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".