A NEW FORM OF SOCIETY
Need for a new economic order
Our current economic order, the market economy, is based on an idea by Adam Smith. Adam Smith lived 250 years ago, in a time of hunger, hardship, and ignorance. He invented competition and it generated growth. That led us to today’s prosperity. Read More
About 50 years ago we reached a level at which more was being produced than was consumed. If everything would be distributed fairly, then all people would be adequately supplied with means of need. At that time, the Club of Rome’s “Limits for Growth” appeared and the first scientists worried about whether the market economy could continue like this.
The basic law of the market economy is called growth. Growth requires more and more consumption and more consumption leads to depletion of the earth’s supplies, more waste and CO2. This waste of resources is bringing us closer and closer to collapse. The growth in the global north is disproportionately high whilst the global south is increasingly disadvantaged as a result. The growth must therefore be stopped as soon as possible.
Because this law has worked so well for the past 250 years, nobody wants to do anything against it. Politicians and governments firmly believe in it as a law of nature and worship it like a god. Demands to politicians and governments will therefore not change today’s society.
One possibility of change would be a revolution according to Karl Marx. Karl Marx wanted to abolish the oppression of the working population and, by nationalizing capital, prevent the creation of profit that the capitalist appropriates and accumulates. But that’s not as easy today as it was 100 years ago.
At Marx there were still people who represented the economy. The October Revolution in Russia was successful because there were capitalists who could be expropriated. Today we have a global economy that is extraordinarily diverse. The global economy consists of billions of jobbers who do everything to keep their jobs, millions of start-ups who do everything to repay their loans and of millions of companies who do everything to ensure a minimum growth, because otherwise they are to be swallowed by the giants.
This global economy cannot be expropriated. There is also nobody who would do that, because many people are not doing bad enough for that. Today we need a different plan than a revolution.
The market economy dates back to the 18th century and was made for hardship and deficiency, not for abundance. We need a completely different economic system that can do without growth.
We need a new way of looking at society and the economy that takes into account our current level of knowledge and our current technical capabilities.
A new economy, the gift-economy
The air you breathe is a gift from nature. It doesn’t cost anything. Water is also something that the earth gives us. Likewise the oil, the grain and many other things.
We give these things an artificial value, buy them and so they belong to us and we do what we want with them. This in turn gives us the right to bottle the water and sell it at high prices. And when we get tired of things, we just throw them away. Disposal is regulated by law.
It is nonsensical to rate things with work, it’s like trying to rate an apple by loudness.
Because things have value, politics influence us to consume far too many of these things just to keep the gross national product growing. This consumption ultimately leads to the melting of the polar ice caps, pollution of the oceans with microplastics and a cruel decrease in biodiversity.
But actually it contradicts all natural laws. The iron from which the sheet metal of the car is made is a gift from the earth. The grain that has grown in the field is harvested, ground and baked into bread. According to the law of the conservation of mass, it did not multiply. The same amount of electrical energy that our coffee machine consumes has also come from the earth free of charge with natural gas or taken from the wind or sunlight for free. The material or the energy have not increased in “quantity”, that is not possible at all. The amount of everything has stayed the same, it has only been changed by human labour.
The treasures of the earth are free, so they cannot be bought and therefore they do not belong to us. They are part of the natural cycle. We can take what we need to live, but no more.
We could easily restore a reasonable world order by separating work from things, and then all things are free again.
If things don’t cost anything, then of course the work can’t cost anything either. The work will then just be done. This also eliminates the paradox that the work that is done inside your own apartment or garden is free and the work outside must be paid for. Or the paradox that the work you spend on caring for relatives or raising children is worthless in contrast to the working hours you spend at your desk.
Just as we keep our apartment clean today, take away the rubbish and take care of food and clothing for our relatives, we later ensure that the city is clean and that the production of goods and daily supplies are assured. We do this because we feel responsible for it and not because we are paid for one and not for the other.
What are the advantages of the new social order?
Since we are no longer encouraged to consume through advertising, much less is consumed. This conserves our natural resources and generates less CO2. If we are given everything for free, we perceive it as a gift from nature and we will want to protect nature much better.
Care work is the same as previously paid work. We can now voluntarily do anything we dreamed of. Starting with the support of our relatives and the care of our children, artistic activities, even up to large projects like the reforestation of the rainforests, as we do not have to pay attention to the financial aspects.
The health care and retirement provision of all people on earth is assured and since we do not have to work for recreational consumption as we do today, the work is probably done three days a week. With secure old-age provision, the world population will shrink significantly within one or two generations.
So nothing stands in the way of a new social order without money.
Brussels, May 2021, Eberhard Licht
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