Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happiness, value and waged labour

One of the most common mistakes made when considering a resource-based economy is to think of value monetarily, and then dismiss the idea as valueless. This conflation of value and money, of money as store of value (it's actually an abstraction of value) leads to the conflation of waged-labour with value. This has a completely understandable and even noble historical context, but our need for human labour for the production of goods and services is steadily diminishing as we get better and better at replacing our skills – all of them – with technological inventions.

We need to unlearn this association of waged-labour with value, because it is an association running out of usefulness. Humans are losing value in the market place because our technology is getting better and better at doing what we traditionally have done for a wage, or can ever do. This drop in economic value equates with tragedy IF we continue to believe money is the only way of distributing resources, and therefore the best way of measuring value. Of course we know not all valuable things can be measured monetarily – air and trust spring to mind – and yet we do so often see success and failure in the size of our house, car and pay check etc.

Only a very few people would claim to want to be the last person on Earth, surrounded by technology that served her or his every whim. Humans need humans more than they need machines. We are a social animal. We each have value in that we need other humans around us to be human ourselves. Being involved in the process of human society is what being human is. That ongoing process has value in and of itself because we need it to be healthily us, to be happily human. The material side of things is merely the foundation upon which the chance for happiness rests. We are strangely glued to the idea that material comfort is itself happiness. It is only the beginning of happiness. A resource-based economy solves the age old problem of giving everyone access the materials they need for a happy life. The rest would be up to us.

A better world?

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