2011-08-03

What’s next for our economy?

During the last decades, the burden of maintaining society has shifted towards the middle and lower class, away from the upper class [1]. The article “How Our Economy Was Overrun by Monsters and What to Do About It” [via @michellegallen] frames the problem as follows:
[...] the super-rich, whose gains reflect little social value creation, have gotten richer — and are hyperconsuming the stuff of idle, yawning luxury with an appetite that makes Caligula look like a blushing bride.
The author also proposes a solution:
If we're disgusted by ex-defense contractors erecting gazillion dollar playhouses (complete with zip line, rock wall, firefighers' pole, and slide!), we've got to up our own game. Instead of merely demanding more, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier, we — people, communities, and finally entire societies — must begin to make fundamentally wiser decisions. We're begin to demand not mere opulence, but an approach to 21st century prosperity I call eudaimonia — lives that are meaningfully well lived, instead of merely more faux-designer mass-luxe junk to shove endlessly into the back of the closet.
A bit wordy, but he has a point: We need a common vision for where we want to go instead of mindlessly carrying on what we have been doing for decades. To me, the main goals are:
  • Ensure that we use natural resources responsibly. Currently, we don’t have ecologically sustainable lifestyles.
  • Don’t assume everyone will have work. Richard Sennett guesses that in the future, 30% of the work force will be able to run the economy. In this scenario unemployment being the norm is good news. But we have to find new ways of integrating the unemployed into society.
  • Make work more flexible:
    • Don’t tax work, tax consumption.
    • It must be easier and less anxiety-inducing to frequently change one’s job.
  • Support what’s fair. Currently, wages are not fair with regard to their impact on society. Jobs that don’t contribute should earn you less money.
Some of this might scream “communism” to you. But to me, it is a matter of organizing things properly, of thinking outside the current box. I’d still consider that capitalism, but with different goals than only economic growth.

Laying the foundation for more. The advantage of the above goals is that they are mostly organizational. Other goals (spiritual etc.) can be defined by subgroups of society. The former lays the foundation for the latter, by ensuring the lower needs in Maslow's hierarchy are fulfilled. Mainly, people have to feel safe.

Related reading:

  1. Plutocracy: If Corporations and the Rich Paid 1960s-Level Taxes, the Debt Would Vanish
  2. Ensuring the long-term survival of our civilization

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