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It’s a Matter of Organization

June 12, 2011

Working men and women for decades have improved the nation’s capacity to produce without seeing much benefit themselves.  We live in a nation of plenty but poverty is still quite problematic with a 14% poverty rate (http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/acsbr09-1.pdf).  In addition with 15% of households having trouble putting food on the table (http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/) 25% of all food designated for human consumption goes to waste (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/weekinreview/18martin.html).  Lastly with hundreds of thousands homeless (http://www.huduser.org/publications/pdf/4thHomelessAssessmentReport.pdf) there are millions of vacant housing units (http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/housing/2009-02-12-vacancy12_N.htm).

The workers of the United States already produce enough goods and services for everyone to live in comfort but that fails to happen.  Families are working longer hours (http://www.bls.gov/opub/working/page17b.htm) to obtain slow material improvement.  Planed obsolescence is rampant and our society produces a large amount of waste.  Much productive time is spent in socially damaging industries such as marketing and defense.

Our society is organized to require people to work and the American people work yet there is constant want in the society.  This drives the production consumption cycle but also leads to a large amount of suffering.  American workers could satisfy the natural needs and a fair amount of the natural desires of the American population in less productive hours then is spent today.  It is way the economy is organized to drive production levels higher while at the same time levees consumers always unsatisfied with their status quo.

A parable is taught in first year economics course: why does the baker bake bread?  The answer is that the baker needs to be able to provide for his or her family and bakes to earn the income to support that and not because the baker wants to feed people.  Another interesting question is if the baker need not bake to satisfy his or her family, would the baker still bake?  I challenge that the answer to this question is yes.  People who have the opportunity often use it to volunteer their skills or goods to help others in need.

Constant want is unnecessary to sustain production but it is necessary to sustain socially damaging overproduction.  A society largely liberated from want would still produce at comfortable levels to sustain mutual well being with more time being afforded to leisurely and erudite pursuits.  This would require a change in how society is organized but a society can be organized to meet human needs as opposed to satisfy the perverse artificial need based motivation of the modern economy.  That’s not to say that the needs themselves are artificial but they need to be present.

The way society is structured is to maintain economic and political control of society in the hands of an elite few.  Poverty and the threat of poverty is essential to this means of control.   A society moving to truly try and satisfy human needs would mean broadening this social control over society in a truly democratic manner.  It is only matter of organization that poverty persists in a land of plenty.

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From → Economics

2 Comments
  1. Very well written article! I totaly agree with everything you’ve presented here, and to be honest, this topic hits very close to home. To be a hard working American these days barely gets you enough to scrape by, let alone try to support a family. We are in an incredible recession and yet, we are still the richest country above all… go figure. We watch reality TV with kids driving around in unearned Range Rovers and drinking themselves into top-shelf intoxication, when most of the country can barely afford to pay for utilities and we work our tails off just to do so!

    I come from a family that has been very thrifty and conservative ever since I can remember so I’ve been fortunate enough to keep a “waste not, want not” mentality and I plan on instilling that in my children. It’s not only important, but necessary now, to manage our consumption and go “back to the basics” if we want to inch forward in the rat race!

  2. Mx. save250in30days:

    I’m glad you like the article. It hits close to home for me to which is of course why it interests me. I’m thankful that I don’t have to support children in my current situation. My heart goes out to you.

    According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29_per_capita) we aren’t quite the richest country even by the measure of GDP. Given what most people put up with to scrape by, we clearly aren’t the richest country by real measures of an economy: how it can support it’s people. For some people watching “reality” TV is their escape from their bad situation and I’m not going to begrudge them that.

    It’s good to keep things simply, only get what is needed. It’s important to fulfill all your needs if you can but many needs cannot be met by material goods. Living a good life, raising one children well, and getting by is a reward in and of itself and doesn’t have the price tag of the fanciest new toys. People could be plenty comfortable without the constant pressure to inch forward in the rat race if society was organized differently. Unfortunately people need to do so to get by which hurts everybody in the long run.

    It makes me happy that you’ve gotten something out of my blog. I wish you and your family well and I hope you can meet your goal to reduce your budget in a month.

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