Re: true abundance?

Date: Sat Feb 10 2001 - 09:16:16 MST

In a message dated 1/29/01 1:18:17 PM Central Standard Time, writes:
> I've been looking at the guaranteed income from a new perspective since
> reading Chapter 7 of THE SPIKE.

I confess it was the part of Damien's book that made me grit my teeth - but,
hey, he's Australian, so you have to cut him some slack :-0

> The main reason I can think of for not having a government-provided
> guaranteed income is that it is morally wrong for
> one group of people calling themselves "the government" to steal from
> another group of people, regardless of how the thieves dispose of the
> stolen goods. A guaranteed income would seem to require that this sort of
> theft be perpetrated.

I certainly agree. Which is why the "true abundance" idea we're discussing
here has the potential to be "something completely different" in Monty
Pythonesque terms.
> In Chapter 7 of THE SPIKE Damien mentions, in passing, the concept of
> guaranteed income as an inheritance. ["...let's not look at a guaranteed
> income as a 'natural right,' like the supposed innate rights to freedom of
> speech and liberty. Rather it is an inheritance, something *owed* to all
> the children of a society whose ancestors for generations have together
> built, and purchased through the work of their minds and hands, the
> resource base sustaining today's cornucopia."] I like this idea a lot,
> it ties into the discussion we were recently having about "human nature."
> For all the years of the existence of *Homo sapiens sapiens* other than
> the tiniest fraction representing the last 10,000 years or so, members of
> the species lived in relatively small groups. Based on the available
> evidence, up until the start of agriculture, a typical human could expect
> guaranteed income something like what Denis listed (excepting, maybe,
> unrestricted access to information--but one's access to information would
> not be restricted according to the amount of material wealth one
> The scientific discoveries which have most changed our lives were
> apparently made by people living under these conditions (domestication of
> crops and animals, for example--all the major food crops and animals were
> domesticated during this period).

I think it's important when employing this kind of reasoning to consider that
there was GREAT diversity in the quality of life of pre-agricultural people,
including everything from situations in which individuals had to do very
little "work" to sustain themselves (I'm thinking of cultures like those of
the American Pacific Northwest Indians) to people who lived at - and then
died beyond - the margin of extinction. The size and structure of social
groups also varied somewhat (there's certainly evidence for a few, brief,
large concentrations of Neolithic people).

> The problem with having a guaranteed income administered by a centralized
> government with power over a large number of people inhabiting a large
> geographical area is the lack of personal interaction between donors and
> recipients. These sorts of systems always seem to cave in on themselves
> through mismanagement and corruption.

This seems right - face-to-face social support by people one knows well
definitely has a different "moral texture" from a bureaucratically
administered social welfare system. As you say, Barbara, there also seem to
be some inherent - and perhaps cascading - inefficiencies in the latter (i.e.
the increasing burden of administration as the size of the system grows tends
to sap the end benefit bestowed on the intended targets).
> But our present system isn't working very well either. Not for the vast
> majority of people living within it. Most people spend the majority of
> their time doing things they don't want to be doing. For most people, life
> cannot be said to be joyful. One reason for this seems to be the
> association of having a job with being a respectable person. The problem
> with this is that a huge portion of the "work" done each day is bullshit
> "busy work." An example of busy work in school: my daughter and I used to
> spend a certain part of each year traveling, and I'd get the lesson plans
> from the teachers so she could keep up with her class at school. We'd
> always finish a day's work in an hour and a half or less. I understand
> something like 80% of the productive work in business organizations is
> in 20% of the time. The other 80% of the time is spent non productively
> productivity is measured in terms of advancing toward a desirable goal). I
> think much of what people do these days is motivated by a need to stay
> busy. Work is invented.

That's true -- a WHOLE lot of what has gone on in any office environment in
which I've worked has been basic monkey-business, i.e. socializing. Of
course, in some businesses, the monkey-business IS the business, i.e.
networking, determining and signaling intentions, etc. It'd be interesting
to see some social anthropology studies about "industrial" workers and see
how much time is spent in socializing.

> Another quote from THE SPIKE: "In a world mutating ever more swiftly under
> the impact of high technology, detestable toil will be very hard to find,
> or even invent."

I sincerely hope this is true. We will have to be careful about
accommodating the natural human (and I'm willing to bet, post-human) desire
for structured social activity that the best of "work" provides. In a world
of "true abundance", I expect that people will do this. Let us hope they do
it in creative and -- as you say, Barbara, "joyful" -- ways.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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