On the Road Towards “Post Capitalism”

I started to write about this idea once before, and you can go back and dig through the earlier blog posts to find it if you want. (I am not sure it would be worth it, though.)

Basically the idea is this: technology is reaching a point where the productivity of the American worker is becoming too great compared to the amount of work needed to be done in our country. These changes run from increased efficiency to technology assuming more of the workload. As technology advances (and it is advancing geometrically as opposed to arithmetically) there will be less and less need for human labor and thus, more and more leisure time.

The quandary for our consumer driven economy will be that humans will still need to, well, consume. That will ultimately mean that we will get paid for doing less.

Perhaps we will extend “the college years” into the late 20s, with most getting at least a master’s degree, and a good chunk a PhD. Maybe we will decrease the retirement age. Certainly there will be a lot of people getting paid an awful lot for doing basically nothing – even more than is being done now, but it will happen unless we abandon capitalism altogether and at once, something I don’t foresee happening.

But I want to take this on a tangent for today because of something that occurred to me while watching a show called Nextworld on the Science Channel.

They were speculating about the houses of the future, and they focused on the Microsoft model house, a house where the walls are made of giant led displays, with the result that your guest room – for example – can look completely different for each guest that stays there.

They can have personalized décor and lighting, right down to pictures and videos on the walls that relate only to them – and their own tastes in music too!

While I was thinking about how cool that is the thought occurred to me: how the hell much will that cost?

I would guess that each room you have outfitted like that could add up to $20K to the price of the house, so not very many people will be able to afford it in any event.

But how does that tie in to my theory of “Post Capitalism?” Well, I’m glad you asked!

The next thought that I had after thinking about the cost was that it wouldn’t really matter because we all were going to get paid a lot of cash for very little work anyway, specifically so that we could purchase this kind of stuff from Bill Gates’ company.

But then I thought: shouldn’t we have higher aspirations than that? Shouldn’t we use our resources to make sure everybody in the United States had somewhere decent to live first, before we started building houses that changed walls on your whim?

There are homeless people. There are people living in tents and campers. There are people living in tarpaper shacks from Appalachia to New Orleans and God knows where else.

As we move towards the next phase in our economy, the phase I am calling “post capitalism” but one that others most assuredly call by other names, shouldn’t concentrate on filling basic human needs for everyone before making sure someone, somewhere has a computer operated toilet?

And I am not sure how we achieve that. And I am skeptical that it can be done. But shouldn’t we at least try?

Is the goal in life in America to have more food than others who will then go to bed hungry? Should that be the goal?

Many argue that the profit motive, greed, is what has made America great, and that it provides the incentives needed to spur invention and creativity. I find it hard to argue against that, but it also creates supply and demand curves for labor which doom a certain percentage of people to poverty.

In my mind we need to find a way over this hurdle if we are to survive and survive well.

Maybe we start with universal health care and universal access to higher education.

Maybe we, as a society, will become inspired by someone or something to more readily respond to what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

But then again, maybe not.

By Writeside