TL;DR: Two, separate and simultaneous economies for public good and private enterprise. People pay for freedom of private enterprise in a nation through public service labour, which is allocated equally to all residents. Government leaves the finance markets to their own devices, and changes its success metric to public happiness.
I've been thinking a lot about economies, governments, capitalism, socialism, history, and psychology the last few years, for various reasons, and naturally the bitcoin had it's role to play in my understanding of them, and their connections to each other - even if just by bringing me to a forum I would not have normally found myself, where such ideas were openly discussed.
Last night I had a thought which I couldn't put down, but like breaking through a rock and discovering a cavern, I did not really know just how far this cave went, and whether it was even safe to enter. I'd like to share the idea I had with you all, in order to discuss it's feasibility and failings.Double Simultaneous Economy
The idea of a Double Simultaneous Economy is one in which there are two working economies in a nation. One is for the group, and the other is for the individual.
It occurred to me that there is this classic battle between capitalism and socialism, with both sides (and many ideas in-between) adamant that they are the only useful one, when the truth is that both have amazing strengths, and terrible weaknesses. I put this down to the fact that a single human being is both a powerful individual and simultaneously a member by necessity of groups. It seems that socialism taps into the individual's desire to care for the group, and capitalism taps into the individual's desire to care for himself.
Government, by nature, aims to protect the well being of the group, but has to compete for resources on the private market. It has to translate a metric of currency into a metric of happiness, which is apparently an impossible task. In the current model, it has been moving from a direct effort tax to an indirect inflation tax, and has hit another wall. Meanwhile, large groups of people are at odds with themselves, because of the cognitive dissonance (the discomfort when you imagine rain falling upwards) they feel when told, that capitalism is good and socialism evil, but feeling satisfaction when they look after others, even strangers. I would say the opposite is true in socialist/communist countries. People need simultaneously both
to receive the reward for their efforts, and the security
of a healthy, happy society with a good even baseline for quality of life, and this is not being acknowledged by either side.
It seems that most peoples ultimately want the same things - all citizens to have their basic needs met, something akin to the bottom 3 levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow%27s_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg
), and an active and properous private economy, but independently believe it must be one way or another (socialism or capitalism). Capitalists don't want to support the lazy, and socialists do not want to support the greedy. Not all capitalists are greedy, and not all socialists are lazy, but the stigma is attached and it's going nowhere. Can we separate the two?A different way
The idea that formed was that if a society were to quantify the exact levels of minimum lifestyle it desires for its population, with the easily measured success metric of "public contentment", it could aim to provide these things using the currency of national labour. I believe the hours required for public service to achieve any set of goals over a suitable time period, from every individual, could be calculated. The key to this economy is that everybody contributes an equal amount of their time, for an equal amount of benefit, doing as the "group" needs. There would be some problems to overcome with this, of course, but for the important bit is separation of the social and the individual. The time payment would be given purely to serve the group, and the benefit would be what the society deems appropriate for all - food, water, utilities, housing, clothing, etc - that it could easily provide with central distribution, since the factories and machinery already basically exist to make this happen easily. If the private economy creates something the public deems it should provide everyone, then labour can be applied to make it so, in the form of public works.
The rest of the week/month/year, when not doing public service, a person acts in freedom and in self interest. Any reward for the effort they make during this time is at their discretion, and there is absolutely no need to tax the fruit of this labour at all. The time one spends in public service is enforced and equal across the board (imperative for psychological reasons), and private time allows a man to trade luxuries and self-actualization. This idea balances every human's internal need to be individual, with his obligation to the group. The group effort must be equally enforced to provide solidarity, with no financial way to avoid obligation, and the incentive to perform during public service is that by making your task more efficient, you shorten the time required per citizen (including yourself), for the next year. If more public time is required than previously (eg aging population), then the pursuit of freedom is the supreme incentive to provide more for less in the public sector. This is where the benefits of a technocracy come into it - experts will naturally be in positions of decision making on how best to manage and direct the labour force. If public service needs you to act as an architect (already trained) to design the best nursing home possible for you to get your freedom back, there's a good chance you'll take it and certainly benefit both yourself and the aged. This actually uses the individual's need for freedom to increase public wealth. On the flip side, if things are going efficiently well, then public service will be reduced for everyone, leaving more time for private enterprise. Some things will always need to be done - eg mail, food, utilities, and if people want to really stop having to public service just to do these jobs, the incentive is there to invent robots on public time.
I understand how dramatically different this idea is to what we're all used to, and I'm having trouble fully understanding it's scope, but I do believe that it can, once and for all, solve the problem of socialism vs capitalism, and governments vs business. Some of the particular things I like about this system:
- Equal access to brainpower.
Normally private enterprise attracts the bulk brainpower of a workforce. If, for some reason, the nation state requires 5/5 days a week from everyone for a year (say during a catastrophe), then it also accesses the full knowledge and experience base of the workforce, not only a part of it. The group is no longer forced to run on financial restraints, as it's currency is time, and all state members have an equal obligation to this.- It's self balancing
Since time is allocated equally and enforced, those who wish to spend more time in the private economy can wisely use their time during public service designing efficiency, so the next month/year they are not needed as much - this might happen if there is a resource crisis, or something, which needs to be resolved.- It leads to a healthier government
Government is no longer directly competing with business to provide a minimum standard of living for its people. It accesses the labour pool first, then business is free to go.- It leads to healthier business
There is no more need for the group (government) to interfere with or manipulate the free market. Public protection might revolve around liberty of life (criminal law), while private protection might revolve around liberty of market (a modified civil law), and the same people will probably work in both as their duty to public service requires.- Private Participation is voluntary
A person can risk all or nothing in the pursuit of social recognition, and should they fail, not suffer a horrible homeless and stressed fate. They have the freedom to try to earn a better life for themselves, or they can choose to sit on the beach all day when they're not performing public service.- Encourages wide social interaction
Public service will put people from wildly different backgrounds in trivial jobs together, if that's all that's required. They might become friends.- There is no more welfare state
The only people who do not earn their way for a shared public quality of life are the truly invalid, and I think that's reasonable. Disabilities are not as much a hindrance to public service when money is not the motivator (personal anecdotal evidence of this). - The same people who manage private efficiency manage public efficiency
People would be assigned public tasks to take advantage of their skills - doctors play doctors in both, managers manage everywhere. If people have an applicable skill, they do it. If the public economy doesn't need them in that role, then they drive a bus (or whatever is needed).- It promotes the social experience without the pressure of money
Just like military service, it provides a common experience that everyone in a society shares. This is psychologically and emotionally bonding. - It provides the platform for achievement
Those who wish to impress others with their talents and hard work can easily do so, and if others want to partake, they have opportunity to directly offer something in return, that they have created during their private time.- A more generally skilled population
There are sets of general skills that can be shared by all for the benefit of all. Any industry that works for the public good would need to be designed with low skill labour in mind. There will always be specialists (eg doctors) who would be too busy to work in a factory, however, although this system does afford the opportunity to give up a high pressure private job for a while and just drive a bus.- Most Importantly (to me personally) - The happiness of the population is no longer tied to their ability to earn money.
Being impoverished makes it very difficult to be happy, but having money only helps up to a point. A government with the success metric of happiness (or more likely contentment) and a resource of labour (and potentially other resources of the nation) can focus on the job at hand as necessary.There are surely some downsides to this, and these are what I can think of:
- Untangling will be difficult
The government is deeply entwined in the finance markets, and has to be removed...it will be a very complicated surgery. One option is to just drop the whole thing and switch to a cryptocurrency, like bitcoins, to run business, but that will leave a lot of people angry. The government might just run in both systems until all the debts are paid off, then switch to pure labour.- Difficult predictions
The group has to predict how much time it will need from everyone to produce the intended quality of life its membership requires with a high degree of accuracy. I don't know if this is possible, but I imagine within a few years it will become easier to achieve as bugs are ironed out of the system, and people become experienced to this level of task management. On the bright side, we will have the best brains possible on the job...or at least available....a technocracy in disguise. To prevent too much switching out, perhaps jobs are earned in similar ways to the private system or something - changing skill based.- Who owns production
The public might have all the labour it needs, but it also needs access to existing capital without paying for it (it has no money). It can either build the publicly owned factories as needed with its allocated workforce, or demand sovereignty over privately created plants as necessary. Since the government shouldn't be allowed to access and interfere in the financial markets, it's only option is to demand time, but this can probably be achieved by allowing a plant's labour to serve their public time at the same time, so a factory's output is taxed as a whole.
It might make more sense to create public factories, and have labour come in and change over time.- Complications in stewardship
I'm not sure how to best handle stewardship in this...like...would there be jobs that require 100% public service? I think it would be rather interesting if a person could spend say 3 years in public service, full time (reducing everyone else's required public service a fraction), and have it act as a bank against which they don't have to work for a period of time. This is one way around that, and it would ensure a rotation of brainpower to keep the good parts of the 2 party process working. It is absolutely imperative that no one person spends any more
time than anyone else, in public service (in a given year or 5 years or w/e) - even if they want to, to avoid agenda setting and "too expensive" a minimum standard of living.- What do you do if a person doesn't individually want what's on public offer?
There must be some mechanism where someone who wants a better house than what public offers can get it. Public doesn't have to mean 'crappy', but if "happiness" is not reached, then the metric has failed and a better quality should be pursued. Since there cannot be an interaction with money from the public section, and each person cannot do less public service than anyone else (psychology of the system), then maybe government can provide the land, and the option of several house designs, and the person can either choose one, or elect to build their own.- property
I don't know how this would be reconciled. It's currently deeply embedded in the private economy, and people need to move all the time, so it can't be government allocated places. Shelter is important, and I believe everyone would rather have the security of their home than not (would be decided by happiness metric anyway), but can anyone think of a good resolution to this in this model?- farming
A healthy and varied diet should be available under public service, and the govt would pretty much be forced to take what it needs from the land to provide first, and excesses left to the private market somehow. I'm not sure if government needs to take ownership of land again or not...but since there is no government money, they can't exactly rent it.
=I could go on heaps more I'm sure, but I think it'll be more fun hearing what you guys have to say now, I've rambled plenty. So what do you think? Will this make both sides happy? who loses out in this concept?
PS If this is the wrong forum, can a mod move it please?