[extropy-chat] economics of scarcity to economics of plenty

Jack Parkinson isthatyoujack at icqmail.com
Mon Oct 31 08:47:59 UTC 2005

----- Original Message -----
From: "Samantha Atkins" <sjatkins at mac.com>

Jack Parkinson wrote:
> > Why is full employment defined as success?
> > Because the case above represents only an economic success from the
> > point of
> > view of the company. It is still a scarcity scenario. True economic
> > success
> > might be considered as win/win/win - company/individual/society - the
> > economics of plenty.
> >
> Sure.  Ideally  one doesn't need a j-o-b or equivalent to partake of
> the bounty.  How exactly we get there from here or whether it is ever
> possible to get there are fine questions.
> But even without that it is not in any way better to use less
> efficient and more limited means simply to keep everyone employed.

Yes! We are in agreement on this. I certainly am not an advocate for putting
tecnological genies back in their bottles. I am simply challenging some
accepted notions of what *economic efficiency* might really be.

> > In the situation in the automated factory above, if the economic
> > success of
> > the company is balanced by a disaffected, unemployed, or welfare
> > group of
> > individuals - then net economic benefits to society are nullified.
> There is no meaningful entity named "society".   Being able to
> produce more wealth with less resources and effort is a net win
> regardless of distribution problems.

True again. But we all work in some type of cooperative human hierarchy. I'm
not sure about net wins as you describe them, wealth undistributed is
meaningless. If all the money was in one bank account - of what use could it
> > The
> > technology is not being used to allow freedom, leisure and family
> > quality
> > time - it is being used to deprive one section of the community of
> > a chance
> > to make a living - while at the same time empowering another
> > section to ask
> > society to feed, clothe and house the unwanted workers - why would
> > that be
> > efficient!?
> >
> I don't see any disjoint sections here necessarily.  Maximization of
> wealth seems to me to logically include maximization of all human
> potential to add to that wealth.
> >
> > Similarly, mega corporations are wasteful for the very reasons they
> > pride
> > themselves on being efficient - the bigger the company, the less
> > percentage
> > of tax they are likely to pay and the more tax payer handouts they are
> > likely to receive -
> This is an often challenged canard and is not terribly relevant to
> future economic forms.

Cost/benefits analyses would be required to prove/disprove this. But surely
most would agree that a degree of equal competition was a healthy thing -
those disagreeing, (in practice - if not in expressed thought) would be the
megacorps themselves whose mission is to destroy, assimilate and nullify
such competition - waste them in effect.
> > bigger companies accrue less benefits for society as a
> > whole than smaller companies do. At worst they move offshore,
> > contribute
> > next to nothing, encourage sweat shop labor and become almost
> > parasitic in
> > some societies.
> One of the fastest ways that developing countries quickly move up the
> ladder is by offering cheaper labor.  Very quickly the type of labor
> offered is more and more advanced.  Very meager wages here can be
> much sought after riches elsewhere.  There are abuses but there are
> also a lot of win-win situations.

Yes! A good kick-start for developing countries. Not so good for the
thousands of redundancies created back home - UNLESS they can access
training, new opportunity etc.

> > Smaller companies contribute much more to society, they
> > employ more people for less gross earnings and are hence more
> > economically
> > efficient by this reasoning.
> You seem to assume a zero sum wealth model.

No. I am aware that my comments were fairly simplistic. But I really only
intended to challenge some assumptions rather than provide a wholly coherent
alternative. I'm not sure there is one yet!

> >
> > As big businesses reduce their work-forces in the interests of
> > efficiency -
> > a hugely inefficient drag and burden on the rest of society is
> > imposed - the
> > incomes of the poor must come from somewhere. If big business is
> > *efficient* - that somewhere is maybe you and me...
> Not necessarily.  Retraining, distribution of benefits without
> predatory government practices can lessen the strain as the economy
> needs fewer and fewer human workers and of more rarefied skills and
> knowledge.  Paying for everyone who can be retrained to go back to
> school as long as they perform reasonably well there is MUCH better
> in my mind than today's welfare and such.  I do believe that there is
> a real problem as technology advances and I am not convinced fully
> that a *really free* market would fix it by itself.  We have traveled
> too far and too long in an unfree market to even get there from here
> in a believable fashion and then it is a theoretical krap shoot
> whether the problem would be resolved.  But I am utterly certain that
> limiting technology and fighting against increased efficiency is not
> only not in the solution space.  This purported cure is much worse
> than the disease.
> - samantha

Limiting technology is not the answer as you say. But at present we do
routinely limit ACCESS to technology and to my mind this amounts to an
equivalent sin. If we had nanoscale manufacturing and an available wide
range of *free* consumer goods, the proverbial evil dictator would naturally
want to control these devices. Corporations and governments certainly will
want to control them.
I would argue in this instance that (except for some proscribed usages)
these devices should be as free as most info on the web is now...  This
maybe would be the start of a true economics of plenty. But, I would predict
that there will be many who believe scarcity and deprivation would suit them
better and who might dismiss this as craziness...

Patents, digital rights, copyrights et al, are all blockages in the system -
guardians of the creed of scarcity. Yes they protect a few legitimate
concerns... but there must surely be a better way!
Jack Parkinson

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