Russell Brand’s Revolution- The Breakdown (Part 2 of 2)

Ok. So we’ve established (in Part 1) that all 3 of the issues that Russell Brand points to as the biggest flaws with our current political system (destroying the planet, creating massive income disparity, not serving the needs of the people) are legitimate. But we also established that his solution, massive wealth redistribution, is totally unrealistic based on the way our current system is constructed.

Now let’s take these concepts a step further and examine a few trends that factor into the picture we must paint of our socioeconomic and societal future. Then we will try to come up with viable solutions to try to address these issues and trends. I shouldn’t have to say this, but disclaimer: this is not a complete treatise…

Word of the Day! Definition: written work dealing formally and systematically with a subject

…on future world government, this is just a preliminary foundational set of ideas to get the conversation started. I fully expect and hope that you will read parts of this and think, “Hey! He totally overlooked such and such!”. If you have one of those moments, or if you have 20 of those moments, please, use the comment section at the bottom.

Here we go, first trend: the central government is getting progressively less able to affect meaningful change in local populations. Obviously, this problem was anticipated long ago, which is why we have a federalist system that shares power between the central government and the states. But the more we grow, the more this issue becomes a problem. As we discussed in Part 1, national elections have little effect on the people at the bottom, those with the most need. Also, the lack of real regulation on campaign funding combined with the fact that the politicians working in Washington are almost completely inaccessible to the average person makes it easier for the federal government to cater more to business interests than to the people.

So, we have to shift the majority of the power to the local level, with each locale deciding how to best optimize their available resources to accommodate their constituency. There are a number of reasons for this. First, local representatives have much more responsibility to the people because of the fact that they are local and accessible. Secondly, the more local a campaign is, the less campaign funding is required, allowing strict regulations to be put on how much money (ie. influence) can come from special interest groups (ideally, this practice would be eliminated altogether but let’s take baby steps here). The point is, the more local a representative is, the more overall transparency there is.

The second, and probably more frightening trend is the gradual mechanization and computerization of the work force. Almost every day now, there is a machine built or program written that puts some number of people out of a job. Check out this chart of manufacturing (blue-collar) employment vs. overall manufacturing output for the second half of the 20th Century:

As we built better and more efficient machines, we needed less and less people to produce the same amount of stuff. And this trend will continue at an ever-increasing pace since technology growth is exponential. Even most white-collar jobs that require skilled labor will eventually be replaced. If a surgeon is having a stressful day or is dealing with his or her own external issues would you rather have them operate on you or a robot specially designed to carry out that procedure? Why use a person to operate the switchboard at a nuclear plant when you can have a program that analyzes all of the plant’s data in nanoseconds do it instead?

Let me clarify: I don’t think technology advancement is a bad thing at all- quite the contrary actually. But I believe that the technology and mechanical advantage we gain from these advancements should work for the greater good. If a technology is invented that allows us to produce corn for 50% cheaper for example, all of that margin should go to the consumers. That is to say, corn should get 50% cheaper for us, not 10% cheaper for us and 40% more profitable for Monsanto or whatever other morally compromised corporations are dominating production.

Let’s take these concepts a step further. If the overall workforce continues to shrink as the trends suggest, the percentage of people who are unemployed will steadily rise. But in this ultra-mechanized future, how do we take care of the massive number of unemployed people? We can’t really hold them culpable for being unemployed if machines and computers have taken the vast majority of jobs, can we? And unless you think that these people should just be left to suffer or starve off (which, by the way, wouldn’t happen before they banded together in a massive, bloody revolution; don’t believe me- go read about the French Revolution), we have to find some way to provide them at least with the basic essentials to live a reasonably comfortable (though by no means lavish or luxurious) life.

The only way this will be possible is if we drastically change how we look at goods. We will have to categorize them as either “essential” or “non-essential”. We could have an endless debate on what goods should go in which category, but for now let’s focus on a few I think we can all agree on.

Here’s my “essential” goods quick list: basic foods (escargot not included), clean water, electricity, and adequate sanitation. (Side-note: electricity may seem un-essential, and in our current world that’s a legitimate debate, but remember this is a future society where virtually everything has been mechanized or computerized- just seems like electricity will be necessary to me. I originally included transportation in there as well, and I believe that by this point in the future, we will have much cleaner, more efficient forms of mass transit, but I decided it is not totally essential. Access to education should also be universal but categorizing it as a good just seems wrong, doesn’t it?)

So what would I do differently with these essential goods? Well, basically I would de-profitize them (no, profitize is not a word and neither is de-profitize but it immediately conveyed my point so call it literary license). By removing all profit from the equation, you make these goods as cheap as possible to the consumer.

But Mr. Dough, don’t you remove all incentive for production if you remove all profit? Why would anybody want to produce those things anymore? Where does the money come from?

Smart kid. Well, the funding would come from taxes collected by the central government, mostly on the non-essential or luxury goods, which would still hold their current profit structures. Production, however, would be handled on the local level as much as possible to eliminate the cost and inefficiency of shipping food across the country or even across the ocean when it can be produced locally (Side-note: this is what happens under our current profit structure; Wal-Mart can ship much of their food cross country for cheaper than we can produce it here locally just because of the scale of their operation. However, this clearly wastes resources overall when you account for all of the fuel and travel. Profit often overrides logic.

Each local region will keep detailed analytics of the consumption of these essential goods so that the federal funds can be allocated based on historical demand, which would help to eliminate a lot of the waste of overproduction. Obviously, demand is not perfectly consistent and can fluctuate based on a limitless number of factors, but this fluctuation is significantly less in essential goods than it is in non-essentials. Unless there is a random spike in population for example, the amount of food, water, electricity and sanitation that a region needs can be pretty accurately estimated based on recent data of the consumption of these goods. The demand for these goods stays pretty consistent, and things like holidays (more food) and seasons (more A/C or heating) are easily anticipated and projected based on recent years as well.

What are non-essential goods? Anything that is not necessary to live a reasonably comfortable life. Like I mentioned earlier, we would maintain the same basic capitalist system we have in place right now on these goods. However, any industry that causes the destruction of the environment in their production processes must either take full responsibility for reducing their net environmental impact to zero or be taxed proportionately to the cost of the damage, so that it can be reversed or counteracted by a federal environmental agency. Ideally, these heavy penalties would incentive a shift to cleaner, more sustainable production in the industries that are currently environmentally destructive. Obviously, all non-essential goods would have to be taxed more because of the loss of tax revenue on the essential goods but arguing percentages right now is like arguing what type of arena to build before you even know what type of sport it’s for.

Ok I tried finding a funny graphic to put here but while looking for athletes in the wrong stadium for their sport on google images I found something even better: balls replaced by cats in photoshop!

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Ok where were we… So, if you don’t work, you still have all of your essentials taken care of by the federal government. This could be a voucher system or more of a welfare system or whatever system you want, but either way, since profit has been removed from these items and technological advancement has made them even cheaper to produce, the average cost per person to the government will be drastically less than if these goods were still profitized. But remember, these are only the most basic essentials; if you want non-essential goods you must work to buy them.

Let’s go back the original three issues Russell Brand brought up in his interview and see how well this system addresses them. There would be less destruction of the planet, because the heavy financial responsibilities put on corporations that are destroying the planet would eventually force them to transition to cleaner production practices. The elimination of corporate lobbying in the government as well as the de-prophitization of the essential goods would likely lead to less economic disparity, but even if this is only change is only nominal, the bottom socioeconomic rung of society no longer has to compete with the top rung for the money needed to purchase the necessary essentials. And the shift of power to the local level, as well as the elimination of corporate campaign funding will force representatives to be more transparent and more responsible for serving the needs of the people.

I know it’s not perfect, but it’s a start. Thanks for reading- unleash the criticism!!

-John Dough



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