I have thought for a long time about the basic premise of capitalism and economics. Thanks to the discussion on Wealth is Always Distributed I have decided to write down my thoughts on the subject.
Economics are based on the assumption of scarcity. My observations lead me to believe that the only real scarcity is a scarcity of effort, and a scarcity of time. Even when we consider those two scarcities we do not actually have any shortage of resources with which to meet our needs as a society.
This thinking has led me to what I call the Law of Abundance. This law is illustrated in Each Little Bit Helps from last year. I think the law could be stated that we could accomplish anything (besides defying the laws of physics) if people would just get in and help make things happen without asking the questions of scarcity – Is it going to be fair? Will I get paid for my work? How much will it cost? The only question that is asked under the law of abundance is – Should this be done? Once that question is answered then the work moves forward. Questions of efficiency (such as maximizing profits) are laid aside (although answers about efficient means are still welcome).
I admit that this law of abundance is not very useful on an individual, day-to-day scale. As an individual I have to eat and provide for my family so I am not always free to just jump in and do things without regard to what’s in it for me. I am very interested in the development of my community, but unless someone can pay me for it I can’t devote all my time to those efforts – I must still remain gainfully employed. (I’m lucky enough to enjoy my gainful employment but that is not the topic of this post.)
Where the law of abundance works is things like feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. When we operate under this law of abundance we do not let fields lay fallow in order to receive a government subsidy or prop up the price of the crop we could have been producing. Instead we produce the crop and get it into the hands of those who need it. In essence, production becomes more important than profit. We do not avoid hard work so long as the work has value. We would rather have grain rotting in bins than stomaches rotting with hunger while there is any way to provide food.
We often see an attitude similar to this during times of crisis when people pull out all the stops and just make things happen without prejudice, favoritism, or concern for financial repercussions. I argue that we should operate in this mindset more – always where possible. The key is to make sure that we are careful about getting the right answer to the “should it be done” question.