This morning I was exchanging texts with a new friend who is very enthusiastic about Bitcoin. He suggested a book, I looked up a review, and as I read through the analysis of the book, one word kept coming up: scarcity.
I often find myself lost in this push and pull of macro and micro thought when discussing how to fix the world. Ultimately, I'm a macro, big picture person. That's where my strength lies. That part of the puzzle is where I make my contribution. It is absolutely vital that we figure out how to make immediate changes in the near future to make the world a better place. But having an idea of the big picture we're working towards means smarter short-term decisions. Often, during these discussions, it’s important to zoom out and really ask ourselves what problem we’re seeking to solve.
Scarcity. The word hit me like a comic book punch that immediately launched me out of the micro, “how do we fix Capitalism?,” and into the macro. We don’t. I can absolutely enjoy the mental exercise of discussing whether Crypto, NFT’s, or DAO’s would actually decentralize or genuinely transform anything about our economy (I doubt it) but a transition from one currency to another is a sufficiently sized transformation to point to an even better solution of epic scale: ending Capitalism.
Capitalism is never going to make humans happy. It will never be a good or fair solution for humanity. Why? Because the necessary core of Capitalism is competition. Someone is always going to have to lose. Scarcity. That was the word that reminded me to come up for air from the intellectual depths. Sometimes we can get so lost in the details of an argument, we forget to ask whether the argument is worth having at all. Scarcity is retro. It is not a solution to continue to lean on economic models that require scarcity in order to function. It is a zero sum game that will not decentralize or democratize anything. Not while the economy is still a competition with winners and losers.
Like Aaron Bastani argues in Fully Automated Luxury Communism (a great overview of post-scarcity technology, if light on descriptions of what the FALC system would actually look like), we need a new economic and political model in which automation and abundance are not a problem. We should not need to manufacture scarcity while our technology continues to produce and increase abundance. Why should we live in a society where robots doing work for us is bad? Under the current model, robots take over a factory, people lose their jobs, and they can’t put food on the table. What the fuck? That makes no sense. There’s plenty of food in the world. Plenty of work to be done to help humanity. Right now, the only work we’re allowed to do is work that turns a profit. What if any person could do literally anything to help humanity thrive and always trust that their basic needs, as well as an infinite amount of luxuries were available to them, no matter what work they were doing? "Oh, we learned to make robots that can do your job at the factory? No worries, why don’t you come do this job at the lab where they’re studying cures for cancer that are not limited by patentability? We can do that because we no longer rely on funding based on profitability to determine what can be studied. We’re going to cure cancer a million times faster because Capitalism isn’t restricting the research we can do and automation means we have as many hands on deck as we need to get work done that actually serves humanity." Fucking mindblowing.
I get that this is a lot to take in. I break it down in more depth on my podcast, Utopia-ish, and if you have questions, please ask. But my point is this: we have enough resources and technology to meet the basic needs and luxury desires of everyone on the planet. We have the technology to fix a ton of problems that are currently restricted by profit as the only incentive. If you didn’t need to get paid and your only responsibility in life was to do something to help humanity, what would you do? What if you could have literally any job you wanted and trust that everyone is going to get their needs met no matter what? That’s literally a thing we can have if we can just all acknowledge that Capitalism is never going to serve us. Thriving is not a competition. Don’t we want to thrive?