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Posts Tagged ‘living well’

MercatorNet led me to this interesting little essay on the Keynesian theory that the future would bring an economy where most people would need to work only four hours a day:

It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all. Then, Keynes wrote, “for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” He thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years—that is, by 2030.

In the article, the writers look at the faults of capitalism – and a possible post-capitalist economy – through the lens of Keynes’ essay. They say:

Let us state firmly that we are not in favor of idleness. What we wish to see more of is leisure, a category that, properly understood, is so far from coinciding with idleness that it approaches its polar opposite. Leisure, in the true, now almost forgotten sense of the word, is activity without extrinsic end, “purposiveness without purpose,” as Kant put it. The sculptor engrossed in cutting marble, the teacher intent on imparting a difficult idea, the musician struggling with a score, a scientist exploring the mysteries of space and time—such people have no other aim than to do well what they are doing. They may receive an income for their efforts, but that income is not what motivates them. They are engaged in leisure, not toil.

This is an idealization, of course. In the real world, extrinsic rewards, including financial rewards, are never entirely out of mind. Still, insofar as action proceeds not from necessity but from inclination, insofar as it is spontaneous, not servile and mechanical, toil is at an end and leisure has begun. This—not idleness—is our ideal. It is only our culture’s poverty of imagination that leads it to believe that all creativity and innovation—as opposed to that specific kind directed to improving economic processes—needs to be stimulated by money.

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Growing - or buying and eating - heritage crops helps retain genetic diversity as insurance against future environmental challenges.

From the article that led me to the Onion spoof I posted yesterday, a more serious look at how to bring about change:

How could distributism come about as an economic system?John Searle, philosophy professor at UC Berkeley since 1959, has witnessed a fair number of protests. I’m going to ineloquently paraphrase him on how you create your own social institutions:

“You just do it. If you want to start a new social institution you and enough other people just start living it, as though the old institution were no longer there, and your new institution is just how things are.”

In other words, if you don’t like oligarchic capitalism with its exploitative banks and other practices, just set up new, or support already-existing alternative social institutions and go with them. Divest from the old banks. Join a credit union.  Divest from the old business structures everywhere. Support or start your own small business. Anything you reject on moral grounds, really reject it!  To get it to work, all you need are enough people to accept the new reality.  (And a government willing to give you a fair playing-field… and that is another issue…)

Now this is easier for some things and harder for others. So start small: you can shop at the local small store or cooperative store. You can move your money to a credit union. You can support local agriculture.

These are tiny steps, but taken together they can change the economy. You may object that it costs more to shop at a small local store than the local big-box store. And you may be right and you may not be able to afford it.  Just do what you can.

The financial system which we are a part of is only a reality if we all choose to agree that it is. We can choose otherwise.

 

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