With massive unemployment touching off riots and international strikes in Europe, the failures of unregulated predatory capitalism have become obvious. Those who benefit from an economic system that is on the verge of collapse have no answers because they refuse to consider the possibility that the system that has worked so well for them can be fundamentally flawed. Even those leaders in government who are earnestly looking for ways to create wider prosperity do not question the basic assumptions of a system that will inevitably self-destruct. The time for reforming the system is over. Given the realities of demographics, it must be completely restructured.
The world population recently reached 7 billion. The population of Africa alone is projected to double in 40 years. If we continue to assume that prosperity depends on endless economic growth based on consumption, it is clear that we will run out of many essential resources long before then. We are already seeing prices of staple foods soar as investors cash in on the food commodities market. Water is being privatized throughout the world, threatening access to this most basic of all resources necessary to sustain life. Is air next?
The world's population is not increasing uniformly. While developing nations see an initial dramatic rise in birthrates as living standards rise, birthrates inevitably fall in developed nations. This drop in birthrate is the reason for the aging population in the US and other wealthy nations. That is the major factor leading to fears that Social Security and Medicare will become insolvent. Both programs depend on contributions from today's workers to stay solvent. As fewer young people are made to pay for increasing numbers of retirees, the system will collapse without fundamental changes. Politicians in both parties in the US are unwilling to consider these because it would involve sacrifice on the part of the wealthy donor class that determines who gets campaign funding.
A just economy that takes into account shifting demographics as nations become developed will have to find new ways to assure that everyone who is capable of working has an opportunity to do so. In a democracy, we can choose to do this. We can also choose to ensure that everyone's basic needs are met. Given the many essential functions of a society, those that are less desirable should pay more than a living wage, and jobs that produce nothing of use should pay less. If all the parasite class of financiers care about is accumulating wealth, let them spend their days playing computerized games in the stock market and running up their scores in electronic bank accounts, but isolate them from the real economy.
The solution to the austerity "crisis" in the US is not to tear at the social safety net, but to invest in it. Funding Social Security indefinitely is a simple matter of making the rich pay into the fund on every dollar they make, just as those who work for a living do. Then the retirement age can be lowered to 55, rather than raised. This will free up jobs that younger people can take, assured that they too will have a retirement fund when it is their time to enjoy the fruits of a life's labor while they still have time to.
If wealth were fairly distributed, no one need work more than 20 hours per week to meet all the needs of society. The rest of the time could be devoted to self-fulfillment for those who choose to use it that way. Volunteering to help those who need it, studying and teaching, creating art, nourishing the spirit, spending time with family and friends; all these enrich society as well as the individual. Love and work are the only two things that give life real meaning. Those who choose to waste their lives on hedonistic pursuits or meaningless work can do so, but they are to be pitied.
We are witnessing the end result of a system based on the idea that some may prosper while others starve. The endless quest for wealth and power for some has led to the working class in America and Europe feeling the pain of economic injustice most of the world has long taken for granted. While citizens of wealthy nations believe they profit only by virtue of hard work, prosperity has actually depended in large part on control of the resources of other nations, oil being only the most obvious example. The idea that one can only profit from the loss of another is the essence of the zero-sum game. In a planet of finite resources, an ever-expanding number of players assures that in the end, no one wins.
The only way out of the trap we have laid for ourselves is to conceive an economy where all basic needs are met and each of us has a chance to succeed. Such an economy would be based on principles of sustainability, including conversion to renewable, nonpolluting sources of energy. To ensure sustainability, the means of voluntary birth control would be available to all. In such a world water, food, housing, health care education and even electrical energy would all be available as a birthright. Collectively we have the wealth. The problem is that the system is set up to allow it to accumulate in the hands of a few even as world population continues to grow at a dangerous rate.
If we continue to value individual property rights over the survival of society as a whole, civilization will self-destruct. The only alternative to working together to build a just world society is to allow those in power to continue to amass the power and wealth that will enable them to reduce the population by any means they see fit when the rest of us become too great a burden. War, pandemic disease complicated by lack of access to health care, man-made environmental catastrophes and starvation are all threats to humanity and are inevitable in the current system.
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