If you ruled the world

As international economies wobble and systems threaten to fall down around us, now is a very good time to be asking questions about what life is for, what we actually want, and what we consider important. It’s easy to be carried along by the flow of the prevailing culture, but that doesn’t make it optimal, or even good. Governments like GDP, they like tax revenues, high employment. What governments care about is money, and because this is the priority, we are all encouraged to live lives that move money around in ways that make governments happy.

The current wisdom that market forces can fix everything doesn’t stand up to any serious consideration. Market forces are short term, are not driven by demand but by what demand is imagined to be, coupled with then selling the idea. Market forces do not fix inequalities, show compassion, do blue skies research or anything else very interesting most of the time. The idea that we can have infinite growth with finite resources seems inherently flawed to me, but our whole economic system is based on ideas of continuous growth. We put money before quality of life. We treat the acquisition of physical wealth as the priority, even at the cost of our health, families and happiness.

Increasingly people are talking about the ways in which the whole philosophy underpinning modern western life doesn’t work. I saw on facebook yesterday material rejecting the idea that rich people generate wealth. That’s been a political assumption for a long time. Rich people are good for the economy. Rich people make jobs and wealth for others. Without our rich people, we would all be in trouble so we should look after them, keep them happy, make sure they stay rich. I don’t believe wealth trickles down, but I do think if the poorest people have a decent standard of living, you know, by definition, that everyone else is fine economically too. If we decided instead that small businesses, and workers were the real powerhouse of economic growth, we’d organise a lot of things differently. We give big business and the superrich too much leeway only because we believe that we can’t get by without them. What if we can?

There is scope for real change, but until we start questioning the norms, it’ll be hard to achieve. So let’s start asking those questions, and encourage people around us to ask them as well, and think. Let’s ask our politicians as well. Do we want a system that is all about the movement of money? Or should we be thinking more about quality of life? Could we perhaps reject the idea that wealth and quality of life are entirely connected, and that striving after money is the only solution to everything? Could we perhaps instead be talking about people getting to live meaningful, rewarding, happy lives without automatically equating that to working as a wage slave? Could we stop seeing financial contributions as the only useful contribution a person can make to their community?

Money is a way of moving things round and getting things done. It’s a tool, but it is not a measurement of anything else. If the insanities of the financial sector are anything to go by, the acquisition of it may have far more to do with a willingness to gamble than with ability, merit or effort. Money attracts money, the absence of it makes it easy to get into debt and difficulty. Money is not the impartial system we want it to be, nor is it inherently fair. Your best chances of being rich are still to be born into a wealthy family.

I’m not proffering any answers today, just questions. What actually matters to you? What makes you happy? How do you want to live? If you were made ruler of the world tomorrow, how would you change things? If you had the power to redesign the systems, to reinvent the structures we all use, how would you do it? What are your priorities? None of us is going to wake up tomorrow and find that we can start putting plans into place, but where we live in democracies, our ideas can count, and the more of us share them, the more impact they will have.

I think the era of capitalism is coming to an end, because it just doesn’t work. I have no idea what comes next, but there is the potential for it to be wiser, more compassionate, more sustainable, more human. We need to stop collectively worshipping currencies, and start figuring out how to live.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “If you ruled the world

  • celticchick

    Living in the U.S. this is something that hits hard with me. I’ll try not to get too political, but if the rich were our job creators, then why aren’t we swimming in jobs? Why is our unemployment so high? I can’t believe that anyone would fall for that since there is proof that the rich do not create jobs just because they have extra money. The rich have had the lowest tax rates since Bush. So, where are all the jobs?

  • jennthesoothsayer

    brilliantly written. unfortunately, critical thinking skills are not as prevalant as the unwaged or “poorly” waged, and folk continue to project these dying ideas which keep the rich alive and kicking and wealthy.
    we forget just that: these are ideas. the economy, capitalism, etc. are all just ideas which we keep alive with our minds, attitudes, voices, and dollars.
    i agree with you wholeheartedly. being a single parent with a disability, capitalism couldn’t work for me even if i wanted it to, so i have no choice but to live sustainably, living a much more quality, rather than quantity driven life.
    i feel like this current worship and domination of the economy can be likened to what the church used to represent before the separation of church and state. hopefully the new paradigm will offer something wiser, as you envision.

  • Autumn Hazelhewn

    We are having the same problems north of the border as well..(I’m in Ontario). Even coming from out west back to the east I was shocked at the hit the area has taken. The government here raised minimum wage to try and help the workers out. Instead, all it did was cause everything else to rise to meet it (rent, food prices, etc) while employers cut hours and employees to compensate. There are companies out here that now consider “full-time” to be 25 hours a week.
    As to the question of how I want to live…I would be quite happy if somewhere down the line I can stop renting and actually own something. My dream used to be a house but with all the province hopping my partner and I have been doing, an RV might be a better idea! (lol)
    I don’t know what is best for our society, but I do think it will take quite the swing to make people less accepting of the “norm” of a consumer based society. A part of me would love to try living in a ‘commune’ environment where everyone worked together and there was the trade and barter of goods instead of coins. I can’t honestly say how it would work or how I would adapt to it.
    An enlightening post as usual. Thank you for giving me food for though.

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