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About the Natural Law Resource Based Economy (NLRBE)
What are some of the central characteristics of the solution proposed?
Automation of Labor
As the trend of what appears to be an exponential increase in the evolution of information technology, robotics, and computerization continues, it is apparent that human labor is becoming more and more inefficient in regard to meeting the demands necessary for supporting the global population. From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have seen an increasing trend toward “technological unemployment”, which is the phenomenon where humans are replaced by machines in the work force. This trend, while debatable in regard to its ultimate long term effect on employment, creates a propensity to displace the worker and hence the consumer, slowing consumption.
That stated, this issue is actually overshadowed by a larger social imperative: That the use of machine labor (mechanization) is provably more efficient than human performance in virtually all sectors. For example, if one was to track the performance output of factory production within the US steel industry for the past 200 years, we find that not only do less than 5% of the workforce now work in such factories, the efficiency and output capacities have increased substantially. The trend, in fact, now shows that “Employment is Inverse to Productivity.” The more mechanization occurs, the more productive an industry becomes.
Today, there are repetitive occupations which simply do not need to exist given the state of automation and computerization (“cybernation”). Not only would mechanization in these areas reduce the mundane burden and allow more free time for people, it also would, more importantly, increase productivity. Machines do not need breaks, vacations, sleep, etc.. The use of mechanization on its own means to create many forms of abundance on this planet, from food to physical goods.
However, to do this, the traditional labor system we have simply cannot exist. The reality is that our labor for income system is stifling progress in its requirement to “keep people working” for the sake of “economic stability”. We are reaching a stage where the efficiency of automation is overriding and making obsolete the system of labor for income. This trend shows no sign of slowing, especially in regard to the now dominant Service Industry, which is increasingly being automated in the form of kiosks, robotics, and other forms. Likewise, due to phenomena related to Moore’s law and the growing in-expense of computers and machines, it is likely that it is simply a matter of time before corporations simply can no longer rationalize keeping human labor anymore, as the automation systems will become too cheap. Of course, this is a paradoxical market phenomenon, called by some theorists as “the contradiction of capitalism”, for it is, in effect, removing the consumer (laborer) itself and hence reducing consumption.
Apart from those issues, it is important to also consider human labor contributions based on social relevance, not monetary gain. In a RBE, there would be no reason to have occupations such as Banking, Trading, Insurance, Cashiers, Brokers, Advertising… or anything related to the governance of money.
All human actions in the form of institutionalized labor should also have the highest social return. There is no logic in wasting resources, time, and energy on operations that do not have a direct and tangible function. This adjustment alone would remove millions of jobs, for the idea of “working for money” as a purpose would no longer exist.
In turn, all the poor demographic, shoddy goods, vanity items, and culturally contrived creations designed to influence people for reasons of status (for the sole sake of profit) would also no longer exist, saving countless amounts of time and resources.
One final note on this issue: Some hear this and they assume that this voids the Communicative Arts, and personal and social expression as far as painting, sculpture, music, and the like. No. These mediums of expression will likely thrive like never before, for the amount of free time made available to people will permit a renaissance of creativity and invention, along with community and social capital. The elimination of the burden of labor obligation will also reduce stress and create a more amiable culture.
There is a difference between creating for the sake of keeping society sustainable and efficient, focusing on resource preservation, product efficiency, and strategic allocation of labor for those things which generate a tangible social return – versus creating for personal expression, exploration, experimentation, and hence art, which has been a staple of human evolution since the dawn of time.
Access over Property
The concept of property, unannounced to most people today, is a fairly new social concept. Before the neolithic revolution, as extrapolated from current hunter and gatherer societies existing today, property relationships did not exist as we know them. Neither did money, or even trade, in many cases. Communities existed in an egalitarian fashion, living within the carrying capacity of their regions and the natural production built in. It was only after direct agricultural development was discovered, eventually proceeding with resource acquisition by ship traders and the like – up to modern day power establishments and corporations – that property became a highly defined staple of society as we know it today.
With that understood, which dismisses the common notion that property is a result of some kind of empirical “human nature”, the notion of “no property” is also today often blindly associated with “Communism” and the works of Karl Marx. It is important to point out TZM’s advocation of no property is derived from logical inference, based almost explicitly upon strategic resource management and efficiency, rather than any surface influence by these supposed “Communist” ideals. There is no relation between the two, for communism was not derived from the needs to preserve and manage resources efficiently. Communism, in theory and practice, was based on a social/moral relativism which was culturally specific – not environmentally specific – which is the case with a RBE.
The real issue relevant to meeting human needs is not ownership – it is access. People use things; they do not “own” them. Ownership is a non-operational, protectionist advent, derived from generations of scarcity over resources, currently compounded by market-based advertising which supports status/class division for the sake of monetary gain . To put it another way, ownership is a form of controlled restriction, both physically and ideologically. Property as a system of controlled restriction, coupled with the monetary value inherent, and hence the market consequences, is unsustainable, limiting, and impractical.
In a NL/RBE model, the focus moves from static ownership to strategic access, with a system designed for society to obtain access as needed. For example, rather than owning various forms of recreational sporting equipment, Access Centers are set up, typically in regions where such actions occur, where a person simply “checks out” the equipment, uses it for as long as they want, and then returns it. This “library” type arrangement can be applied to virtually any type of human need. Of course, those reading this who have been conditioned into a more individualistic, materialistic mindset often objects with claims such as “What if I want green, custom golf clubs, but only white are available?”. This is a culturally contrived, biased reservation. The issue in question is utility, not vanity. Human expression has been molded by the needs of the current market based system (consumption) into values which are simply nonfunctional and irrelevant. Yes, this would require a value adjustment to quality rather than identity. The fact is, even for those who object from the standpoint of their interest in personal identity, the overarching social ramifications of such an social approach will create benefits that will greatly overshadow any such arbitrary personal preference, creating new values to replace the outdated ones.
These include : (a) No Property Crime: In a world of access rather than ownership, and without money, there is no incentive to steal, for there is no resale value. You can not steal something that no one owns and you certainly couldn’t sell it. (b) Access Abundance: It has been denoted that the average automobile sits in parking spaces for the majority of its life span, wasting space and time. Rather than having this wasteful consequence of the ownership system, one car could facilitate a large number of users in a given region, with only a fraction of the production/resources needed. [c) Peak Efficiency of Production: Unlike today, where the market system must perpetuate inherently inferior products for the sake of economic turnover, we could actually design goods to last, using the best materials and processes strategically available. We no longer make “cheap” products to serve a poor demographic (which is the majority). This attribute alone will save cataclysmic amounts of resources, while also enabling a society to have access to goods and services that they would never have had in a world based on money, inherent obsolescence, and property.
Self-Contained/Localized City and Production Systems
There are many brilliant engineers who have worked to tackle the issue of industrial design; from Jacque Fresco, to R. Buckminster Fuller, to Nicola Tesla. Behind such designs, such as Jacque Fresco’s famed Circular Cities or Fuller’s Geodesic Domes, rests a basic train of thought: Strategic Efficiency and Maximization of Productivity.
For example, Fresco’s “circular city” is constructed of a series of “belts”, each serving a social function such a energy production, research, recreation, living, etc.. Each city is a hence a system, where all needs are produced within the city complex, in a localized fashion, whenever possible. For example, renewable energy generation occurs near the outer perimeter. Food production is produced closer to the middle within industrial-sized greenhouses.
This is very different in its logic from the “globalization”-based economy we live in today, which wastes outrageous amounts of energy and resources due to unneeded transport and labor processing. Likewise, transportation within the circular cities is strategically created to eliminate the use of detached automobiles, except for rare cases such as emergency vehicles. Homes are created to be micro-systems as well, with much power generation occurring internally, such as from sunlight absorbed by the building structure using photovoltaic technology. More information on these city system can be found at https://www.thevenusproject.com.
The Geodesic Dome, perfected by Buckminster Fuller, offers another efficiency oriented medium within a similar train of thought. Fuller’s goal was to build designs to do more with fewer resources. He noticed problems inherent in conventional construction techniques, and recognized the indigenous strength of naturally occurring structures. The advantages include: a much stronger structure than a conventional building while using less material to construct; domes can be built very quickly because they are of a modular prefab construction and suit being mass produced; They also use less energy to keep warm/cool than a conventional box structure. More information can be found at http://www.bfi.org/
In the end, the fundamental interest is, again, sustainability and efficiency on all levels, from the “housing design” to the “earth design”. The market system actually fights this efficiency due to the broken, competitive nature inherent.
Technological Unification of Earth via “Systems” Approach
We live in a symbiotic/synergistic planetary ecosystem, with a cause-effect balance reflecting a single system of earthy operation. Buckminster Fuller defined this well when he referred to the planet as “Spaceship Earth”. It is time we reflect this natural state of affairs in our societal affairs on this planet. The fact of the matter is that human societies, which are dispersed across the globe, require resources which are also un-uniformly dispersed across the globe. Our current procedure for enabling resource distribution comes in the form of corporations which seek and claim “ownership” of our earthly resources, which they in turn “sell” to others in the name of profit. The problems inherent in this practice are numerous, again due to the self-interest based disposition inherent in selling anything for personal gain, as denoted above. But in the larger scheme of things, this is only partially the issue when it come to the reality that we live on a finite planet, and where resource management and preservation should be the number one concern in regard to human survival, especially with the population explosion of the last 200 years.
Two people are born every second on this planet, and each one of those humans needs a lifetime of food, energy, water and the like. Given this fundamental need to understand what we have, the rates of depletion and, invariably, the need to streamline industry in the most efficient, productive way, a Global System of Resource Management must be put in place. It is just common sense. This is an extensive subject when one considers the technical, quantitative variables needed for implementation. However, for the sake of overview, it can be stated that the first step is a Full Global Survey of all earthly resources. Then, based on a quantitative analysis of the properties of each material, a strategically defined process of production is constructed from the bottom up, using such variables as negative retroactions, renewability, etc. (More on this can be found in the section called Project Earth in the ZM lecture called “Where Are We Going?”). Then consumption statistics are accessed, rates of depletion become monitored, distribution is logically formulated, etc.. In other words, it is a full Systems Approach to earthly resource management, production, and distribution, with the goal of absolute efficiency, conservation, and sustainability. Given the mathematically defined attributes, as based on all available information at the time, along with the state of technology at the time, the parameters for social operation within the industrial complex become self-evident, with decisions “arrived at” by way of computation, not human opinion. This is where computer intelligence becomes an important tool for social governance, for only the computation ability/programming of computers can access and strategically regulate such processes efficiently, and in real time. This technological application is not novel. It is simply ‘scaled out’ from current methods already known.
The Scientific Method as the Methodology for Governance
The application of “the scientific method for social concern” is an oft-repeated mantra for the basis of social operation in a RBE model. While the obviousness of this in regard to industry is simple enough to understand, it is important to also realize its value in regard to human behavior. Science, historically speaking, has often been derailed as a cold, restrictive discipline, reserved for the sake of mere technology and invention. Little regard seems to be currently given to its use in the understanding of human behavior.
Superstitious thought, which has been powerfully dominant in human evolution, has worked on the basis that the human being was somehow detached from the physical world. We have “souls”; “spirits”; we are “divine”; we are related/guided by an all seeing, all knowing, controlling god, etc..
Conversely, yet oddly similar, there is an argument that humans have “free will” in their decisions and that we have the open ability to choose our actions, absent of the influence of our environment or even education. Now, while the vastness of the prior two statements and many reading those could find numerous cultural arguments to claim the contrary, this doesn’t change the basic reality that we humans have historically liked to think that we are special and unique from the rest of the organisms and natural phenomena around us.
However, as time has gone on, it has become increasingly obvious that we are not special and that there is no such thing as “special” in the natural world…for everything is special based on the uniqueness of all organisms. There is no reason to assume the human being is any more important or intrinsically different or special than a mole, a tree, an ant, a leaf or a cancer cell. This isn’t “New Age” rhetoric – it is fundamental logic. We are physical phenomena – nothing more or less.
We are greatly influenced by our culture and our values and behaviors can only mostly be a result of our conditioning, as external phenomena interacts with our genetic predispositions. For example, we have a notion called “talent”, which is another word for a genetic predisposition to a given behavior, or set of behaviors. A piano prodigy might have an inherent ability that enables them to learn more quickly and perform in a more acute way than another, who has spent the same time in practice, but doesn’t have the genetic predisposition. Be that as it may, that “talented” person still had to learn ‘what a piano was’ and how to play it. In other words, genes are not autonomous initiators of commands. It takes an environmental trigger to allow for the propensity to materialize.
At any rate, it is not the point of this article to expand on the argument of “nature and nurture”. The point is that we have proven to be scientifically defined and a product of a traceable causality and it is this understanding that can allow us to slow and even stop the aberrant, or “criminal” behavior we see in society today such a abuse, murder, theft and the like. The logic, once the effects of human conditioning are understood, is to remove the environmental attributes which are enabling the reactions.
Just as an abused dog who has been starved for a week might have a knee jerk reaction to react very violently to an otherwise innocuous passerby, we humans have the same behavior dynamic. If you don’t want people to steal food, do not deprive them of it. It has been found that prisons are now generating more violence than they are curbing. If you teach a child to be a hateful racist, then he will carry those values into the rest his life, very often. Human values and hence human behavior are shaped by the environment in a cause and effect based way, no different than a leaf being blown by the wind.
In a RBEM, the central focus in regard to removing aberrant human actions is not to “punish them”, but to find the reasons for their offensive actions and work to eliminate them. Humans are products of their environment and personal/social reform is a scientific process.
Moving away from money and markets
Market theory assumes a number of things which have proven to either be false, marginally beneficial, or outright socially detrimental.
The core problems to consider are the following:
A) The need for “Infinite Growth”, which is mathematically unsustainable and ecologically detrimental. The entire basis of the Market System is not the intelligent management of our mostly finite resources on this planet, but rather the perpetual extraction and consumption of them for the sake of profit and “economic growth”. In order to keep people employed, people must constantly consume, regardless of the state of affairs within the environment, and often regardless of product utility. This is the absolute reverse of what a sustainable practice would require, which is the strategic preservation and efficient use of resources.
B) A “Corruption Generating” Incentive System. It is often said that the competitive marketplace creates the incentive to act for the sake of social progress. While this is partially true, it also generates an equal if not more pronounced amount of corruption in the form of planned obsolescence, common crime, wars, large scale financial fraud, labor exploitation, and many other issues. The vast majority of people in prison today are there because of monetary-related crime or non-violent drug offenses. The majority of legislation exists in the context of monetary-based crimes.
Also, if one was to critically examine history and peer into the documented biographies/mentalities of the greatest scientists and inventors of our time, such a N. Tesla, A. Einstein, A. Bell, the Wright Brothers, and many others – it is found that they did not find their motivation in the prospect of monetary gain. The interest to make money must not be confused with the interest to create socially beneficial products and very often they are even at odds.
C) A disjunct, inefficient industrial complex which wastes tremendous amount of resources and energy. In the world today, with the advent of Globalization, it has become more profitable to import and export both labor and goods across the globe rather than to produce locally. We import bananas from Ecuador to the US and bottled water from Fuji Japan, while western companies will go to the deprived 3rd world to exploit cheap labor, etc.. Likewise, the process of extraction, to component generation, to assembly, to distribution of a given good might cross through multiple countries for a single final product, simply due to labor and production costs / property costs. This “cost efficiency” generates extreme “technical inefficiency” and is only justifiable within the market system for the sake of saving money.
In a RBE model, the focus is maximum technical efficiency. The production process is not dispersed, but made as centralized and fluid as possible, with elements moving the very least amount, saving what would be tremendous amounts of energy and labor as compared to methods today. Food is grown locally whenever possible (which is most of the time given the flexibility of indoor agriculture technology today), while all extraction, production and distribution is logically organized to use as little labor/transport/space as possible while producing the “strategically best” possible goods (see more below). In other words, the system is planned to maximize efficiently and minimize waste.
D) A propensity for “Establishments”. Very simply, established corporate/financial orders have a built-in tendency to stop new, socially positive advents from coming to fruition if there is a foreshadowed loss of market share, profit, and hence power. It is important to consider the basic nature of a corporation and its inherent need for self-perpetuation.
If a person starts a company, hires employees, creates a market and becomes profitable, what has thus been created, in part, is the means for survival for a group of people. Since each person in that group typically becomes dependent on that organization for income, a natural, protectionist propensity is created whereas anything that threatens the institution thus threatens the well-being of the group/individual. This is the fabric of a “competition” mindset. While people think of free market competition as a battle between two or more companies in a given industry, they often miss the other level – the competition against new advents which would make them obsolete, outright.
The best way to expand on this point is to simply give an example, such as the US Government and ‘Big Oil’ collusion to limit the expansion of the fully Electric Car (EV) in the US. This issue was well-presented and sourced in the documentary called “Who Killed the Electric Car?”. The bottom line here is that the need to preserve an established order for the sake of the well-being of those on the payroll, leads to an inherent tendency to stifle progress. A new technology which can make a prior technology obsolete will be met with resistance unless there is a way for the market system to absorb it in a slow fashion, allowing for a transition for the corporations (i.e. the perpetuation of “Hybrid” cars in the US, as opposed to the fully electric ones which could exist now, in abundance). There is also a large amount of evidence that the FDA has engaged in favoritism/collusion with pharmaceutical companies to limit/stop the availability of advanced progressive drugs which would void existing/profitable ones.
In a RBE, there is nothing to hold back developmental/implementation of anything. If safe and useful, it would immediately be implemented into society, with no monetary institution to thwart the change due to their self-preserving, monetary nature.
E) An inherent obsolescence which creates inferior products immediately due to the need to stay “competitive” This little recognized attribute of production is another example of the waste which is created in the market system. It is bad enough that multiple companies constantly duplicate each others items in an attempt to make their variations more interesting for the sake of public consumption, but a more wasteful reality is that, due to the competitive basis of the system, it is a mathematical certainty that every good produced is immediately inferior the moment it is created, due the need to cut the initial cost basis of production and hence stay “competitive” against another company… which is doing the same thing for the same reason. The old free market adage where producers “create the best possible goods at the lowest possible prices” is a needlessly wasteful fantasy and detrimentally misleading, for it is impossible for a company to use the most efficient material or processes in the production of anything, as it would be too expensive to maintain a competitive cost basis.
They very simply cannot make the “strategically best” physically – it is mathematically impossible. If they did, no one would buy it, for it would be unaffordable due the values inherent in the higher quality materials and methods. Remember – people buy what they can afford to. Every person on this planet has a built in limit of affordability in the monetary system, so it generates a feedback loop of constant waste via inferior production, to meet inferior demand. In a RBEM, goods are created to last, with the expansion and updating of certain goods built directly into the design, and with recycling strategically accessed as well, limiting waste.
You will notice the term “strategically best” was used in a statement above. This qualification means that goods are created with respect to the state of affairs of planetary resources, with the quality of materials used based on an equation taking into account all relevant attributes, rates of depletion, negative retroactions, and the like. In other words, we would not blindly use titanium for, say, every single computer enclosure made, just because it might be the “strongest” materials for the job. That narrow practice could lead to depletion. Rather, there would be a gradient of material quality which would be accessed through analysis of relevant attributes – such as comparable resources, rates of natural obsolescence for a given item, statistical usage in the community, etc. These properties and relationships could be assessed through programming, with the most strategically viable solution computed and output in real-time. It is mere issue of calculation.
F) A propensity for monopoly and cartel due to the basic motivation of growth and increased market share. This is a point that economic theorists will often deny under the assumption that open competition is self-regulating and that monopolies and cartels are extremely rare anomalies in a free-market system. This “invisible hand” assumption holds little validity, historically, not to mention the outstanding legislation around the issue which proves its infeasibility. In America, there have been numerous monopolies, such as Standard Oil and Microsoft. Cartels, which are essentially Monopolies by way of collusion between the largest competitors in an industry, are also persistent to this day, although perhaps less obvious to the casual observer. In any case, the “free market” itself does not resolve these issues – it always takes the government to step in and break up the monopolies.
This aside, the more important point is that in an economy based on “growth”, it is only natural for a corporation to want to expand and hence dominate. After all, that is the basis of economic stability in the modern world – expansion. Expansion of any corporation always gravitates toward monopoly or cartel, for, again, the basic drive of competition is to out-do your competitor. In other words, monopoly and cartel are absolutely natural in the competitive system. In fact, it is inevitable, for again, the very basis is to seek dominance over market share. The true detriment of this reality goes back to the point above – the inherent propensity of an “Establishment” to preserve its institution. If a medical cartel is influencing the FDA, then new ideas which void that cartel’s income sources will often be fought, regardless of the social benefits being thwarted.
G) The market system is driven, in part, by Scarcity. The less there is of something, the more money that can be generated in the short term. This sets up a propensity for corporations to limit availability, and hence deny production abundance. It is simply against the very nature of what drives demand to create abundance. The Kimberly Diamond Mines in Africa have been documented in the past to burn diamonds in order to keep prices high. Diamonds are rare resources which take billions of years to be created. This is nothing but problematic. The world we live in should be based on the interest to generate an abundance for the world’s people, along with strategic preservation and streamlined methods to enable that abundance. This is a central reason why, as of 2010, there are over a billion people starving on the planet. It has nothing to do with an inability to produce food, and everything having to do with an inherent need to create/preserve scarcity for the sake of short term profits.
Abundance, Efficiency and Sustainability are, very simply, the enemies of profit. This scarcity logic also applies to the quality of goods. The idea of creating something that could last, say, a lifetime with little repair, is anathema to the market system, for it reduces consumption rates, which slows growth and creates systemic repercussions (loss of jobs, etc.). The scarcity attribute of the market system is nothing but detrimental for these reasons, not to mention that it doesn’t even serve the role of efficient resource preservation, which is often claimed.
While supply and demand dictates that the less there is of something, the more it will be valued and hence the increased value will limit consumption, reducing the possibility of “running out”, the incentive to create scarcity, coupled with the inherent short term reward which results from scarcity driven based prices, nullifies the idea that this enables strategic preservation. We will likely never “run out” of oil in the current market system. Rather, the prices will become so high that no one can afford it, while those corporations who own the remaining oil will make a great deal of money off of the scarcity, regardless of the long term social ramifications. In other words, remaining scarce resources, existing in such high economic value that it limits their consumption, is not to be confused with preservation that is functional and strategic. True strategic preservation can only come from the direct management of the resource in question in regard to the most efficient technical applications of the resource in industry itself, not arbitrary, surface price relationships, absent of rational allocation.
Please visit the following links for a comprehensive understanding of a Resource Based Economy, which is a core aspiration of the Movement.
Other perspectives on RBE