Subsistence based vs growth based economy

They’re not even a match for tourists covered in iphones and sex toys. (I think that they are using both wrong)

There is the romantic notion that before we had all this stuff, before we sat down and made tools and houses and grew crops and husbanded livestock, that we were freer and that we were happier and healthier.

So, lets go back to the time when half the kids didn’t make it to adulthood, adults didn’t much live past 30-40, nearly any major injury was fatal, and minor injuries were a crisis. Lets get rid of food security, along with personal security and autonomy. While we are at it, forget about being able to turn a knob and get clean fresh water, dysentery is fun.

The OP sounds a bit Kaczynski-esque. @Marcus: if you want to go live a subsistence lifestyle somewhere, you’re probably largely free to do so. Don’t be surprised if not a lot of people choose to join you in that.

The $3500 shirt.

We live in a era of unparalleled prosperity for the majority of humans on the planet, a time when poverty is at an all time low and drops measurably every year, a time when there is less strife and less violence world wide than ever and when standards of living and life expectancy are at their highest in history. Definitely it’s a disaster, so we should certainly go back to the way things were in the past! :dubious:

Thanks, but I think I’ll stick to the modern world…I don’t yearn for the golden age of previous centuries when the vast majority of people lived (and died) under crushing poverty, eking out a subsistence level life.

OTOH, the op may have a bit of a point here.

One of my conjectures about the movie and universe of Avatar is that the Navi were a highly advanced race that decided to essentially bioengineer the world to their liking, improve their own health and fitness, and bury all their technology underground.

Then they get the hunter gatherer lifestyle (like being on a permanent camping trip), without the downsides of being hunter gatherers.
Of course, even in that instance, they still run into trouble when outsiders who do not share their vision of singing around campfires being the ultimate form of living expression show up.

I didn’t get the impression the OP was talking about burying all our technology underground or bioengineering the world. My impression was he was proposing we throw away all that technology to live like cavemen:

Any species with interstellar capabilities is not going to be worried about resources. Nor would they be fighting a native alien species using ground troops. If the Navi at Home Tree were needed to be moved out of the way for exploitation for some magic metal then a big rock dropped on them is really all that needs to be done.

Yeah, I’m just saying that the romantic notion of that simpler life can be appealing.

Thing is, is that didn’t exist in our past. It may be possible that it will in the future.

Tell that to James Cameron. :slight_smile:

I doubt he listens to his production scientific advisers, let alone me. :stuck_out_tongue:

In such a system, who is able to use the time and resources needed to plant and harvest by hand to develop the plow, the seeder and the combine? Who builds the warehouse to store the grain and forges the knife to kill the pig?

Now, let’s go up one step. Who transports the grain from one area to another? Who tends to the sick? Who trains the person who tends to the sick? Who provides the food, clothing and shelter to all the people who society wants to do stuff other than spending all their time feeding, clothing and sheltering themselves?

Avatar wasn’t a documentary, and I don’t think it tells us anything about real life. The plot was just recycled fairy tales.

You might want to take a look at where those $5 shirts come from. The people making them live pretty shit lives, are paid next to nothing while being locked in the factories (sometimes dying in building fires that the locked doors prevent them from escaping). It is not much different from slave labor.

The same goes for most electronics. They are imported because the manufacturers in those other countries can get away with treating their workers like turds. In the US, we see the benefits of mass production and economies of scale because we do not see the dark underbelly of it.

You are exaggerating, but keep in mind that the conditions of which you speak were common in the US not that long ago, and yet people flooded this country in order to get away from living at a subsistence level. A similar thing happens in developing countries today. Working long hours in a crappy factory sucks, unless your choice is stoop labor on the farm where you barely scratch out a living.

I’d be completely fine with this
I do think there is a medium that could address our needs without ruining the ecosystem and our psyches the way contemporary society seems to, but it would probably not be easy getting there from here. Most likely, we will instead crash hard before too long, and who knows what will follow that, but I doubt it will be pretty. Which makes me sad for the children.


Man is hurdling at breakneck speed towards an utterly unforgiving brick wall, while staring at pretty rainbows.

Do you think their lives would have been a lot better in a subsistence economy where they had to spend the daylight hours hunting and gathering and the rest of the time trying to weave their own fabric and tan their own leather by the light of a fire, all the time being one poor hunt or spoiled crop away from starvation and one infected scratch away from gangrene?

There would still be people carrying out tasks necessary to collective survival. This is necessary work. Right now, most work is over work, unnecessary work, destructive work, work to sustain the insatiable sun god called “the economy.” We work, because we *cannot * stop working.

I don’t deny that we are indeed rich beyond measure, by historical standards. The common man today is more pampered and lives more luxuriously than kings of the past. We have everything we could ever need to keep jerking ourselves, button mashing ourselves, and gorging ourselves into oblivion.

The modern world is a ‘land of plenty.’ But no amount of plenty can cover up its gnawing emptiness.

Nobody I know is working “to sustain the insatiable sun god called “the economy.”” People are working to support themselves and their families, to acquire things they desire, etc.

You - all of you - are completely missing the most important economic point here.

To have a static economy - one where subsistence levels maintain a steady state - you must also have a static population.

One of the true drivers of the need for an expanding economy is the fact that our population is constantly expanding. Growth gives us the opportunity to maintain lifestyles while continuing to provide for more and more people. Essentially, lifestyle is a combination - boiling down enormously - from this equation:

Gross Production / Population = standard of living

Let the left side of that grow faster that the right and you get increasing wealth - and, likely, a consumer society - and good. Let the right side grow faster than the left and you get starvation. Not just poverty, but starvation. A malthusian solution to the problem.

So it’s not entirely fair to blame capitalism for its need for continual expansion, blame our desire to reproduce. And that ain’t going away completely anytime soon. People gonna be banging.

The west settled on captialism as a means of allow the left side of the equation to keep up with the right or outpace it with the Industrial Revolution. WWII cemented whether capitalism or fascism would control it. Here we are.

The question becomes whether some modified form of capitalism can be implemented that controls for capitalism’s inefficiencies while maintaining it’s expansive nature.

Now, I’ve got little love for consumer culture, God knows. I’m on record as thinking we spend to much of our efforts at the acquisition of things that don’t actually improve our lives. But I don’t think a return to a hunter gather lifestyle is good either. Neither Luddites nor libertarians have any useful long terms solutions. A middle way has to be achievable.

Am I reducing the argument too much by asking you if, given the choice between a soul-sucking job and more than adequate food, shelter and free time vs. working all the time to achieve a barely adequate level of those things, you believe that will be LESS soul-sucking?

I can always choose to work less, or in a less stressful occupation in exchange for reducing my standard of living.