Sunday, March 3, 2013


Some people wonder how society will work if we take away the chain of a single currency and the whip of economic insecurity.  They may believe that too few will work unless all the poor are threatened with bankruptcy and with having their loved ones kicked out of their homes.  These are sentiments worthy of Julius Caesar in the old Roman Empire.  He was a very, very educated and civilized man for his time, but humanity has learned a thing or two since then.  By today's standards he would be considered a barbaric thug and a criminal.

For many thousands of years, it took almost all able-bodied men and women to produce enough so that all could survive.  In good years, the population could increase, but in bad years, there was starvation.  The hard lessons learned in those times still carry over in our attitudes about labor and production, and who gets what.  The motivators for work were starvation, illness, and death.

Today this attitude is still common among the poor, but means nothing among the rich.  It is an attitude that may even be encouraged by the rich since it helps keep the poor in their place.

We at have made the case instead that consumption is the other side of the coin of production and is equally valuable (see our post Consumers of the World Unite!).  Science and automation have changed things so that fewer and fewer workers are able to meet the needs of more and more people.  We no longer need so many laborers producing physical things.  Indeed, manufactured things in great numbers pose a threat to the environment.

Our current economic crisis resulted in part from the fact that our economic heritage favors production over consumption.  As production becomes cheaper and easier, and our economy, run according to outdated ideas, becomes more unbalanced.  Maintaining prices becomes a greater and greater struggle.

Most people will still not accept the changes needed to make things better, however.  They know in their hearts that a person has to work in order to earn enough to consume.  To "give people money" or forgive them of their obligations is a "moral hazard."  Not so fast.  If we have learned one thing from the financial crisis, it is that the biggest "moral hazard" is a banker with a new idea.

Instead we should recognize that for those who are safe, educated, and well-fed, very few want to become lotus-eaters, doing nothing.  People with high morale, opportunities, and positive visions of the future do not want to sit around.  They want something valuable to do.

In today's world, then, perhaps we should require that people consume enough in order to deserve their jobs.  Their consumption gives others (perhaps themselves) the chance to realize their own visions.  Consumers make production, and therefore producers, valuable.  The trick is how money fits in.

This can be thought of in terms of parents and children.  Children in the United States are not allowed to work.  Their parents guarantee them food, clothing, and shelter.  They do not generally sit around and refuse to do anything, however.  Very few healthy children from positive environments want to do that.  They are not motivated by fear of scarcity and starvation.  Instead they are motivated by marginal improvements in their environment and personal status.  They are motivated by visions of greater abundance. is about abundance, not scarcity.  We want everyone to participate in the economy, "earning" money and increasing the abundance in their lives (however they interpret the term abundance).  Certainly, some are too old, too young, or too infirm to participate, but many can and will.

It will be possible to do nothing in the world that wants to build.  However, even though society guarantees everyone the basics, society is not powerless.  For example, a parent with a recalcitrant child might say, "Yes, I have to provide you with food, clothing, and shelter.  However, no law says I have to provide you with the clothing you want or the food you like, or an allowance, or the respect you think your opinions deserve.  These things you have to earn for yourself."

In the same way, society will not give the best to those who do not earn more than they consume.  Individuals will not just be handed money for nothing.  Everyone will have basic food, clothing, and shelter, and a job.  If people want to go beyond that and customize their existences, purchasing the extra things they want, then they will have to earn a surplus of money to do so.

We want everyone to be motivated to earn more and more money.  They will not need the money to buy food, clothing, and shelter, as in the barbaric past.  They will need the money to get what they want and "keep up with the Joneses."  Keeping up, moving ahead, and proving one's worth to society are powerful motivators that will keep most people working hard at both consuming and producing.

Socialism for the socialists and capitalism for the capitalists.
TheOtherSideOfCapitalism (

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