January 1, 2009
-- by Dave Johnson
A quick comment: The financial crisis we are experiencing is not business as usual, it is not the business cycle. This is not like anything that has happened before. We are not going to solve this by acting as if it was just a typical downturn in the business cycle and tweaking the way things are done. A bit of stimulus and a few regulatory changes are not going to solve this.
This is a fundamental paradigm shift -- what we had before did not work, period. It was hurting all of us by forcing us into jobs we all hate and doing meaningless things, taking on debt, unhealthy habits, and is chewing up the very planet we live on! A new model for understanding how economies work is needed.
We have to rethink the relationship between people and work and who gets to share in the proceeds. Until now most people work to make someone else rich, because it has been the only way we can "make a living" -- be allowed money to eat, etc. But as machines and computers and other technologies do more and more of the work for us the result is that more and more people are laid off or paid less or otherwise discarded and fewer and fewer of us are able to get by. This is because our current economic system forces us all to pretend that a few people "own" the right to benefit from our economy, and the rest of us do not.
But doesn't this idea that a few people can "own" the right to the benefits of our economy fundamentally conflict with the idea of democracy, where we all have an equal share of America, an equal voice and equal rights?
In Alaska, for example, the people of the state benefit from their common ownership of the oil there. Companies bid for the job of extracting the oil and pay the state a lot of money to do that. Everyone in Alaska benefits, AND a trust fund is set up to guarantee that they continue to benefit forever after the oil is all gone.
Our entire economy should work that way. We should recognize that we own in common all of the resources, and these companies should have to apply for the job -- bid for the right to do things we want done -- with the understanding that they are common resources from which we all benefit.
We also have to reengineer the economy to be sustainable. We have to stop this game of "demand creation" -- making people think they need things that they do not need, in order to "keep the economy going." The economy only needs to go far enough to feed and house and clothe us and take care of our health, and then we should be deciding in common what else we want to do, up to the point where it interferes with our real lives. There is a limit to what we need, and can then get on with the other things that life is about, like thinking, art, music, reading, studying... When there is less to be done, we should work fewer hours, leaving us free for the other pursuits. More on this later.
Posted by Dave Johnson at January 1, 2009 10:08 PM
Freakin Socialist Commie!
The entire system has become so lopsided that it HAS to spin out of control in order to ever be able to right itself.
The irony is that you write from the richest state in the richest nation on earth. Much of that wealth has been built from an enlightened self-interest. We are all sitting on top of a bit of bubble. Total US wealth – stocks, bonds, real estate, business equity – has grown from 25 trillion to 56 trillion and will settle down to 46 trillion by the end of 2010. From the gold rush to Silicon Valley, CA has benefited from people trying to grab all they can get. And in the process they created jobs, wealth, and opportunity for others.
50% of the people own stocks. Much excess is being wrung out of stock and real estate holdings right now. But after a possible dip down to Dow 6,000 range, the real business models will move sharply ahead.
You rejoice in Alaska’s good fortune. I agree. The state is getting a fairer share, partly thanks to Sarah Palin. And very much because major corporations – Exxon, Chevron – no how to conserve capital, invest capital, suffer in the toughest environment and bring home the oil. If Exxon and Chevron could not keep their profits, who would extract the oil for AK?
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