How to Fix the Economy?
چگونه اقتصاد را درست کنيم؟
Both bad and good, Last season's fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
The economic problems are now at the forefront of the news, not just in the
Middle East and North Africa, but also in Europe, the US and the rest of the
world. It is not just the unemployment in Tunisia that gave rise to Arab Spring
but the riots in UK are rooted in the same kind of economic issues. European
states from Greece to Spain and Italy are cutting government services, and US
politicians are considering cutting retirement benefits.
Some economists are blaming the current economic crisis on the growth of the aging population and are saying it is showing itself the most in Japan, where the government provides health insurance similar to Europe and retirement programs like social security in the US. They say that not enough people are working to pay taxes. Everywhere economists are trying to come up with solutions to unemployment.
The latest plan by the Obama administration in the US is to spend on
infrastructure and create construction jobs to stir the economy. The US Congress
dominated by the Republicans do not want the US to borrow money now that they
have the Congress and not the Presidency. Moreover, Robert B. Zoellick, the
president of World Bank, foresees another global economic crisis and is asking
the US to seriously consider cutting retirement benefits. He also suggests an
overhaul of European economies in light of their massive debt.
I believe economists are still thinking in the framework of industrial society, and this is why their solutions are not working. Unfortunately, even those economists who claim to be post-industrialist, such as Stiglitz, are not offering anything more than the same old ideas of the economists of industrial society (1).
A fresh idea for solving the current problems of world economy has come from a scientist, who does not claim to be an economist and has had the humility to set the expectation that his idea will happen with an epochal change by 2045 - but frankly, if we do not plan for this program from now, we may be trying to age the new wine in the old jar, repeating the obsolete solutions of capitalism and socialism to address the fundamental issues of the postindustrial global economy. The proposal of the scientist Ray Kurzweil is very simple: we need to end scarcity.
In other words, if we can end scarcity of basic needs of people, i.e. food, clothing, shelter, education and health services, then having a job will not be the requirement to make a living anymore. Thus work will become like what many teenagers do to earn pocket money: something extra. That does not support home or family. Some may earn to buy a Rolex and others may not.
Is Kurzweil's strategy Utopian, or repeating the same old ideas to create jobs the wishful thinking that has made both Europe with its socialist plans and the US with its capitalist plans fail?
Are these ideas not theoretically supportable in economic theory? No it is not! But unfortunately those who are considered the authorities in the schools of economics do not like to pay attention to what is offered from outside their age-old schools (2).
In a letter, the late Daniel Bell, author of Post Industrial Society, noted that Karl Marx in Grundrisse was aware of the problem and assumed it would disappear, because scarcity would disappear (3).
At the time of Adam Smith and even that of Karl Marx, it would have been impossible to plan to erase scarcity, but in a post-industrial society, this is a much more viable plan than trying to make economy work by socialist plans, as it is done in Europe, or by capitalist plans, used in the US and radically supported by The Tea Party Movement (4).
If people do not depend on work for their living, the current concentrations of human dwellings will change. In fact, work as the main source to support people’s life is something that started in industrial society. In pre-industrial society, most of people's food was grown and consumed without entering the market. The point is not to go back to pre-industrial self-sufficient agriculture but rather is to emphasize that living to be dependent on work is not the model that will remain viable. It is already long overdue to pass the industrial model.
The solution is not some socialist scheme for welfare state to pay those destitute to enable them to live in the industrial model through government assistance and thus to add to government debt. It is instead to make it possible to have no scarcity to require payment for basic needs. In other words to make basic needs freely available the same way fresh air has been available in abundance on Earth for millennia through all civilizations. Even abundant fresh air will be in danger if we continue with the industrial model.
It may be argued that making basic food items like bread in abundance and available to all or even making clothing free could be doable, but doing so for housing, education and healthcare may not. But think of all the land in every country that is not used at all because of remoteness from work centers. This land could be used to provide food, shelter, and clothing in the new plan. Also regarding healthcare we need to consider changing the way we approach it in postindutrial societies (5).
It is true that all these ideas require a tremendous investment by the government but it will not be like when sugar was thrown into the ocean because it was not profitable according to the industrial model. The goal is clear: society should plan to make the basic needs of its population abundant like the air we breathe. Thus post-industrial futurist political parties may want to make such a goal the main item on their agenda to help the world get out of the vicious cycle of industrial society's dead-end of economic impasse (6).
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
1. Unemployment Cannot be Resolved by the Proposed Solutions
2. A Theory of Uniqueness Value
3. Daniel Bells' Letter about Theory of Value
4. Tea Party Illusion and Economic Reality
5. New Human Variant is Needed
6. A Futurist Vision