What If We Didn’t Need Money?
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
(excerpt from his 2012 book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome“)
What is law enforcement in much of the world, and more noticeably so in the US as of late, being paid to protect? To keep and preserve the peace to be sure, but that’s just on the surface. What are the government and its junkyard dogs otherwise known as police officers watching out for? The assets, infrastructure and personal privacy and security of the top 1%, that’s what! The problem with that is the top 1% regard everything in sight as theirs, as if all the people in the lower income brackets – the other 99% – didn’t deserve one stinking thing. In short, its all a game of acquiring the most stuff, the biggest collection of material goods of one kind or another, the fastest or most luxurious car, the most powerful truck and the biggest house. It’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us. And for what? If any one of us should die tomorrow (God forbid), he or she can take absolutely none of it with them. As Rev. Billy Graham used to preach, “nobody ever saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it”. It’s all temporary, left behind when we are dead and gone, as all of us eventually will be, including me. It’s what we leave behind that counts, not what we have accumulated.
Come to think of it, maybe we should ask ourselves – if you haven’t done so already – what kind of legacy do we want to leave? Not only someone who did great things or performed great accomplishments in the sight of others or who made a great fortune, but someone who took care of the needs of the people first while considering themselves last. Not someone who is lauded with praise by men and women for giving away millions when they have many millions more hoarded away, but one who seeks the praise and approval of Almighty God as I and others like me do. I love giving some homeless guy a sandwich and some fries (yes, I have actually done this – has anyone else?), and if I could afford it I would jump at the chance to pay an elderly widow’s electric bill or donate a used computer to an inner city school kid who needs one, and never mind their skin color either. Performing volunteer work, giving generously to your church (contrary to what some are teaching, it doesn’t have to be financial aid, there are many ways to help at church), sponsoring a hungry kid overseas, or adopting one here at home are the things people remember about us after we have passed, and so will God. We are to be leaving behind the things that people remember about us long after we are gone, and they must be positive things that build people up, not negative things that tear us down. We are to be contributors, being sure to give wherever possible and not living just to see how much we can earn, or even take. Takers are losers who leave holes in time.
OK, so now let’s take this to the next level. What if we didn’t need money at all? What if we had an alternative way to buy and sell things without using traditional cash, checks or plastic? What if we didn’t have to work at all, or maybe not nearly as much? Using profit as a mechanism for the control of liquid assets by and for the top 1% when the overwhelming majority of Americans have no access to those assets is obviously an economic barrier that keeps the remaining 99% of us in a bare subsistence mode that is clearly discriminatory and therefore illegal based on existing civil rights laws. Eliminating the need for money instantly wipes out poverty while putting the 99% in a favorable position to have all our basic needs met (never mind all the fancy BS stuff and frivolous luxuries, just the basics of life). The replacement of money, and of the work that is necessary in order to earn it, are already being accomplished by computers and robots. And their speed and raw processing power doubles every 18 months.
Technology has eliminated jobs across the board on an alarming scale – from secretarial positions to auto workers. The resulting crisis is compounded by our culture’s deep denial of the basic problem. I’m old enough to remember the ’60s and ’70s when so many pundits described the coming glories of the “cybernetic age.” Computers would at last liberate us, we were promised, from the drudgery of 9-5 jobs. Back then the worry was, what would we do with all that leisure time? But in fact quite the reverse is true. Leisure time has proven frustratingly elusive. Instead of some personal R & R, most of us are working harder than ever as our employers continue to “downsize.” Alternatively, it is we the long-term unemployed who are out pounding the pavement looking for non-existent jobs to replace those that have been “outsourced” to Asia. Additionally, so many of the “jobs” available to the more recently laid off labor force are extremely low-paying to a humiliating degree (such as the current, pathetic minimum wage of $7.25 hourly, which amounts to enforced poverty). In the end, the jobs of the “new economy” are nothing more than useless $8.50 per hour jobs that keeps the workers impoverished while offering no chance for advancement can be positively destructive to the middle class. Things like big box stores, grocery chains, many telemarketing firms, the fast food industry, and convenience store jobs are connected with wages that are actually below the poverty line.
Still other industries and the jobs they used to bring can easily be eliminated by technology, possibly in as little as ten years. Think of what happened to Encyclopedia Britannica because they didn’t see Wikipedia coming right at them. Think of the music industry, which has been recently involuntarily “downsized” by file sharing, a process that continues as I write this. And what about MSM newspapers and magazines, currently in crisis because of alternative media websites like Alternet, Op-ed News, Infowars, Truthdig and Information Clearing House, among others? The Internet has similarly made direct salespeople a vanishing breed and some storefront businesses – such as Blockbuster Video and most recently Radio Shack – obsolete. Web-based education is having its own impact on higher education as brick-and-mortar campuses find themselves headed for financial oblivion. Even the oil industry will soon be entering a period of decline. Imagine what that means for an entire economy and lifestyle absolutely dependent on oil. I’m not just referring to so-called “Peak Oil”. New technology will soon turn every building and highway into an energy power plant. Surplus energy will be stored in hydrogen cells. And the energy produced will be shared person-to-person across a “smart grid”. Think of the jobs that will be eliminated as a result – including those required by what would otherwise be energy wars. We are kept from discussing it only because our “drill, baby, drill” politicians have their heads so firmly stuck in the tar sands up in Canada like so many oil-soaked ostriches. Consequently, the U.S. economy is being left in the dust relative to the rest of the developed world.
Still another possibility which is already being developed and marketed are the new 3-D printers (there are also 4-D printers currently in the development stage, but I’ll save that one for another time). Many, but not all, things can be made with these 3-D printers, ranging from plastic parts to human body parts. But you can’t, for example, make a new car with a 3-D printer, or at least not yet. But it’s only a matter of time until the day arrives when we can make a car or anything else we need right there at home with our handy 3-D printers. If that were the case, people wouldn’t need nearly as much money to live on as they do now. Instead of going to the store and buying an item, why not just make it yourself and save? It would be indicative of a mammoth paradigm shift in America’s economic landscape, we can all be sure about that.
There is also an enormous amount of productive infrastructure work crying out to be done across our country. The U.S. infrastructure is crumbling at an alarming rate. Green technologies in general, particularly the “smart grid”, high speed rail and public transportation are the most obvious needs. The number of potential jobs connected with them is in the millions. But there are not nearly enough green jobs to replace the ones that have been eliminated by technology and those that should be discarded because they are unsustainable, environmentally destructive and morally deficient. So what should be done about all of this? Share the work! None of us has to work that hard unless we want to. Thanks to new technologies we could work four-hour days or three-day weeks, or for only six months a year, or every other year and still make a living wage. We could retire at 40. And this is possible world-wide. And how to pay for all of this? For starters, cut back the military budget 60%. That alone would make available more than a billion dollars every day just in the U.S. alone. Tax the rich and the corporations – those who make up the “1%” that has ripped off the U.S. working class on an unprecedented scale over the last 30 years or more. (Remember the 91% top-level tax bracket that was in place following World War II? Look it up in the history books and on the Web, it’s all right there. We could reinstate that!) Share the wealth. Boldly restructure the economy. Embrace new technology’s promise along with the life of leisure that it offers. It is all now within our grasp. Since the government is unwilling or incapable of the restructuring I am calling for, it is up to us, “we the people”, to get the job done ourselves. Worker-owned co-ops and factories, little 1 or 2 person micro-businesses that are Web based, and a proliferation of non-profits will make up the greater part of the progressive business world of tomorrow.