Friday, 23 June 2017

The Lentils Economy

“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn't have any kind of prison. Because of this, we didn't have any delinquents. Without a prison, there can't be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn't afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn't know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white man arrived and I don't know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society."
-John Fire Lame Deer

In my earlier blog posts, I wrote about capitalism being a system that is ecologically unsustainable and dependent on socially harmful wealth inequality. A common response to this by pro-capitalists is that capitalism may not be perfect, but it's the best system we can have. They then point to communism as being a dismal failure. I would agree that communism is a failure, because it has the same ideological underpinning as capitalism, which is that the earth and life on it ought to be transformed from a into a set of commodities. Capitalism and communism both agree that the accumulation of material possessions is of utmost importance for happiness. The fact that they disagree on how to go about maximizing material possessions is only a secondary characteristic of the two systems.

Beyond capitalism and communism, dozens of other economic systems have been proposed, yet they all tend to focus on a standard of living measured by the accumulation of material possessions. Factors such as social cohesion, quality of relations, quality of life, and mental and physical health are secondary considerations if considered at all.
I would like to propose an economic system founded on the principle of the maximization of leisure time. To clarify, I mean leisure time in the strict sense of 'time' rather than how one spends that time or what one does during that time. I call this economic system the Lentils Economy.

In the Lentils Economy, maximizing leisure time and creating time for building social relationships requires the minimization of work time; work time being defined as time spent on producing or accumulating material possessions. For this to occur, work time must only be spent on producing the essential commodities, as given in the list below:

-Food, such as unprocessed easy to produce and easy to store natural foods such as nutritious dried lentils. These lentils and basic grains such as barley would be eaten by people and not used as they are now in great amounts to feed food animals (such as cows and pigs), as the conversion to animal protein is not very efficient and is associated with climate change accelerating methane emissions. The "farm animals"* in the Lentils Economy would be mainly draft and pack animals to help with growing crops, along with pets, and they would all be treated well.
-Shelter, durable and made of sustainable materials such as cobb and rammed earth.
-Clothing, again must be durable and made of sustainably grown natural fibres such as cotton or linen (from flax or hemp)
-Basic personal items such as soap and toothbrushes, and basic medical and dental equipment

Once decent surpluses are built-up of the above items, people would then have no shortage of leisure time. I would also propose that social systems and living arrangements, such as nearby soup kitchens where volunteers take turn making meals for a large group, would be integrated with the Lentils Economy to further reduce time spent on secondary work. I define secondary work as laborious tasks not directly tied to accumulating commodities, such as cooking and cleaning.

To contrast the Lentils Economy with the capitalist system, in the Lentils Economy the following items would be mostly absent:

-Marketing (no one needs to have someone create a commercial telling people they ought to eat lentils if they want to be happy)
-Cars (cars are not needed to grow food, build shelter, or produce clothing. The manufacture and resource extraction involved is nothing but a ton of unnecessary work. Walking or jogging are excellent healthy alternatives to sitting in a car)
-Electricity (The building and running of power plants and the building and maintenance of transmission lines is tedious. Humanity lived for hundreds of thousands of years without electricity, and in recorded history it is not found that the lack of electricity made people depressed and anxious [anxiety and depression being common traits of people living under capitalism])
-Large amounts of metal (the smelting of metals is laborious and releases much fumes. Items typically made of metal, such as utensils could easily be made of wood instead. Metal farming implements such as hoes, rakes, shovels and axes would be useful, but they could be salvaged from the wreck of the capitalist economy, as the Lentils Economy would follow or replace the capitalist system rather than arise ex nihilo)
-Plastic (again, wood or other natural plant fibres would be used instead and the plants and trees cut down would be replanted)
-Toxic waste (there would be virtually no manufacturing outside of basic cottage industries, so no toxic waste would be created. Fish would not contain methylmercury)
-Privately owned recorded music (the electronic devices for playing the music are processed using many toxic chemicals [see above] and therefore would not be built). People would still want to listen to music, so local musicians would flourish. People who otherwise couldn't afford privately owned music would then be able to listen in for free.

In the new system, some things are lost, and some are gained (clean air, water, and soil, and much more leisure time). The question to ask is, what things really matter? What things don't really matter so much? Reflect on that a bit, and maybe some aspects of the Lentils Economy will appeal to you.

*Some have argued that the food animals that are currently called "farm animals" (chickens, sheep, pigs, cows, etc.) should really be more accurately referred to as "farmed animals".

Saturday, 25 March 2017

One path to wealth equality

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."
-Archbishop Hélder Câmara

The answer to why the poor are poor is that the poor are a critical ingredient for a capitalist society to exist. There must a large pool of unemployed labourers who haven't the means to provide for themselves willing to sell their labour to capitalists. The capitalists in turn derive surplus value (profit) through paying the workers less than the value of labour that the workers provide. The capitalists (from their perspective) would ideally pay the workers the bare minimum needed to survive. Fortunately for the workers, the government intervenes with policies such as the minimum wage and employment insurance. The capitalists certain appreciate it then, when groups such as the church provide money for the poor, because it gets the capitalists off the hook for providing welfare through their taxes, so they can get away more easily with hiding their money in offshore tax havens.

To keep the pool of unemployed large, capitalist countries must have either a positive population growth rate, or very limited upward mobility for the poor. Upward mobility is a negative issue for the system and the capitalists, because if the children of the those who precariously lived in the labour pool go on to become rentiers, then they need to be replaced by more landless labourers (or they cannot easily collect rents). The system is happy for people to be downwardly mobile, such as in the case of the middle class getting crushed down into the lower class.

Here is a way, in theory, of how to restore some balance by arranging that the process of the rich getting richer and the poor poorer at least be temporarily halted by a reset. The first method is to reset everyone's bank account to the same value (could be zero, but $1000 each would allow for spending on basic necessities). The second is to redistribute the land more equitably, and to resolve the socially parasitic drain of absentee land owners. This could be done by reassigning any second properties to a government agency, who would expropriate the properties and redistribute them. In the case that those second properties are rented out to tenants, it might make sense to simply assign those current renters as the new owners. Because both the accounts and the land registry are saved in computers, two algorithms, which could be used to insert codes at the appropriate places (all banks and all land registries) would look this:

A) Bank Account Reset Algorithm (Set everyone's balance to $1000).

While (AccountNumber <= TotalAccounts) {
    AccountNumber.setBalanceValue (1000);

B) Land Registry Reset Algorithm (Assigns ownership to government agency, or current tenants if it's rented).

Flag RegistryNumber.Owner(multiple properties);

While (FlaggedRegistryNumber <= TotalFlaggedRegistries) {
    if FlaggedRegistryNumber = rented
          FlaggedRegistryNumber.setOwner (CurrentTenants);
    FlaggedRegistryNumber.setOwner (GovernmentAgency);

The purpose of the above code samples is merely to show that there are ways to bring about more equality, that the fundamental systems can indeed be changed. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

What is the news?

“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality."
-Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, from The General Idea of the Revolution (1851):

Due to my aversion to exposing myself advertisements, I listen to an ad-free government funded public music radio station. Despite the lack of ads, the station (CBC Radio 2), always stops on the hour every hour to deliver the news, in exactly the same manner as a private radio station never fails to stop for a commercial break.

While listening to the news, I noticed an intriguing trend. I noticed that whenever something happens in a country, the action or comment by the head of state of that country is always given. For instance, if a plane crash ever happens is Russia, the CBC News never fails to report how Vladimir Putin expressed in condolences, and possibly how Putin himself personally ordered an investigation. It is likewise for other countries. If there is a terrorist attack, the CBC News always reports how the head of state of whatever country it happened in made a speech condemning the attack. It just about never occurs that the head-of-state-commentary-free factual event alone is reported.

So why must we always know what the heads of states have to say about everything? And what is the universal message of these heads of state? Whether the message is from your own head of state of another state, the message is the same, just as an advertisement for one particular brand of car is still an ad for the overall lifestyle of car driving and road paving. The message given time and time again is that these heads of state are paternally caring for us, as though we are endangered children, who are dependent on them. The head of state is the representation of the state and of the embodiment of the concept of the state. We must keep hearing this same message over and over again because it is how the states justify themselves. The states keeps us in a system of increasing wealth inequality, and ensures through their enforcement of capitalist relations (carried on with the unspoken threat of police action in case of any serious dissent) that the rentiers become richer and the workers poorer. We must hear about the state this, and the state that, so that we gradually cease to imagine a world without these capitalist states intervening in everything. 

When we allow ourselves to constantly be informed of frightening things such as daily mass shootings, and then be consoled by the state, we become like a patient who is covertly made sick by his doctor, and then always looking for his doctor to cure him. Avoiding the news altogether is the best way to avoid being sucked in to such a stultifying cycle.