“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” Fight Club.
On the one hand, I like to have choices. On the other hand, I almost always choose the same things. Is it really necessary to have hundreds of options?
I’m pretty sure that our planetary problems are related. I think we’d be happier, our lives would be simpler, and the earth would be in better shape if we’d gone with a philosophy other than “if some is good, more is better and winning at life means over-the-top quantities of luxurious indulgence”. Or something like that.
I don’t think I’m a socialist. I don’t know what I am. I relate to economics the way I relate to politics and religion: a little of this, a little of that. I don’t know what a better system would look like. I just know there has to be one.
I’ve been flirting with anarchy. I used to think “anarchy” was Mad Max but that’s not the case. I was inspired to think more about it by Russell Brand’s Revolutions. It turns out that anarchy is about self-governed systems, limited or no central authority, and a lack of hierarchical systems. The last one I’m definitely on board with. I have zero respect for hierarchical systems. I don’t buy into the idea of status. It simply never worked on me. It’s not how I relate to people.
Revolution is an examination and criticism of the nature of the world. Brand writes about society, about inequalities and distribution issues, things that are made increasingly worse by our current affection for consumer-based capitalism. The book advocates for a non-violent social revolution based on principles of spirituality and the common good wrapped up with some seemingly sound economic ideas.
I enjoy economics. Studying how and why society uses its limited resources is interesting. Of course, when people talk about economics today, they mostly seem to focus on more. More production. More trade. More money. More stuff. Bigger but not necessarily better.
It has to be asked: is the consumption of the over-priced and superfluous by the few at the expense of the many all there is to life? It seems to me that we are “more-ing” ourselves to death and dragging the developing world down with us. This way of life better not be the pinnacle of human achievement.
My great-grandfather was a Notary Public and a lawyer. We still have his notary seal; it sits on the mantle in my parents’ home. It’s numbered because there used to be a limited number of seals. When you got to the end of the seals, you got to the end of the notaries, at least until someone retired or died, leaving a seal free. They added to the ranks periodically as the population grew, but you were never in a position of having a surfeit of notaries.
But that was then.
We have a surfeit of everything.
In Canada, we have a quota system for some areas of agriculture. Milk is one. You get a quota from the milk board that tells you how much to produce so the market isn’t glutted. In return, the board sets prices. There are problems of course. There always are with systems. The problem is people.
Because the end goal of everything is profit, because the person who dies with the most money wins, corporate farms came into being. And they bought up quotas from this person and that until only a very few people controlled most of the quotas, and they got most of the big contracts, making it hard for small farms to survive.
Corporate farms are ugly for reasons beyond driving regular folks out of business. Farmers loved their animals. Corporations do not. They treat the animals badly, as though they’re not real, living and breathing things capable of fear, pain, and terror. It’s why I mostly don’t eat much meat. Factory farms are vile, their existence a hideous indictment of our character. Though to be fair, I think for the corporations, they don’t think of them as real animals. They’re simply dollar amounts on corporate reports.
The quota idea is not without merit if you can work on the corrupt-people problem. Limiting business sizes would be one idea. I try to imagine what things would look like if you expanded quotas across all industries. You could have a cereal quota. If you could only manufacture X tons a year, would you bother with 87 different versions of flakes?
Quotas probably wouldn’t work for the consumption-based capitalism we follow. And change would be desperately hard. The people the current system benefits do very well in terms of possessions, power, and status. They will fight hard against giving it up. And they have governments marching in lockstep with their wishes. If you think corporations aren’t in charge of directions, decisions, and legislations a large part of the time, you haven’t been paying attention.
The people would protest the changes in great numbers as well. We like our routines. We’re used to our comforts. We like having thirty-six different salad dressing options. We feel good about having forty pairs of shoes for our two feet.
I don’t see things changing anytime soon, much as I wish they would.
Much as I wish I did a better job of walking the walk. Fait accompli are so much easier to deal with.
I wish we’d evolved differently. Or perhaps I wish I lived at a later point in our evolution. Wouldn’t a world where we worked together to achieve the best result for everyone, rather than maximize the results for a limited few at the expense of the many, be a nice place? We teach children to share and play well with others. Where in our journey do we abandon that lesson in favour of holding tight and making sure we get ours?
Though I do hope my preferred breakfast cereal survives the revolution.
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