Mathew Kagis: Re-envisioning the economy as a tool to serve the needs of the people
When Adam Smith envisioned a “capitalist” economy, it was simple: competition keeping prices low, goods flowing freely, and citizens providing for all their needs at affordable prices. So, what happened? Since an “economy” is simply a set of rules for exchange, why are people now beholden to the economy? Why does income inequity continue to rise? Why are people working two and three jobs, leaving them exhausted and unable to participate in their community, simply to make ends meet? Why do we act like the “economy” is beyond our control? Could it be that there’s a wealthy elite (yes, the one percent) who want us to think that?
I put to you the following assertion: if the economy no longer serves the needs of the people, then it no longer serves its purpose. We need to rewrite the rules and take a hard look at what we value and monetize. We need to place value on being active in one’s community: raising children, planting a garden, and taking care of each other. Healthy communities with local economies are proven to be of benefit to the society at large. They generate lower costs to health care and emergency social programs; essentially we spend less public money “putting out fires”.
Truly, who would suffer if we had a living wage and guaranteed income? These things could be accomplished with a tiny fraction of the wealth that is currently hidden in offshore tax havens by the uber-rich, who currently do whatever they can to avoid paying their share for the public good. Sure, some may complain loudly about their inability to buy entire governments, but I, for one, will not shed a tear. I do not begrudge anyone being rich, I do begrudge someone being so obscenely rich that to maintain it others must be poor. The way massive wealth creates poverty is simple: lower wages, higher production, and cheaper materials to increase profits. Make more with less and the profits go to an offshore tax haven. How is this destructive model good for working people?
Let’s re envision what we value; let’s look at the economy as a tool, designed to serve us. Let’s value communities, parents’ time with their children, and guerilla gardeners. Let’s place value on potlucks, concerts, educational seminars, and gardens. We live in a beautiful part of the world where there is enough food and abundance to provide for everyone’s needs. Yet, we don’t know our neighbours; we are increasingly disconnected from our communities, and we rely on market forces for our needs.
Let’s take our economy back. Let’s make it a tool that provides for us, rather than the other way around. Let’s build stronger communities, local economies, living wages, and more time to enjoy the bounty around us. Healthy, well educated children and seniors, communities where both the barista and CEO are valued because we understand they both have a role in providing for the public good. The Work Less Party may sound like a joke, but we’re not joking. Sustaining our quality of life is going to require consuming less, and “working” less can make space for the work that matters most—that which fosters social and intellectual development, culture, environment, and community.
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” - Nelson Mandela
Apr 6, 2013 at 12:31pm
This is great. Thank you for running the West End, and the World needs you Mathew and your ideas, great good luck!
Apr 7, 2013 at 8:32am
Socialism doesn't work. If my hard earned money is taken from me and given to the people unwilling to do what I do, then I will simply quit working so hard and join those that take without giving. What incentive so I have to work harder, or to save, or to invest in my future? If I chose to not be educated or trained as a young person, should I be entitled to the rewards of those that do?
Apr 7, 2013 at 11:31am
"Truly, who would suffer if we had a living wage and guaranteed income?"
If you want to know what Canadian society would look like if this came to pass, just walk onto your average Indian Reserve. There is no group so "helped" by the government as those who live on Reserves. They HAVE a living wage and a guaranteed income and it is destroying them. Unless you believe there is something inherently defective in the Native population and that it would somehow work out great for everyone else?
"We live in a beautiful part of the world where there is enough food and abundance to provide for everyone’s needs."
That abundance was created through capitalism, a system so productive that people working within it spend less than 10% of their effort on getting food compared to the near 100% that was required in the pre-industrial world. You take capitalism out of the equation and you get the starvation that runs through much of Africa and North Korea. Those places once produced far more food than they do now... but the ruling class decided that they had to take control of the economy "as a tool to serve the needs of the people."
That some "enlightened" leaders will work tirelessly for "the People" is a horrible lie that the ruling class uses to gain and hold power to themselves, for themselves. These are the places where your dystopian negative sum economy holds sway.
The way people become rich in a free market is through entering in as many voluntary economic transactions as possible. The way to do THAT is by making sure the customer profits more from each transaction than you do. Seriously, if you want to become "obscenely rich", develope a good or service where your customers each gain more from the individual transaction than you do.
The way Bill Gates became "obscenely rich" was through engaging in billions of transactions with hundreds of millions of people, each of whom gained MORE in each transaction than he did.
Microsoft has made thousands of dollars from me... but I have gained soooo much more than that through the computer revolution. And if it hadn't have been Microsoft, it would have been IBM, Apple, Amiga or NeXT that did it so don't get your knickers in a knot over just who did it.
Bill Gates gained a fortune of over $50 billion BECAUSE he created trillions of dollars in benefits for others.
Apr 7, 2013 at 6:59pm
Clint: Thank you for your racist, neo liberal economic comments. It shows us how crucial education really is, and where we've failed.
Apr 8, 2013 at 10:50am
Matthew quotes Adam Smith but thinks like P T Barnum. If you truly believe the BS he's peddling then feel free to send him your spare money....
Apr 8, 2013 at 4:29pm
I agree with the premise Matthew however you have not provided a really detailed plan to transition too.
In the mean time worker Bees will benefit mostly Foreign Multi National Corporations some owned by Communist States like the Gross Human Rights Violating Communist China.
Apr 8, 2013 at 5:45pm
Skeptic: No I have not. And any detailed plan presented by ANY party will change drastically from it's exposure to reality. I encourage you to read this, as it addressees (amongst other things) that exact issue:
Apr 29, 2013 at 6:23am
Stealing money from the rich isn't going to provide enough money to give everyone a free ride.
Apr 30, 2013 at 1:14pm
Great article Matthew. But obviously the idea of taking care of everyone is just too crazy for the sheeple that bow to the 'job creators'.
If I was in the West End I would vote for you for sure.