General Question

Hobbes's avatar

Hypothetically, how hard would each person in the world have to work in order to provide for everyone's basic needs?

Asked by Hobbes (7368points) July 23rd, 2010

If all 6 billion people in the world simultaneously agreed to spend part of their time working at a job which was involved in the production, distribution, or maintenance of every person’s basic needs, roughly how much do you think each person would need to work?

I am assuming that there would be systems in place to ensure both quality control and good working conditions, that people would have a reasonable commute, and that anyone would be able to switch jobs and receive training at another if they wished.

I define basic needs as access to the following:

- Fresh, clean air
– Fresh, clean water
– Healthy, tasty food
– A safe, comfortable place to live
– Effective and efficient sanitation
– Competent, compassionate medical care
– Competent, compassionate education

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72 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Someone else can do the math on this, but I have heard in the past, from notable speakers I admire, that if all the wealth in the world was split equally amongst all the adults in the world, that each and every adult person would receive the equivalent of approximately $2 million dollars per year.

I don’t know if I could really believe this or not, but there must have been some truth in the concept. Even if it was only $50,000 per year, we would all be doing ok by me.

Hobbes's avatar

I would imagine then that since it would certainly not take the resources of the entire world to provide everyone with the things on that list, each person would have to do a very small amount of work to make it happen.

Luffle's avatar

How do you factor in people who are unable to work based on age, disability, or illness?

Hobbes's avatar

I would imagine that those who demonstrated some reason why they were unable to work would not be required to. However, I think that the world’s population of healthy adults would still be able to provide for the needs of everyone including those incapable of working with a relatively small amount of effort.

augustlan's avatar

If we take that old trouble-maker, human nature, out of the equation, I agree with you @Hobbes. I think it could be done with fairly minimal effort. Unfortunately, like all Utopia scenarios, I think it would likely fall apart somewhere down the line. A certain percentage of people will always want more. And a certain percentage of those people will do whatever they have to to get it. Stupid humans.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Yep I’m thinking it is relatively little work if all the wealth is distributed equally.
Of course if we think of pre-industrialized economy, before said wealth is even acquired, Indigenous societies worked very well at getting their needs met. Well I can say that for Natives of this nation anyhow. And they did have to do a fair amount of work to make that happen but I’d go for that any day over what’s going on now.

lillycoyote's avatar

It just couldn’t work that way. I don’t want my lawyer to be my lawyer one day and my doctor the next day. Or the cashier at Border’s to be designing bridges and researching new cancer treatments alternating Monday’s and Tuesday a few days a month. It’s just entirely unrealistic to think that the modern world can be run like it’s just some big commune.

Hobbes's avatar

@augustlan – I do not think that each person would need to spend all their time working to ensure that everyone had access to these things. In fact, it seems to me it would take quite a short time out of everyone’s lives. I think that in the time left people could work to pursue whatever else they desired. It seems that everything on that list is required before one can live a life of dignity, pursue work that is fulfilling and pursue whatever further material goods they might wish for.

@lillycoyote – Wouldn’t you want your lawyer or doctor to wish to be a lawyer or a doctor? If a person leaves their job it is because they are unhappy there or do not find the work fulfilling. Your doctor would be a person who desired to do the job they were doing, and I believe that would make them better at it if anything.

Why should it matter to you what the cashier at Border’s does in the time they are not working? It seems to me that it would be incredible if every cashier also researched cancer and participated in designing and creating public structures.

zophu's avatar

That’s a dangerous question. You might realize how pathetically pointless the way most people spend their lives is. we don’t need much, “they” just need to keep us busy and contained, so we work

rangerr's avatar

Well. I’ve listened to many speakers and stories from people who live in communities that do this.
I’ve also stayed in communities that do this. The most recent one I had the amazing chance to stay with really made me think about this.

The community pools together the money that they make and what they don’t use for food/bills, they divide equally.
The houses they live in are very small, but all they are really used for is sleeping. The rest of the time, they are out working, rebuilding communities, fixing up buildings, replanting abandoned lots.. etc. They try their hardest to make the world a better and more beautiful place to be.

I don’t have too much faith that anything like this could happen in our lifetime, as there are too many problems and problematic people, but if people would stop thinking only of themselves… I feel like this would definitely possible.

We are capable of living this way. It’s happening in tons of places already. If differences could be put away and we could work together to start fixing the mess we made, it wouldn’t take very long to start building a stronger and better world.

@Luffle People who can’t physically work can always find another way to contribute. There is a way for everyone to work together.. no matter how small the action. As for the people too sick, then we take care of them.

lillycoyote's avatar

Perhaps I misunderstood what you were getting at but in the details you said “If all 6 billion people in the world simultaneously agreed to spend part of their time working at a job which was involved in the production, distribution, or maintenance of every person’s basic needs” and with the “basic needs” you listed, well providing those basic needs takes a lot of highly skilled and experienced people. People can’t just drop into a job and be expected to do it well, it would do more harm than good. But of course, in a good and just world, have the opportunity to do work that was meaningful and that they wanted to do. It’s just not realistic. Plus there’s that pesky detail regarding everyone on earth agreeing. If we could just get everyone on earth to agree one even a few basic things that in itself would solve about 90% of the world’s problems.

Hobbes's avatar

@lilycoyote – I also said that people who wished to change jobs would be given the necessary training. It seems to me that if every healthy adult worked at one of those jobs, each person would only have to do a very small amount, especially if everyone had access to the existing technology.

Everyone on earth agreeing is the leap I’m taking into the hypothetical. The thing about getting everyone to agree to something is that it can’t be forced. This could only happen if the decision to organize ourselves this way was taken freely.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m getting numbers much larger than your estimates.
Take health care. I pay about 12,000 per year for “Competent, compassionate medical care”
Figure ¾ of that is really going to health care The rest is lost to the insurance company, graft, and the top dogs’ salaries. So that means $3000 per year. Would you do that for everyone in the world, including the billions of starving people currently living on $1.50 per day? If yes, then say $3000 per year per person.
Now take housing “A safe, comfortable place to live” . I know what my house costs. I can look up what yours costs What will be our minimum standard for comfortable? $100,000? 50,000? Once again will you include the billions living in dirt huts.costing less than $10?
If yes, then amortize 50,000 over 20 years. $2,500 per person per year.
Food. I know what I eat. 2500 calories per day average. Average $3000/ year
Will everyone eat like me? If yes, then $3,000.
Clean air and water. I don’t know about air, but I do know I spend about $250 per year per person from my water bill.
We also need some form of enforcement, police force so one tribe does not attack another. $250
Some form of national enforcement, military so one country does not take over another. $250
Education? Will it be up to current standards. equipment tools supplies? 1000 per person
Add them up and I get $7250.

Compassion: How many (sick, elderly mentally disabled…)will be permitted to live of the backs of the others. 5%, 10% 20%? Call it 20% it is probably much higher.
Final answer $8700 per person per year.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Darn! I forgot about Infrastructure.
What level should we call it? USA, Europe, etc. level or Bangladesh level. Let’s say half of US and Europe and half the world needs to be brought up to it.
Est $50T for 300M./2 for half US level, amortize over 20 years /2 for half world=
$4200 per person per year. Add in 0.20 Compassion tax we get :
$5000 per person per year for infrastructure for power, water, roads, communication.

Add the $8700 from my post above and the total is: $13,700 per person per year.

How hard would we all have to work to earn that now? Decide on a wage for a specific job.
An engineer gets $100 per hour, a cashier gets $10, a laborer gets $30, a surgeon $300, etc.

TexasDude's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies, one thing that is important to note, however, is that currency would be devalued if it was distributed in that way. Sure, everyone would be a millionaire, but the million dollars wouldn’t buy as much as it used to. Basic law of supply and demand.

Hobbes's avatar

It still seems to me that the actual number of hours each person would have to work to ensure everyone (themselves included) had those basic needs fulfilled would be very few. If everyone in the world worked two hours, we would have 12 billion hours worth of work. Also, we already have a lot of the necessary systems and means of production in place. The problem is the way we think about and relate to them. It seems to me that it would not take long to create whatever additional infrastructure was necessary and to give everyone access to everything else on that list if 12 billion hours of human effort were devoted to it every day.

Hobbes's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard – Yes, currency would be devalued, but people would not have to spend it on fulfilling their basic needs. Because they would be dividing their money between fewer things, the currency would not need to be worth as much.

mammal's avatar

not much, the problem is in the even distribution, when you look at hunter gatherer societies they tend to mooch around a lot and expend energy and calories only when necessary, particularly the males. This would appear to be in keeping with the natural inclinations of the rest of the Animal kingdom. Very little surplus energy is squandered.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Look how long you work to feed, clothe, house, educate, and provide medical care for just yourself. A whole lot more than 2 hours. In fact, you probably work 2000 hours.
Half the world has almost nothing. To get them to half your level would take you an additional 500 hours.
I’m sticking with my numbers above..

Hobbes's avatar

If you work a forty hour work week you will work around 2000 hours a year, but what most people in developed countries earn in a year pays for much more than their personal basic needs.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Are you including housing, healthcare and education in the list of basic needs? Are you including the taxes they paid for the infrastructure? The costs are not just the food and water they consume.
Many people work 40 hours per week and at the end of the year are exactly where they were. Sure they squandered a bit on junk but not much. I am of course excluding the 1% uberrich. We all have to make sure Paris Hilton can feed her dog.

The level we need to contribute will depend entirely on what level you wish to raise the needy up to. I assumed half the US level.

@rangerr That society sounds great. But what happens when one member gets cancer and needs treatments that end up costing $500,000. Do you set a threshold?

Hobbes's avatar

The list includes the production, distribution and maintenance of systems for providing air, water, food, living space, sanitation, medical care and education.

That inequality is exactly the problem I’m talking about. If every healthy adult in the world, including Paris Hilton, worked however many hours it took to provide everyone with everything on that list, I do not think each person would have to work very long. Doctors and Educators often work long hours, but I would say that those who pursue those professions generally do so out of a desire to do that work, and therefore their hours would be voluntary.

Hobbes's avatar

My argument hinges on the assumption that however many hours each person would have to work, they would be few enough that each person could also pursue whatever other lines of work the wished, and could pay for things they desired beyond their needs with the resulting wealth.

I would say that if a person needed an operation that cost $500,000 it should be paid in full, but this is because I believe medical care is something all humans should have access to. I think there should be a threshold, and that it is probably somewhere around the things I listed.

rooeytoo's avatar

As I say every time one of these utopia questions is raised, there is no free lunch. The requisites you list as basic needs, include pretty much what everyone I know is working for. Most do not work to pay off the villa in the Mediterranean, or the penthouse in Manhattan, they work for the necessities of life. And if I work a 60 hour week instead of a 20 hour week, I deserve to have more because I am investing more. I like it that way. I have no one but myself to blame if I don’t have the villa or the penthouse.

I just expect to pay my own way in this world. It would never occur to me to insist that someone on the other side of the world work a predetermined number of hours so I can work less. I love the lines from Invictus

“I am the master of my fate:
 I am the captain of my soul.”

I don’t want to give that control to anyone else.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Do you think my dollar estimates are wrong? How would you change them? I cut the price of health care 75% and still is is a tremendous cost. What would you change?

You mentioned 12 billion hours per day per person. I just did the math assuming an average of $15.per hour. That is $11,000 per person per year. Your estimate is pretty darn close to mine. I came up with $13,700!

I’d love to think that we could solve all the world’s problems if we only worked 2 hour per day on this It would be a 25% tax.
But heck, I give about 8% (160 hours per year) to charity now. About 40% (600 hours) to taxes and all this just keeps my country going. My country already has tremendous infrastructure an housing already and it still milks me.

You mentioned 12 billion hours per day per person. I just did the math assuming an average of $15.per hour. That is $11,000 per person per year. Your estimate is pretty darn close to mine. I came up with $13,700!

I would be willing to work an hour per week to send birth control devices to areas that have overpopulation and cannot feed their own people or supply enough water to their population. I am financially sound. I had two kids and decided it was enough, so I got the big V. Why do I have to perpetuate the problem of someone else having 7–10 kids when they cannot feed them? I’ll pay for the vasectomy, tubal ligation, pills even abortion. Somewhere along the line the problem has to stop.
I know this is not the Utopian answer but if you look in the mirror and take out a calculator it is reality. Sad? Yes.

wilma's avatar

I work approximately 16 hours a week for no pay, volunteering my time for “the collective”. (that is my choice) I know a lot of other people who do the same. I receive no benefit from my work, I get no pay, no health care, no housing, etc. I don’t expect it. I am no where near being wealthy, my family could use the financial help from my hours of working. My hours of work don’t change the world. There a lot of people like me, (probably more than are not like me) we help, but it doesn’t make the inequality go away.
Some people are already doing what you suggest, it doesn’t make everyone “equal”. It doesn’t solve all the problems. Some people would never consent to working for the benefit of another person or another persons family.
I think it is wrong to expect them to. To volunteer to do it is one thing, to be forced is another.

ItsAHabit's avatar

Mao found that this didn’t work very well in China. People were paid by their collective to work in the fields 10 hours per day. Everyone got the same pay and some workers soon realized that they only had to “put in the time” and they got as much as those who worked very hard. Then more and more people started doing the same thing started doing the same thing.

The Party then had to mandate a bonus system to motivate people to do more than the very minimum. It’s human nature.

LostInParadise's avatar

The problem with your scheme is that it assumes that the level of production would remain at its current level if everyone earned the same. As @ItsAHabit pointed out, it does not work that way. Economics is all about incentives. Why put in all the effort to get a medical degree if you only get the same pay as a janitior? Pure capitalism does not work either. What is needed is a combination of the two. One thing I was thinking of would be to provide everyone with just enough to get by on and allow them to make money in addition to that.

Hobbes's avatar

@rooeytoo – I believe there can and should be a free lunch. I do not think there should be a free Ferrari, a free villa, or a free widescreen TV, but why should people be uncertain about whether or not they will be able to eat today?

@worriedguy – You also live in a country where 57% of your taxes go to military expenditures, and a large portion of what’s left goes to things other than developing efficient systems to provide people with the things on that list.

If my estimate is close to yours, doesn’t that mean that each person would only need to work 2–3 hours each day to provide themselves and everyone else with the necessities of life?

I agree that better sex-education and access to birth-control methods is needed, and I would at least include the education part in the list of needs.

@wilma – I think your service is changing the world, one piece at a time. What I’m saying is that if every person in the world followed your example, even if they contributed relatively little, everyone could be provided with their basic needs. One of my assumptions was that this labor would be voluntary. I agree that it is impossible to force everyone in the world to comply with such a system, but I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work if somehow everyone were to freely agree to it or something similar.

@LostInParadise – Essentially, I am proposing exactly what you describe. If everyone worked to provide everyone with basic needs, nobody would need to work for very long each day. They would therefore be free to spend the rest of their time however they pleased, which could include being paid for some other job and spending the money they earned from that on luxuries. As long as people worked a little each day they would be guaranteed the basics of life, and it would be up to them to pursue whatever else they desired.

ETpro's avatar

Rinding the political will to do it would be the hardest part of the work required. THere are still sizable populations that live as hunter gahterers and are illiterate. Even communicating to them the grand plan would be difficult. Teaching them what they would need to know to participate would be more difficult still.

There are many who greatly fear the idea of a one world government. Anyone who makes their millions through the military industrial complex isn’t goi9ng to embrace the idea. All the free-market types who fear that any plan to provide the disabled or mentally impaired a basic subsistence would take money they otherwise could have for themselves are going to object.

And there is the truth of human nature that @augustlan noted. From each according to his ability and to each according to his need can lead to a whole society deciding what’s the point in work, let the other guy do it.

There are plenty of examples of states with strong social programs to assist those in true need where incentive still keeps most of the people off welfare. It can be done. But delling it in today’s world would be a tough sell.

rooeytoo's avatar

In a productive happy society everyone who is able works and earns their lunch.

I did know some hippies in the 60’s who sort of lived as your propose, but I think they were happy because of the weed more than the work arrangements.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@worriedguy “Look how long you work to feed, clothe, house, educate, and provide medical care for just yourself.”

We are slaves, trained slaves. Our training teaches us how to pay for our own enslavement.

We’re like batteries that recharge ourselves upon our own efforts, with no end user accountability to our maintenance. Why should the supreme consider us as anything more than completely disposable? They’ve built their utopia, at our expense. Who can really blame them? Would I do any differently if I were amongst the elite? As much as I hate to admit it, that is very doubtful.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

OK somebody did the math.

extrapolating from the Economist’s conservative numbers, we come up with a current per capita world income of more than $3,100, or an average household income for a family of five of $15,500—a tidy sum.

Not nearly the amount I previously referred to. It sounds impossibly frugal.

But… if this were the case, what affect would it have upon inflation? Play along with me here for a moment, for these numbers could be misleading. Let’s assume that a family of five could live comfortably upon $150,000 per year. Would the act of distributing wealth equally cause inflation or deflation?

I’m not an economist so I have no idea. But if it was deflation, how much? If it were 90%, then that would effectively be the same value as $150,000 currently. It sounds radical, but this is a radical proposition to begin with.

Hobbes's avatar

I’m a bit confused. Does $15,500 mean a lump sum or a regular income?

Also, it would need to be taken into account that inflation would be compensated for by the fact that people would only be spending money on luxuries, rather than on procuring and maintaining their basic needs.

Corey_D's avatar

That is unanswerable. Putting aside the practical impossibility of implementing something like that well and the unlikeliness of everyone agreeing to it (I would not agree to it under any circumstances), there are still far too many variables. Different jobs require different amounts of work and it differs from person to person. People don’t all accomplish the same amount with the same amount of work. Also people’s needs are not constant through time or from place to place, so there could never be a uniform amount needed.

zophu's avatar

You’re treating money as if it’s something that can be divvied up equally and still represent available resources. We can’t know what available resources there are, let alone use money to accurately represent them regardless of what pricing lists are looked at.

If the world’s resources were fully surveyed to the best of our technological abilities and the data gathered was transparent for all to see, it would become very clear that there’s enough to work with. The removal of unnecessary services and the application of automated systems of production, travel, etc. would quickly render a large amount of even previously necessary jobs unnecessary.

With further innovations and resource allocation directed towards automating vital systems, jobs would continue to be rendered unnecessary. Setting up these systems would probably not even take the majority of people to work on them. It would just take the appropriate industries to work together for a purely humanitarian cause. ha

The jobs that would remain would be in maintenance of the automated systems and analytical jobs that could not be fulfilled by computer systems like watchdog groups and research & development. After a while, all remaining necessary jobs could probably be filled with a well-organized, purely volunteer workforce—doing even the menial dirty-work would be considered almost noble. And there would be people who’s job it was to make the necessary jobs as healthy and enriching as possible for the workers.

How much would each person have to work? Most wouldn’t have to. But most would; on creative, scientific endeavors. Social significance would be for every person, not just the few here and there that squeeze through the dammed up systems and actually get something meaningful into culture. Why doesn’t this happen? Corruption? That’s only a part of it. We’re stuck in old memes. Strange how we find it so difficult to question civilization even when it’s crashing down around us.

The infrastructure isn’t about supporting vital systems with as much efficiency as possible. It’s about keeping society as controlled stable as possible. Ironically, it’s just setting us up to fall all at once.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Hobbes That would be a yearly amount.

Why is the Janitor any less valued than the Rocket Scientist? Why is the Sewer Sweeper any less needed than the Athlete?

Why is education considered part and parcel to a persons worth? Why is worth measured by the income that a person brings home?

The way I see it, society has a much bigger problem than any simple economic policy could ever illustrate. Why should any human struggle for food? Why should any human struggle for shelter? The way I see it, if you are human, you meet the qualifications.

Remove every economic incentive. Kill the ego once and for all.

If you want to sit around growing fat and developing addictions, then so be it. If that’s what brings you fulfillment, fine with me. If you want to pursue the arts, or scholarly education, then so be it. If that’s what brings you fulfillment, fine with me.

I have every faith in the natural processes of evolution. I have every faith that over time, in less than half a generation, that evolution will clearly illustrate the more rewarding pathways of life that people choose for themselves. I have every faith that natural selection will promote the most profitable pursuits to new generations that follow.

Separate the calling in life from the economic incentive. Why should worthless paper money stand in the way of pursuing one’s dreams?

There will be those who rise to the challenge of being a Sewer Sweeper because they feel called to the responsibilities that such a service provides all of society. It doesn’t have to last forever. But some, including myself, would find the lessons learned from toiling in the most disgusting lowly environments invaluable for finding balance in the human experience. Likewise, the athlete, does he pursue his path out of love and passion, making the most out of his natural abilities, or is he lured away from ultimate fulfillment at the expense of tempting his ego with fame and fortune? What else would he do? Pay him the same as the short order Chef. Would he struggle with choosing between the two career paths? Would the short order Chef struggle with choosing to be an Athlete, voluntarily subjecting himself to statistical failure, or would he express his worth in life by being the very best short order Chef that ever lived?

How many years would pass before society discovered sitting around playing video games had no capacity to fill the soul? Play as much as you like. You’ll get tired of it soon enough. Your heart will soon yearn for more. In that yearning, experiment with multiple endeavors. You’ll find one that plucks your heart strings. And the whole of humanity will be better off for it.

There will come a point when the Motivated want to feel the rewards of laziness. Let them do it. There will come a point when the Lazy want the feel the rewards of motivation. Let them do it. Would you like to be an Astronaut, a Brain Surgeon, a Porn Star? Go for it! In the meantime, know that society supports your endeavors 100% by providing you with the love, patience, and kindness enough to provide food, shelter, and clothing no matter what your most personal inclinations are.

zophu's avatar

I think the key meme is something along the lines of: “The Scientific Method must be applied to all social concerns.” This principle spread wide enough would result in the full, transparent evaluation of the planet’s resources and the collective claim on them as the heritage of all humans born and yet-to-be-born, and we could have a clear view of what is and what may be. Then, we can create as a people instead of just react. Social-engineering is treated like a dark art. Time to bring it into the light.

Hobbes's avatar

Beautiful ideas, Zophu and RealEyes. I’m actually not that tied to the economic system I proposed. I’m just working from the assumption that all people deserve to have their basic needs fulfilled no matter what. As you said, RealEyes: “if you are human, you meet the qualifications”. It does seem to me however that in order to guarantee everyone access to those needs, there will always be some jobs that are necessary but which not enough people will choose freely. Perhaps some will feel the call of Sewer Maintenance, but how could there be any certainty that enough people would volunteer in order to keep the sewers working?

I also take the point that evaluating the “worth” of work using hours is just as arbitrary as using money, and that we can’t have complete knowledge about ability, need and available resources due to how variable all those things are from place to place and time to time.

zophu's avatar

It isn’t so much that every human deserves to have their basic needs fulfilled in any moral sense. It’s that they have to have their needs fulfilled if they’re going to be able to contribute to society at any reliable rate.

As far as there not being enough volunteers to get jobs done: If people understand what must be done to keep things running in their community, and see that it can be done, they will do it. Even if sewer maintenance couldn’t be completely automated, (we already use some robotic systems,) we would get it done. The problem is we don’t see how we can keep our communities going, not clearly enough to be driven to support them in any natural way. Too many grow up with the sense that their generation is the one without a future.

Imagine if you didn’t have your job to worry about. And neither did anyone else. The only active concerns would be for the well-being of the community. And all of the data and activities related to the well-being of the community was available for everyone to see and discuss. Not hidden away in aging buildings on locked-out computer systems to be discussed in bureaucratic meetings and acted upon through distantly scheduled programs. Taking a shift of sewer maintenance would be like going to the bar after work because you’ve got nothing else to do. The only difference is you would have more energy, and their would be a sense of the entire community being involved.

People don’t exactly feel exhilarated to go to even the necessary jobs now, of course. But who would? You’re working as a cop or as a sewer worker so that people can continue running around buying useless indulgent shit to distract themselves from the fact that the vast majority of their other activities are just as socially insignificant.

But even in these ridiculous cultures you see volunteers. The majority of firefighters in the US, for example, are volunteers. Uncontrolled fire is such an obvious threat to the social good, it is easy to find the drive to work against it. Sewer workers may never be seen as being as heroic as firefighters often are, but they’ll be just as appreciated if they’re in a community that’s worth taking care of. At this point, most would unconsciously find it poetic for the sewers to overrun most of the shitty communities you find in this foolish society. People are naturally driven to work for people, not for social-systems; at the same time, there is an invasive tendency in people to link the two regardless of their better judgement. For most the idea of revolution is just an indulgent drug.

The apparent futility of the idea of a reliable voluntary workforce comes primarily from the sense of hierarchalism we see in civilization. “Who would want to be a sewer worker?” No one would be a sewer worker, people would be volunteers. And that’s much better than noble.

Hobbes's avatar

“It isn’t so much that every human deserves to have their basic needs fulfilled in any moral sense. It’s that they have to have their needs fulfilled if they’re going to be able to contribute to society at any reliable rate.”

That’s a much better way of putting it, thank you.

It seems that the question becomes: what kind of systems would need to be in place in order to create that kind of transparency? What would allow people to not only see exactly what needs to be done to maintain their community, but also how their personal community relates both to the needs of the world community and to their own needs and abilities?

zophu's avatar

You are looking at a prototype.

ETpro's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies That was an incredibly profound answer. I wish it were possible to give far more than one GS points. Lurve in abundance for that. How might we begin to convince mankind this is what we should do?

zophu's avatar

@ETpro There are activist groups that follow Reelyz’s general principles there, probably. But the only way to spread good principles is to live by them. So live by them, and if they are true others will join you. Revolutions aren’t easy to start, but once a true one gets started it doesn’t stop.

ItsAHabit's avatar

Hmmmm. I’m too busy trying to make a living to spend much time speculating about utopia. The trash bin of history is full of failed utopias.

zophu's avatar

@ItsAHabit There is no Utopia but there are those who live for a better world.

ETpro's avatar

@zophu Actually I am self employed doing something I love doing, so I am as close to his suggestion as I know how to get at the moment.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I really don’t know what to do other than what zophu suggests. But being self employed as well, I ran an experiment. For one month, I told my clients that they could pay me what they wanted or however much they could afford. They begged me to give them a price, and I refused. Pay me what you can.

For that one month, I was paid at least 50% more than what I actually would have billed for. And, I was paid on time with no hassles. Some clients paid in full up front. Retainer checks filled my mailbox requesting reserved dates. Some jobs I thought were over and done with had large checks show up with a note saying more to come. And it did. I was already happy with what they had paid.

I also had a much better grasp on who I would actually work for. I rejected two potential clients simply because I didn’t like the concepts of their projects.

Alas, reality sets in again, and projecting bills and seasonal business became worrisome. I felt safer returning to standard invoicing practices. Perhaps I’ll try it again one day.

But you are right @ETpro, “doing something I love doing” is the most important thing of all. I’d do my job for much less because I’m very pleased with it.

I do think that if everyone were to share in the wealth equally, that there would have to be some type of legacy structure for age. No matter what the career path, a seasoned veteran is worth more because of experience than a teenager prone to mishaps. And I believe the elderly deserve a more comfortable living quality than the youth. In this way, society rewards the elderly, and the youth have incentive to embrace apprenticeships once again.

zophu's avatar

Not that money is an evil thing. But its only humane purpose is as a system of organization and people generally hold it as something more. If the unreasonable reverent valuing of money (and thus the resulting reasonable indirect valuing of money) was dropped, it would be clear that as far as its humane purpose the monetary system is technologically obsolete. Where it once freed people to exploit the results of their effort and skill, it now confines them. Beyond that, there are better ways of organizing people’s necessities. “Resource-based-economy” will be a common concept eventually, if we live long enough to discover it. No unit of representation but the for scientific facts about the actual resources available and the scientifically determined needs for those resources, for all to see.

Finding elegant ways to support unsecluded communities without the dependence upon money is the goal, I think. But it’s probably the most dangerous thing people can do, finding new and better ways to live, without need of the system. It’s a form of revolt, and the system treats it that way. We’re able to say whatever we want generally, and I hope not be messed with in any way, but if you start gaining real potential for influence why wouldn’t you be sabotaged? Doesn’t take an elite taskforce to disrupt a group’s plans or (and this is easier) ruin people’s lives.

Considering this, the best thing to do is just inspire other people to create similar principles in themselves. I want to believe that art can do that on a larger scale (and it can;) but art has a language to it like anything else and I’m sure there are cyphers hard at work sifting through what is to be broadcast throughout culture. That’s why I think it may just be best to play the stoic and just hold principles, not carry them forward like a torch, but just hold on to them until there are enough with you to render the foolishness of those who oppose you obvious. Or until you can’t take it anymore and just charge with all you’ve got.

I find doing labor work outdoors doesn’t threaten my sanity too much. I wouldn’t feel much more free being self-employed than working for minimum wage digging holes. The same restraints are there. More, perhaps. Money is the cage. Money culture is the cage. Civilization and the hierarchicalism that has always accompanied it is the cage. We aren’t going to be free until people stop playing god; and that’s not going to happen until people stop believing in god, at least in the simplistic sense.

We must make the authority our own well-organized, open perception of nature. Science being that. Nature being the model for our authority. We have had the technology to do that for a while now, allow all people to see and understand what is instead of telling them “what they should believe.” What science can’t “solve” democracy would of course take over for the individual issues. I was trying to be clever earlier and maybe didn’t make myself clear; the “prototype” I was talking about for a system that would allow for the transparency of scientific information related to social concern is the internet.

Really, people already work towards this. It’s just that we’re stuck in some kind of strange psychological rut as a culture (civilization.) Memes run deep. The only problem with having faith in evolution and natural selection, Reelyz, is accepting the possibility for extinction. But I guess you don’t believe in that with your immortal code. I guess it’s best not to believe in it. Why believe that ultimate failure is possible? There’s no point. Unless it’s to help avoid it. . . No, extinction is possible. It’s just not something to dwell on, like any less grand death.

ETpro's avatar

The game today is like King of the Mountain, and those on top defend their rightful high ground ferociously.

zophu's avatar

Time to walk away from the pyramid and learn to live on a sphere.

LostInParadise's avatar

I like the way this discussion has been going. One small thing that I would like to suggest is that for the least glamorous jobs there could be a policy of obligatory community service, much like a military draft, requiring everyone to put in a certain amount of time doing the work. That way nobody would have to say, why should I do the work if the next guy doesn’t?

zophu's avatar

@LostInParadise The necessity of mandatory work would probably be there during any transition into a system like this. During that, the necessity of it could be determined through study. But the whole “fairness of who works and who doesn’t” is a creature of this civilization. It’s not natural. Comes from the learned feeling that work owns life; it shouldn’t, it doesn’t.

It would be more efficient overall if a voluntary workforce would be more than enough, and I think that’s how it could be if we turned our priorities to making the vital systems within society as efficient as possible.

In a well-organized system, people wouldn’t have to work for more than a few hours a week—and the more people who joined the workforce, the easier it would be on everyone else. It would be considered a pass-time, a way to learn some useful skills (robots and computer-administrators would be able to handle all the shitty jobs that don’t take complex human thought and skill.)

People with high spirits want to work, they want to be challenged. Not that I wouldn’t mind a grueling mandatory job if it meant I could live in a world that wasn’t insane, but I just don’t think it would be necessary. not that any of us seem likely to live to see this world. . .

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Just in line at Office Depot, I had to suffer through waiting for a newly fired school teacher from Illinois go on an on about how she and 17,000 other non tenured teachers were let go by the state due to lack of funding. The checkout girl was unimpressed and the people waiting in line, including myself, were impatient. Though shocked at the numbers, I just wanted the woman to shut the fuck up, get out of Martyr mode, and move the line along.

Realizing that my life satisfaction didn’t depend upon how fast the line moved, as asked her… “Why not start your own school?”

Someone else in line said, “Yeah that’s a great idea”.

Someone else said, “They did that in South City and it’s going over really well”.

Then the out of work teacher stopped and commented that there was actually some talk of doing such a thing. 17,000 teachers all looking for work, in one state? The government has seen them as disposable, yet how many dollars are the courts spending to put Rod Blagojevich on trial and how much money is the news media making for covering it? How much money is handed out under the table for gambling casinos to be approved under the false guise of their profits helping out the educational system? We are so broken as a society. It makes me sick.

And here I am, with an extra $3G wondering where I’m going to vacation this year. So, take a trip to the Grand Canyon, or go help out in Haiti for a month? Which would be most rewarding and memorable? As much as I hate to admit it, I’ll most likely hit the Canyon. I am so broken as a person. It makes me sick.

LostInParadise's avatar

@zophu , I share your vision of a time when robots do most of the work. I just hope that it does not turn into a dystopic society like that envisioned in The Time Machine. However, I do think it is human nature to want to be rewarded in one form or another for our labors.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think it would be a great loss if I could never feel the satisfaction of having done a hard days work. And if the reward were the same for a slacker and the one who puts their all into a job, then where is the incentive to excel. It is an invitation to mediocrity. And why would a scientist put in extra hours in a lab trying to find cures for diseases if their reward was the same as someone who worked for 2 hours and then that’s enough for me. Who is going to build the robots who do the crap work? And why bother going to school if you are going to be taken care of and earn the same as the scientist no matter what you do. You don’t need free education, studying is hard work, why bother?

augustlan's avatar

@rooeytoo I don’t know… I think the better society we’d all live in would be the reward. Satisfaction of a job well-done, love of learning for learning’s sake, etc. would also fuel a lot of people.

zophu's avatar

@rooeytoo Healthy, undrained people work hard for the sake of getting something meaningful done. The incentive would be self-improvement along with the altruistic benefits. This is seen today with volunteers and charitable professionals. However, money and status and over-institutionalized education has been deeply conditioned into our minds and it’s going to take at least a full generation cycle in a resource-based economy for society to adjust out of it. There would be rampant laziness if it were possible for most jobs to be dropped now. But that’s not the natural way of things. We would eventually unlearn the conditioning that tells us “if you aren’t paid well, you aren’t worth much” and get off our asses and work for something we believe is worth working for. (There would be things to work for that people wouldn’t have to trick themselves into thinking are worth working for.)

And anyway, in a system stable enough to not require so many people to work, we wouldn’t have to worry about many of the problems that drive people down with stress today. Laziness wouldn’t be a problem because it wouldn’t strain the system. The real contempt for laziness is rooted more in the deviancy it fosters than the unproductive nature of it. Look around one day on the town and ask yourself how many of those busy workers you see are actually necessary to the good of society. There’s no virtue to working for the sake of working if there’s nothing worth working for. The virtue is in finding a better way to do things, and working as hard as you can towards that.

ETpro's avatar

@rooeytoo You answered your own question. Where would be your reward for workingf hard and accomplishing something worthwhile? “I think it would be a great loss if I could never feel the satisfaction of having done a hard days work” Most humans actually feel that way. And the lazy might soon notice that they are the least happy, least fulfilled people around and decide they wanted to get into the action with those enjoying their work.

zophu's avatar

Also imagine how much more energy people would have to focus on their educations and social connections without the daily grind? They would have much more time, be less fatigued, and have an open horizon that only some now experience and usually only during brief periods in their lives. Add a clear sense of purpose to that and you have an average citizen that wouldn’t be capable of wasting his or her life away. There would be too much drive. They would pity the “slackers,” and would generally be likely to work to help them. They would not be jealous of them, anyway.

rooeytoo's avatar

@ETpro – This is starting to feel like a personal vendetta.

If you want to live in a world where all receive the same reward regardless of how hard they work, then you go mate. I thankfully live in a world where hard work is rewarded and unfortunately the slackers are rewarded also by the taxes of those of us who work but at least not at the same rate as someone who gives their all.

When I hear these words it makes me think you do not want to work a real job for 40 hours a week. You want some sort of part time job that will get you all the rewards of a real job. I studied, trained and worked hard to gain the experience I have in several different fields, I like being well paid in return for my investment. I can’t imagine not working, I could retire but I don’t plan to.

Again this is my opinion based on my feelings and experience.

ETpro's avatar

@rooeytoo You don’t know me very well. I am past retirement age and could be living on Social Security. I instead own my own company and work very hard and long hours. I also am incredibly blessed to be doing work I love to do. I will only stop working when my body and my mind no longer can manage to work..

But we increasingly live in a country where hard work is not what is rewarded. Since Reagan’s 60% tax cut for the highest income bracket, wealth has been flowing disproportionately to the wealthy. The bottom 90% have barely gained in real income. The bottom 60% have lost ground. The top 10% have gained to the point they now have almost ¾ths of the wealth in America. The top 1% have over ⅓rd. The top 1/10th of 1% have watched their wealth expand beyond belief. And aside from the notable exceptions like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, the wealthiest of these people do not work in the sense we think of it. They have investment firms that manage their portfolio. They mostly play. And increasingly, their investing is off shore where returns are highest and taxes lowest.

They and their water carriers have taken over the GOP and turned it into the Greedy Oligarchy Party. The party leaders now fund think tanks like The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute to come up with talking points about why we must cut taxes for the rich some more, because they are the ones that provide the jobs. Well, we’ve been taking that medicine for 30 years. Where are the jobs? They are where the uber wealthy are investing their money, off shore.

I am open to any way to remedy that, because destroying America’s middle class is not good for any but a tiny handful. Even the majority of the top 10% are sure to fall out of the feeding trough. Because the wealthier you are, the faster more comes to you with the current scheme. The truly uber wealthy can even shield themselves from economic downturns. Financial crises like the one we had in 2007–2010 are nothing more than bargain shopping opportunities.

mattbrowne's avatar

Actually, not that hard as soon as all countries have the necessary infrastructure and average educational level of the population in place. The toughest part is making smarter usage of limited resources. Sustainable development can be achieved by increasing resource productivity. Right now I’m reading a book called ‘Factor 5’

and it explains how this can be done. New technologies, artfully combined via integrative design, can now quintuple the work wrung from energy, water, and other resources. Buildings can be constructed that are essentially carbon free and yet have an excellent and convenient internal air quality. Cement can be made with fly ash from coal power plants, using less than one fifth of the energy needed for conventional Portland cement.

rooeytoo's avatar

@ETpro – you are right, I don’t know you, I read your profile but it doesn’t really say much. But now you tell me you have achieved, you enjoy the satisfaction of a good days work. But you don’t think anyone born after you is smart enough to achieve these goals so you want to hand it to them on a platter and deny them the feeling of satisfaction that you and I have felt and appreciated. I think differently, I look around and I see many younger people who are achieving the those very same goals. As it did for me, it takes hard work and determination, perseverance and a lot of sweat. Not all young are looking for the free lunch or whining because not enough is given by the government. Some are actually working for their lunch and eating it too.

zophu's avatar

@rooeytoo The only true “reward” to work is self-determined purpose. Working to have the resources necessary to maintain basic health is very good—when the resources are actually low. When you have a pile of resources, much more than a 100 people would ever need, and you have a village of 100 people you want to rule over. . . If you only hand out basic resources to those who do what you want, that’s not just them being “rewarded.” That’s people—Human-Beings—being conditioned. Like trained dogs. It’s a game you’re playing, and that’s the only reason you’re worried about cheaters.

Work for yourself and for the people you care about and for the world if you think that’s a part of things. But don’t hold yourself above others with your resume. Everybody does the best they can—that’s all people ever do. It’s foolish to blame the sickness on the sick. Look at the cause.

Society creates the miscreants it blames for its failings. It’s their scapegoat. It’s been distracting (and absorbing) would-be-revolutionaries for centuries. People who would rather blame the weak for the problems than the authority, who’s responsibility it is to prevent the weakness from being fostered. But it is maintained. The poor class plays a vital part in the pyramid. It is the base.

Don’t begrudge the weak. They’re what give your station meaning. Well, I guess if you stopped begrudging them, the meaning would be gone.

zophu's avatar

It would probably be better if the poor and unemployed did go without support from the government, though. It would force people to actually help them help themselves instead of just leaving them stagnant, breeding in the ghettos. And yeah, it would inspire a lot of the the parasitic slackers to get off their ass and start contributing. It would force us to deal with the problems instead of hiding them away. I’m all for it.

It’s going to be a long time before we can afford to give most people “free-rides” in this world. So, @rooeytoo, I don’t think we really disagree on much in the immediate. Just on the more philosophical points about the future—which isn’t really that relevant when I think about it practically. which is why I hate thinking about things practically

ETpro's avatar

@rooeytoo “But now you tell me… don’t think anyone born after you is smart enough to achieve…” No, those are your words. I did not say any such thing and I do not think any such thing. If you are going to do my writing for me, there isn’t much point in our trying to debate policy.

My concern is that the middle class is slowly disappearing in America. We have lost our way as a country. Increasingly, if you aren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you will never have one nor pass one on to your children. Look at the statistics in this thread for proof.

I am interested in open discussion on how to fix the problem of a 3-decade long massive transfer of wealth to the wealthiest 1% and even more rapid transfer of wealth to the wealthiest 1/10th of 1% in America. We are headed for something akin to a banana republic. An America that increasingly resembles the economy of Haiti is not what I want to leave for my 2 surviving children and 11 grandchildren to grow up in.

I think it’s a good idea to keep some reward in place for those who produce more than they need, but do people really need to be multibillionaires? Does it serve society’s interest to shift our tax laws so that fantastic fortunes aggregates with a tiny handful of families who gain so much dynastic wealth they can eventually control government and shape the game to keep themselves and their children and their children’s children constantly growing ever more wealthy at the expense of everyone else?

Bear in mind most multibillionaires do not work. They have investment managers handle their portfolio. They do whatever they wish. I’d like to see more than 1/10th of 1% have the opportunity to do that. I am open to suggestions of better ways to achieve that goal. That’s where I hope this thread leads.

zophu's avatar

There is no humane reason someone should be able to do things of great social concern with nothing but a lot of money. Why shouldn’t people have limits to how much money they can have? If you wish to do something to help the world that is greater than your fortune’s ability to fund, then find other people that want to do it too and have them work with you (not for you, with you.) Survival of the fittest, yes, but fitness is not measured in $. Just because you have a lot of power does not mean you are fit to have it. The systems where the majority is just a host waiting to be bled dry or replaced, by the profoundly parasitic few—there is no survival in that.

kess's avatar

If all are united none will have to work,
What was considered as work will actually be fun, and you can do it or not do it as it pleases you.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
ETpro's avatar

@zophu I certainly agree. The proof of concept of that thought is, in a world of nearly 7 billion people, if one individual became rich and powerful enough to create a total monopoly, would it be desirable? Should 1 person be allowed to own everything on earth for themselves, and deny any of it to anyone else?

Nullo's avatar

Let us also keep in mind global cost-of-living.

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