“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton
For the last several thousand years, this game of finance has allowed many of us to have a great deal of fun, and stretch our imaginations as we have challenged ourselves with this mathematical puzzle of fabricated limitations. Yet if we wish to survive as a species, we had best learn to refine our practices to more adequately stand our balance on this spinning dirt clod in space we call home before we make it uninhabitable. We would be wise to recognize that the fuel for our game of finance is largely comprised of the liquefied remains of the last dominant species on the planet, and we may want to use it more sparingly, as Mother Nature does not ask for a refill gently.
When Annie Leonard produced the video sensation The Story of Stuff, and wrote the book about “How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and our Health” in order to offer a vision for change, she made a very simple point. “We depend on this planet to eat, drink, breathe, and live,” she said. “Figuring out how to keep our life support system running needs to be our number-one priority. Nothing is more important than finding a way to live together – justly, respectfully, sustainably, joyfully – on the only planet we can call home.”
To make our economy sustainable, instead of merely looking to make more money, and increase the debt with which it coincides, we should be looking for as many ways as possible to operate in which money is no longer needed. We should grow food to feed people rather than to make a buck. We should administer the highest care for health in order to establish greater well-being instead of managing disease in order to increase profits. And we should develop every product with a cradle-to-cradle methodology, recognizing that waste, garbage, pollution, and trash, like money and its associate, debt, are all distinctly human constructs that should no longer be exhorted as they have been.
“If the primal tribes knew that by cut and burn they would ruin their habitat and endanger their own lives – if they actually knew that with a scientific certainty – then they would at least have thought about it a little more carefully before they began their bio-destruction,” says Ken Wilber in A Brief History of Everything. “If the Mayans knew that in killing the rain forests they were killing themselves, they would have stopped immediately, or at least paused considerably. But ignorance is ignorance; whether innocent or greedy, sacred or profane, ignorance destroys the biosphere.
“Ignorance backed by primal or tribal technology is capable of inflicting limited damage,” Wilber continues. “But the same ignorance backed by industry is capable of killing the entire world. So we have to separate those two issues – the ignorance and the means of inflicting that ignorance – because with modernity and science we have, for the first time in history, a way to overcome our ignorance, at precisely the same time that we have created the means to make this ignorance absolutely genocidal on a global scale.”107
There is no “away” to which we can throw things, and there is nobody on their way to bring another shipment of natural resources once we use all of ours on making disposable products that don’t decompose. Our current economic policy has us drawing extremely valuable, life-giving resources out of the planet so that they can be used once in order for us to play our inventive little game of accounting, and then be useless for the next several generations. A strong economy should not be measured by how much garbage we can grow, but how effectively we can make resources flow.
Since money isn’t really part of the natural world, but something that humanity fabricated as we built our tower of civilization, it is no surprise that it doesn’t follow the natural model. It is, after all, a creation of mankind, a machine we developed. The cumulative sum of all of the money printed by all of the banks at the behest of all of the governments on all of the continents throughout history has been created by nothing more than the imagination of our collective human population. And though we have imagined the majority of it into the bank accounts of an ostentatious few, should we utilize the technologies at our disposal toward more democratic means, and instill a new set of rules into the game to ensure that every player gets the opportunity to play without having to gamble with their survival, we may have the opportunity to create a sustainable way of living in the world.
Currently, our method of valuing human life is of gelatinous consistency and getting thinner. We squabble over establishing a minimum wage, using a tumultuous market to inadequately measure the value of time, energy, resourcefulness, and service that a person offers. Yet we rarely question initiating some sort of maximum wage, instead demanding the necessity for multiple losers so that we can merely have a few really big winners. Although we’ve developed some very creative means of establishing a basis of worth for a human life and the proportional ingenuity, dedication, industriousness, and skill, it is still rather arbitrary, and the methodology behind valuing one person at ten dollars per hour while another earns a few thousand per hour for doing less has very little scientific rationale to it at all. What if we could assign a value to human life, ensuring a living wage to every member of the species that would ensure that they have an adequate amount to comfortably survive and the guaranteed potential to make more money based upon their participation?
In the game of Monopoly, each player gets 1,500$ to start with, for without that investment, the banker would have no game. Since the entirety of our population is forced to participate in the game of money, why do we not empower them in the same manner? What if we were to more greatly value human existence and ensure their ability to engage with the construct we’ve created by automatically meeting their basic needs of safety, security, and health, so that everyone has a stable starting point from which to advance in their relationships, education, profession, self-actualization, and participation in society?
“Equality of opportunity is not enough,” says Ha-Joon Chang in 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. “Unless we create an environment where everyone is guaranteed some minimum capabilities through some guarantee of minimum income, education, and healthcare, we cannot say that we have fair competition. When some people have to run a 100 metre race with sandbags on their legs, the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not make the race fair. Equality of opportunity is absolutely necessary but not sufficient in building a genuinely fair and efficient society. The best way to boost the economy is to redistribute wealth downward, as poorer people tend to spend a higher proportion of their income.”
What is currently being referred to as a Universal Basic Income is nothing new. English radical Thomas Spence, French revolutionary Marquis de Condorcet, and American founding father Thomas Paine all proposed the idea in the 18th century. It has been mentioned a number of times since, perhaps most surprisingly by US President Richard Nixon. The new generation of billionaires like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, as well as a number of other Silicon Valley executives, support the idea as well. Countries like Canada, Finland, Scotland, Germany, and India are discussing its possibility to support the livelihood of citizens, and many of them already have experiments underway to test its feasibility.
As many of the tasks people are currently getting paid for become automated, it may very well be that the leisure the Industrial Revolution promised may come to light, and people will be out of work. A study from Oxford University estimates that as much as 47% of the population will be unemployed due to automation. But the question remains… how do we decide how much of a basic income people should get?
What if every person on the planet were to receive a standard living allowance based on their age? An infant would receive 1,000$ for her first year on the planet, increasing incrementally each year so that as a twenty-year-old she is receiving 20,000$, as a forty-year-old she is receiving 40,000$, as a seventy-year-old she is receiving 70,000$, and each and every person is granted the same, to then invest and play with as they wish, while we all create the lives we imagine, and no one need suffer unnecessarily.
Would our economy work better if we all started at the same level, with the ensured ability to pay our way and live an enjoyable life? How would we fund such a thing you may ask? How about redistributing some of what’s being hoarded?
For those who have over 15 million dollars, as William Gates Sr. said, you’ve got enough for you and your progeny to live comfortably, luxuriously, and downright irresponsibly if you want to be, for the next few generations. So we could feasibly leave that 15 million alone, and the rest, we could put back into circulation, and buy some freedom for the other people who share the planet with you, those who do the heavy lifting so you don’t have to. If you need any of it, like if you somehow manage to spend that 15 million on Faberge egg omelettes and demolition derby yachts, you let us know, and we’ll have your back to make sure that you still have your basic needs met as you learn how to be a decent and responsible human being.
For the devoted capitalists who crave competition, we have, according to Maslow’s expanded theory, eight actual levels of needs: Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Self-esteem, Cognitive, Aesthetic, Self-actualization, and Self-transcendence. Could we possibly provide at least the physiological needs of food and water and the safety needs of shelter and healthcare for all of our citizens, and limit our competitions to some of the latter needs? Could we recognize the abundance to ensure people’s survival and reserve our ego-based competitions for our self-esteem, education, décor, position, and godhood without forcing poverty upon others?
In our current operating system, we are, in many ways, moving along in a very imbalanced way. Our politicians can’t seem to balance budgets. The gap between economic classes creates astounding disparity. The consumption rates of industrialized nations exhibit extreme imbalances in relation to what resources they provide. Isn’t it time that we started taking a more conscious approach to our economic energies and how we engage them on both individual and collective levels?
Although I am no big fan of the government taking money to do things that we as a people should be doing for ourselves, I do recognize the role of taxes in distributing the wealth of each individual so that we all may have a stronger and more abundant common wealth. Yet as free people, this money should not be taken from us so that the Law becomes such a reigning force in our society and serves to limit our freedom.
However, the technology at our disposal could allow us to ensure that the digital monies we move around between one another bring abundance not only to our individual selves, but to the collective wealth of the world we inhabit. My recommendation is the development of a voluntary system which would work within the established parameters of the current system, but by bypassing the quagmire of bureaucracy, would inevitably make the current system obsolete. There is indeed a necessary element of socialization, as there should be with a social system such as human civilization, yet it would not be forced, would offer more involved participation in societal development, and would grant a more adequate proliferation of collective abundance and personal choice.
For instance, the development of the blockchain now allows each individual the power to personally account for all of their economic energy. Imagine if we each had a choice as to where our money went with each transaction, and what systems it helped to support. Imagine an infrastructure through which our financial energy could be channeled to cultivate the lives we truly want instead of being co-opted to support initiatives that do not uphold the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we are entitled to. Isn’t it possible to use blockchain technology to program an individual’s transactions to channel portions of them to address the ways they naturally interact with the world?
There is an aberration in the way we currently view our economy as something that needs to grow. We should be seeing it as something that needs to flow. The economy, this mental construct that we’ve created, should not be seen as a way to make money by assuming more debt, but as a means of providing for life to flourish. Perhaps we should take a look at how life flourishes in the natural world.
In western civilization, we tend to consider the four elements of Nature to be Water, Air, Earth, and Fire (Eastern thought sometimes includes wood, metal, and ether, depending upon the region, but let’s just keep things simple with four for now). Likewise, humans are said to be made up of four complimentary elements of Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit. The Heart provides the emotional flow (and as a muscle, moves blood/water through the body so that it may realize life), the Mind conceives ideas as if out of thin air, the Body connects us with the physical world and the earth we live upon, and the Spirit provides that fire within each of us that inspires us to connect, grow, and prosper.
We see that society is also comprised of four different parts. We have the emotive expression of Artistry as we create our individual lives, the rational understanding and infrastructure of Business, the living ecosystem of Citizenry, and the warming connection of Community. Through all that we do, we are each the Artists of our own lives, in the Business of providing for ourselves and others, the Citizen which participates in society, and the Community to which we give ourselves. In order to address our abundance adequately, and no longer have to trouble ourselves with not having enough, our financial energy should be channeled into balanced streams so that our economy may prosper in a more balanced way through a healthy flow.
By developing a technological infrastructure that would accommodate an individual to select the channels through which his/her digital financial flow can be dispersed, we could empower individuals to take a more proactive role in their lives and the lives around them. Utilizing this simple ABC2 Economics model, individuals could ensure their livelihood as Life Artists, the infrastructure of Business which supports their participation, the Citizenry that comprises an interdependent society, and the Community which ensures the cessation of suffering caused by the current engine of unlimited growth, industrial enslavement, economic inequality, and unyielding debt.
Let me give you an example. What if, for each dollar that I make (or any economic unit, be it a bitcoin, yen, euro, or time dollar), a portion goes to support me as the Artist of my life, a portion goes to the Business (or businesses) that served as the means through which I was able to accrue that dollar, a portion would address my Citizenry by supporting my local infrastructure and necessary governmental functions, and a portion would go to the Community with whom I share the world, wherever I decide I’d like to help. In this way, we map out our connection to the world around us through this web we create, bringing us into greater harmony with Nature, our community, and the needs of the planet.
It would ensure that I was provided for to create the life that I want, allow me to be purposeful in my endeavors as I would be able to support other entrepreneurs, empower me to participate more closely in my government, and give to what I think is worthy.
Practically, many citizens already utilize this model in some way, shape, or form. Citizens who have found themselves in a place of conscious participation in the economy know that these four aspects of their reality must be addressed in order for them to create an enjoyable life for themselves. By building upon this model, which comes so naturally to those who most masterfully engage their economic prowess, and making it more accessible to the mainstream, we can provide the opportunity for every citizen to take a more active role as a co-creator in the life we all imagine, thriving harmoniously in abundance, creativity, purposefulness, and peace.
What if, instead of the government taking a citizen’s money and continually enabling an imbalanced budget, each citizen could decide how much financial energy each department would receive from their financial flow? What if they could also assign a percentage from each of their transactions to support charitable efforts they care about? Aren’t we technologically advanced enough to support a true economic democracy?
Considering that so many of our transactions are now electronic, could we not guide our personal digital economies similarly to the way that we establish our Facebook profiles? I see a time soon that I will be able to click the businesses involved in a given transaction, click the endeavors for infrastructure that I feel should be addressed, and click the needs that I want to help fill, and then go out and live my life without having to worry about all of the problems of the world. Until I can find someone to help me write the algorithm, now that I’m using money again, I suppose that, for the time being, I’ll just have to do it manually.
That, I suppose, is a subject for another book.
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