion and even persecution of “others” outside their circles. How many ethnic and religious minorities are being persecuted today! It is appalling.
Many people who read this, including the author, wonder what they can possibly do to elevate consciousness and to save humanity and the planet. Human beings are powerful individually, and even more powerful collectively. The first thing is to pray: pray for the welfare and survival of humanity and the planet. The second thing is to treat all – and that means all, even your so-called enemies – with love and respect. Forgive those who have offended you, whether out of ignorance or even malice. That does not mean you condone destructive acts, but it does mean that you forgive. Act not out of anger or retaliation: that will simply lower consciousness for everyone involved. Third, talk to your friends, family members, loved ones, neighbors and acquaintances. Ask them: “The world is in dire peril, due to greed, hatred and apathy. What can we do?” Keep talking and keep asking. Be proactive and anti-racist.
Dwight Eisenhower said in his final address to the American people as President, that “[a]s we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” This was in 1961.
The times are desperate. If you wish for your family, friends and loved ones to survive, you must act.
Greed is destroying the world. Just about everything in modern Western society is geared towards making a profit, from food to medicine to shelter to energy to transportation to journalism to information to music to leisure. The corporations that provide much of these are designed, and even required by law, to make a profit for their shareholders. The rationale is that profit is essential for incentivization and innovation. This is false: people (real, as opposed to legal) are inspired to do things for all sorts of reasons: passion, fun, curiosity, a sense of accomplishment, a desire to see change, or even out of a sense of duty or obligation. Money is only one of many incentives that people have. It’s an important one, to be sure, since it is necessary to purchase the necessities of life, as well as a few luxuries. Beyond that, money is coveted for status, for power and for control, in other words, the worst motivators humanity has. That’s not to say that money is necessarily a bad thing: it is more or less a useful abstraction. But it has taken on a life of its own that is literally destroying the planet.
Dwight Eisenhower, in his last address to the American people as President, warned of a growing “Military-Industrial Complex.” It was, and is, the unholy marriage of military interests and corporate growth. Weaponry and war became a for-profit enterprise (if it ever wasn’t), with weapons companies designed to maximize profit and to grow indefinitely. What does it mean when weapons companies are enjoined to grow indefinitely? That war, whether cold or hot, will continue indefinitely; that peace, cheap as it is, becomes unprofitable and therefore undesirable.
War is only the most egregious of the profit-making enterprises. We are now witnessing planetary disasters resulting directly from an energy policy that has always put profits first. Oil is lucrative. The demand for oil is incredible. But oil is also toxic at every stage from extraction to refinement to consumption. And oil companies, like all other corporations, are enjoined to grow. And grow. And grow. How to do that? “Drill, baby, drill!” From a profit-making perspective, the more oil people burn, the better. From an environmental perspective, it is a disaster.
One can see inhumane, unjust and unsustainable practices in every single for-profit “industry.” With food, we see an overemphasis on toxic pesticides, preservatives and potentially dangerous genetic engineering, among other questionable practices. Journalists need their stories to be accessible and entertaining, otherwise they won’t sell. Pharmaceutical companies are more interested in producing bestsellers than in curing diseases. We are now seeing the rise of “surveillance capitalism,” an Orwellian development which basically entails internet companies spying on their customers for profit. This are simply the lengths that companies will go to in order to grow at the absurd rates that they are required to by law.
Jaded Libertarians will likely read this and roll their eyes: “So what’s the alternative? Government? How can that possibly be better?” While I disagree with the Libertarian dismissal of government competence (What for-profit entity could have come up with the Hubble Telescope? Or the Internet, for that matter?), I happen to agree that the state should generally not take control of producing and providing the basic necessities. But this is a false dichotomy: there is a “third way”: the non-profit.
A non-profit is usually associated with a religious, charitable or educational organization, but in fact, a non-profit is simply a corporation whose surplus income must not go to individuals, but must be used to further the mission of the non-profit. Non-profits may pay their employees a “reasonable” wage, so there is no reason that, say, a food business could not be incorporated as a non-profit. If the business were to grow, operations could grow as well. There would be no more obscene bonuses, no more stock market speculation, no more financialization. Most importantly, there would not be the constant legal impetus to grow indefinitely for the sake of growth; for the sake of profit. Growth, if it happened at all, would be natural and organic.
A caveat: different states regulate non-profits or not-for-profits differently. Many states limit non-profits to certain functions, such as charitable, educational, scientific, member associations, etc. However, many of these types of non-profits are allowed to engage in normal business activities. If a business incorporates as a charitable organization, and excess profits go to charity, what’s wrong with that?
In any case, the time for obscene profits is over. The time for cancerous economic growth is over. The time for massive inequality is over. The humble non-profit can and should replace business as usual.
It’s time for the sane to take power back from the insane.
It’s time for the lovers to take power back from the haters.
It’s time for the kind to take power back from the cruel.
It’s time for the builders to take power back from the destroyers.
It’s time for the protectors to take power back from the killers.
It’s time for the living to take power back from the dying.
It’s time. It’s well past time.
Approximately eighty years ago, most of the world was plunged into the darkness and hell of war. Millions of men, women, and children were raped, beaten, tortured, murdered, blown up, starved, gassed, and burned. Great cities were reduced to rubble.
There were many forces behind this unimaginable evil, but much of the havoc can be traced to just one man, a failed artist who hated himself and so many others, a man who appealed to the worst of his people.
Today the world is again in grave danger, and again, much of it can be traced to one man, and of course, his supporters. Once again, a doctrine of cruelty, hatred, separation, violence, and paranoia is being fed to those who would accept it.
To the people of China: as an American, I do not believe you to be my enemy, and I do not wish to be yours. I have only respect for the Chinese people, culture, and language. It is true that our countries may not agree on many things, and it is perfectly natural for peoples to disagree. But are any of our disagreements worth the brutal, inhuman horrors of war? We must avoid war at all costs.
I truly believe that most Americans do not want Donald Trump to be president. I certainly do not. I want only to live in peace with my fellow Americans and people of all nations, including China.
Donald Trump is only strengthened by threats of war: he is strengthened by fear, anger, and violence. I beseech you: do not do anything that would strengthen him any further.
We all want to live in a world of peace, prosperity, happiness, joy, laughter, and friendship. Let us all live together in peace.
I am pleased to announce the upcoming release of my novel, “The Herald”. Genre-wise, it is Young Adult Fantasy. The first four chapters are released under the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 and are available at my website, http://danieltsadok.net/The-Herald-Preview.pdf. Thank you for reading!
“Do, or do not; there is no try”
This is a vision: a hope for humanity, and for the United States in particular. It may seem like a naive one, but there is very little standing in the way of a complete implementation, or manifestation, of a beautiful, equitable, just, sustainable society.
This is the premise:
We can all live in peace;
We can all have comfortable, healthy, and sustainable lifestyles;
We can all have both individual rights and healthy communities;
We can all have day-to-day lives filled with joy and free of fear.
What this requires is a spiritual, ethical, and moral “phase shift”: if enough people (a so-called “critical mass”) lived according the values of fairness, kindness, sustainability, personal growth, and respect for those belonging to different faiths, cultures, or lifestyles, positive change would begin to happen automatically, because those values would drive all major decisions.
Virtually every problem facing society today would soon vanish if such a phase shift were to happen.
Suspicion, paranoia, ethnic tensions, deceit, and manipulation would disappear. Environmental degradation would cease. Poverty and all forms of injustice would be eliminated. Refugees would be able to return home, or at least resettle, and rebuild, because there would be no more war, or racism.
Society would begin to transition from a competitive, growth-oriented economy to a cooperative, stability-oriented one. Corporate greed would no longer be a concern: companies would continue to provide quality goods and services to the public, and that, and only that, would be their mission. Sustainability, peace, education, universal health care, free (as in freedom) culture*, sharing culture, net neutrality, safe and affordable homes for everyone, and justice reform would prevail.
Technology would be used where appropriate (please see “Our Abundant Universe”), to filter water, restore the soil, clean the air, build new structures and vehicles, and generally improve the quality of life, through quality of goods and infrastructure. Climate change would be slowed, then reversed.
In school, students would learn the best society has to offer: not only reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and history (all crucial), but also electricity, carpentry, plumbing, agriculture, cooking, textiles, philosophy, civics, religious studies, law, and how to have healthy relationships, with themselves and others.
The country would once again become a beacon on a hill, and a light to others. People everywhere would become more conscious, more engaged, and more forgiving.
Abundance and joy would be everywhere, and more people would have an opportunity to express themselves creatively, and to heal from old hurts. People’s primary verbs would be Eat, Drink, Sing, Play, Create, Connect, Give, Receive, Celebrate, and occasionally, Work, in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Most of all, people would Thank: each other, and life itself for its beautiful, sacred, and precious gift.
The only thing preventing all this are the baser aspects of human nature: greed, cruelty, judgmentalism, pettiness, and selfishness; the “Dweller on the Threshold“. This is part of the human condition that we must acknowledge, accept, and transcend.
It would be worth it.
* This does not exclude the necessity of supporting and compensating artists for their work.
“The Nothing is spreading… It’s growing and growing, there’s more of it every day, if it’s possible to speak of more nothing…”
A little later they flew over the outer edge of “The Labyrinth,” the maze of flower beds, hedges, and winding paths that surrounded the Ivory Tower on all sides. To their horror, they saw that there too the Nothing had been at work… The once bright-colored flower beds and shrubbery in between were now gray and withered. The branches of once graceful little trees were gnarled and bare. The green had gone out of the meadows, and a faint smell of rot and mold rose up to the newcomers. The only colors left were those of swollen giant mushrooms and garish, poisonous-looking blooms that suggested nothing so much as the figments of a maddened brain.
Enfeebled and trembling, the innermost heart of Fantastica was still resisting the inexorable encroachment of the Nothing…
“Have you seen the Nothing, sonny?”
“Yes, many times.”
“What does it look like?”
“As if one were blind.”
“That’s right – and when you get to the human world, the Nothing will cling to you. You’ll be like a contagious disease that makes humans blind, so they can no longer distinguish between reality and illusion. Do you know what you and your kind are called there?”
“The Nothing pulls at you, and none of you has the strength to resist it for long…”
“When your turn comes to jump into the Nothing, you too will become a nameless servant of power, with no will of your own. Who knows what use they will make of you? Maybe you’ll help them persuade people to buy things they don’t need, or hate things they know nothing about, or hold beliefs that make them easy to handle, or doubt the truths that might save them.”
“Yes, you little Fantastican, big things will be done in the human world with your help: wars started, empires founded…”
He now realized that not only was Fantastica sick, but the human world as well. The two were connected. He had always felt this, though he could not have explained why it was so. He had never been willing to believe that life had to be as gray and dull as people claimed. He heard them say: “Life is like that,” but he couldn’t agree. He never stopped believing in mysteries and miracles.
He had seen enough. At last he really understood the horror that was spreading through Fantastica.
“Oh, nothing can happen more than once,
But all things must happen some day.
Over hill and dale, over wood and stream,
My dying voice will blow away…
The Childlike Empress is sick,
And with her Fantastica will die.
The Nothing will swallow this place,
It will perish and so will I.
We shall vanish into the Nowhere and Never,
As though we had never been.
The Empress needs a new name,
To make her well again.”
From “The Neverending Story”, by Michael Ende
Money is an abstraction which has taken on a life of its own:
It seems almost unnecessary to elaborate on the lengths people
will go to try and acquire some, and the effects it seems to have
on people’s behavior.
Nevertheless, it is important to remind ourselves that money is,
fundamentally, a useful fiction: a way to keep track of obligations,
and of energy expended, and to help implement the “Tit for Tat” social program
that optimizes the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma.
The problem is when the abstraction (“making money”)
becomes an end in and of itself.
It doesn’t really matter how it’s made, as long as the numbers go up.
And up, and up, and up.
We celebrate higher numbers and mourn lower ones.
We celebrate even as people suffer, and mourn even as people thrive.
In Computer Science terms, this is a “Leaky Abstraction”:
the abstraction of money does not fully align with
the underlying realities of wealth and abundance
that it is supposed to represent.
Any further derivatives of the abstraction become even “leakier”,
so that the abstractions eventually become completely divorced from reality.
This is why interest is forbidden by both the Bible and the Koran:
Interest is an attempt to create wealth from the abstraction itself,
instead of creating wealth by creating something of value.
“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor,
you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him.”
“You shall not lend upon interest to your brother, interest on money,
interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.”
Interest ostensibly commodifies time, but this too must be an illusion,
as time is the ultimate intangible, and may not even exist as such.
In other words, if money is, as an abstraction of goods and services, a useful fiction,
interest, a derivative of an abstraction, is a harmful one.
In an economy where debt is crippling both people and nations,
it is well past time to reconsider our primary mechanism for credit.
Another fiction that emerges from the abstraction that is money is
the fiction of economic growth, and more specifically,
the fiction of the necessity of economic growth.
That the number associated with the total economy ought to increase is a
strange idea indeed. Why should it?
The hypothesis seems to be that if the abstract number grows,
then perhaps “progress” is being made: “a rising tide lifts all boats”.
This is patently untrue, empirically.
Income inequality is increasing, the environment is being ravaged,
the climate is being disrupted, natural (that is, ecological) wealth is being depleted, and
institutional trust, particularly in the United States, is at a nadir.
What growth, in real, practical terms, have we as a society and a planet been seeing,
as the number goes up?
What we are actually seeing is a commodification of every aspect of human existence,
from food, water, shelter, healthcare, and education, and more recently,
to new forms of social interaction.
Religion and spirituality have not been immune to commodification, certainly.
All this in the name of economic growth.
Being that money is a convenient but “leaky” fiction, the problem is then that
it is also a consensual reality, as well as a “game”, so it is difficult to survive
in modern society without playing along.
This requires a certain cognitive dissonance, as we work aimlessly to “create value”,
even as we witness a deterioration of our ecosystems, a general reduction of quality of goods
(with “Planned Obsolescence” being the logical conclusion of prioritizing the abstraction),
heartless social policies (so-called “Austerity”), a degradation, through commercialization, of culture,
and widespread nihilism and malaise.
The solution, fortunately, is relatively simple, if not easy:
to look away from the glamour of the numbers themselves,
and to look at the reality.
Perhaps we must have income to survive, but must we charge and pay interest?
Must we speculate on “futures”?
Must we worship at the altar of “economic growth”?
Must everything in our world have an exchange rate?
These have all created at least as many problems as they’ve solved, useless abstractions that they are.
Money is useful, and I believe that ultimately we still need it
in a society where money does roughly approximate energy expended.
We need it as part of our system of give and take: it gives us a reasonable basis for trade.
But we need to focus on economic stability, and security,
so that people don’t go to bed (if they have one) at night
wondering where their next dollar will come from.
We need to focus on creating real wealth, and real abundance,
starting with protecting our greatest treasure, the planet and its ecosystems,
making sure the money part is abstracted from that,
and not pretending like it’s the other way around.
(Originally written June 7, 2017. Edited and updated.)
Technologically speaking, we live in an abundant society. We absolutely have more than enough resources to provide for every person’s needs in a sustainable manner, and we are developing new methods of increasing abundance. To name a few:
We could have solar panels on ten million homes in America for $400 billion*, or $40 billion a year for ten years, creating, among other things, thousands of fossil-free and energy-independent communities, not to mention thousands of jobs.
We have more than enough space for everyone, and more than enough food. By almost any measure of any basic need, we have more than enough.
Why, then, does our global society show such deprivation and fear, to the point where everyone is terrified of losing what they have? To put it in New Age terms, why are we manifesting such lack?
Alternatively, why are we pissing in the well from which we drink, and sawing off the branch on which we perch?
What is the underlying disorder that is causing our society to behave so irrationally?
“For whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
It doesn’t need to be this way. We can have:
- Food and shelter for every man, woman, and child on earth;
- Clean air and water;
- A total cessation of warfare;
- Technological innovation;
- Mutual respect of all nations and cultures;
- Individual autonomy and dignity;
- Universal basic health care for all people;
- Excellent public schools;
- Thriving communities and safe neighborhoods;
- Participatory democracy;
- Cooperative economies;
- A free (as in speech) and unfettered internet;
- Clean and sustainable industry;
- Vibrant and evolving arts and culture;
and more, tomorrow!
What is stopping us?
It is not sufficient to blame the government: millions of people across the country empowered (and continue to empower) the current administration and allowed for its destructive policies to be put in place, perhaps out of fear, or perhaps out of a lack of a better vision.
This is a better vision. We can do better. We must.
The opposite of Sustainability is Death.
Collectively, we must embrace a positive new vision of what we actually want as a people and a society, as opposed to reacting with a doomed “Anybody But _______” approach.
An ugly, radical new vision is being presented by those in power today, and it is likely to get worse if they continue to get their way. It is up to us to put forth a beautiful new vision to counter that ugliness, to work together to achieve this vision, to insist on it, to fight for it, and to manifest it proudly and fearlessly, with love, so that there is no room for the sickening status quo, whose tired Thanatonian philosophy has long overstayed its welcome.
(Updated April 7, 2018, with solar panel estimate)
* Based on an estimate of approximately $40,000 per home to install professional-quality solar panels.