In a capitalist society, economic growth is all important. Why? Because the underlying force in all societies is the growth of population. With rare exceptions, mankind has not found a solution to stopping population growth. (Think of China, which tried to encourage its people to have only one child. This did not work). If population continues to grow, and the old part of population continues to grow, there is a need for the economy to expand to meet the needs of the population. Capitalism lauds itself on its ability to meet those needs. But most of the growth goes to the 1%, and therefore most of the population suffers, and the need for growth goes on.
The projections are that world population growth will stop at around 10.9 billion in the year 2100, with population in Japan and Korea declining in the years 2020 and 2031. The decline will be due to fewer children and an increase in deaths, as the increase in life expectancy slows dramatically. But with the younger population growth slowing. It will become more and more difficult to sustain the older population. And with economic growth going to a limited part of the society, the needs of the less wealthy population with continue to suffer.
The guiding principle of the capitalist society is that free enterprise provides motivation for work and investment. At the same time, it also provides motivation for greed, cheating, and a raft of other negative things. Those who support capitalism would argue that those negative things would exist in any society and therefore one can ignore them in favor of the positive aspects of more work and investment. The point of this article is to argue to the contrary.
Greed, cheating, and those other negative parts of the social fabric comes in part from need for material objects and in part for the need for celebration and power within the society. For example, why does a rich person need a yacht? Part of it is the enjoyment of operating the object and part of it is because ownership of a yacht establishes that the owner should be socially admired. The same is true of an automobile like a Rolls-Royce as opposed to an ordinary Honda. The latter will do almost everything that the expensive car will do, but there is a certain joy in owning and operating the Rolls, and in large part this has to do with the public recognition bestowed upon the owner.
So the answer I seek is how to motivate work and investment without leading to greed, cheating and other negative aspects such as income inequality (which is basically the product of greed)? And it seems to me that the answer is to detach celebration and power within the society from wealth (that is, from the amassing of material objects, so that the material objects can be better shared within the society).
First, as a society, we need to decide how to award celebration and power. For example, we want technological inventions. Those who create those inventions are rewarded with money, which basically means material wealth, celebration and power in our society. We should maintain the idea of celebration, and we should add a direct connection to power. In other words, if you invent something that will help the society, your name should go on public communication and you should be given the right to decide important things. (We should get rid of politicians as such and reward political positions and power to those who create things for all or us). In return, we should take most if not all of the material benefits of the invention throughout the society, either by using them to create things of benefit to the society or by spreading the benefit among the people within the society.
I believe that if everyone in the society benefits from the skills, work and investment of all, this won’t stop people from working or investing – so long as celebration and power go foremost to those who create the benefits.
Put in simple terms, if you invent the automobile, your wealth will go both to creating automobiles for all, and (for example) to creating free education of all. You will get an automobile the same as everyone else. The automobile might be named after you to celebrate your achievement. And you will be given political power because of what you have done. Because the wealth is spread, there will be no Rolls-Royces, yet everyone can have the advantage of a car.
(Personally, I would rather not see cars but see a truly enhanced public transportation system, as it is more efficient. I think that those who create for the benefit of the society would see that, too, and would use their power for that purpose rather than individual cars).
It seems to me, too, that making the spreading of wealth the goal of society, along with working to making less population another goal, would result in greater happiness for all of us. Creating less population will be difficult, as simply having fewer children will make the production of goods and services for all more difficult. But certainly, it can be done if we put our minds to it. We should remove the idea that God requires that we have children. That is an idea from antiquity, and it led to making abortion illegal. Children enhance our society, but so do seniors in good health. We should also remove the idea of mandatory retirement, and work on ways so that seniors can continue to contribute to society. And we should also devise ways so that work is satisfying and celebrated, and where the good works receive awards and can participate in decision-making and political power.