The resource-based economy has become a popular topic of discussion, and this paper is the author’s inaugural foray into the field. Far from being an easy convert to social movements, I am inherently distrustful of them. However, a hard-won ally is a hard-lost one. Perhaps it is time for me to endorse the movement and attempt to illuminate some vital needs such a movement may need to embrace in order to succeed in implementing its views. This paper is intended to be an initial exploration of concepts for further definition.
Discussion of the idea of a resource-based economy (RBE) is becoming increasingly popular, yet the exact technical specifications of such a society have remained somewhat elusive. This paper attempts to address certain fundamental concepts which may allow the idea of the RBE to solidify into a working piece of social technology. Six core philosophies are presented in no particular order to be explored, compared to existing social behaviors and evaluated for usefulness.
On the way towards a resource based economy, the philosophy of transparency calls for all economic transactions to be recorded and made public instantly. Thereby, the wealth and resource holdings of each individual and each company becomes completely visible to each other member of the society at all times. In this case, the philosophy of transparency applies to economic interactions exclusively. However, broader social implications are present in the philosophy.
Clearly, this transparency is a radical departure from the economic structure we are accustomed to using on this planet at this time. The idea of discussing one’s monetary holdings is considered rude by both the haves and the have-nots–for different reasons, of course. The poor would rather not discuss a sensitive topic which can create worry, while the rich don’t want the poor to realize just how much economic power they weld, for fear of losing it. The lack of transparency allows for untoward hoarding of resources. It allows companies to purchase less-than-ideal components for manufacture and it allows politicians to surreptitiously receive payment by lobbying councils.
In contrast, the benefits of applying the philosophy of transparency in a society are manifold. Theft of all types will become increasingly obsolete. Unusual hoarders of resources can be immediately identified (such as the gargantuan wealth of certain royal families or industrialists), and it is unlikely that such massive hoarding will be allowed to continue in the face of universal and exacting public scrutiny. In the RBE, transparency serves the further purpose of allowing an accurate accounting of which resources are available, and resolves concerns over an usurping force seizing the reigns of the society by undue accumulation.
The philosophy of transparency further answers the plaguing question of “who will decide who gets what” in the RBE. Based on limited research, it appears that most RBE supporters will say that “some kind of supercomputer” will make the calculations. However, as pointed out by Stefan Moleneux, computers merely run programs as defined by the programmer. Therefore, the question becomes “who will program the computer” and is equivalent to the first question–no answer has been presented. By applying transparency, the correct answer to our questions becomes “everybody”, which is a simplified way of saying that open-source communities can present calculations on which resources exist and how they can be utilized, and these calculations will be available for immediate scrutiny by all members of the RBE.
The philosophy of custodianship replaces the philosophy of ownership in the RBE. The difference is subtle, yet profound. Custodianship assures individual rights over items one has accumulated, yet impedes misuse or wanton destruction of those items. The underlying theme is that in order for most resources to have value, there is a transactional nature inherent in their use. Given that an item has entered one’s sphere of influence from elsewhere, and that that same item will eventually leave one’s sphere of influence, it becomes apparent that a person is, at best, temporarily in command of the item. Thus, the philosophy of custodianship recognizes the transient nature of “owning” a thing and prepares the individual adherent for that thing’s continued functioning after it has left the individual user’s sphere of influence.
This philosophy differs from our contemporary mode of thinking in that it does not respect the right of an individual to wantonly destroy that which he finds himself in command of. Thus, if one were custodian of a plot of land, that individual would be prevented from dumping toxic waste on the land on the simple authority that the land was “owned” by the individual; on the contrary, the individual would be required to understand that he is, at most, transient force upon a plot of land that has existed, and will continue to exist, for spans of time generally inconceivable to an individual. It becomes the duty of the transient custodian to prepare for the graceful transition of custodianship to the next user–a thought that seems to be lacking in a ownership based society.
The benefits of custodianship include an increased attention to preservation of land and resources, a reduction in waste of perishable products and provides a further impetus for the elimination of undue hoarding. Consider, for example, the story of the grocery store that went out of business. The previous owners wanted to simply give away the food that remained inside; however, the new owners saw no profit in doing that and instead ordered all the food to be disposed of by transporting it to a landfill. The new owners were enabled to undertake this incredible act of wastefulness because the food became “owned by them”, and therefore they were free to do whatever they wished with it, including simply destroying it. Under the philosophy of custodianship, the “new owners” would be aware that the food had only temporarily entered their sphere of influence, and their primary concern would be to facilitate the proper dispersal of it, not the wanton disposal of it. Only by streamlining the use of resources can the RBE become feasible, and by applying transparency this streamlining will be assured by an open-source accounting by multiple parties.
The philosophy of renewability addresses the continued survival and success of the RBE. Since resources are one of the definitions of wealth in the RBE (joy, fulfilment, happiness and creativity, for instance, are others), renewing, preserving, optimising and expanding those resources is the only way to achieve (resource based) economic stability or growth of abundance in society.
In comparison, the modern economic practice of creating “fiat currency”–a mathematical construct which has little, if any, relation to actually existing resources–does not require renewability. The illusion of stability or growth can be artificially introduced into the economy by simply adding numbers which, when not linked to actual resources, have no value yet give the illusion of value. The result is that practices which are inherently destructive to the actual wealth of a society, its resources, are routinely praised as valuable and continued even to the final depletion of a once abundant resource. Furthermore, re-use or recycling of useful resources is often ignored, allowing valuable resources to be discarded in favor of maximizing fiat currency holdings. Holdings which, as resources diminish, have an inherently decreasing value.
The benefits of renewability to the RBE are apparent on the surface: it allows the resource-wealth of a society to be preserved and expanded upon. Furthermore, the philosophy of renewability promotes creation of complex resource abundance over that of simplistic consumption or outright destruction. It does this by valuing the retention of available resources above all else in economic practice.
The philosophy of local production has two main purposes. One is economic: to reduce the amount of resource-use during transportation. The other is social: to decentralise the method of resource-production to the maximum extent. While the economic purpose is straightforward, the social purpose is more complex. Taken generally, the social purpose of local production is a safeguard against various problems such as natural disasters, infrastructure disturbances or resource-domination by certain groups. At it’s most basic level, the idea that anyone can provide themselves with all of life’s necessities personally, unilaterally and sustainably will serve to free each individual to pursue more lofty ideals and complex undertakings.
Comparisons between the philosophy of local production and philosophy employed in contemporary modes of production are telling. Our planet currently discards millions of pounds of food yearly while at the same time allowing millions of people to starve daily. As with all famine, the problem is not with production but distribution. Quite simply, the food is too far away from the hungry people. There is further complication due to current economic system which considers the destruction of real resources to preserve the fictitious resource of fiat currency as reasonable. A parallel can be drawn between most, if not all, situations of human lack faced by modern society, and these situations are highly likely to be reduced substantially by the philosophy of local production.
Thus, the benefit to the philosophy of local production is first and foremost the elimination of lack of access to basic needs. However, the economic advantage to the RBE is unmistakable: it allows the conservation of resources and thus a decreased load upon producers, eventually leading to resource based economic growth.
The philosophy of technological advancement anticipates and celebrates the invention and implementation of new technology as rapidly as is safe and logical. The purpose of technological advancement is to increase both the economic production of the RBE as well as fostering social development.
While it may seem that contemporary society embraces the philosophy of technological advancement, in truth it does exactly the opposite. Take for example the historical evidence which was Nikola Tesla’s project to provide free wireless energy to the world. Although the technology was superior to that being used at the time and the technical application of the technology was well within the limits of human ability, the project was forced to be shut down. The reason was overtly stated: it would be impossible to meter out this energy for fiat currency and the technology was, for this reason alone, abandoned. It becomes obvious to even the casual observer that the failing and outmoded technology which IS fiat currency has become the only technology which truly is freely expanded, at the expense of all others. Furthermore, potentially dangerous technology, such as GMO crops or nuclear weaponry are quickly developed and deployed beyond the limits of what is safe–assuming, of course, that they are likely to advance the accumulation of fiat currency. Thus, according to the philosophy of technological advancement, fiat currency technology (along with other outdated technologies) should be abandoned in favor of a more advanced one.
Technological advancement offers a vast array of potential benefits. Advances in energy production, food production, communication and transportation are only the beginning of what is possible when the philosophy of technological advancement is applied.
The philosophy of voluntary participation respects the right of the individual to choose among varying forms of ‘work’ and social interaction. It announces that the only social structure that is appropriate for the thinking human is one in which all members have voluntarily agreed to the interaction. It rejects the outright annexation of huge masses of land and the idea of force-based compliance to subjective rules.
It is simple to see the fundamental contradictions between modern society and the philosophy of voluntary participation. In all countries, there is no option given to reject the benefits of the State, and therefore it’s requirements. All land on the continent is annexed by a government, including areas of land which have not been given any attention at all–no people are living thereupon and no resource management has been effectively introduced. By annexing all land, these governments seek to impose an involuntary participation in their social technology. The philosophy of voluntary participation respects the right of each individual to migrate away from the forms and structures of a certain society and encourages a free space for new social technologies to be experimented with.
The philosophy of voluntary interaction is vital to the birth of the RBE and to its continued development. Clearly, without a free space in which to design and experiment with the RBE, it is impossible to implement it. Yet even further, the continued success of the RBE will defined by its ability to metamorphose to suit different climates and social expectations. The philosophy of voluntary participation will streamline the social-evolutionary process by which the RBE will become useful and robust.
What has preceded has been an initial foray into concepts which may prove vital to the actual implementation of the RBE. The subjects discussed are by no means an exhaustive compilation. However, with further development it may be possible to come up with a “social platform” which is sufficiently robust to be applied yet flexible enough to meet the needs of the great majority of people. In this time of great social unrest, great solutions are emerging. It will be up to each of us, individually, to define where we would like to take our society.