A crash course in changing the world.
We’ve done enough research now that it’s easy to see that economy is one of the most difficult issues to tackle in social innovation.
Wielded like a weapon, economics can be a horrifying weapon that ruins the
lives of many- the following all deal with various types of rip-offs, abusive
company practices, and the dangerous nature of money.
We’ve seen a variety of solutions to social problems, and many of them are about minimizing the amount the economy matters. Growing
public gardens, personal water filtration systems, solar power, all of these
are attempts to use a public, free resource to escape the cycle of debt created
by predatory economic practice. It’s not opinion, it’s fact: corrupt business
practice leaches from the world, trying to essentially get something for
nothing, whether that means convincing people to buy things they don’t need,
sell things they need in exchange for secretly less valuable items, or soaking
up natural resources shamelessly.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have money- money is useful, and I don’t think people could ever wrap their head around a truly
money free system. The next step, in my mind, is maximizing all the good
effects of capitalism while minimizing the bad.
First, let’s outline the good effects.
1) Capitalism creates competition and competition drives evolution- new products and services are created to fill new niches, better versions of those will overtake their predecessors, and we get better stuff.
2) It also gives a trade incentive to interact with the rest of the world- if you have something the rest of the world wants and the world
has things you want, you can theoretically trade and both of you will be
happier in the long run.
3) The last argument for capitalism is that it frees people from systems that have no room for advancement, such as caste systems,
monarchies, etc. If you can earn money rather than be relegated to a state of
poorness your entire life, it gives hope and initiative to do more. This is
only kind of true, but it can be argued that it is better than an alternative.
Now for the bad effects and effects that corrupt these primary strengths.
1) The first is that evolution, just as in nature, does not
always mean better. The primary force of capitalism is making the most money
for the least input- which means capitalism thrives on ripping people off if it
can. This does lead to things like the health insurance crisis, bottled water,
and recreational drugs- make a lot of money at the expense of the people,
either by denying care, selling something worthless, or causing a chemical
2) World interactions are equally undermined by unfair trade laws
and practice that force impoverished people into debt cycles that only benefit
the foreign traders interacting with them. Often this is crop related, forgoing
making food for ones family to scrape by and create an export that is sold for
a seemingly greater amount- until other costs pile up or the situation goes
3) Upward mobility and freedom only come about if the system
works to better the lives of all sides involved- usually, somebody loses. In
fact, economic ideals can forge very strong chains. In many cultures, the idea
of ‘owning’ land is foreign- land simply is. Suddenly with an economy in place
they find themselves being charged for where they live and for the food they
produce- a middleman has come to leach direct benefits people create for
themselves. Observe inner city poverty- many of the poorest people pay more to
be poor than others do to be middle class. Lack of available stores incurs
greater travels, lack of mailing address makes getting a job more difficult,
lack of economic stability in the area puts jobs further away, and the poor
area becomes almost cancerous- you are able bodied, and with a farm you might
be able to raise food, but when you live in an apartment of concrete
sequestered from all public resources, your freedom and choices go to nearly
Thus, the only way for the wild economy to really work is to tame it, to curb it’s worst instincts and make it an artificial construct that
works for most of mankind rather than against it. So, we wish to encourage
competition, interaction, and upward mobility, while minimizing rip offs,
predatory economics, and crushing poverty. I can only see a few solutions.
1. Massive International Regulations: A big block of laws used to
stop international trade from taking advantage of people. This is highly
unlikely and impractical- getting our many governments to work jointly to
reduce rip offs and unfair practice is unlikely to occur when the most powerful
governments benefit indirectly at the expense of other countries. So, no dice.
2. Massive Educational Campaign: This is a little better. People
shouldn’t trust anything that sounds too good to be true. They should also be
given the tools to embrace economy free resources like solar energy, plants,
etc. The difficulty here is that many companies will pay off local politicians,
which can lead to leverage forcing cooperation even when not in everyone’s best
3. Removal of Primary Resources from Economic Gain: Personally my
favorite, I believe that survival has no right to be bought and sold as a
commodity. Food, water, and shelter are the most basic of human needs and
rights, and anything that deprives those needs to be abolished, while anything
promoting them should be lauded. Public gardens for food, public water sources,
and affordable/free shelter should be part of the human plan- but they’re not.
People make money off of real estate, food, and water all the time. Some of the
educational materials we have can make these more available- cheap supplies
being used to make water purifiers or grow food for instance. But there’s a
limit to how much this will do if people have nowhere to live. I’ve seen food
and water solutions- has anyone seen a good solution to providing shelter or
land when the laws of your nation allow other to own property and charge
exorbitant fees for things they claim based on dubious rights? Is there a way
to free up land for public use to allow for the survival and good of all people
in a nation?
4. New Systems: The implementation of new systems, like
micro-economies have use, but only when nobody is enforcing one to pay their
debts. If the local governmental forces are jailing, fining, repossessing, and
basically taking what one has away, no amount of micro-economy gets it back. It
may allow for a new home, new things, if that micro-economy grows strong, but
this is still dependent on the government not shutting it down. They could
quickly make the new legal tender illegal to use if they felt it was some kind
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Your bullet on "Removal of Primary Resources from Economic Gain" struck a chord with me; if only we were able to put your plan into action!
Oddly, I think this becomes a bigger issue in the developed world where shanty towns are often destroyed as some kind of public blight, building codes prevent creation of many forms of housing without a permit, and there's not a scrap of land that isn't owned by someone.
He refers to my favorite business, TOMS shoes. www.toms.com :)
There's also a line about trying to get laws out of the way, when historically it's been shown that 'opening markets' tends to just expose a country to market forces that will squeeze them for all they are worth unless they are a big power player already.
We can't blindly hold faith in free markets as only positive- we need to see the light and dark sides.