Our economy is based on consumption. And it's killing both our economy and the planet. We're using up too much in raw resources and fuel, then throwing away too much. If you don't agree with me, I'll happily debate you another time, but I'm not trying to argue about whether these things are happening on this occasion. I'm just asking some questions here of people who are willing to assume those premises are unambiguously true.
The economy is hurting. So I keep hearing we need jobs. Manufacturing jobs. We need to keep America working, making things so we'll have money to buy things. Make more, buy more. Buy more, need more. Need more, make more. Except...
I have sometimes said, indulging only a small amount of hyperbole, that there's only one real occupation in the world: growing corn. Everything else is just amusement— the process of waiting to eat. Ok, so there's more kinds of food than just corn. And there are more essentials than just food. North of a certain latitude, clothing is not just a nice idea, it's a necessity. Housing doesn't hurt. And people sometimes get sick, so health care and medicine matters.
But beyond needs, must we have a policy of consumption? What if we paid people not to consume? Maybe I finally understand carbon tax credits. But if I really do, the question becomes, why only carbon? Why not plastic? Paper? Other consumable resources?
What if we made our economy be based on things like eBay and said we'll make no more things from scatch any more. Perhaps there are enough things. Perhaps we need to relearn how to repair things when they break instead of throwing them out? Skilled watchmakers no longer have jobs because now when your watch breaks, you just buy a new one. What if we taxed the creation of new clothing or new housing in order to incentivize the reuse of things that already exist.
Must we continue to make things without considering whether we can do without them? If such freedom threatened our very survival, would we happily give up our survival for that freedom?
I have no agenda here. This question is just bugging me. I'm trying to understand how jobs function in the flow of society. Are they just entertainment? If what we do is not essential, why does it matter whether we do things? (Yes, yes, there's that pesky redistribution of wealth thing. But please ignore that for now, too. We can come back to the wealth issue in another forum.) Why not just give us some food and clothes and whatnot and be done with it? Why insist we make some useless trinket that no one needs? Is it just a way to trick people out of money? If so, isn't there a more efficient way to get their money that doesn't involve the making of useless trinkets?
We make television shows like Star Trek that say that in the future, we won't need money and we'll all just do what we like, and there will be lots of choice because the Universe is a place of plenty. Are we on track toward that? Is that what we want? It sounds like universal welfare but with the recipients having so strong a work ethic that they work anyway. I ask not because I mean to say there's anything wrong with it on Star Trek, but rather because I mean to ask whether what needs to happen, between where we are in history now and where Star Trek is in our alleged future is, for there to be the invention of more things, like flip-phones and tricorders. Or is some sort of shift in human nature the thing?
Are we going in the right direction? Are there productive paths we're not considering? We seem to be on autopilot, waiting for life to resume what it has been. Maybe a little greener, but otherwise the same. Is that enough? Is the reason we continue on our present path because we need to go in that direction? Or because we fear revolt or confusion among citizens if we don't?
When it comes to Climate Change, to recycle an old question, are those of us who aren't involved directly in the solution part of the problem?
If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.