A positive start : revolting Wall St & a Plenitude economy.

I am pleased to see the occupation of Wall st and it’s about time all the people who have been hurt hardest in the USA find a voice and a stage. Especially great against the backdrop of faltering US economic pride, UK double-dip recessions and the Eurozone panic. Predictions of another great depression might be over stating it, but then again who knows?

I just hope that the protest does more than rally the usual band of shouty youths in alternative clothing who want to express out the last drops of their teeny rage hormones and newfound political awareness recently gleaned from skimming some college books, and instead becomes some sort of coherent message, nay demand for change. I fear that vague and general dis-satisfaction will into lead to anything except tedium. It’s fine for the beginning as it coalesces but without a unified purpose and calls for specific action – I can’t see what reaction could follow from those we give power to, that would make it all seem worthwhile. Having spent time both marching and working behind enemy lines, I know that protests die away, but specific calls often find an ear.
I am however – as always – hopeful. More power to them.

On a similar note of change in the wind, I just watched a short ‘RSAnimate style’ video from Juliet Schor on her theory of the ‘Plenitude Economy’:

Aside from the fact that it’s about a ‘New American dream’ (which for the other 6.6billion people on the planet seems a bit selfish), it’s a good idea. Plays very nicely (albeit in a much more simplistic and summarised form in the video above) into Tim Jackson’s theories in the excellent ‘Prosperity Without Growth – Economics for a finite planet’ as both talk of shorter working weeks, less consumerist culture, less focus on growth fuelled by increasingly stripping the planet of finite resources etc. I especially like the nudge towards increasing a sense of community and the rebuilding of shared lives, resources, tools and skills.

Without having gone into the detail of the Plenitude Economy theory as much as I have with Tim Jacksons ‘zero-growth’ macro-economic scenario alluded to in the book, I can only comment so deeply, but from what I could see I think that it’s a lovely sentiment and a good first step – but (like Tim Jackson) doesn’t go far enough to be called a ‘solution’. Not nearly far enough. It’s still not viable ‘end-state’ or sustainable scenario.

Maybe that’s why it’s only called a new american dream. The rest of the world is still expected to be kept in grinding poverty so that America (and the other rich western nations) can enjoy the lifestyle that it has becomes accustomed to? Hard to tell if this has been thought through or not upon cursory examination.

If we can achieve the world a that video describes it, then why do we really need capitalism at all? Why do we need money? Really the true value in all the things that she mentions would fill our lives in that scenario don’t require anything from the capitalist system. Does it? People could be just as meaningfully employed – in fact arguably far more so – if they didn’t have to work for money. There is nothing in this model that requires us to live within a state does it? [I mean to do some of those things the way we do them now would (ie manufacture solar panels) but there are other many other ways to organise the manufacturing of goods that doesn’t require wage slavery or ‘human capital’]. My point is that to live happy meaningful lives in the way that this idea alludes to doesn’t actually require capitalism, money or states at all.

Aside from the obvious inability or unwillingness to challenge the fundamentals of capitalism the general theory is good and I think provides a small hint of what life – post money and post-capitalism might be like. At least in so far as that it’s about people being more self-sufficient, taking responsibility for their own lives, more interlinked with each other, stronger community bonds,  shared responsibility, increased engagement with education over the course of a life, wider skill sharing, more resilient small-scale, less uniform, production of goods and providing of services form people who do not have jobs for life (but only for as long as they feel like) and who do many things that give them pleasure and benefit others with their energy.

In fact the only way you can have a situation that vaguely resembles something like that is when you get rid of money – for a variety of reasons that I have outlined in several previous posts.

I think these viewpoints should be spread, they are positive and get people thinking some really important things. Who knows, maybe the time for the ideas that excite me and that I share on this blog have not yet had their time but it’s kind of a shame that the debate hasn’t reached a level of maturity yet where you can drop a word like Communism or Anarchist in without a sharp intake of breath, or that has the villagers reaching for their pitchforks. Still too soon?

Anyway, its not about labels.. but it is about trying to get people to not build their world view on a foundation of thought that automatically includes money in it, because it seems to me that it’s exactly there that we are making the biggest mistake of all. I mean, why is capitalism so bad? Why does it produce such bad effects in the world? How does that happen? The only conclusion that I have ever come across is (in short) because of the incentives that abstract notions of currency and wealth embodied in money provides. It becomes primary, the thing after which all other things follow… and that distorts everything else for the worse.

It’s had  fair go around the track, we’ve taken it for a test drive, it had some benefits for some but let’s admit when it’s a failure and move on already.

Let’s have more thinking, more theories and let’s never be afraid to dream big and ask the awkward questions as we keep taking solid steps towards a better world.


About defiantidealist

There are no rules save the ones we make for ourselves. We can have any world we want, and this one is what we have chosen. To change it we must simply choose differently. Remember the system is fragile. Every civilization is only three meals away from anarchy. We can make it better. All we really need is that powerful dream to aim for, and the courage to defy those that say it can't be done.
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