QUESTIONS ABOUT NEGATIVE GROWTH AND UTOPIAS
I’ve never seen a right-wing rebuttal to the environmentalist idea of “negative growth.”
Here’s the environmentalists talking; “We’re running out of natural resources and yet all the governments (both communist AND capitalist) PLUS all the corporations are united in saying, ‘We have to produce more every year, we have to grow the corporation/GDP of country or else we are losers.’ So we are wasting our last bits of natural resources making billions of tons of plastic crap that no one even wants, just to pump up the corporate profits and GDP of our overlords.”
And , here’s comedian Doug Stanhope talking; “They say the job of government is to keep unemployment down. I say the job of government is to make unemployment 100%! Let the fucking machines do the work!”
He’s kidding, but it’s a serious point: technology has allowed one worker to do the work of 10 or even 100 people. Especially in areas like farming where once upon a time 90% of the people in the tribe had to spend all day growing or killing food. Now most of us can live our whole lives and never meet a farmer. So if we as a society can get by with just 3% of the population making enough food, why do the other 97% have to do ANYTHING for a living?
Sure, you’d still need people to do medicine and make houses and transport the food. But still if you added up all the people in America or Europe, I bet that all those jobs aren’t more than 10% of the people. So you’re still looking at a good solid 87% of motherfuckers that have to slave away their whole lives doing unnecessesary shit.
I know there are problems with this simplified and utopian way of thinking. But I’m mad that there are no right-wingers attacking it. It’s like it’s so far off the map they don’t even feel the need to defend themselves.
Hey, normal sellout-ass economists!
What exactly would go wrong if a country’s GDP went down?
What would happen if a corporation’s profits went down one year?
What chain of horrible events would unfold from this?
And is that chain of events automatically happen, like gravity or the speed of light? Or would this chain of bad consequences be avoidable by restructuring the economic system?
It’s like the economists that think about shit like this for a living have no background in ecology and never factor shrinking resources into their equations, and the hippies have no background in economics so they can’t articulate what a negative-growth economy/company might look like or need in order to function.
But to me it’s a fascinating debate.
And if square economists and think tank dongs won’t debate me, fuck it. I’m going to have to attack my OWN theory, just to get the ball rolling;
PROBLEM ONE; who would decide which jobs were bullshit?
I mean, human resources people and “image consultants” and “celebrity makeup artists” and people who spray the nice smell onto the toilet tissue at the TP factory, I think we can all agree that these are bullshit jobs. But what about stuff that I like, like musicians and artists? Aren’t these jobs also un-necessary, compared to farmers, doctors and house builders? (my gut response is, that the whole point of getting rid of jobs is to allow people to work less and enjoy life more, so professional entertainers/actors should lose their jobs but regular people should make their own entertainment and build their skills)
PROBLEM TWO; Why should the people laid off from bullshit jobs be rewarded with free food and shelter every month, while the people with “real” jobs still have to work their asses off? “Hey, but at least you are doing legitimate work!”
I guess for a lot of your low-skilled farming/construction jobs you could have people work 2 or 3 months a year, which would give enough time to train them to be semi-skilled workers. But
2a) there would still be a huge amount of labor time wasted, because instead of spending xxx hours training one full-time person, you’d be spending 10xxx hours training 10 part-time people. Hmm. Also,
2b) this still leaves the problem of how to compensate the super-skilled laborers, artisans, jet engine designers, lawyers, surgeons, engineers and etc, who would all have to work full-time, because the training takes years and not many people are qualified anyway.
PROBLEM THREE; if all the folks with bullshit jobs got prematurely retired so that they could lead carefree lives of self-improvement and creativity, that would make a huge increase in demand for books, paint, musical instruments, ceramics, and other “building blocks” of creativity and self-expression. Which would mean that certain OTHER people would have to be rounded up and sent BACK to work to make those things. “Happy retirement! Psyche! Get back to work!”
PROBLEM FOUR; a huge question that is hard to articulate; how would we ensure that the leisure time is “good leisure” (i.e. painting, writing, spending time with family) and not “bad leisure” (boredom, hopelessness, loss of dignity, feeling permanently unemployed, stuck 24/7 with a family you can’t stand, etc?)
PROBLEM FIVE: money! If 87% of the population is not working (or alternatively if everyone works just a few weeks a year) then how do they get the money to pay for necessities? welfare?
I mean if you pay farmers way more than everybody else, to compensate them for having to do work while everyone else is being a poet or fan-fiction-manga draw-er. . . that won’t solve the problem. Here’s why; If you increase their pay tenfold , then they’ll just only grow 10 percent of the crops they grew last year, make the same income they made last year, then take the rest of the year off, and then everyone else will starve. Or if they DID bust ass and make enough food, because lured by the promise of way more money than CEOs and lawyers. . .what would they spend the money on? All the jobs making neclaces and crowns and rolls royces went away.
Also this somehow ties in to the horrifying statistic about how , since the late ‘60s the average American worker’s productivity has gone waaaay up (due to better technology) and yet wages have remained constant or gone down. All the benefits from the productivity have gone to the CEOs and investors, and the skilled laborers got fired and replaced with robots. But they got rehired as burger flippers, who are flipping burgers 3 times as fast as burger flippers did in the ‘60s, so to an economist it’s all the same thing! It’s all good bro!
Here’s some links to a blogger I’ve been following for years, who is convinced 50 years from now there will be no more oil, gas, or electric utilities, and we’ll all be living like covered-wagon pioneers. It’s not a utopia by any means, but he works out the unforeseen consequences of gov’t policy, and the implications for the future, and tiny realistic details of how life will be, in a way that I wish more utopia-nerds would.
PART FUCKING TWO;
Since I was a kid reading too much sci-fi, I’ve always believed the true measure of civilization is; “the more civilized a society is, the more free time everyone will have”
Now I’m older and smarter, I realize that this would be a tough sell to poor people of the world, in areas where they want but can’t get jobs, and don’t have the money to enjoy their leisure time, so they spend it being bored and frustrated.
So, first I have to make some theory of how to tell “good leisure” apart from “bad leisure”, and then somehow structure the utopian vision so that it maximizes the former and minimizes the latter. . . and THEN I can start selling it to The Poors in order to bring the revolution.
To start telling good leisure apart from bad, i’m imagining a sort of matrix.
Small matrix. Don’t panic. the top row is RICH, bottom is WORKERS. Left column is unhappy, right is happy. Simple enough.
LOUCHE. believe it or not, there are some rich people who ALSO can’t enjoy their leisure because bored and no ambition or creativity, and are so isolated within their own privileged networks it never occurs to them to go new places and try new things. so they just get into some decadent shit to obliterate their crushing soul-lessness.
people who are rich enough to spend most of the week doing family stuff, creative stuff, meeting with like-minded hobbyists in RL to make communities, civic shit.
people who DO have a job but hate it. nuff said. working too much, in order to pay debts and etc.
they can’t get a job but lack the a) money to enjoy their leisure, and, ironically just like the LOUCHE, they b) they’re kept so segregated, with few opportunities to experience different lifestyles, art-school training, or different places, that they simply lack . . . well, the imagination to think of free fun stuff. Nobody in Hunters Point is like “Hey fellows, tuesday is free astronomy night at the exploratorium!” pPlus if you’re poor , as they say, ‘you pay with time’, dealing with all the city bureaucracies to obtain food and shelter, penal bullshit., probably a lot of underclass people are busy anyway.
SOMEWHERE IN THERE
probably there should be a box for people who DO enjoy their jobs, or at least enjoy the work-life balance that their jobs give them. I’ve never met anyone like that, but – devil’s advocate – I’m assuming they’re out there, and probably I should talk to a few of them, if I want to solve the problem of “How do you tell essential workers – doctors, house-builders, farmers, truckers – to keep working when all the non-essential workers (human resources fuckos, junk-mail printers, musicians, people designing 4-color graphics for happy meal packaging, etc) to take a permanent vacation?”
Like I said, utopias are hard.
I am also working on an epic progressive rock tune in 11/7 time on this exact theme. There will be poor-quality imitation Mellotrons.
Oh, also, here’s more from me about why we need more crackpot utopia theories from random average fuckers.1 comment