Monday, February 8, 2010

A Question for Capitalists

I have a question. Yes, this is somewhat long, but details and explanation are required to help provide full context for the argument.

Since Capitalism, and the more general fundamental concept of the Monetary System that the entire world employs, relies on the supply and demand model, how do you address technological advances that eliminate scarcity and provide surplus supply with limited and in some cases zero manpower required for daily operations? Especially since the current system was developed several hundred years ago in an Agrarian society where human toil and hand tools were the primary source for all work done for all purposes, so purchasing power was directly related to human labor, and justifiably so...back then.

For example: We have the technical capability to build solar powered, fully automated robotic food production facilities that require no people to run. They can be outdoor or indoor facilities, so they can be built anywhere no matter the climate of the region. They can use soil or hydroponic technologies, with hydroponics being overall better in the grand scheme of things since that technology prevents soil depletion (like what happened to the soil of Haiti and why it's so prone landslides). They can, like cars do now, be programmed to notify a local technical staff when they require maintenance, so production would never cease, and they can be programmed to produce vast amounts of food (both plant and animal) 24/7/365 in all locations of the world.

Capitalistic self preservation requires that businesses prevent this kind of technological use, because of it was used in this most humane and amazing way, every man, woman and child on the planet would have access to vast amounts of food all produced on a local level so as to reduce needs for shipping internationally. The multi-billion dollar a year food industry would completely disappear, because in effect, all food would now be as free as the air we breathe. You cannot sell air because it's plentiful for all. The use of advanced technology can do the same for food, shelter, transportation and a lot more.

So how does one address the situation where we have the technical means to provide plenty for all, but the system under which we live requires that a false sense of scarcity be in place to ensure "price" remains at an acceptable level, even if that means people must starve? Just look at the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, where during the Great Depression, even though we had surpluses of food throughout the country, the government purposefully destroyed food to ensure farmers maintained proper market prices, even though people were starving. What kind of crap is that?

I'm just using food as one example, but there are other industries where this is just as valid. I believe we are ignoring a fundamental truth, which is that throughout all of human history up until 1782 (tens of thousands of years of human history), humans could never produce more than they could consume. In most cases, they produced much less. But now, with advancing technology (thanks largely in part to the space and computer industry), we can readily produce more than we consume, which is in huge conflict with the supply/demand system of economics.

So Mr/Mrs Capitalist, what are your thoughts on this?

21 comments:

Marcel F. Williams said...

I don't think the problem is capitalism, I think the core of the problem is education and unemployment. By education, I mean every child being able to get a quality K-12 education in a quality environment for learning: without going to school hungry and without the fear of being physically assaulted when you're at school. Schools need to teach not only the three Rs but also how to be an honest, polite and respectful person. That's extremely important. Unfortunately, a huge number of schools in the US are crime schools where violence, drugs, and disrespectful behavior is an everyday occurrence. And to make matters worse, these individuals tend to reproduce faster than the general population. So each generation, their numbers increase as a percentage of the general population.

If you want to see the results of what happens when you have undereducated populations, just look at Haiti or sub-Saharan Africa.

IMO, full employment should be a right. Everyone should be guaranteed a minimum wage job as a safety net-- if you're willing to work! In the long run, with continued economic growth and more and more robotisation, we may have to keep people fully employed with alternating 4 day/3 day work weeks. This would allow people a lot more time to enhance their education and spend more time with their families!

Douglas Mallette said...

Marcel - How do you address the issue of unemployment when technology eradicates employment for the better of all mankind? How do you employ people in a system where it's more beneficial NOT to have them do mundane, bogus jobs?

Do you make up more B.S. service jobs that actually produce NOTHING of any value and lead to no progress for the species? How long do we have to swirl around the toilet bowl before we either get flushed, or jump out?

The root problem is the Monetary System, and it became a problem the moment humans began developing technology that produced at a much faster rate than human labor could produce. Every since then we've been propping up the failing system by throwing more money at the problems, increasing the debt and devaluing the very money used to "support" the system.

How many times do we have to go through the same stupid cycles before people wake up and realize what the real problem is?

Your point of bad schools with violent people again reinforces my money argument. Where are the majority of those schools? Poor areas. People who are poor are distressed, financially and emotionally. Therefore, they manifest behaviors that are in direct proportion to their living environment.

They're situation sucks, so they behave like assholes. It really is that simple. Just read up on psychological studies of this variety and you'll see what I mean. So once again, money is the cause (or lack thereof), and the symptoms are violence, drug use, alcoholism, sexism, et al.

As for Haiti, that is more of a situation where stronger nations abused and used an indigenous people for their own personal benefit, and propped up failing and corrupt governments for their own selfish purposes. It started with France and shifted right to America. We were no better in how we treated Haiti. It has nothing to do with education, it has to do with subjugation.

Let's say you educate EVERYONE, for free! What then? You still have not answered the issues of food or housing, which fall subject to a monetary system that regulates their value using scarcity models, even though we could produce them in abundance.

Back to the educated people, where do they work? What do they do? Manufacturing by human labor is a bygone era. How strong would their purchasing power be in such a limited role when so much is provided for by technology? How large would the social stratification gap become between those with the power and those without? When does it violently explode?

Or, you could use technology for the proper global resource management of the entire planet, eliminate money all together, eliminate the wasteful practice of making 100 versions of a product by 50 different companies, focus on making the best possible version of everything for everyone, and let people use all their free time to learn, grow, love, live, expand and prosper, mentally, physically and emotionally. :)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Mallette,

Happy to have stumbled across your musings. The problem is in the transition, of course. There is still the problem of the influential psychopathy. It's hard to have a bunch of stuff/power when you can't trick/force people into playing into a system that builds one up by degrading thousands of others. This happens on all levels of course, we see it everyday in our daily business and personal relationships, but it's the global "masters" that cause the greatest tragedy. I have a sick feeling that they won't go out without a very nasty, prolonged fight. all one needs to do is get out of bed these days to see it. but until the fat broad sings, let's all keep chipping away at this the best we can, shan't we? good luck.

Marcel F. Williams said...

As long as there is enough economic growth to house and feed everyone then unemployment problem can easily be solved by job sharing (alternating 4 day /3 day work schedules for a full week of work) and early retirement. Social Security benefits could someday start as early as 50 years of age.

Another long term income and education solution is to start paying children and adults to go to school and maybe even monetarily rewards them for their academic achievement (high grades and graduation).

If everyone in Haiti were educated then they would suddenly become one of the most valuable assets in the world: cheap educated labor! And that's at the core of China's rapid economic rise to power.

Douglas Mallette said...

Marcel - Who cares about economic growth if everyone is housed, fed and clothed? Everything after that is simply advancement. Think about how much advertising goes into food...that industry would be nearly gone too if food was plentiful. Real estate...forget it. If everyone has housing then that's gone too.

Once you start the dominoes you quickly see how solving the major problems helps eliminate a lot of other bogus industries. And all for the better. Then we can focus on important things, like constant improvement and space exploration on a grand level.

If you have a home, food, power, transportation on demand and knowledge at your fingertips 24/7/365, then you don't need to pay people to learn. They'll WANT to do it just to expand their minds. No more mundane monkey jobs, just mental growth.

Douglas Mallette said...

Anon - Oh yes, the transition will be rough, because the people with the wealth and power will NOT want to lose it, even though that means bettering all of humanity. Hopefully we can do everything we can to reduce the damage of the transition.

Gordon said...

As I understand it you think some future technologies are suppressed because they are effectively self sustaining and provide companies with no way of making monetary profit. Therefore you conclude that money is holding society back from reaching its potential and an alternative to money needs to be sort.

I don’t have a problem with your conclusion but I think your assumption is incorrect. I can’t envisage a future technology that can’t be made into a for profit business model.

I doubt there are any projects that once installed will run themselves maintenance free and if there were then there would still be money to be had from setting them up in the first place. If we could get infinite solar power beamed down from space there would be companies tripping over themselves to provide the hardware and transportation to get this venture up and running. If crop planting and tendering could be done automatically then companies would be queuing up to put that infrastructure in place and still more companies wanting a bit of the ongoing maintenance work and if these new technologies did provide the general population with more time on their hands then there will be businesses going every which way to create new and exciting ways for us to “spend” our leisure time.

Our ability to earn money gives a way of scoring our success at the game of life. Money provides a way of pointing our working life in a direction where we are of most benefit to society. We have built into us the desire to compete against those around us and “who can earn the biggest pot of money” is a more productive motivator than the alternative “who can win in a fight”.

Generally I think money does a good job of nudging us all into roles that together pushes the human race forward.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gordon on this.

David

Douglas Mallette said...

Gordon and David - Where do I begin. I hope I have room. :)

Let me ask you this, if food, shelter, energy, on demand transport and clothing are provided for in abundance (zero cost), such that no person is required to pay for it anymore, then why need money at all? You do realize that those things make up the majority of all the reasons why money is used in the first place.

I don't want an alternative to money, I don't want money at all. Nothing. Zero exchange of pointless currency of any variety or construction. Since one of the Monetary Systems core components is based on human labor, how can you sustain the system when technology eliminates the need for human labor?

You are right in that any technology will need maintenance, but one must also consider that if we didn't have money as a restriction, we could design the absolute best systems possible, completely unrestricted by some nebulous cost model. Magnetic bearings, fewer mechanical parts, composite materials, etc. Things today that are deemed "too expensive to make" are no longer restricted, so something that may break in 5 years now, would last 50 years if properly designed without a monetary restriction. So how many people do you think would be required to fix something that doesn't break for 50 years?

Now if people have everything they need to live without the use of money, they would not have to be "employed" to survive. And if a technological system did break, there would be plenty of people available to volunteer and fix whatever is broken. They have a self interest in making sure everything is working properly, so they'll learn about it and do it. Similar to on call doctors to save lives, we have on call technicians in the cities who can fix systems.

With no money, we eliminate all the mindless "low wage" jobs that don't currently sustain people today anyway. No stores, no banks, no financial manipulators, no money managers, no sales, no retail, no advertising (NO COMMERCIALS!!!), none of that. People are free to pursue more meaningful educations as they see fit, to become whatever they truly want to be, which in a technical society would most likely be people who study math, science, engineering and technology, but you'd also have artists, historians, musicians and such. They contribute as well.

Douglas Mallette said...

Continued...

Our value in life is NOT based on money, but what we contribute to society. Mine sure as hell isn't. My worth is based on what I do, not what I earn. You seem to have the same warped mentality of so many others that money = self worth. Do you really believe that? How about accomplishments, or contributions to advancement?

Newton didn't care about making money when he did his amazing work. Tesla died broke, but gave us A/C current, the radio and would have given us wireless power in the 1800's if JP Morgan didn't stop him, because no money could be made on it. That's yet another curse with money, it literally halts advancement if the new system would actually provide plenty. Rich people don't want that, do they.

Competition is NOT genetic. Competition is taught. Competition WAS required in the past when scarcity prevailed and you had to fight to survive. If you didn't compete, you died. Then it made sense. It does not make sense now, but we still teach it. We perpetuate competition as a positive requirement to survive even though it's not really necessary for survival.

Competition is fun for sports and recreation, but not for survival. We don't need that anymore. What do you have to compete for if everything you need to survive is provided by the advanced technology of the age? You switch to collaboration, working together. Our natural instinct is to work together, not to compete. The power of the many far outweigh the power of the one, and that's proven over and over again. Shared knowledge, thoughts, experiences and talents is what moves us forward, and always has. Money destroys that instinct, forcing people to behave and act in ways against their better nature.

You cite only the positives you associate with money, completely ignoring the negatives like corruption, malice, crime (90% of all criminals have committed a money based crime), bribery, financial hoarding, social stratification, class warfare, and more. You can't be one sided in this. The positives you stated stand on loose ground, and the negatives are ripping our culture apart.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you about competition as taught. Competition IS genetic, it's part of our survival instinct. We are born with the instinct to be dominant(Alpha). You can't change how people are. Remember people are just civilized animals. But, underneath it all, we are still animals.

Douglas, why don't you cite the negatives of your utopian society. Such as how many would become fat couch potatoes with all the foood they want and nothing they need to do. Or with the desire to find who is alpha violence would be on the upswing.

David

octo said...

Anonymous does cite one major problem with your proposal. A money-less system works great for the subset of society to which you belong (scientists, engineers, artists). The better members of this subset do not require any external incentive to do their work, as long as their basic needs are met. Well, as long as whomever controls the distribution of resources agrees with what they want to do with those resources. At least with money, provided you have it, you don't need permission to work on the sort of projects you enjoy.

But for the unwashed masses... well, many of them probably will become fat and lazy couch potatoes.

Norman Copeland said...

My contribution to the conversation requires me to draw upon our social schedule of which I'm basing purely on the American neccessities to maintain american social fabric of infrastructure.

It would of course, become easy for me to utilise the utopian totalitarian concept given to us with inside the book '1984' of which George Orwell gives us an epic view of the saga which would become our virtousity regarding minimalistic or the maximisation of genre.

I believe that after listening to the conversation's varying opinion's which undoubtedly breed the optimum resulting statistic that it perhaps, as I see the converging, require...

That;

1. Educating and the schooling process be compulsory until the age of 30.

[therewould condensing the emmerging class difference between those who afford and have matured early enough to complete university standard degree's and master's degree's].

2. The complete work labor infrastructure shifts to employment from the age of 30 {a minimum requirement} to the age of 55.

[therewould be the accounting for a shifting aging population demographic and sufficiently being based upon an emmerging medically astute age lengthening process of the population, rendering the planning of elder age community involvement politically adaptable].

3. Culturally maturing communities shift integrity to what would be formerly known as upper class now substantiated with a new 'spacial' totalitarian base built upon the workman's psychological resource characteristic
acquisition.

[therewould resulting with a modern schedule for an emmerging race managing infrastructure from the peak of it's carreer performance classification].

4.The board, the directors, the elder's of the race mechanism given the community schedule to reside upon given reason to do so. Age is the minimum of 55 years and the ''chair'' be allocated based on carreer acheivements and service.

[therewould the broadening of our races development become aware of itself regarding on and off planetary estabishment].

5. Money be not available to all learner's [younger than 30], but, substantiated with the neccessary schooling plannning available to all schools.

[therewould being all international visitation logged and managed from the schooling guidelines, particularly advantageous to the new spacial ideology and defending from the advancement of terrorism as a result of I.T.A.R galactic travel restrictions and technology protection from industrial espionage].

Douglas Mallette said...

David - Survival instincts are based on environmental situations, not genetics.

Let me ask you this, do you fight for food? I mean literally, go out and fight someone for hunting rights, for the berry bush, for anything like that?

I doubt you do. Anyone living in an advanced culture no longer needs to compete for food in that manner. We work a job, get money, and go buy food. We evolved to the next level. Time to evolve again, for progress never stops. Don't fall into the trap of assuming that the way it is now is the best it will ever be.

So how about this then, if all food is free and plentiful, such that you don't even have to pay for it anymore, would you still compete for it? No. The environment has changed, thereby removing the need to compete. Enough said about that.

It's funny that you say we're just animals, because I say the same thing all the time, especially when it comes to infidelity and the notion that humans should be monogamous. Now that is a genetic trait, breeding and pushing your existence on through the existence of your offspring. But you seem to be blending true natural traits with environmental traits. People MUST breed to survive as a species. There is no technological counterpart to that, unless you consider cloning a viable solution. I'm not into that aspect of technology. I rather enjoy the natural method.

Never once did I say Utopian, and I find this funny that people like you instantly jump right to that, as if it's an insult. Still, it's not Utopian. Utopian ideals suggest that everything is perfect, and that no change is required. That's crap. Nature, science and progression proves that the only constant in the universe is CHANGE, so the idea of developing a Utopian society is fundamentally wrong. What I'm suggesting is a better system that better utilizes global resources for the betterment of all mankind, and not just a select few. There are always ways to improve things and do better, which is what humanity would then focus on, better themselves and better the technological systems that help them. This also ties into space exploration significantly, because then we can truly expand without limitations. This is very Star Trekkian, which is funny, because many, many people love Star Trek and the 'world' Gene Roddenberry created, but when someone starts to suggest that we actually do it in real life, we get people like you who can't seem to rationalize such a wonderful life.

To quickly touch on your Alpha violence, that's absurd. Where do you get that notion? Are you thinking we're all neanderthals? If you think so lowly of humanity and its ability to reason, ESPECIALLY in an environment where everyone on the planet enjoys a high standard of living with no stress, then I can't help you there.

Now, do you really think all people would become couch potatoes? Why don't you step back a moment and think about what you're saying. If you had the freedom to travel, go to school, explore the world or the stars and learn (AT NO COST EVER AND WITH NO RISK TO YOUR HOME), would you stay home and do nothing? The majority of people today that are "couch potatoes" are such because they cannot afford to go do anything else. They are economically restricted.

How many rich people do you know that just sit home and do nothing all day? From what I can see, rich people are awfully busy traveling the world, doing fun things and enjoying life because they can AFFORD to do so. Now, if everyone on the planet was rich, or better still, had all living conditions covered without the need for money, they would be truly FREE to go do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, with no restrictions on time, cost, work, etc.

That, my friend, is true freedom.

Douglas Mallette said...

octo - A moneyless society is great for everyone. No more haves and have nots. No more limits on who gets the best educations, because now everyone get the best thing possible. No starvation, material waste or greed. What a horrible thought, right?

Again, you think incentive is only monetarily based. Not your fault, because you and everyone else is conditioned to think that your value is your money. Bullshit.

Note: In this system, production and distribution is controlled by computers and automation, NOT people. It's regulated by interactive statistical modeling, floating point analysis and usage monitoring, all based on people, not race, creed, gender, or any other human psychosis. The whole point of this system is to eliminate people from the loop.

You said, "At least with money, provided you have it, you don't need permission to work on the sort of projects you enjoy. But for the unwashed masses... well, many of them probably will become fat and lazy couch potatoes."

Just listen to what you just said. Provided you have it. And how many people throughout the world have it? So are you suggesting that it just sucks to be them...the ones without? What the hell kind of vision of humanity do you have?

Unwashed masses? They may be currently unwashed, usually not by fault of their own, but in this system they ALL get baths, educations and become contributions to the Earth. Sounds good to me.

Douglas Mallette said...

Norman - That's a little too regimented. Learning goes on for a lifetime, and mindless jobs are gone, so everyone is free from birth to death to be as limitless as they want to be.

quetzy said...

Uhh, I see one issue in the past few replies here that most of my discussions about this come down to - human nature.

I don't understand why so many people have such a low opinion on mankind, as if we're all destructive and competitive by nature, and it's just society holding us in check from showing our 'true nature'.
IMHO, it's exactly the opposite - we are creative and constructive by default, yet it's *this* society that teaches us competitiveness and "needing to be better than the rest" instead of "needing to be better than yourself".


As for laziness (couch potatoes) - you said it well about just observing the rich and the poor we have today. In general, reach people travel more, see more, do more things that they want - they *live* their lives.
The poor are held back by lack of money.

Of course, some rich people end up just sitting in their villas, maybe dwelling in drugs and alcohol, with their lives being of no value whatsoever (examples that money does NOT equal worth), but some of the poor end up doing the same (possibly even more by %?)

Bottomline is - people with money CAN and mostly DO work on the realization of their dreams - whatever those dreams may be.
The quality and content of those dreams however is the consequence of society, the places and people they grew up with and admired. It has virtually nothing to do with 'human nature'.


Generally, one becomes a "couch potato" or a "person without worth" if one is bored and lacks initiative. It's the people who don't find anything interesting to do in their lives unless something is happening to occupy their attention (most commonly that 'something' is TV nowadays).
And the source of that is - in my experience - simply a lack of exposure to things of interest. I've seen so many people get a spark for something they never thought of doing, and end up loving it and being brilliant at it, only because they had someone near them to expose them to the wonders of the subject.

If TV (as the biggest influence of today) were to educate, to spark interest in various topics, then people would start doing those things in their free time - because they want to, not because someone pays them to. And such people are the ones that accomplish most.

Instead, 90% of TV is about crime, aggression, politics, competitiveness, and ultimately - failures instead of successes. That's not very inspiring, is it?


Sorry if this seems off topic, but it seems to me that the biggest obstacle to the originally proposed idea is the general lack of faith in mankind, the thought that we are inherently 'evil', so to speak... which is simply not true. It is a distorted view, being perpetuated by the selectively negative outlook on world events - mostly to be blamed on the media.

quetzy said...

Had to split the reply into two :blush:

Imho, first step is convincing people that we can do better, that we can be more. How? The only way it ever worked - by example (from individual examples, to communities and cities such as those proposed).
Show to people what CAN work, and they'll say "hey, I like that, may I join?"


At the risk of making this reply way too long, I'll just give the example of Japan. I know it's overidealized by some, and I know Japan sure has its share of issues (quite a lot actually), but simple fact is - there is almost no theft-related crime there. People are in subways in rush hour with their purses wide open, and no one steals the wallets or cellphones.
If someone finds e.g. a lost laptop, he returns it to the "lost&found".
I asked people if they would take something if they found it on the street, and the answer is usually a clear "no". When asked why, the answer is - in a rather selfexplanatory tone - "because it's not mine".

When one sees how differently people behave in various parts of the world, one realizes the biggest role in human behaviour is played by environmental influence, not genetics or 'human nature'.
Human nature is what we make it out to be.

Douglas Mallette said...

quetzy - One of my goals is to figure out how to showcase the technology that would make the RBE come about, at no cost to the public, but they can use it. Proof is in the pudding, as they say. Build it and they will come. :)

"Human nature is what we make it out to be."

AMEN! Change the environment...change humanity. And not the damn Earth environment, but the social environment. The Earth environment will also be better off under the new system...much better off.

Chad Lupkes said...

The function of capitalism is not to provide goods and services. The mission is to achieve profitability. Therein lies the problem.

If it were the mission of a grocery store to provide good, healthy food that people in their community need at a price they can afford, then they would be going to local farmers and helping to build a local food industry. But that's not their mission.

If it were the mission of an agriculture company to produce the best food possible for the people who buy it, then they would not be trying to ship that food from halfway across the globe. But that's not their mission.

The mission of any for-profit company is to make profits. However they can, whatever decision they have to make, no matter how much it harms the environment, their customers or the future of humanity.

That mission is written into the law. To change the mission, we must change the law.

Douglas Mallette said...

Chad - Agreed. And that pursuit of profitability is what drives the bus, even in the legal system. Good luck getting politicians to jump on that bandwagon when all of their funding comes from the very people who thrive on profitability.

The only solution is to wipe out money all together, and use a better, more technologically advanced system.