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