Friday, 23 June 2017

The Lentils Economy

In my earlier blog posts, I wrote about capitalism being a system that is ecologically unsustainable and dependent on socially harmful wealth inequality. A common response to this by pro-capitalists is that capitalism may not be perfect, but it's the best system we can have. They then point to communism as being a dismal failure. I would agree that communism is a failure, because it has the same ideological underpinning as capitalism, which is that the earth and life on it ought to be transformed from a into a set of commodities. Capitalism and communism both agree that the accumulation of material possessions is most important. The fact that they disagree on how to go about maximizing material possessions is only a secondary characteristic of the systems.

Beyond capitalism and communism, dozens of other economic systems have been proposed, yet they all tend to focus on a standard of living measured by the accumulation of material possessions. Factors such as social cohesion, quality of relations, quality of life, and mental and physical health are secondary considerations if considered at all.

I would like to propose an economic system founded on the principle of the maximization of leisure time. To clarify, I mean leisure time in the strict sense of 'time' rather than how one spends that time or what one does during that time. I call this economic system the Lentils Economy.

In the Lentils Economy, maximizing leisure time requires the minimization of work time; work time being defined as time spent on producing or accumulating material possessions. For this to occur, work time must only be spent on producing the essential commodities, as given in the list below:

-Food, such as unprocessed easy to produce and easy to store natural foods such as nutritious dried lentils
-Shelter, durable shelter made of sustainable materials
-Clothing, again must be durable and made of sustainably grown natural fibres such as cotton or linen
-Basic personal items such as soap and toothbrushes

Once decent surpluses are built-up of the above items, people would then have no shortage of leisure time. I would also propose that social systems and living arrangements, such as nearby soup kitchens where volunteers take turn making meals for a large group, would be integrated with the Lentils Economy to further reduce time spent on secondary work. I define secondary work as laborious tasks not directly tied to accumulating commodities, such as shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

To contrast the Lentils Economy with the capitalist system, in the Lentils Economy the following items would be completely absent:

-Marketing (no one needs to have someone create a commercial telling people they ought to eat lentils if they want to be happy)
-Cars (not needed to grow food, build shelter, or produce clothing. The manufacture and resource extraction involved is nothing but a ton of unnecessary work)
-Electricity (The building and running of power plants and the building and maintenance of transmission lines is tedious. Humanity lived for hundreds of thousands of years without electricity, and it in the recorded history it is not found that the lack of electricity made people depressed)
-Large amounts of metal (the smelting of metals is laborious and releases much fumes. Items typically made of metal, such as utensils could easily be made of would instead. Metal farming implements such as shovels and axes would be useful, but they could be salvaged from the wreck of the capitalist ecomony as the Lentils Economy would follow or replace the capitalist system rather than arise ex nihilo)
-Plastic (again, wood or other natural plant fibres would be used instead and the trees replanted)
-Toxic waste (there would be virtually no manufacturing outside of basic cottage industries, so no toxic waste would be created. Fish would not contain methylmercury)

In the new system, some things are lost, and some are gained (clean air, water, and soil, and much more leisure time). The question to ask is, what things really matter? What things don't really matter so much? Reflect on that a bit, and maybe some aspects of the Lentils Economy will appeal to you.

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