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HOW PHILOSOPHY COULD SAVE THE WORLD Cultural and Economic Diaspora, Self-sufficiency, Person-hood

Local Economies

We believe that if men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work.

John F. Kennedy

Among the problems facing western economies, the lack of "jobs, jobs, jobs" is more important than consumer confidence, corporate shenanigans and shrinking lines of credit.

As the 3rd Millennium gets underway, marginal and part-time jobs - or no jobs at all – have become the order of the day.

The reasons are not hard to discern. Smart technologies and global trade agreements have been ‘rationalizing, automating, amalgamating and out-sourcing' employments.

The resulting calculations have been undermining economies and obstructing the emergence of living wages in developing nations.

In 2008, a threshold was crossed and economies began contracting, first in western nations and then around the world. Although governments focus upon bailouts and stimulus packages, putting the train back on the track that got us here cannot be a solution.  The elephant in the room no one mentions is that economies cannot prosper when ten per cent of human beings control ninety five per cent of the wealth – no matter how successfully debt-based lifestyles are promoted, emerging nations exploited and future generations mortgaged.

Modern economies are good on supply side issues but face unprecedented challenges on the demand side.

  • A network of wealthy individuals disproportionately controls economies and governments.
  • Sophisticated technologies and software programs contain more and more of the intelligence needed to eliminate workers or integrate simple skills into sophisticated productions.
  • Such workers have correspondingly diminished capacity to negotiate living wages.

Another factor is either in play or soon will be.  With Al Gore and David Suzuki whispering in their ears, the wealthy surely recognize that environmental and resource depletion issues demand a radical reduction of global GNP. What's the point of being rich in an exhausted, toxic world?

In other words, the only ‘green agenda’ the wealthy are likely to find reassuring requires enlarging the proportion of $2.00 a day  human beings from fifty per cent to at least eighty per cent.

Although the industrial revolution catalysed developments responsible for middle class populations and enormously wealthy people, the results are proving themselves unsustainable.  From the point of view of the wealthy, middle class well-being is a contagious, unsustainable.  If a middle class emerges in India, China, South America and pollutes and consumes like the middle class in 1st world nations, the planet’s goose will be cooked.

How could the world's wealthy contemplate such a future?  The answer is simple. They regard you and me the same way we worry about the 3.5 billion human beings already struggling to stay alive.

Fortunately, the question of whether the 2008 recession is the result of corporate malfeasance or other stratagems is not the issue. The reason economies are in trouble is because the non-wealthy of the world failed to develop community-based countervails to development and globalization.  ‘Progress and development’ initiatives may yield short-term paybacks, but they are always people displacing.  In other words, new discoveries and technologies only benefit most human beings to the extent that they facilitate individual and community self-sufficiency.

The principle needed has already been articulated by “100 Mile Diet” advocates.

  • At least twenty-five per cent of our wants and needs must be produced within one hundred mile circles.

Failures to retain a healthy proportion of the local economies characterizing the 19th and early 20th century are why 3rd world ghettos are now emerging in 1st world nations. Victims include the unemployed, the marginally employed, retirees and those unable to qualify for ‘knowledge economy’ jobs. There is no bottom to this decline.  As economies spiral down, the apparent need for further automation, more efficiency, still more outsourcing … means that increasingly sophisticated individuals and once-secure occupations will also be discarded.

Hundred Mile Solutions would address these difficulties. They would also invigorate and stabilize central economies, reduce pollution and conserve energy.

Only three components are required:

  • Interested individuals, including the unemployed, marginalized and homeless, would be listed in catalogues or web-based databases of skills, tools, woodworking equipment, service station-like facilities, gardening opportunities, millinery and domestic arts....
  • This information would allow people to produce goods and services to meet their own needs.
  • To facilitate these activities, governments could establish regional currencies and exchange rates linking them with federal currencies.

Although federal dollars could be used, several advantages would result from adopting regional currencies:

  • The sense of belonging to a local economy would nurture enterprise and camaraderie.
  • Regional currencies would constrain the migration of surplus value out of communities.
  • Participants would have tangible incen­tives to develop skills and products for local consumption.
  • Regional economies could transform social programs.  Employment insurance and welfare would become bridge financing between central and regional economies.
  • Regional economies would encourage investments in local "means of production". This would renew interest in value-adding skills: welding, carpentry, auto mechanics, animal husbandry, market gardening....
  • Local economies would be inherently recession-proof. Recessions deepen because people curtail spending during economic downturns.  If twenty five per cent of a nation’s GNP came from activities that could not be downsized, rationalized, automated or outsourced, this would stabilize main economies. ­

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For decades, we should have been asking a simple question.  Why must modern nations discard individuals just because technologies and political developments have rendered them obsolete? With secondary economies in place, these individuals would have alternatives and options. In addition to being marginalized because of the unintended consequences of progress and development, millions of poor and soon to be poor face another formidable adversary.  For decades 1st world governments have been controlling inflation and recession by adjusting employment levels with interest rate changes. This is a brutal undertaking.  Such measures only begin to work when the unemployed are reduced to absolute poverty.  As long as they have resources, the supply side of the supply:demand equation is reduced, while demand continues.  In other words, unemployment is inflationary until its victims are destitute.

With regional economies as resources, governments could manage infla­tion and recession by encouraging movement into and out of community productions.

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In conclusion, two futures are possible. Western nations can repair their burgeoning third world ghettos by establishing local economies allowing their ‘unemployables’ to lead reasonable lives. Doing this would also stabilize central economies and demonstrate an economic strategy relevant to emerging nations. Additionally, governments would acquire a civilized way to manage inflation and recession problems.

Alternatively, western nations can continue on with business as usual. In this case, ten per cent of human beings will soon own everything.

This is a green plan that may well save the planet.

The cost will be the rest of us getting what we deserve.

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