17 05 2009

I’m interested in paradigm shift. That is in seeing with new eyes, or simply being aware of how much our world is shaped by the cultural stories and beliefs we share. Often these world views are so ingrained we are unaware that we hold them. Some paradigms work well, others not so well. Some are just downright destructive.

Many of the paradigms that are contained in our world economic outlook are seriously questionable. Here are a few of them;

There is not enough to go around (scarcity) so we must compete for what there is. Most economic texbooks state this as the basic premise of economics. The industrial and technological revolutions have made this scarcity a thing of the past, yet we still persist in acting as if there is not enough.

Increasing production is good, decreasing production is bad. A corollary of this is that recession is bad. At the present time we constantly hear that world consumption and production have gone down, therefore we are in recession (which is bad) and we need to get out of it as fast as possible. Looking at this paradigm through new eyes, it is obvious that we are producing enough to satisfy our needs. If there is a possibility to cut  back on production and still meet our needs this is cause for celebration not hand wringing.

 The phrase ‘the bottom line’ is an accounting derived expression meaning the basic underlying truth or determining factor. In our world there is a paradigm that the bottom line (availability of money) is the bottom line, rather than being things like truth and goodness, or even from an economic perspective, that we have a technologically created abundance which enables everybody to be materially well looked after.

 There is the paradigm of consumerism that advertising so persavisely promotes. You won’t be happy unless you have more things. Brian Swimme goes into this in more detail in a very good essay titled ‘How do our kids get so caught up in consumerism’.

 One of the most powerful and least recognized economic paradigms is; money is a reality, rather than it is an abstract concept we have invented, as a tool to help us distribute the fruits of our labour. It is not a hard and fast reality, so if it has shortcomings it can be reinvented or even dispensed with to suit our needs. What often happens is that we have to detrimentally adjust our lives and the well-being of our world to fit in with the structure of money. I am reminded of the saying; ‘Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money’. Alan Watts’ essay Wealth Versus Money looks at this subject in a refreshing way.

 And of course what the title of this blog refers to. Unemployment is bad, versus unemployment is good. “Unemployment is good” does not mean that the suffering of individuals put out of work is good, but rather that if we can reduce the total amount of work needed to supply our living needs, then surely that is a good thing. This could release enormous amounts of time to do things that could contribute to a flowering of our civilisation – things such as the ending of poverty and hunger in the world.




One response

30 05 2009
Kathy Kirk

I like the way you’re thinking! Question the premise! I had a business professor in college that taught us that growth was the only purpose to a corporation or company. He had a diagram of the stages of a company. I looked at it for a long time and questioned the word “growth”, because what I observed was that at a certain point, quality left for growth (quantity).
I’m convinced that this paradigm shift that is currently underway is ultimately about a return to quality. Source being the highest Quality there is.
Are you a cockeyed optimist, unrealistic idealist? I hope so.


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