Visualizing a “Plenitude” Economy

By Luke Wachob

The Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit who despises the economy and very much wishes it would go away, has developed a very good plan for doing just that.

Let’s break it down:

(0:24) – How many times in human history has someone predicted we were on the verge of “overuse of planetary resources”? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just one time in the 1970s.

(0:55) – “Wall Street and big business were thriving”, we’re told. Then what were they bailed out for? They fail to acknowledge the role the federal government played in subsidizing risky investments, and they don’t mention monetary policy at all. Actually, when I think about how complex global economies are and how recent this last crash and recession has been, it seems like you would need more than 30 seconds to explain what went wrong. Oversimplifying social problems and human interaction sure has that Fatal Conceit ring to it, doesn’t it?

(1:28) – “We can’t just trade one problem off for another” – I tend to agree.

(1:52) – The suggestion that green growth can improve the economy is vague, and there’s really no strong evidence to support it that I know of. Replacing fossil fuels with more expensive alternatives will raise the prices of a lot of essential goods, which will only exacerbate our unemployment problem and make people poorer. Poverty is one of the biggest causes of environmental degradation, and since the Center for a New American Dream seems like a Malthusian bunch, I’ll add that wealth lowers birthrates, lessening our strain on planetary resources.

(1:58) – You thought I was joking when I said they despised the economy. Well now you know better. They’re saying economic growth… is a bad idea!!! What?? “Hey guys, we’ve made enough things now, everybody just stop and share!”

(2:02) – “Central insight” – my face is going to be permanently frozen in a cringe by the time this is over, isn’t it?

(2:10) A better life = adults on playgrounds (with considerable lines)

(2:40) I share the Center for a New American Dream’s suspicion that the American structure of the work week is probably not as efficient or pleasant in most cases as it could be. But how are you going to have more employees working fewer hours while forcing employers to cover an ever-increasing slate of benefits? The video assures us “that’s solvable”, but is it? The video’s moving on either way.

(2:50) I’m not an economist, but didn’t the Dutch economy boom because they held their wages artificially low? Didn’t their growth grind to a halt when wages were allowed to rise? That looks like a GDP-inflator and unemployment-reducer to be sure, but an example of human flourishing or a stable economic plan? To quote my roommate, “Doubt it.”

(3:18) Who is doing this?

(3:36) Can they start businesses only if they’re “new, eco-intelligent ways of producing”? DIY conflicts with a top down environmental regulatory scheme, so how does that work? Can I just start making things in my house and selling them, or do I need a permit?

(4:15) So, like, anarchy?

(4:25) I wish I could’ve heard the artist’s pitch of this last sketch to the Center for a New American Dream.

“Hey, Mr. Artist, what were you thinking of drawing for the part where we sum up how awesome this model is?”

“I wanted to show a healthy, nonthreatening family biking in the middle of an eco-friendly economy – meaning no cars, no people, and no human structures besides the bike path and maybe some windmills. Oh, by the way, how many of those does it take to power a city? I’m guessing about 8. But anyways, the family’s using their underemployment leisure time to bike through 20 miles of complete nothingness until they get downtown to enjoy the playground there and take their home grown vegetables to market. If they’re lucky, one of them will get to work a 2 hour shift at the chemist’s office with all the flowers I drew earlier.”

“If only the rest of the world had your vision.”

(4:51) Phew. Thank goodness that’s over. Thanks for sharing my pain, and be sure to pass this brilliant plan along to everyone you know who thinks we should take revenge on the economy by murdering it forever.

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