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NEETs, Lumpenproles, and the Leisure Economy

This post is inspired from exchanges with Robert Stark of Stark Truth Radio and is part of the lead-up to our next podcast.

I recently proposed that in a post-labor-scarcity state, a basic guaranteed living ought to be available to everyone, on condition they give up most participation in the market economy.  But I also recognize that basic differences among humans must be taken into account.

The majority of humanity requires a clear role and task given them by society to function.  So most people on a guaranteed state living would be kept busy.
However, there are those with good intellects and high levels of personal autonomy who are better suited for the leisure economy.  They would relinquish money like ancient thinkers did and focus completely on their work.

It may sound at first like a fantastic alien social arrangement from an episode of Star Trek with wrinkly nosed aliens-of-the-week in crisp white robes, but we may consider the very common phenomenon of under-employed highly-educated people.
They “live in their parents’ basement” or small apartments and remain “underachievers” working low-paid jobs well into their 30s.  Sometimes we call them NEETs, not in employment, education, or training, even though they may already have multiple college degrees.

They become market underachievers because they value their access to leisure more than careers which are hard to get anyway.  There may be an element of sour grapes in that assessment, yet it is true enough oversaturated competition for “professional” niches makes the whole experience a soul-crushing slog for all but the most “ambitious.”
Part of the torture of “making it” is you spend most of your time for the rest of your life around “ambitious” people.  If it’s not your natural community, it literally siphons off your spirit until you’re a lifeless husk.

I fit this profile myself and there are times when I actively chose a life of hardship and uncertainty.  I worked the lowest jobs to get by, but I also knew I could quit them any time so long as I could save up some money and no one had me completely by the balls.  I didn’t have to care and that, I found, is one of the greatest powers on earth.
The tradeoff is, of course, no one gives you a real slice of the pie in this life until they know you’re invested somehow.  Whether it’s ritual scarification in the Papua New Guinea highlands, “making your bones” in a gang, or overpriced 4 year degrees, it’s all the same idea.  At some level all NEETs are choosing to trade earnings for autonomy.

In my case, I found ways to make even the hours spent working yield some benefit.  Nothing tortured me so greatly as spending my scarce time alive making someone else rich.  Even back when I was a nearly broke wanderer stocking shelves I was listening to e-books the whole time.  I was burning through a 1000 page book every couple of weeks.  I became aware in my time as a NEET working alongside lumpenproles that my psychology and motivations were so alien to them as to make me for all practical purposes a specimen of some other species.

I quickly learned I had to hide I was listening to books and to watch my word choice carefully or I’d be ostracized and treated like crap until I quit and went to the next place.  I practiced this kind of slash and burn employment until I gradually learned how to make enough small talk with even the simplest normies in their own language to keep them from leaping at my throat.

My experience tells me it would be very easy to distinguish lumpenproles and underclass from stoner underachievers with useless degrees.  Most of the time you can tell just by looking at someone or talking to them for 30 seconds or less.  We can pretty safely assume some dude wearing a white wifebeater with his pants hanging down isn’t going to write the next great American novel.   Perhaps there would be various qualifications and shibboleths to see who gets in and in what capacity.

More importantly, the guaranteed basic living for SWPL dropouts with decent IQ would just have to be unattractive to the masses.  It would be tailored for personal freedom at the expense of low IQ creature comforts and that alone would help repel most of those who are not suited for it.

Lumpenproles don’t want autonomy, especially when they must sacrifice security to get it.  Their mentality is the exact opposite of the NEET mindset.  Living under the control of their betters in the hierarchy actually comforts them, kind of like how dogs enjoy being kept in a closed-in cage at night.

Many of them I’ve worked with actually take pride and comfort in working long hours doing simple tasks as the routine gives them a steady place in society and occupies their energies that would otherwise go into daytime TV, drugs, and petty crime.  They really have nothing else better to do with themselves and are happy so long as their stomachs are full of flavored corn-soy soylent and soft drinks.

NEETs on the other hand already spend large amounts of time on video games and TV shows, but they also read books and surf the internet, contributing to the great online discourse.
They already live with one foot out of the market game and would probably be the first to bail entirely if they had an alternative.  The market already fails to harness their energies beyond the barest minimum, even at the gunpoint of starvation, shaming, and incelitude so why not let them channel all their energies into a leisure economy driven by passion rather than demand?

It’s easy for us to think that anything done for free lacks value, but how about we consider what it would have cost to write wikipedia and constantly update it with paid personnel?
The collective activity of the editors, however small or great their individual role created on their own initiative a project that would have cost billions of dollars had it been done as a corporate or state project with market capital.  Sure enough, encyclopedias produced by market forces have been made all but obsolete.  The leisure market effortlessly outperforms the best “competition” can produce.

A leisure economy co-existing with the market economy has made possible immense public resources.  As of now it is the wild-grown fruit of people’s free time.
However, when everyone has to focus most of their energies on jobs, many of which are net negatives to society, the focus and depth to which any one person can pursue a project is limited.  This keeps the discourse at a fairly superficial level and you’ll rarely see something like a book-level treatment of a subject from someone who isn’t getting paid for it.  This is a big reason why newspapers are being driven out of business but books remain firmly under the establishment.

Of course the leisure economy would need some intelligent limits.  Perhaps those who produce more or higher quality work get more freedoms to pursue their passions.  Many would no doubt be useless high IQ layabouts.  Their life of idleness could be strategically soured to provide them some motivation, but we should remember, they’d just be serving coffee if they were forced back into the market and all the state gives them is food, shelter, books, and internet.  Even in these worst cases the leisure economy could act as a pressure valve on wages to boost the prospects of those who are dependent on market participation.

 

The Leisure Economy

The market economy acts as a sort of spontaneous recombinant system that rapidly evolves possible solutions to problems.  New mutations arise en masse so for any lock you may encounter, you soon have the perfect key in hand.  With superhuman precision, the market decides on the perfect price for every good, down to the last fraction of a cent.  If there’s something people want, the market figures out a way to provide it as a river finds its way to the low ground no matter how many boulders lie in its path. 

The market is highly efficient because it harnesses the natural force of desire as mills harness wind and water with no further effort needed from man.

But there is a limit to the scope of the market’s power.  It can only work with existing components and cannot deal with excessive uncertainty.  Not to mention, that which deals in desires does not always give people what they really need to solve problems beyond basic material want.  Unpleasant truths and tough-but-necessary solutions tend not to sell well.  Nor can the market provide what desirers can’t imagine.

The religious devotion of modernity to the market obscures the understanding of other recombinant systems designed to solve different sorts of problems.  The biggest weakness of desire recombinance is that its function is linear and incremental.
If we are thirsty we want water.  Then we want a container to hold the water in…and so on.

The core shortcoming of powering a windmill with desire is that it’s as basic and elemental as tangible things, as common to animals as it is to people, lying near the bottom of the hierarchy of needs. 

The natural inquiry then is to ask how our windmill is powered as we move up the hierarchy of needs to its pinnacle of self-actualization that is unique to conscious beings.  We end up with something non-linear and exponential, the market of ideas where the main currency is not solid gold but ingots of free time.

Ancient Greek philosophers were not motivated by making money at jobs, nor were they really entrepeneurs.  Yet our present day society has no concept of a productive social role outside the market.

Plato had a school.  Pythagoras and Epicurus lived with bands of followers.  These groups provided for the philosopher’s material needs but they don’t seem to have been rich as we think of it.  Conspicuous leisure to develop the intellect without having to worry about money was itself the mark of natural aristocracy.
In fact, the philosophers looked down on thinkers and speakers who plied their craft primarily for profit.  These ‘sophists’ were criticized for caring about their clients rather than objective truth.  We can easily identify this same problem in our money economy thousands of years later.

This is why throughout history, societies that are poor in learned leisure fail to produce new ideas however wealthy they may be.
For thousands of years, there have been magnificent empires in China, India, and the Middle East yet it was paradoxically the comparatively barbarian fringe of Europe that reached critical mass and exploded with power and creativity like humanity has never seen.

A common pattern with peoples like the Chinese is they had no lack of ingenuity as can be seen with their inventions of gunpowder and the printing press.  
However, unless it was immediately useful in business or government the uses remained limited to low-hanging fruit.  There simply wasn’t the ripple effect of new, more sophisticated applications that we saw time and again with Europeans.
There was no space in their society for the meandering process of experimentation that has uncertain yields, if any.  In business and farming, no one can afford to consider any plan that doesn’t have consistent profits.

Societies that produce enduring ideas have in common a class of literate, educated, leisured people besides government scribes and bureaucrats.  So we might anticipate a successful future social structure will have a formal leisure economy.  Already, the internet overflows with the information and ideas of millions given to all of us for free.  Theories of capital gain have no way to navigate, or even describe this miraculous, seemingly altruistic terrain yet we’re all still stuck scraping for money.

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