Everyone is talking about how to get the economy moving again and how to create jobs. President Obama talks about "winning the future." This means more education, more entrepreneurialism, more new industries, more new products for consumers to buy. Surely, all this new economic activity is exactly what we need or is it? Since the GDP of the US is dependent on consumers consuming to the tune of 70% of the entire economy, it stands to reason that for the economy to expand, consumers need to consume more. But wait a minute. We are already stuffed to the gills with products rammed down our throats by TV advertisers. Maybe what we need is less consumption. Americans are already experiencing an epidemic of obesity. We should be consuming less fast food. But that would bring the profits of McDonald's down. They might even have to lay off employees. Their stock might plummet. Wal-Mart offers us a plethora of cheap crap made in China. But if we stopped buying it, Wal-Mart's profits would go down, their stock price would tumble and the Dow Jones average might even find itself in bear market territory. Everyone agrees that this would be terrible for the economy. But it might be good for the citizens.
I say we need to participate less in the market economy and be more self-subsistent. This would result in a decrease in GDP, but an increase in citizen independence. The more we rely on ourselves to fulfill our needs, the less we rely on the market economy and the better off we are when that economy goes kerflooey. The recent economic meltdown was all about Wall Street and their shenanigans. It was of paramount importance to bail out Wall Street and then all good things would follow. Such was the conventional wisdom. Only good things didn't follow. People's homes were foreclosed on en masse even when banks couldn't prove that they held title to the houses. Main Street, the middle class - they were not protected at all. The culprits who caused the crisis were bailed out. The average citizen who lost his job and his house and maybe even his wife was not bailed out at all. In fact Republicans are doubling down on destroying what remains of the safety net which might have helped these unfortunates to maintain the skeleton of a half way decent way of life. Congress has continued to sponsor and uphold legislation that encourages corporations to outsource jobs. The budget is to be balanced on the backs of the poor and middle class and not by asking the rich to contribute a little more. We are rapidly retreating to the Dickensian era where to ask for a little more porridge was to be answered with a "certainly not!"
What we need is not more consumption of cheap Chinese produced crap or even newly minted crap from our own entrepreneurs. What we need is a better system of distributing the immense amount of stuff that we are already capable of producing. And in particular we are in need of a more widely distributed system of ownership so that profits redound to the average citizen and not to the upper .1% who are becoming immensely wealthy far beyond their needs while the poor and middle class are being reduced to penury and poverty. What we need is a government that looks out for the little guy, not one who is all for the competitive struggle to produce more and more goods and win the future that way. How about winning the future by taking back our ability to be self-sustaining? We need to return to an era when people produced a large amount of their own food by growing it themselves instead of relying on the marketplace of consumer provided food by large agricorporations which use pesticides, herbicides and hormones to provide us with food which in most cases will not kill us right away. That will take place in 30-40 years when cancer sets in. But in a lot of cases of e coli and salmonella brought on by filthy conditions for animals in factory farms, it will kill us or sicken us immediately. So profits are concentrated in the hands of a few corporations instead of being widely distributed which would take place if there were widespread family gardening which also produces healthier foods. If everyone farmed to some extent, we would all be better off but GDP and corporate profits would decline because we wouldn't be participating to such a great extent in the market economy.
Sociologists decry the fact that in many parts of the world people are living on $2. a day. But those in this category that are rural may in fact be 98% self-subsistent. In other words they are providing for their own needs without participating in the market economy or are only participating to the tune of $2. a day. On the other hand the urban poor who are living on $2. a day may not be in a position to be self-subsistent, and they are truly poor because they have to meet all their needs by means of the market economy and $2. a day doesn't go very far. Just recently many Americans met probably 75% of their needs without participating in the market economy. Take my grandparents, for example. My Grandfather lived and worked on a small dairy farm. They had chickens and hogs and a large garden. So they provided perhaps 90% or more of their own food instead of buying it at the market. They sold milk into the marketplace in exchange for dollars which they used to purchase what they could not provide for themselves. Instead of buying oil or gas, my grandfather farmed with horses and he grew the fuel that they consumed with the result that he did his own energy production and did not have to depend on Exxon Mobil or Chevron for energy. And as a bonus horses did not pollute. Since chemicals were not available, his farming was organic by default. He learned carpentry and built his own buildings with the result he didn't have to hire a contractor. They were largely self-sufficient and self-subsistent. Of course, they made their own clothes instead of buying them in a store. Women had a whole variety of functions within the household instead of vying for jobs in the marketplace, another way in which they were self-sufficient. They actually weathered the Great Depression quite well since they weren't dependent on the market economy. Even my parents who had government jobs as teachers, the kind that Republicans are attacking today, raised chickens and had a really large garden from which they provided much of their own food. And women used to bake instead of buying prepared foods.
So maybe the answer to the economic malaise that we find ourselves in today will be solved not by creating new industries to manufacture more and better stuff but by figuring out ways to be less dependent on the marketplace and more self-sufficient. Profit centers need to be more widely dispersed instead of profits ending up in the hands of the Fortune 400. Think about it: when you participate in the market economy, the money you spend ends up in the hands of a very few and select group of corporations and wealthy individuals and families. These individuals, families and corporations have effectively captured government through their paid lobbyists so that government operates solely in their interests. Jefferson envisioned a country of independent yeoman, small farmers and craftsmen. In today's America, there are hardly any such people. Instead most rely on a job to provide them with income which they use to provide for all their needs by purchasing goods and services in the marketplace. As more and more people lose their jobs because the jobs are outsourced or are replaced by automated machines, there is no place to go but down. But the self-employed, the self-sufficient and self-subsistent will be able to provide for themselves and their families irregardless of what is happening in the marketplace. Those absolutely dependent on wages to make a living are already becoming neo-serfs needing two or three minimum wage jobs to make a go of it. The worst off are dependent on charity.