[Republished – 2nd edit: March 18, 2017 – from original article April 2015]
A common question I am asked is:
how people are rewarded if not by ownership of things?
… but the problem with this question is that it assumes if you don’t actually own something, then you have no certainty of access to it, and thus you haven’t received a reward.
But this is actually just an assumption &/or a failure of imagination.
When I originally wrote this article, I just wanted to give an overview of the differences between a property vs. non-property reward system; but I’ve decided in this edit to also discuss the ramifications of a society based on property rewards, given the existence of psychopaths and sociopaths, and given also the consequences of commodification of anything that can be deemed a “resource” – which unfortunately includes labour, therefore giving rise to wage slavery, and unfortunately also gives rise to killing sentient beings as a “profitable” exercise.
Ultimately – assuming you’re actually being rational – you shouldn’t care one iota whether or not something “belongs” to you as such, so long as:
- you can reliably use it when you need to
- it is always where you need it to be, when you need it to be there
- the only reason it would ever be unavailable, is where a vastly greater benefit from its use exists, such that you’d likely volunteer it for precisely those reasons, and any inconvenience, damage, or other downsides of relinquishing access to it ( temporarily or permanently ), are vastly outweighed by up-sides
But people don’t tend to think very deeply about anything much, so none of this ever occurs to them, and they’re too busy reacting emotionally to even listen to the idea – so they just go into defensive and offensive mode against a concept they don’t understand, haven’t seriously contemplated, and isn’t what they think it is in the slightest way.
Within capitalism this idea of giving up access is expressed in the notion of “investment”, though it is an entirely different regime in which – regardless of any ecological or social downsides of you having control of a resource ( even when you’re not actually using it, refuse to relinquish it, and likely don’t actually need it ) – you can nonetheless deny others access to it because you “own” it, and demand a reward in exchange for them to use it, no matter the harm such selfishness causes … thus we create the scenario where homelessness, poverty, scarcity, and slavery ( including debt / wage slavery ) are created.
This notion of investment is ultimately just a euphemism for hierarchical debt slavery … everyone higher up the hierarchy is “investing” in your labour ( slavery ), and so you have to pay them back for the privilege of being enslaved by them … and it gets worse toward the bottom, especially if you’re poor or worse if you’re another species.
The following diagram is just a kind of rough idea of the social hierarchy, of economic, political, and military power … all of which is made possible by the property paradigm.
the questions we need to ask
Is there an alternative mechanism for motivating human behaviour, which relies on neither the maximal exploitation of resources, nor requires an authoritarian hierarchy to set laws, adjudicate disputes, and enforce order?
What we’re looking for is system which – although anarchic in nature – is nonetheless robust & sophisticated enough to handle the realities of narcissistic, psychopathic, sociopathic, homicidal, genocidal, megalomaniacs.
The problem with the way a lot of people approach the questions of an RBE ( Resources Based Economy ), is that they don’t want to deal with “negativity”, and so their proposed solutions are often rather simplistic and hopelessly optimistic.
This is where the Open Empire Foundation vision differs drastically, as – quite to the contrary – it is based on a whole raft of worst case scenario assumptions ( about human attitudes, behaviour, beliefs, and the entrenchment, momentum, and vested interests of the status quo ) all coming true simultaneously, and to their maximum detrimental impact … which of course would never happen, but that’s precisely the point – ie: if you want to be sure something is up to a challenge, make sure it is up to an even greater challenge that it will not likely experience.
Imagine a world in which the quantifiable ecological & social consequences of everything you did – including your proportional ( but diminishing ) responsibility for chains of consequence – was automatically recorded, and your role in life was simply to minimise the deleterious, and maximise the beneficial ecological and social consequences of your actions … but only with respect to your desire for access to scarce resources, as you’re free to have any abundant resources you desire.
You don’t necessarily need to have a regular job, and you don’t “get paid” for the work you do, because there’s no money … you just do whatever you do, and in the process, try to minimise harm and maximise benefits – the result of which, is that when it comes time that you want access to scarce resources, the statistics generated by your actions, are what determine the probability of access, along with the decision of the suppliers, whom are free to modify their decisions, aware that such modifications may have negative impacts on their own probability of access.
in other words:
A set of numbers is associated to you, which are an ever-changing representation of how your actions influence the world over time.
abundance and scarcity vs. competition
Within this system, imagine resources are divided in two categories:
When supply exceeds demand, we have abundance.
So there is no competition, and thus no point denying anyone their needs.
You’re still responsible for the consequences of abundant resource usage.
Scarcity is conversely where demand exceeds supply.
the nature of scarcity:
Scarcity may be temporal, spatial, or a combination of both (spatio-temporal, or temporo-spatial – however you prefer to say it ).
- temporal: time to produce / deliver an otherwise abundant resource
- spatial: geographically scarce / isolated but otherwise abundant
- temporo-spatial: delivery to a space is bottlenecked
Within capitalism ( or any other economic paradigm ), we require a means to avoid disputes, particularly where the nature of the scarce resource, is that it is fundamental to survival and quality of life.
The main difference between capitalism and the Open Empire Foundation vision, is that the former both artificially ( and actually ) increases scarcity.
Scarce resources return a higher price in capitalism – therefore there’s an incentive to destroy, hoard, restrict, and waste resources … or to artificially increase demand via marketing ( ie – the manufacturing of “need” ).
Conversely – under the alternative vision of the Open Empire Foundation – we do not create such issues in the first place, and our every action is motivated to take us in exactly the opposite direction, where creating scarcity would not be in anyone’s interests at all.
resource commodification – currency reward model
Capitalism – which is merely an extension of the property, trade, currency economic paradigm – can be summarised as the “resource commodification-currency reward model” … meaning that: our task is to commodify resources, and we are rewarded with currency according to how well we do it.
But that’s it … it is essentially no more sophisticated than that … and that is not sophisticated at all.
Wages, salaries, commissions, royalties, bonuses etc. – not exclusively, but from a poetically cynical ( and reasonably accurate ) perspective – are paid according to the following set of general rules:
- someone risks money to start a business
- managers and executives are employed for a lot of money
- they go play golf, take cocaine, and screw anything that moves
- then they give themselves an award for excellence, and a big bonus
- when they fail, they give themselves an even bigger bonus
- everyone else gets paid according to such things as:
- how easily they’re replaced
- their bargaining position, confidence, and negotiation skills
- what the boss is willing, and the market is able to pay
- executives hold the purse strings, so pay rises are frequent and gigantic
- workers have to fight merely to ask – often rejected – for a tiny wage rise
- workers’ wage rises ( even collectively ) can be less than the executives’
- workers are pressured to work harder, and longer, for less
- workers are made to feel insecure about losing their jobs
- if workers get the courage to ask, they risk being sacked immediately
- the only times they’re not, is when they have a very strong union
- workers often only get a pay-rise when:
- it is legislatively enforced via minimum wage laws
- the company is unable to hire at the shitty wages offered
- the jobs cannot yet be automated by robots and software
- some monumental disaster would be caused by their shitty wages
- workers have hamstrung the business with protests and strikes
- workers are protesting outside the factory with weaponry
… and that’s basically how it works for most people.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a small subset of people who get “head-hunted” for rarer skills, you might experience differently, but most meaningless jobs are replaceable by robots or software, as are even many meaningful jobs.
Your wage has nothing to do with the quantifiable consequences of anything you’ve done, and – except by rare accident otherwise – people are either paid too little, or too much by this system … with little else in between.
Not only does a currency wage not represent your true contribution, it can also be misplaced, stolen, fraudulently taken from you … and when you spend it, there’s no further record of your contribution to society, and no further reward – even though your past efforts are still having ongoing influence.
Unless you’re wealthy enough to put aside some money into investments ( and those investments pay off ), there’s no reward acknowledgement of the value of that ongoing influence of your past efforts.
entity-resource interaction and consequence model
The alternative requires us to understand and quantify the consequences of interactions, between entities ( actors – living, mechanical, and systemic ), and resources ( inanimate objects ).
Ideally we allocate both scarce and abundant resources in a manner which:
- maintains ( or preferably increases ) present abundance
- maintains ( or preferably reduces ) present scarcity
- reduces some other deleterious ecological &/or social consequences
- increases some other beneficial ecological &/or social consequences
So your probability of access to scarce resources is partially predicated on your interaction with other creatures, people, resources, systems, and your environment.
anarchic motivation framework
This system is self-correcting ( a claim often made by capitalism, but which is contradicted by the constant prevalence of poverty, various forms of debt slavery, corruption, fraud, property crime, and economic disasters ).
in this non-property/trade/currency-based economic paradigm:
- the less people contribute, the greater the resource scarcity
- the more damage done, the greater the resource scarcity
- the less care taken in action, the greater the resource scarcity
therefore you’re motivated to contribute proportionally to:
- the average, total, and range of contribution by others
- the average, total, and range of consequences of those contributions
- your desired level of access to scarce resources
Thus the system has built in feedback loops, which cause self-correcting behaviour without any requirement for authority, laws, or property. It is simply a system changing the manner in which we are motivated to behave.
- you do only as little or as much work of whatever type interests you
- only as much as you enjoy ( or can tolerate of ) these activities
- only as much as such work supplements your lifestyle requirements
- only as much as required to provide access to desired scarce resources
- anything abundant you can just have
- the more people desire scarce resources, the less scarcity they create
- the more abundance created, the less pressure to earn access to scarcity
So here’s the contrast … in a non-currency based model of economic interaction ( to borrow from the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: Next Generation ):
” … the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives – we work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity … “
But the vision goes further, as you’re also motivated to act – at least to some degree – on behalf of other species, and even your interaction with non-living and conceptual objects of ecosystems.
A rock provides ecological services to a stream, through mineral ionisation into the water, and also in terms of shade and habitat for small creatures, or surface area for bacterium or algae … so taking one rock may be no big deal ( especially not over a short time-frame ), but taking 10,000 is a totally different matter ( and even more so as time continues to go by ).
money is a redundant middle-man, causing unnecessary trouble and suffering … also restricting much resource access and utility, therefore constraining human potential