Will Capitalism and Democracy Soon Be Passé?
It seems to me that some aspects of your thinking have not caught up to others. Specifically you said:
“This is an appealing notion in many ways, but it’s hard to me to see, even in the long-ish term, how food, clothing, housing, and health care (to name just a few) are ever going to be so cheap as to be essentially free. In addition, a big part of the motivation to produce stuff is the promise of being able to make money from it.”
It seems clear to me that many different technologies are on exponential growth paths.
It seems clear to me that we will soon have machines that can make and repair other machines, completely automated.
Google now have their self driving car, which is capable of replanning around unexpected obstacles in real time.
It is not a huge step from there to automate the entire production and maintenance process for a set of machines, and then use those machines to maintain things like gardens and water supplies.
I first published such ideas around 1983 – in the MENSA magazine Isolated M.
Last year I was at the Foresight conference at Google’s Palo Alto headquarters and was very pleased to see the progress being made on the self driving car. I took Sebastian Thrun’s programming course, just to make sure that I was familiar with all of the concepts involved.
I have had a site – http://www.solnx.org – devoted to the idea of radical abundance for over a decade now.
It seems to me that humanity has almost outgrown markets and their valuation system (money).
The biggest problem with money is that it values scarcity.
Money is essentially human value multiplied by scarcity.
Markets are great tools for allocating scarce resources, and as such have performed (and do perform) many valuable functions in society.
However, markets do not value things that are abundant.
It is not possible to use market mechanisms to deliver true abundance (abundance of a similar order to that of oxygen in the atmosphere).
If we are to deliver radical abundance to all of humanity, then it must be done by conscious choice, because it will never be done by markets (the incentive structure simply isn’t there).
It seems to me that all human beings have the potential to be self actualising (in terms described by Abraham Maslow and others), and that those of us who have the knowledge and ability have a responsibility to empower others in their own developmental paths. A society based on money and monetary concepts certainly does not do that.
Once money moves beyond being a simple tool for the exchange of goods and services, and becomes an end unto itself, then the incentive structures in monetary systems invert, and favour money generation above delivery of human value.
Our society seems to me to be at the point where either this reality becomes clear to most, or we are all in deep peril.
And I am sufficiently optimistic that we are capable of transitioning to a post scarcity society, and it is by no means a certain thing.
We need to move a few more in positions such as yours to thinking beyond the box of money.
When considering individualism vs collectivism it seems to me we live in a reality that has two equally important aspects to us.
We are each individuals, and we each have the power of choice, which we seem to be able to exercise at a potentially infinite series of transcendent levels of awareness. Having the freedom to make those choices and mistakes is critically important to personal development.
We are also each born into, and are part of, and owe our beginnings to, a society of individuals with a culture (or depending on definitions a vast set of cultures). Having the most powerful start we can from our culture is also critically important to our individual development.
It seems to me that we need to acknowledge and respect both realities.
It seems to me that the cultural reality demands levels of cooperation, and that the greatest degrees of individual freedom can be gained through engagement in the greatest levels of societal cooperation.
It seems to me that this does not require coercion, but rather results from a combination of culture and awareness.
It seems to me that our current Western fixation on, and worship of, money and markets has come very close to the end of its societal utility, and has got to the point (as happens with all technologies) of posing more dangers than it delivers benefits.
It seems to me that we are now technically capable of creating systems that deliver abundance of all key human necessities to all individuals at no cost; yet our fixation on money and markets prevents us from doing so. The result is massive human misery, and massive loss of potential of individual self actualisation.
It seems to me that all great developments in life on this planet are characterised at the systemic level by the development and stabilisation of new levels of cooperation. It seems to me that we either do this, or perish – there do not appear to be too many intermediate strategies available to us in the longer term.