Subsistence based vs growth based economy

I ask again. What would the daily life in your world be like? Grinding day-long subsistence labor, exactly the type which millions of our ancestors fled in order to go to cities where they found relief from the sameness? They found that life much emptier than the consumer society they eagerly embraced. What in your world would be different from 19th century farm life? What in the world could persuade people to go back to it?

Do you really have a vision of this world, or are you merely denouncing the lesser minds around you from your intellectual pedestal, safe in the knowledge that your privileged life affords you unending opportunity to do so?

Here’s a question you can answer succinctly. Have you ever been poor? I have, and I agree with Beatrice Kaufmann. "I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better!”

But I would give it all up for just a little MORE.

So how does living like the Amish help that? Maybe put your iPhone down, turn off Netflix and get out there and experience life?

If we did as the OP proposes, we’d have a static economy and a declining population.

I’m not feeling the ‘gnawing emptiness’, to be honest. I concede our ancestors certainly did feel it though…it was the emptiness of an empty belly, which billions would feel if we did it your way.

Honestly, to me you are spouting the same old Luddite mantra. At any period in our history there has probably been someone just like you pining for the old days when we had rock soup, and we liked it! Myself, I think that we are headed to the opposite to oblivion, and that your way is the siren song back to species extinction sooner rather than later. I know you don’t see it that way, so I’ll just agree to disagree.

And why would anyone do it? These imaginary idyllic worlds always seem to be lacking one thing - incentives.

Also, just mathematically speaking, any society that has a non-zero risk of collapse or destruction MUST keep growing, or a bad end is inevitable. For example, we are in a race to develop the technology to deflect an asteroid that might smack us. It might take us hundreds of years and the odds of being hit in any year might be 1 in 10,000, but if you don’t grow you never develop the ability to leave the planet or protect it, so the chance of being wiped out entirely by a disaster starts to approach unity.

And finally, I don’t want to just survive. In the words of the late Jerry Pournelle, I want to survive in style. I want my kid to have a better life than I did. I want us to continue to explore the universe and start to expand outwards. I’d like us to keep learning, keep reaching, keep trying to be better.

And quite frankly, this argument is fairly genocidal. He seems to be advocating restricting resources in order to shrink the population. The word for that is ‘famine’. It’s been tried. We didn’t like it.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like to find a way to move forward that doesn’t require killing billions of people and enslaving the rest. Call me a nut.

The OP is essentially the consumer equivalent of “Look at all this obesity! Obesity is a terrible problem. We should go back to 1800, they didn’t have an obesity problem then.”

And it’s actually true that obesity is bad, but starving to death is worse. Trying to solve obesity by going back to the point where people could starve to death is like solving your weed problem with a flamethrower … solves the problem, sure. Makes things better? No.

You can be essentially ‘obese with consumer goods’ (hoarding, anyone?) You can have enough stuff that it starts to degrade your quality of life. We can acknowledge that as a fact without having to go to the bizarre extreme of ‘Get Rid of All the Stuff!!1!’ We do have other options somewhere in between “consume consume consume every waking moment till you die” and “live in a hovel with only the things you can grow and make yourself”

The current globalized, factory-based economy isn’t the permanent future state of the human race any more than hunter-gathering or subsistence agriculture were. More localized production of a non-backbreaking-labour variety is slowly being developed in the form of 3-d-printing and related fields.

Oh, I’m not arguing with that. The argument that starts this thread is pure silliness.

But it has a kernel of interest. It’s one of the basic flaws in economics that a growing population requires a continually growing economy and, of course, that’s impossible. Nothing, nothing at all, can grow forever. The course we are on is - in the long run - unsustainable because at some level resources are finite. It’s an issue that isn’t near-term, but is worth being discussed.

Of course, in the long-term, all of us are dead anyway. Eat, drink and read comic books, people. Tomorrow we may die.

Look, Im not saying we need to destroy current technology and “go back” to any particular time period, but a complete revolution of values is needed.
The consumer/growth economy needs to be eliminated. Human work should directly fulfill the essentials of life- food, cclothing, shelter. It should not turn into overwork, unnecessary work, ‘make work,’ destructive work.

Can you describe the government that would be necessary in order to enforce this idea of yours? Your system sounds perfect-- for social insect species. Humans? Not so much.

What if, after having worked to fulfill their essential needs, someone decided they had a few wants they felt like working to fulfill too? Should they be free to do a bit of ‘unnecessary work’ to fulfill a want or two?

This is absolutely, totally, completely, 100%, and in every other way true.

The problem with discussing it, however, is that it is not at core an economic problem. It is an evolutionary problem. Animals will breed to the limits of the carrying capacity of their environment. We as a species are in the unique position that we have expanded the carrying capacity of our environment, in order to support ourselves, far beyond its original constraints. In doing so, we have set up quite by accident a highly interdependent, and potentially very fragile, global economic system. Our system is not something that any individual consciously designed. It is at core an accidental (some might say “emergent”) byproduct of gazillions of interacting individual decisions.

Markets are not a matter of design, but of emergent order. No one needs to know exactly how a market actually works, in order for a market to work.

That makes even the mere matter of discussing them honestly a hugely tricky feat. I see essentially zero possibility of actually finding a collective solution, when even the mere act of discussion is difficult to the point of near impossibility. We face much simpler short-term economic problems, with what strikes me as “obvious” (from my perspective) solutions, but we don’t collectively choose those solutions because however “obvious” they seem to me (rightly or wrongly), they are not collectively obvious in a way that can lead to coordinated action. And the long-term problem you’re talking about? That’s at least another order of magnitude more difficult a problem.

It’s worth talking about. Yes. Absolutely. But I don’t know that we can talk about it, don’t know that we’re even capable of talking about it in a rational fashion.

Of course not, I am just postulating the only conceivable future in which we could have both the OP’s desire for a simple easy life of acting as primitive hunter gatherers, and not have all of the horrors that that life entails.

While I can find it concievable, I do not find it likely.

We work, because if we stop working then we stop receiving the resources required to keep us alive. This has been true throughout all of history. In modern times, we have far more flexibility on this. In the future, we may have even more.

You say that you aren’t saying that we should go back, but then you say that we should get rid of everything that has brought us to where we are.

Who defines what is overwork or unnecessary work? Are you saying that we should only have food clothing and shelter? Nothing else?

Okay, first step, get rid of your computer and phone.

Post here when you no longer have access to a computer, or phone, and I’ll give you the next.

I’m not so sure of that. It’s no accident that the societies the OP hates have declining populations, while those living in a subsistence economy still have increasing populations. There is something to be said for a stable population, but the OP’s way is not going to get us there.
Unless you stop all the wasteful medical research so the next plague wipes a lot of us out.

The ICs that make up your electronics are also mostly imported, and I can assure you that workers in fabs are not treated like turds. There is more to it than that.

I’ve done plenty of camping in my life, but being on a permanent camping trip is my idea of hell. Not to mention I didn’t see any bookcases built into their trees.

You think the person worried about having enough food for the kids had less anxiety than someone today? You think there wasn’t depression and madness then - though they didn’t have the resources to understand or to treat them.

So, in your world there are no books except manuals, no drama, no songs except what people make up, no movies?
Clearly no research, no advancement. No ways of growing more food.
How many people will have to die to make your paradise a reality? Subsistence cultures worked because there was ample land and resources so someone needing protein could go out and hunt for it. Not much chance of that today.
I have a nice garden, and I live in an optimal climate, and I could expand it a bit, but I’d still never grow enough for even the two of us.

Stuff we should do, like renewable energy and sustainability requires more tech, not less tech. Not a lot of trees to chop down in my neighborhood, and you don’t find peat and coal just laying around. Again, it doesn’t get too cold around here, but there are plenty of places where subsistence might mean freezing.

I do recall one place where they went back to subsistence - Cambodia under Lon Nol. Is that your idea of paradise?

A permanent camping trip, with all the amenities of modern living as well? I can think of worse civilizations.

And who needs books when you have an ethernet port built into the back of your head? :slight_smile:

You’re in the right forum for witnessing. That’s all this is, of course.

“I’ve got a great deal for a utopia!” What does it look like?" “It looks great.” “How do we get there?” “By saying that it’s utopia.” How do you know if it will work?" "It’s utopia, isn’t it? “Why should I buy into your utopia when I can come up with my own?” “There’s only one utopia!”

Witnessing is never going to work around these parts, but circular witnessing, man, that’s guaranteed fail.

The least you could do to prove a modicum of sincerity is answer some of the questions that people ask.

Here’s a question you’re carefully avoiding. “What do you do with your life that corresponds to the world you advocate?”

The thing is, at almost any time since the invention of agricultural civilization it could have been argued that we were on an unsustainable course and that we needed to simplify and scale back. What we did instead was improve our technology to be able to utilize previously useless resources; multiple times in fact. And in the course of doing so were able to not merely sustain a larger total number of humans, but to sustain them in both relatively and absolutely richer conditions.

There’s such a thing as economy of scale- some things just can’t be done except on a national, continental, or even global scale. If you want electric lighting, you pretty much need an economy the size of the one that invented electric lighting.

If we’re going to move into space then we’re going to both be able to and need to expand. Really ambitious things will require us to become first a Kardashev level-I, then level-II civilization. And I think replacing the lifeless rocks and icebergs of the solar system with human colonies will be all to the good.