I don’t give a fuck about “the economy,” and you shouldn’t either. I put that term in air-quotes because the term as it’s used on the news has little to do with genuine economics. At its core, the term “economics” denotes the intelligent management of finite resources, but when pundits and politicians say it, they mean the opposite. The most efficient methods by which we can waste this world’s precious resources and turn the entire planet into a landfill.
Unfortunately, we still feel compelled to talk about environmental reform in terms of “economic” growth. Environmentalism is “good for the economy,” we insist in some petty attempt to placate who still think creating jobs should be our number one priority. Here’s a tweet from my friend Daryn Caister to illustrate the point.
Now, Daryn, if you happen to be reading this, I’ve got nothing but love for you and your message, but I think, as a culture, we’re all suffering from some truly warped priorities. Whenever election season rolls around, people tend to list “economic” health and job creation as their primary concern, and right-wing parties do a very good job of convincing the mases that their policies are most effective at keeping people employed. (Even though the opposite is true).
As a result, those of us who prioritize living on a planet that can support human life, find ourselves trying to placate the huge mass of people who vote Conservative because they keep folks working and prevent those bums from stealing your hard-earned tax dollars. Well, I’m here to tell you something: it’s time to stop. We’ve been trying to placate these people for fifty years; it’s not working, and we’re out of time. The fact of the matter is that the economy does not need to grow; in fact, it needs to shrink.
We’ve been over this before, but since the topic keeps coming up the closer we get to election day, let’s go back to Resource Management 101. There are many other environmental concerns besides Global Warming. At the moment, we’re using resources far faster than the Earth can replenish them. (Over 1.5 times as fast). That means forests are shrinking, fish populations are declining, arable land is fading fast and the precious metals that we use to make many of our gadgets are being gobbled up at an alarming rate. Our society needs resources to survive, and thus we need to learn to live within our means. At the moment, we’re creating a resource debt that future generations will have to pay, and the more the “economy” grows, the faster that debt will accumulate. Money is a fiction, a mathematical abstraction. A financial debt can be nullified with the stroke of a pen; a resource debt will cause starvation. Mass starvation.
“So what’s the solution?” you say. Well, let’s go back to first principles and ask ourselves some fairly simple questions. Why do we want the economy to grow? Because it will create a greater demand for labour, which will lead to more jobs. And why do we want more jobs? Because people need them to get money so that they can use that money to acquire the resources they need. (Food, shelter, medicine. Even entertainment).
So what if we just gave people access to resources?
The knee-jerk response to think such a thing is impossible is based on the assumption of scarcity. But scarcity is no longer a reality in the modern world. We’re already producing more food than we actually need, and we have the capacity to produce even more with far greater efficiency. We have access to renewable energy sources that more than meet our needs. We can create potable water from almost any source. So if we have more than enough “stuff” to go around, why not just give people unconditional access to the essentials?
The best thing about these technologies? Their environmental impact is minimal. We could create a sustainable society where nobody starves, where nobody endures poverty. How could we minimize the wasteful nature of mass production? By producing goods to be as durable and modular as possible and by implementing a system of Strategic Access.
Now, what do I mean by that? Strategic Access is a concept – a fairly intuitive concept – where you realize that most of us don’t need the junk that clutters up our houses. Strategic Access is already being implemented through organizations like the Hamilton Tool Library. Instead of everyone buying their own set of tools, they simply borrow the tools they need and return them. This makes all kinds of sense when you realize that your wrenches and screwdrivers spend most of their time sitting in your tool box unused. This way, we produce fewer goods, and those goods are always being used by someone. The same can be true with cars, computers, cameras, etc. The only set of products that doesn’t lend itself to strategic access is clothing. (For obvious reasons). Possibly furniture.
And if I still haven’t convinced you, let me make it abundantly clear that job creation is a losing game. Experts have come forward in droves to confirm that as technology becomes more and more sophisticated, the demand for human labour will diminish.
So to make a long story short, I don’t give a fuck about “the economy.” Creating jobs isn’t helpful; it only leads to resources being expended at an alarming rate while still depriving many people of the life sustaining resources they need. I want the economy to shrink, not grow. I want there to be fewer jobs (or better yet, the same amount of jobs with everyone working fewer hours.)
Work is a means to produce a high quality of life; it should never be thought of as an end unto itself. If we can produce a wonderful standard of living with less human labour, then by all means, let’s do so. Politicians are offering twentieth century solutions to twenty-first century problems. So when you pick from the many horrible options on your ballot, choose the person who is most likely to ensure that we’ll still have a planet to live on in thirty years.
You should check out Symbiosis. Why? ‘Cause it’s awesome, that’s why!
Who are you to resist it, huh?