Generally I try to avoid complex hypothetical conversations. They tend to suck up a lot of energy whilst achieving nothing. However, unless we take the time to imagine how things could be, we can only follow the trajectory we’re on, or be steered by someone else’s vision. Here are some thoughts about what my ideal world would look like. If the idea interests you, please do post you own vision. I think there’s a lot wrong with how humans are doing things right now, but we’ll only change that if we undertake to think differently.
I believe that no one should be able to make a profit out of resources and services that are essential to life and essential to the functioning of society. I furthermore believe that every one of us who is capable of working, should be working some percentage of each week on making sure these essential things are in place and available to everyone. However we organise it in terms of money, we should be aiming to make sure that everyone has all the essentials covered. No one should be allowed to avoid contributing to essential work on the basis of wealth, and being able to buy your way, and your descendents way out of usefulness should be wholly unacceptable.
If we were all contributing to providing essential things for all people, no doubt there would be some people who felt called to do that full time, which would be fine, and they should be rewarded for that. Everyone else would then have time to study, to create, to produce things that are not essential but that improve quality of life and cause happiness. Anyone should be entitled to do this for profit if they want to. I think this would cause a shift away from wealth for the sake of it and create more interest in quality of life, and as a consequence, a better quality of life for more people. There would be more room for socialising, relaxing, resting and being physically active in playful ways.
If the core principle of a culture is that everyone is sufficient in the essentials, we’d stop creating pressures to buy and own based on ideas of scarcity. We’d become less fearful, and probably as a consequence more willing to share, exchange and gift rather than wanting to put a price tag on everything. We’d be wary of, if not immune to people who want someone else to do all the work for little gain while they rake in the profits – if everyone has enough, there’s a lot less room for exploitation.
I think we’d start to see those who want to do little and have a lot as the parasites they really are, while the myth of the feckless poor would soon disappear. If everyone is contributing to doing what’s necessary, and you have more people power than basic needs, you can just be a bit more ambitious about the baseline. If everyone can make a meaningful contribution to their culture, and if we were really interested in helping everyone contribute in the best way they could, it would soon become very obvious who wanted to participate, and who wanted to freeload. I think (based on assorted surveys about attitudes) that a good seventy five percent of us would easily engage with this way of living. Maybe more. It would be the people who feel a sense of entitlement who would be least willing to roll up their sleeves and participate, I suspect.
My approach would destroy the idea that having money is a kind of social virtue, and would instead focus us on contributing to society in more immediate ways. Doctors, firemen, engineers, scientists, teachers, farmers and the like would be highly valued for doing essential things. Creative folk would be highly valued for increasing quality of life. If most of us took our turn emptying bins, caring for small children, filling in potholes, picking fruit, etc, we’d value those jobs properly too. In fact most of us would be in a position to really value each other. Hedge fund managers and the like might seem a lot less useful as members of society.