Ted Howard NZ's Blog


Economics Can’t Explain Why Inequality Decreases

Peter Turchin on Inequality

Reducing inequality without violence is relatively easy. Ensure that every person has a high basic standard of living by completely automating the production of a set of machines that can produce a copy of themselves and a basic ranges of goods and services. If it takes that first machine two weeks to make the second copy, then within two years, there are enough to give one to every person on the planet.
There is ample land.
If we make a choice to leave 50% of the land area as public access natural ecosystems, and allow humans to use the other half, that leaves about 2 acres per person. Allocate half that equally, and the other half by other means.
It only takes about a tenth of an acre to feed a vegan. No reason to be short of food.
Another 10th would give a reasonable level of solar power to everyone. There is ample energy.

That leaves a lot. Most people like living in dense concentrations in cities – that uses very little land. Put all transport and service networks underground, and cities take on a very different appearance.

While building such a system is a big project, it is probably about the life-cycle cost of a single Nimitz class aircraft carrier and the US currently has 10 of those. So it is quite achievable.

The big problem, is that doing something like that will break the economic system.
Markets require scarcity to function.
Allow everyone to make whatever they need using their own robotic production plant, and there is no need to exchange anything.
Anything universally abundant has no market value, however valuable it is to people. If you doubt that, just consider oxygen in the air, arguably the single most important thing to any of us, yet of no market value.

The thought that money will be worthless will “freak out” a lot of people who are heavily invested in markets, exchange values and money as concepts.

The real issue is not the technical development, that is trivial compared to changing mindsets to allow people to see something like this as a real possibility. That is much more difficult than actually building the machines.

[followed by]

Do those at the top of the competitive heap really want to live in a world populated only by those as competitive as themselves?

Do they really want to be that insecure?

Do they really want to face that sort of risk, continuously, just to survive?

Do they really think that they are likely to be the one?

Are they really that committed to the tontine that seems to running currently?

Could anyone really be that stupid? (No – don’t answer that. 😉 )

People do wake up, sometimes in the most unlikely times and places.