[ 15/April/21 ]
Sheer will by itself does nothing.
Will power applied to systems over time can achieve outcomes.
Eliminating poverty depends very much on how one defines it.
If one defines poverty purely in terms of market measures of value, then poverty is structural to market function. What I mean by that is that anything universally abundant has zero market value by definition (think air – arguably the single most important thing to any of us, yet of zero value in a market because we can all get all we need simply by breathing).
If you think about that deeply enough, then it is clear that markets are not a measure of absolute value, but of scarcity value or value in exchange. Markets absolutely require scarcity to function – to deliver a measurable value.
So if you define poverty in terms of market value (money), then it must be the case that poverty must exist – ie there must be unmet need for markets to function.
If you look at it differently, and conceive of fully automated systems that can produce all the goods and services that most people reasonably need, then it is entirely possible to eliminate poverty in the sense of everyone having their reasonable needs and expectations met. And that does require both reasonableness and responsibility, as any form of liberty without responsibility is necessarily self destructive (but that is a much deeper conversation for elsewhere).
So we can use our will power to consistently have conversations such as this, and to consistently take actions in reality that tend to change the probability of a future such as is implied in these words coming into being; and that will does actually need to produce outcomes in reality to be effective. I have some little experience of this in the context of an oncologist telling me that my cancer was terminal and inoperable and that I could be dead in 6 weeks and had a 2% chance of surviving 2 years – that was 11 years ago. I used my will power to alter my diet and behaviour consistently, no exceptions. It was really difficult, and really unpleasant, and I am still alive, still strict vegan, no refined sugars, and twice daily high dose vitamin C (8g per dose). In 11 years I can count the times I have missed on my fingers. And I have owned and operated a software business for the last 35 years, so I have some practical idea of just how complex a task fully automated systems of this nature really are.
We face a really complex situation, and most people have such simplistic models of the complexity really present, that they will have to work really hard to start to build a useful idea of what is going on. Automation is fundamentally changing the utility of the concept of work, and many of the market systems have essentially become cheating strategies on the bulk of humanity. It is possible to create a world where all people have all that they reasonably need, but it cannot happen due to the incentives of markets and capital alone, it requires much more of us all, including accepting levels of responsibility commensurate with the levels of freedom we claim. It also means accepting that any real expression of freedom results in diversity, and thus requires that we accept and respect such diversity (all levels), however uncomfortable and unusual it may seem to us.
So yes – will power is required, and without applying it to appropriate and workable systems in appropriate contexts, it is not enough.