Archive for June, 2007

Everyone Wants to be a Millionaire

Have you ever noticed that everyone wants to be a millionaire? Or, at least look like one. Las Vegas is probably the ultimate manifestation of the market trying to satisfy this almost universal desire, allowing the common man the chance to experience the “good life”. Cell phones, large houses, expensive cars and perhaps even an air of indifference to those around us – we communicate to others with these symbols of seeming success. The problem is that these benchmarks aren’t necessarily rooted in reality even though we convince ourselves of many “needs.” I’ve lived in large houses and found that I usually end up in the same three rooms, day after day, while the others collected dust until its occasional use.

But, where does this universal desire come from? My guess is that it grows from another universal, but rarely acknowledged human condition – insecurity of self. Speaking from my own experience I think it stems from the desire to attract others to you – be it parents, siblings, friends or lovers. They are symbols of success and happiness we use to communicate indirectly simply because we don’t know any better. We don’t know where to find happiness and we don’t know what to communicate. But, like the blind leading the blind we continue looking for happiness in the same place our parents did, the same places our friends look and where society tells us we’ll find it.

Is this necessarily a bad dynamic? Well, in my opinion it has two major consequences. One, by seeking fulfillment in others, happiness will continue to elude us. And, if dealing with depressed people were the only consequence, I wouldn’t necessarily bother you. But, it is the second consequence that disturbs me: that we’re destroying our planet in this seemingly ever expanding cycle of consumption that gets us nowhere but more frustrated because what we bought hasn’t made us any happier! Sustainability dictates that we have to “get over” this indirect communication with the stuff in our lives.

You won’t find existential happiness in the stuff you buy or in the relationships these symbols attract. But I think it primarily comes from you liking yourself. And, the intimate relationships we seek can only result after we’ve made peace with ourselves. But, when you finally do, you have something to offer that is both unique and that you believe in. No, not everyone is going to like what you have to offer, but that’s okay. The only people we truly want in our lives are those who appreciate us for who we are and we definitely don’t need to be a millionaire to do it either. :-)

June 18, 2007 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

A Trickle-Up Economy?

I’m no expert at economics, but I don’t believe it takes an expert to ask questions and make some basic observations. I’ll first state the obvious: our present system economics has brought us to where we are now — a world transformed as a result of technological development. The big question is whether this particular style of economics is the best way forward.

I ask this question because no system is perfect and despite the many positive advances we’ve made, it has come with both serious social and environmental costs. Perhaps the most telling consequence is our resistance to change our harmful behavior for fear of its negative impact on “the economy”. I’m specifically referring to global warming and the economic machine that generates carbon emissions. But, in general the end result of our system is that two-thirds of the world’s resources are utilized to sustain only one-sixth of the planet’s population. This consumer based economy screams waste and inefficiency relying on wealth “trickling down” to solve the problem of poverty.

So what would the characteristics of a sustainable system be? I think it would have to meet at least two criteria. One, it would be capable of meeting the needs of the entire population and two it would not harm our environment in the process. I believe these goals are both reasonable and achievable. A key theme to the solution is the notion of investing in oneself and the role of government policy is to provide the tools that support this theme such as education, sustainable infrastructure and LEED platinum designs to name a few examples. Here are some thoughts on achieving these goals.

Trickle-up: If the system is truly going to provide for everyone, it has to be built around everyone’s productivity and cannot be over-productive. Concepts such as the 40 hour work week need to be rethought and replaced with a more realistic approach of “many hands make light work”. Also, it may seem backward to suggest it, but we need to shift from an industrial based economy to one which is sustainable based on renewable resources in which the vast majority can actively participate and thus “trickle-up”. This would suggest a rural, knowledge based economy that is actively participates in local; agriculture (I’m thinking of a quasi- Kibbutz system).

Sustainable Transportation: Fundamental to our modern world is our ability to transport goods and services. Unfortunately, our methods and volume of transportation are the source of many of our problems. A sustainable system will be rooted in smart public transportation. Luckily, the power of the internet can eliminate a lot of unnecessary transportation.

Time-Based Currency: While using time as a currency is not practicable in all situations, it provides a more direct and equitable exchange for services while at the same time promoting a sense of community. Perhaps hours will be the currency of the sustainable economy and will allow a means for a hybrid system as we “switch gears”.

Small-Scale Government: Ideally small, local governments are more effective at responding to its citizenry and creating a sense of involvement and community. However, in the age of the internet and a well designed people moving system, networks of small communities can form the basis of large-scale economies that will sustain us all – just more efficiently and effectively.

Economics is not something “other” that we should fear, but rather it is a description of how we manage our resources amongst ourselves. While these thoughts are admittedly vague, incomplete and probably making economists and businessmen cringe, this entry is more about developing and sharing ideas because, not only can we do better, we have to do better.

June 4, 2007 at 6:53 pm 1 comment

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