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Tag Archives: minimalism

On A Basic Guaranteed Living

The very idea of a basic guaranteed living is regarded as heresy in a Western society that worships the market economy as Aztecs worshiped eclipses.  Both societies had ritual sacrifice, but we try to rationalize it away as “creative destruction.”

The moment we consider labor as a resource that can be stockpiled like grain, coal, or copper, it’s hard to think the same way.  If we want a wealthy, resilient society, then it makes sense to pay, feed, and train people right now so they are available when needed.  After all, we usually pay for a can of soup first and put it in the pantry before we actually get hungry.

Once we begin to toy with this mindset, we see that when the God of the Market is installed as lord of Olympus, it becomes an alzheimers-ridden invalid stuck in the eternal present, the vagaries of the stock market the tremors of a frail, arthiritic hand.

If we thought about the economy in real life like we do in computer games, we’d spend much of our resources preparing society to weather disasters and last the long term.  Militaries already behave a lot like this, obsessively drawing up plans for every contingency.  Why not build things and train people thinking about how to win the game?  Isn’t that a more engaging mission than “economic growth” for its own sake or looking for the El Dorado of “full employment?”

Why not pretend like we’re establishing a Mars colony and make it a national mission to massively back up all critical infrastructure, making it as durable as possible, in addition to pristinely maintaining what we have?
Why not train twice as many electricians, plumbers, developers, and garbagemen as we actually need and give them half the time off?  Then, in a rare emergency, abundant reserves are always ready to spring into action.
Why not prepare for the size of the economy remaining the same or even shrinking so its natural fluctuations, or planned movements are no big deal?  Surely an economy that collapses into chaos without infinite growth is stiffly unable to maneuver in changing situations.  Like a limb stuck in a brace, when forced to move, it breaks.

Instead, we force people to find the most frivolous ways imaginable to play at shuffling around economic tokens on pain of starvation, even if the activity or its externalities are a net negative to society.
Millions of people go through the motions of make-work pretending an obsolete way of life can waltz on even as it falls apart.  This prolonged denial of reality benefits the very upper and lower ends of the spectrum while everyone else is punished.

Why not reward the people who get trained in valuable skills and contribute with fewer hours?  In our present system the most productive have to do more work because a laissez faire free market only supports just enough personnel.  Why not reward the good kids who reliably get stuff done with less homework by overstaffing instead of saddling a few of the most productive people with all the work they can handle?
When the best players on the team are too busy to have families because of the competitive rat race, society is doing something wrong.

Why not do things the other way around and have low IQ people on state welfare kept busy whenever possible, even if it’s picking up trash, sweeping streets, or mowing lawns?  Always more of that to be done.  They’d have to constantly pursue those endless daily tasks to get their guaranteed food and state housing.

Of course, some might not be amenable to working at all.  It’s hard to force people to do things they don’t want to do and inhumane(and politically damaging) to let people starve.  So those who would receive state benefits but refuse to put in their fair share would be allowed to do so but have to undergo mandatory sterilization.

I imagine another condition of state guaranteed housing would be that like soldiers they must go where they are needed(though it would only be humane to keep families intact).  Perhaps the worst of those both lazy and dumb would go to camps in Alaska where they’d have enough nutrition to live and cable TV until they die.

I have considered before that the problem with the market as we know it with all its gaudy gadgets, brainless fashion, boring aesthetics, and planned obsolescence is a natural result of allowing dumb people too much participation.  Not to mention, many capable people working 60+ hour weeks don’t have the time and energy to be discerning customers.  Workers with more money than leisure are relegated to being mere consumers.  If this were remedied, everything from boots to books would be higher quality.

The low IQ population on state benefits—even those doing useful work—would mostly get basic food and housing with a very limited monetary allowance to prevent them from corrupting product quality.
This would also put up a barrier to stop people who are subsidized by the state redefining the low bar of market competition to the disadvantage of those who paid for everything they’ve got.

People with their needs met by the state spending too much money would distort prices just as we already see with the devastating impact of easy loans and insurance on housing, college education, and healthcare in the USA.

This way, we’d effectively have a labor force with deep reserves that can handle sudden shocks.  The economy would be able to grow, maintain, or shrink as best serves the needs of the whole society.
Anyone can choose to get a basic living from the state, but in exchange, access to money, freedom of mobility, and freedom over time is limited.   Those taken care of by the state only fit for menial work are kept busy.  Those both dumb and useless would be sterilized.

Higher IQ people living on state aid might be given substantial free time, extra perks, in proportion to their abilities but strategically worked and challenged so they don’t get completely lazy and become idle shutins.  If they have creative talents, perhaps they are paid by the state in time by having to do still less hours of state labor and given whatever equipment they need.
Also, instead of having an army of social workers dedicated to the most hopeless and despondent, why not have a task force of therapists that specialize in properly socializing smart omegas?  I once saw a video about people in Japan who actually do this and introduce shutins to the adult world.

There is also, of course, the problem of underclass fecundity.  Several methods could be used together to discourage breeding.  One possibility I could think of is that a child of parents on guaranteed living would get rations sufficient to perhaps 80% of its needs.  The parents would have their first kid and watch the amount of rationed rice they have left over diminish.  Even the dumbest of humankind are generally responsive to the implied threat of food scarcity.  Also, state housing might be restricted to about 500 square feet, a method that seems to work well with hipsters.  Then flood the institutions they use with relentless anti-child propaganda though this works less well with the least permeable minds.
There may be those that keep trying to pop them out no matter what and if not stopped they get selected for and like an antibiotic resistant strain, propagate quickly.  Maybe there would be a hard 2 kid limit for those who don’t get the hint and if they try to disobey get mandatory sterilization.

There would be abundant programs and “halfway houses” to get people back into the market economy again whenever they want.  Besides being relatively uncomfortable and with fewer freedoms, the greatest enforcement against abusing the system would come from human status competition.  Having money would have even more status than it does now, because not everyone would have it.  Without money, one’s social standing would be crushingly low.

This would be very intentional because the post-enlightenment neo-tribal state recognizes that status is sexual capital that allows men to get desirable mates.  Then, that access to resources allows couples to house, feed, and protect children.  There would be a tacit understanding that a dollar bill should only go into the hands of someone you want to see more of in the next generation.

As with any system, I’m sure I could spend a lifetime hammering out every loophole, dysfunction, and weakness bound to be exploited by parasites and free-riders, but these are my initial thoughts on what a post labor scarcity economy might look like.

Strategic Laziness

Our universe tends towards entropy and chaos.  As complexity of organization increases, resistance rises exponentially, like trying to force two opposing magnets together. (It’s always megafauna, T Rex or Mammoths that go extinct, not E. coli)  Looking at the natural world here on earth it’s quickly clear that every living thing expends as little energy as possible to persist.  Lions with full stomachs sleep most of the time, desert toads hibernate for years in between rains, birds with no predators lose the ability to fly over time. Nothing works harder than it must.  The more complex and energy-intensive the solution, the harder it is to sustain.

Trouble arises, though, when you’re a flightless, fearless dodo perfectly well adapted to your environment and suddenly humans show up. Or likewise, you’re a fit dinosaur species but prove unable to cope with a nuclear winter caused by asteroid impact possibly combining with volcanic eruptions to form a perfect disaster.  Evolution alone can’t plan ahead or anticipate rare catastrophic events.  This is why I think some living things have been pushed towards higher levels of awareness despite its massive costs, so they can be strategically lazy spending as little effort as possible while avoiding the dangers of only responding to constant, familiar stressors.

 The peacock’s tail is one of my favorite examples against the infallibility of nature.  It’s a natural pattern we see often in corporate, governmental, civilizational bloat.  All that sacred competition gets you something that maybe looks pretty but is a worse-than-useless burden sucking huge amounts of energy.  It teaches us that the patterns of civilizations and corporations are every bit as natural as the rippling of sand dunes.  Perhaps the most devastating doctrine of the enlightenment was to hubristically treat man and nature, not only as separate, but as opposites.

When I was about 12 years old, I was responsible for weeding the yard.  Trouble was, there were more seeds constantly blowing in from the desert and most of the lot was dirt and gravel that was perfect for them.  I well knew that even going over the whole yard with a hoe a couple times a week wouldn’t accomplish much.  In a few days, new sprouts were coming up everywhere.  In fact, killing everything just favored the worst sort of thorns that hugged the ground in choking vines, and dropped thousands of their sharp barbs that deflated basketballs and stuck in shoe soles by the dozens.
I noticed at the same time that a lot of the desert plants had pretty flowers, lacked thorns or sticky leaves, and had roots that were easy to pull up if I needed to.  I started what I then called “selective weeding” and let the desert weeds I liked flourish while punishing the thorn vines and the russian thistles that turn into tumbleweeds.
Before long, there was a colorful garden of desert flowers outside my bedroom window alive with the buzzing of bees.  The thorn plants were not even 1/10th of the problem they used to be once they had competition.
Of course my parents eventually asked me why I wasn’t doing my job.  I tried to explain what I was doing, but no one listens to a 7th grade kid trying to avoid work and I was told to take care of it.  So knowing full well what would happen next, I went out and uprooted my experiment.  Soon enough, the thorns were back in force despite our best efforts.
This was a formative experience that influenced my world view ever since.  I learned the futility of sustaining a vacuum against equilibrium.
I later saw the same problems I encountered doing childhood yard chores over and over again in 6000 years of failed human governments.  At some point there’s always well-intentioned policies that try to defy the equilibrium, end up favoring the thorns, and the rest is history.

I came to realize as I grew up in a frantically workaholic American society that nature in fact favors laziness.  An animal at leisure is well-fed and prosperous, a creature that must always work is failing at the game of survival.  It helped explain to me the widespread stress and misery of what should be by all rights a prosperous and happy land.  Constant labor tells us on a gut level that we are always on the brink of starvation, however many mansions and cars we may own.  Some of us become adrendaline junkies while others get ground down into burnouts that just go through the motions.  Whatever someone’s station, there’s just an interminable “job” never a tangible task that has a beginning and an end after which one enjoys the fruits of a job well done.  That I realized is the peculiar insanity of industrial civilization—a trap of Sisyphean futility most are stuck in until they’re dead.
As I approached adulthood I came to understand there was no luxury on earth greater than the power to simply do nothing.

The basic problem of modern civilization is that it favors extravagant solutions arrived at through extreme, specialized competition like the peacock’s tail.
A sense of minimalism, strategic laziness, yields simpler, more resilient, more adaptable solutions.  
Even when gatekeepers force peacock competition with a strategic bottleneck, the payoff for finding a low cost workaround or substitute is very high.

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