The concept of a resource-based economy has been most notably promoted over the past few years by the Zeitgeist Movement and I find myself largely agreeing with it despite having issues, occasionally big ones, with the other concepts they promote. However, while the Zeitgeist movies helped me iron out some details, I have been thinking about something like this, in a few different forms, for the past decade. As such, this is something that I have been meaning to write about for a very long time, but so far never got around to it.
To quickly describe how I understand the concept promoted by the Zeitgeist Movement, I will say that it involves an extremely high degree of automatization, with machines producing absolutely everything that can possibly be produced without direct human intervention, which would include producing and maintaining each other. This would be aided by a very accurate system that would know what resources can be sustainably exploited and where at any one time. Then, after inputting the population’s needs and wants into this system, it would distribute said resources and the goods produced from them as fairly and efficiently as possible, in order to first meet everyone’s needs and then also provide people with as many of the things they simply want as possible.
For economy and efficiency, products meant to be used for a long time without changes, such as furniture, would be produced using methods and materials that would make them as durable as possible, so they won’t need to be replaced for a very long time, as opposed to the current trend of making them cheap but far less durable. At the same time, products that evolve rapidly, such as electronics, would be produced in a way that’d allow their components to be easily and efficiently repaired or upgraded one by one, which means using standard connectors, making as many parts easy to remove and replace, using recyclable materials in order to avoid wasting resources after replacement and so on. Last but not least, goods that most people rarely use, such as DIY tools, would not be distributed directly to people, but kept in some kind of rental centers that would function like public libraries, allowing people to take what they need, when they need it, and return the items in question once they’re done with them.
I saw in the latest movie an estimate according to which, in the conditions described above, only three percent of the population would still need to have what we’d now consider to be regular jobs, supervising the machines, intervening to solve major problems that couldn’t be solved otherwise and, of course, covering the few fields where machines won’t be able to replace people. Though I find this somewhat naive, they also claim that volunteers would easily make up the three percent, so there won’t be any need to offer them anything more than everyone else is offered.
The basic idea behind it all is that this way resources would be distributed fairly, we’d live within the planet’s limits, without causing any further destruction, and all people would have the same rights and the same chances. Also, and very importantly, by knowing that they’d no longer need to worry about earning enough to survive, all those who want to do something for others or for the world, such as inventors, artists and other such people who advance and entertain the world but who, unless they’re among the few who truly make it big, would currently starve to death unless they also have other sources of income, would be able to dedicate themselves to this, so we’d advance faster and be happier. Which makes perfect sense and, with the possible exception of having all workers be volunteers, is perfectly achievable if only we’d set our minds to it.
Now that I finished briefly explaining how I understand their proposed concept, let me start pointing out some of the differences between my ideas and theirs by saying that in some areas I’m aiming for somewhat less automatization. The basic idea would still be not to require anyone to interact with another person unless they’d actually desire to do so, but I’d like people to still have this option under some circumstances. As a result, though I’m not basing this figure on any clear estimates, I’m not aiming to reduce the number of people having what we’d now consider to be regular jobs all the way down to three percent, but only to make sure that it won’t exceed ten percent.
In addition to this, I’d also leave some traces of a monetary system. This won’t be a direct system, such as the one that currently exists, but would simply mean that each product would have an associated value, determined automatically according to the resources required and any pollution generated or harm caused in order to produce it. This would allow the system to know the total value of the available products and services, set aside what’d be stored in case of emergencies and what’d be used for the services that must be freely available to all, such as healthcare and education, and distribute a fair portion of what’s left to each person, who’d then be able to choose how to “spend” their share, so you won’t have everyone automatically getting more or less the same things, as I understand would result from the “needs” part of the Zeitgeist Movement’s concept.
Granted that allowing people to choose what they want would undoubtedly result in the demand exceeding the supply for certain products, in which case the system would first ensure that all those who truly need the product or service in question would get it, followed by those worthy of preferential treatment as a result of their extraordinary achievements. Whatever’s left, if anything, would be distributed to those who have asked for rare items the least in the past, and particularly to those who tend to not even “spend” their entire share all the time, instead choosing to save for later.
You may have noticed that I mentioned something about certain people being worthy of preferential treatment as a result of their extraordinary achievements, which means that I’m also adding a fair amount of meritocratic principles into my concept for a new economy instead of treating everyone equally. In fact, I’m splitting people into four categories, according to their actions and accomplishments, and using this to determine the exact share of the total production that each should receive.
The first category would be made up of those who have caused much suffering, are guilty of violent crimes, crimes against the environment or other such major crimes. As harsh as it may sound, I say that these people should lose their right to a decent standard of living and consider it fair to remove them from the system and imprison them in places where they’d have to somehow sustain themselves until they’d somehow prove to have changed their ways.
The second category would contain the large majority of people, who have the right to a decent standard of living simply because they were born and haven’t seriously harmed others or the environment. As a result, none of these people would be required to “earn a living” in any way, as they are today, instead being allotted an equal share of the available production to “spend” as they wish.
The third category would comprise those who’d have what we’d now consider to be jobs and perform well, who’d be rewarded with an additional share of the production, receiving up to one and a half times as much as those in the second category. Those who’d work but not perform particularly well would be put into the second category, however, as it’d be considered that they’re choosing to work simply because it brings them enjoyment and therefore that’s enough of a reward in itself.
Last but definitely not least, those who have accomplished extraordinary things would make up the fourth category. These would be the people who have prevented or solved crises or disasters or, more importantly, invented, produced or otherwise created things that have positively affected a large number of people or other animals or large parts of the planet. As a reward, on top of receiving preferential treatment when it comes to the products and services for which the demand exceeds the supply, these people would receive a share of the production equal to two to five times what those in the second category receive, for periods ranging from a few years to their entire lives, the specifics being determined according to precisely how significant their accomplishments were.
While there are a lot more details that I should mention and truly hope that I’ll get around to doing so soon enough, I think this is enough for the moment. I also think that what I wrote in this post should be enough to show that the system I have in mind would truly be fair while also preserving a large degree of individual freedom and solving some of the issues that, in my opinion, plague the concept promoted by the Zeitgeist Movement. Still, if you happen to stumble upon this post and have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them.