Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thinking Bigger for a Better Future

Whenever one tosses about ideas for a brighter future, whether it is ideas for food, education, housing, politics, health care, etc. there is always someone telling you how it won't work and why. Of course many new ideas will not work in the current framework. You have to imagine there are new choices and less hindrances. You have to think outside of our reality occasionally. Dreaming is good. It's the first step.

My first dream is for government to bring Kiss to their legislation. No, not the rock band, but the old phrase "Keep it Simple Stupid." When I hear of a 500 page proposal to allocate extra funding to education that includes buried deep within funds for a bridge in Wyoming, and on page 362 funds for a casino in Delaware it infuriates me. They don't know what they vote for because they don't have time to read the whole thing and if they do muddle through it there is just so much.

I want the language and length of these bills simplified so all may read and understand. If something is put to a vote by the people they should know what they are voting for. If the newspaper feels the need to print a full page describing what four proposals mean then those proposals need to be rewritten. There is no reason to hide your real intentions behind murky language. Keep it simple so everyone, including our elected officials, can make an honest decision.

We live in a country of excess. Most manufacturing is automated. We have enough whatsits for every man woman and child in our nation. We also have a great divide between a few "have it all's" a larger group of "have enough's" and a greatly increasing group of "have none." Imagine a world where the resources are redistributed more evenly. I'm not advocating taking from individuals who have worked hard to get where they are. Bear with me, I'll try to explain.

From the perspective of the poor, where would you be if basic food, health care, and housing were already there for you. Would you feel elevated, more of a human being, more worthy? With time freed up that was previously used for basic survival in a world that didn't care, what would you do? Would you volunteer in a community garden, pursue further education, spend more time with your children? Would you work part time for a little extra in life or would you keep plugging away full time? What would you change?

In "The Overworked American" Juliet B. Schor describes a time during the Depression when a 30 hour work week was proposed so the work could be spread out between more workers. Some companies may have done this for a while but big business was definitely against this. Most corporations look at how they can gain from their labor not how they can improve the well being of their work force.

It's time to take the power from the few elite and the corporations. We should have regularly scheduled interviews with normal everyday citizens in the offices of our elected officials. Why do we allow lobbyists who represent corporations visit and gift our officials? Why do corporations have this power over American policy? It needs to change!

Future planner Jacque Fresco known for his "Venus Project" has given much thought to these problems. He is well known for designing buildings and cities of the future. While he shows great detail in his work and it appears like something from a science fiction novel he has also put just as much time into designing a theoretical future society. He proposes a resource based economy where the citizens have control and corporations no longer exist. He acknowledges there will be transitional phases, but to hear him describe it, it seems perfectly feasible.

Fresco proposes we already have the resources for all citizens to live well. Why should a few have an overabundance while others go without basic necessities? His cities would use power from wind, sun, wave or water. Without money and corporations clinging to the old way of doing things, the old way that pollutes our earth and lines their pockets, there would be nothing blocking the use of new technologies. Without a money based society, all citizens would benefit. It's not something that could be transitioned to overnight but it is fun to read his ideas and imagine what life could be like.

In "For Us The Living" Robert A. Heinlen describes daily life in a future Earth society. Basic needs are seen to and people are free to study and work as they wish. Imagine if you were able to study what interested you and choose work based on your passions, not what your earning potential would be. Would there be fewer disgruntled workers?

As for jobs that no-one particularly enjoys, imagine if job sharing was available at all levels. Citizens appear at the factory or field for a four hour shift. No-one is required to toil for twelve or sixteen hour days, six days a week for just a basic living with hardly any family time. That job will be split between four to six people. More people work and there is plenty of time left for creative pursuits, education, gardening, family celebrations, or gathering with neighbors. There may be a few that choose a shoddy life spent in front of the television with just the basics covered but I bet the majority would pursue the life they could only dream about in a conventional society.

Now readers, its your turn. Sit back, shut your eyes, transport yourself 60, 300 or 500 years into the future and tell me what you see.


  1. Um, who is going to pay for all the free stuff the poor are going to get apparently just because they exist? Who is going to produce the food and housing and medical care that will be given away? If no one has to work, who is going to do all that? Who is going to pay for the facilities to produce all that clean power if no one has to work?

    Oh, wait. There are all those evil rich people who started companies that actually produced goods and services, people who provided jobs, you know, people who earned money and made it possible for others to earn a living. They'll start all the new "clean" businesses, and we'll just take away everything they earn and produce and give it away so no one who isn't willing to do any of that has to work.

    Utopia doesn't work because people are inherently lazy and stupid. They will happily take whatever is given to them until the well runs dry, and then whine about their rights being violated. Just look at what is happening in Greece, Spain, and France as they realize the gravy train is ending and they are in danger of losing their handouts and might actually have to work and contribute to get what has been provided by confiscatory taxes on the people who actually make an effort to start businesses and produce something.

    Thanks but no thanks. I'll keep working and keep what I earn.

  2. Anonymous, I think you missed the point.

    Working poor,
    How about nurses and doctors being paid more than movie stars and sports figures? No one is going to want to work their stint at being a garbage man. So, give them incentives. Your last paragraph--reality hits on a sore spot with me and many others.

    Excellent post and books.

  3. Lots of food for thought here. I always chafed at the idea that people who made a lot of money worked harder than others--the janitors in my office building work hard, I work very hard, my parents work hard, and none of us are millionaires. I don't begrudge anything anyone has, but I really wish people would stop assuming that middle-class, working-class, and/or poor people don't work hard because we don't have as much money as Bill Gates or a Wall Street trader.

    Also, I think it's an interesting point you made about the basics. When you don't have anything, it really does take up all of your time to scrounge those up or jerryrig things like medical care.

    I'm not sure if everyone would go forth and do wonderful things--though I don't agree that people are stupid and lazy (seriously, Anonymous, speak for yourself)--but I do think that making things a little more equitable would free people up to take care of the stuff that would be better for them--and society--in the long run. Stuff like cooking decent meals or being more physically active, etc. Helping your kids with their homework instead of working a second job to make rent or tutoring your siblings kids/grandkids/neighbor's kids. Or helping out your neighbors.

    I really liked Juliet Schor's books. I always thought Heinlein tweaked libertarian though. . .am I mistaken about that?

  4. Why do so many people believe that life is a zero-sum game? Because Bill Gates is wealthy does not mean that Joe Janitor is denied wealth. Joe Janitor can create a product, build a business, provide employment (and prosperity) to thousands and thousands of people, and build wealth, too. It's all in the choices we make. Bill Gates and others like him made a series of choices that led them to where they are now. Joe Janitor made choices that led him to a job where he received compensation commensurate with what he produces. Wealthy people didn't make those choices for him. They were too busy building businesses (you know, those places where other people work and earn a living).

    It is very unlikely, once handed a comfortable life at the expense of others, that most people would think deep thoughts, produce anything of value or interest or use to anyone else, let alone of any benefit to society, or voluntarily do anything for anyone, even for themsselves. The few who did would eventually find somewhere to live where they could benefit from their energy and ideas without having to support the burgeoning welfare class (and somewhere they could find motivated employees who weren't just looking for a handout).

    Life is not a zero-sum game. Handouts only create greed for more handouts.

  5. Except that Joe Janitor is often working two jobs to make ends meet and may not have the time or the resources to build a product or start a business. Joe Janitor, and Sue Secretary, Mailroom Mike, Delivery Dave and Connie the Cashier are all busy keeping the entrepreneur's company running. I didn't say we should bleed the rich dry, I'm just sick and tired of people assuming that the work I do, that others do, isn't valueable or that we don't work hard. Pointing out that people who aren't wealthy work pretty damn hard as well isn't the same thing looking for a handout. Jeez.

  6. People make uninformed choices. It is not their fault that they did not know better! Besides, some people with fortunes admit to lucky breaks, knowing the right people, or having great advisors. If a child is pushed out of the nest at 18, making a living, eking out the basics is all the child can do. If parents nurture and support a child thought college or rough patches in life, sure, those people can come out wealthy. Of course, there are variables in everything and one rule does not fit all. Supportive parents do have children who do not take advantage of all that is available. Yes, the parents did it all the right way and one kid thrives and the other fails. Miserable failures of parents often have children who are outstanding. So, I am not blaming parents, just saying that taking an indivudual with promise but being in a nonsupportive environment cannot be construed as stupid or lazy or unwilling to do better. Those who own the means of production are the ones who prosper. The producers are the ones Pamela named. I have never posted under anonymous, even if I had a disagreement with the blogger or comments.

  7. I highly applaud the idea that our legislators have regularly scheduled interviews with CITIZENS. Perhaps they should be required to meet with a citizen for every time they meet with a lobbyist.

    I have toyed with the idea that only legislators who have actually read a bill should be allowed to vote on it.

  8. I have a friend who worked for a Congressman as an aide. He said it was his job to read bills and attend meetings to keep the Congressman apprised of all that was in a bill and what was said in meetings. It is not that the Congressman was shirking his duty, but that there was so much to read and to attend. Maybe less wordy bills would release the necessity of having several people on top of things. I think we still have line item veto. But, if something is hidden and not discovered and advertised as such to the public or the ones who vote, whose fault is that? "Simplify" might be a good mandate to those writing bills.

  9. Cheers for Pamela and Practical Parsimony! It's NOT a level playing field, and it's NOT a pure system we play in. If you want to talk about entities having a comfortable life at the expense of others, then let's look at tax breaks for the wealthy and tax breaks for corporations at the expense of its working force. The welfare class is currently "burgeoning" not because people think "hey, I can get a free ride" but because hard-working, always-paid-their-own-bills folks are losing their jobs, getting their hours cut, and getting their pay cut--and they need a lifeline so they don't go hungry and homeless.

  10. Practical Parsimony, It completely amazes me how much athletes make for playing a game. It is also unreal how much tickets and t-shirts cost. Many fans are unable to see a live game.

    Some people choose the medical field based on earning potential or job availability alone. I spoke with a young college student/co-worker who is studying to be a nurse. After witnessing the birth of her friend's baby it reinforced her desire to work in a delivery room. Her eyes lit up at the thought and she was excited. She is interested first in enjoyment of the job and the money is secondary. We should all be so lucky to find what we enjoy.

    Things shouldn't be so silly in our government. Perhaps our newspaper writers who lost jobs in the recession can now work in government rewriting and simplifying.

  11. Pamela, I liked the idea of some of the basics being covered so people could do more. People working shorter shifts and more people being employed would be a good thing. There will always be a lazy few that will just sit and do nothing, however I imagine a greater number being involved in their communities. We could definitely spend more time with our kids.

    I always read science fiction for the enjoyment of the story, so I never read to define what the authors political beliefs were. I have no idea if Heinlen was Libertarian or not.

  12. Terri, I would like to see a day when lobbyists are outlawed.

  13. Anonymous, I did not once call the rich evil. There are rich as well as poor in my own family. "I'm not advocating taking from individuals who have worked hard to get where they are."

    As for handouts, I didn't say a lavish lifestyle was to be provided, just some of the very basics. Most normal people would still choose to work, I know I would.

    Think of it this way, we would no longer have what many refer to as "welfare queens" because the supplies (not money neccesarily) would be distibuted through the whole population including the already rich.

    Clean energy? Remember the bus systems we used to have in this country? Lobbyists for the car manufacturers and the oil companies were in our politicians ears and they killed the public transportation so people were forced to buy cars. The electric car was killed in a similar fashion. It's hard to produce new business when big oil controls our government. How about those bailouts?

    We overproduce and throw away vast quantities of stuff. We live in a wasteful nation. The food we throw away is incredible. Remember the dumpsters full of clothing behind a business? If they didn't sell by a certain date they had to damage them so they couldn't be reused and toss in the dumpster. There has to be a better way.

    Well, I would write a longer reply but I'm incredibly lazy and stupid. :) Thank's for sharing your opinion.

  14. Greetings from the Pacific NW! No social or political system will ever be perfect, hey we'er humans after all; but places like Denmark and Norway already seem to have more humane systems and lifestyles. There are always trade-offs, you won't be super-rich but you will have access to healthcare and a social safety-net just in case life throws you a curve ball. All work has value to society. Trash collecting may seem less valuable than creating a Microsoft company, until you try to imagine living without trash collection! You would not be looking to purchase the latest iPad if your trash and your neighbors' garbage was piling up week after month after month outside your door. Bill Gates has created a lot but not solely based on his merits alone. He was born into a high functioning intact loving family, blessed with high intelligence and good health, had access to the best education, healthcare, food, housing and safety. Not every child has these advantages. The USA would do better to provide the above benefits to all it's citizens, much like a high functioning family; rather than the dog-eat-dog, everyone for himself, profit $ system we have now. The we could optimize everyone's contribution.

  15. P.S. thanks to iatwp for a thought provoking post! Always happy to read one of your posts.

  16. "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." -- Winston Churchill
    Very thought provoking post. And I like the way that you defended your viewpoint. ;o)
    When it comes to utopias, I think what we currently have is about as good as it gets or ever will get.
    As for Heinlein's politics, I think he was pretty much all over the map. He seems to have changed his mind like other people change their underwear.

  17. Well said Zoe! Thank you.

    I seem to remember seeing a New York garbage strike on the news years ago. It was not pleasant.

  18. Catseye, loved the quote, thank you. :)

    In my opinion a constantly changing mind is better than one stuck in the same rigid pattern. I'm going to have to go and read more Heinlen now.

  19. Interesting post although there are parts that I totally disagreewith there are also parts I am on your side.
    I do wonder, who decides when the playing field is even? I follow another blog where the person claims to be poor, both parents working really hard to "make ends meet". I was really going along with it, then out of the blue, her daughter has an opportunity to go abroad next year in Europe and she can go too. And guess what, they only have to save another $675 a month to provide for this trip. Now don't get me wrong, they are going to save for it which I say is great but I have a hard time putting them in the poor category if they can save $675 a month in addition to their living expenses. BTW she is also wanting things to be more"even" amongst the masses especially at the workplace. At one time, she wanted her employer to consider providing some kind of "assistance" to employees who have to travel quite a distance to get to their job. She seemed annoyed that her employer would not consider this. This is from a blogger who has access to healthcare, who has a stable roof over their head, who from her words makes enough money to pay the bills, save for future expenses, takea 9 day vacation and save for a European trip and yet she expects more from her employer. I have a hard time with this thinking.
    There are too many people who work multiple jobs to put food on the table who would love to have what this blogger has. This is an example of why some of us kind of cringe when we read posts like yours because we also read blogs like what I just described. It makes one question the validity of such claims of need and that is so sad because when we need to hear the voices of those like yourself, we tend to turn the volume down. We've heard it before, been there done that.
    Please continue to bring up such thought provoking topics. Be prepared to have comments that don't agree with you and be open to their opinions too.
    Vote for those who you feel will do the best job not just for ourselves but for the country as a whole. And be willing to listen to your so called "opponents' for lack of a better term. Stand up for what you believe and allow others to do the same even if they are on the other side of the spectrum. Be respectful, this goes for everyone, myself as well. Because I know sometimes I don't use words in the best manner.
    You are an example to me. I admire the way you and your family pull together for the good. You work hard, make sacrifices, save-all to get your family in a better place. My hat is off to you.

  20. Will try to post anonymously since blogger is being erratic with me.

    A very thought provoking topic and I so agree with you. While I certainly don't consider anyone rich to be evil in the least, I do believe many of the "BIG" corporations are run in what I would consider an evil manner. Yes, big business has provided a lot of employement, but they have also been reponsible for a lot of the economic destruction out there. As well, reading about millions of dollars given to the CEO's of these large companies seems to be grossly over compensated. That being said, I do agree with pulling our weight and being responsible for ourselves. However, as a social worker, I do agree with government being able to provide assistance to those that need it. I have seen too many people who fall through the cracks who are desperately in need and through no fault of their own just can't make it through the month. Thanks for writing this, your posts are passionate and very on point.

    terry from "a little bit about everything"

  21. Phoebe, disagreeing viewponts are always welcome. It would be a boring world if we all thought alike.

    Perhaps poverty as well as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Middle class workers who have lost some income due to the recession feel poor now but they would probably be in shock if they had to survive on what I make. I have it so much better than those who have lost all income and have to exist on unemployent. There are different degrees of poor.

    I don't think we should take from anyone to make anything even. That doesn't work and isn't fair besides. It would be nice to have shorter hours in most instances so more can work for a paycheck, and have time for a better quality of life.

    Thank you. :)

  22. Terri, without the security net provided by food stamps, medicaid, and unemployment would we be in a Depression rather than a Recession?

  23. I do believe you have opened a can of worms here, WP! GOOD ON YOU. There is so much to think about that I sent your URL to a pack of my pals so they can weigh in.

    You are quite the thinker, quite the problem solver, so you are!

    Hugs, Mother Connie

  24. To answer your question about whether without food stamps, Medicaid and unemployment I firmly believe yes! We would be in a Depression, (and I'm not certain we're not in one now). Without these many people I work with would be in even more dire straights. As it is, services are being curtailed in most social service agencies I work with. Food banks are being emptied faster than their coffers can be refilled. If the government doesn't come to an agreement soon, I dont know what will happen to my clients, ALL of whom depend on help to get through the month...,

  25. You are very wise for one so young, young one. I agree with everything you said.

  26. Welfare recipients who are poor are considered lazy or worthless by some. They are taking what they have not earned. Corporate welfare for corporations (people) is noble and worthy. They have an entitlement mentality. Think of all the breaks that businesses get from the government. Think about the golden parachutes. If that is not welfare, I don't know what is.