Imagine your perfect day: waking up when you want, seeing whoever you want, and doing the things that you’ve always wanted. What would that day look like, hour by hour? When I do this exercise with friends, I always find some element of progress and creativity in their day. Things like photography, designing and building things, making music, hacking technology, gathering to discuss solutions to social issues, etc. I assume that if money was not a factor, most of my friends would live their perfect day every day and it’s interesting that they would continue to be contributing members of society. Then why is money a factor at all? Why do we need ‘employment’?
If we trace the lineage of economic systems, we find that money arose in part to solve the issue of scarcity and it has been doing a great job. Technology, mainly automation, is helping to overcome scarcity and is starting to produce a situation of abundance. However, we’re not ready to deal with abundance. We fear statistics such as “in a decade, 50% of occupations in corporations today will no longer exist” because our current system poorly accommodates abundance. We’re overspecialized; so good at dealing with scarcity that the prospect of abundance threatens us.
Luckily, there are groups developing systems to deal with abundance. However, they are still in the grassroots level, having no government backing. Two of these groups are the Venus Project and Copiosis and use actual real-world data with analytical tools to assess their approach. However, neither of these groups outline a transition from our current system, requiring the new systems to ‘spring up’. This article explores one potential transitory pathway towards dealing with abundance, stemming from how we currently live. This system is called the democratic economy.
The goal of the democratic economy’s transitory steps is to maintain our current way of life so that the solution for abundance can actually be accepted. This approach allows all members of society to begin taking advantage of technology to incrementally elevate themselves to a higher standard of living. This way, the transition is organic and can be overlooked as simply being ‘good governance’. The total estimated timeframe of the transition is 45 to 70 years.
Stage 1: The development fund
The government starts a grant that must solely be spent toward the growth of an organization. Growth is any initiative that increases the public’s access to that organization. However, no operating costs, such as salaries or materials, can be funded using this investment. The development fund is distributed via a democratic process, with every person voting for a registered organization to receive the development fund on their annual tax return. In turn, organizations receive an amount proportional to the number of votes obtained. For example, if an organization receives 2.35% of all votes, that organization receives 2.35% of the grant. When organizations are in the habit of tracking their growth expenditures for the development fund, stage 1 is complete. Estimated timeframe: ~7 years.
Stage 2: Taxation of Growth
A law is passed that taxes organizations on growth-related expenses, such as new franchises, purchasing new equipment, and advertising. However, this tax doesn’t affect expenses that perpetuate the business in its current form, such as overhead costs and salaries. The revenue from this tax is pool into the development fund, substantially increasing its size. In this manner, the public would begin to meaningfully stimulate the expansion of organizations via the development fund. Popular organizations will be fast-tracked while unpopular ones will become stagnant. With the public aware of their power to influence the development of organizations, stage 2 is complete: Estimated timeframe: ~10 years.
Stage 3: Introduction of Purchase-Awareness
The government introduces an online confidential purchase-awareness account that is linked to a scanable government-issued ID card. The purpose of this account is to help individuals track the amount, content, and source of purchases to identify purchase habits, to obtain more detailed product information, and to provide immediate recall notifications on potentially harmful products. It should be emphasized that use of such an awareness system allows for purchasers to be immediately notified via email, or automated call when recalls for purchased items happen (such as infected food or faulty technology). Once the purchase-awareness system is launched and citizens are making general use of it in a routine manner, stage 3 is complete. Estimated timeframe: ~5 years after introduction.
Stage 4: Year-Round Unlimited Voting
The purchase-awareness account is modified to enable individuals to directly vote for registered organizations to receive the development fund on a weekly basis, creating a seamless link between the source of each product or service and the ability to vote for that source. Each individual would be allowed to vote an unlimited number of times, with each vote having a value equal to 1/(total number of votes by that individual in that week). Accordingly, an individual who votes ten or fifty times during the week will have a vote value of 0.1 (1/10) or 0.02 (1/50) for each vote, respectively. Again, the development fund would be distributed in proportion to the vote values received by an organization, but this time on a weekly basis. In this manner, individuals would be able to redirect economic growth with a maximum lag of one week. Organizations that can consistently receive votes would consistently expand. Soon after the launch of year-round unlimited voting, organizations may allow publicized voting to become, by itself, a form of currency for the purchase of goods or services. This publicized voting translates to businesses setting up computers so that customers who are seen voting for that business will receive a discount. Technically, this action would be considered illegal because it violates a person’s right to a closed vote. When this illegal activity begins to occur, stage 5 is complete. Estimated timeframe: ~6 months.
Stage 5: Publication of Average Past Vote Value.
A law is passed to reveal the average past vote value and allow an individual to utilize voting as a form of currency. For example, an individual will attempt to purchase an item by scanning the government issued ID card, which will reveal their average past vote value. Subsequently, the vendor will require a certain number of votes to satisfy the price of the item being purchased. The individual may choose to submit the number of required votes (reducing his or her future average voting value), pay with money and not submit any votes (increasing future vote value), combine money and votes to pay for the item (reducing, maintaining, or increasing future vote value based on the amount of purchase covered by votes or money). In this stage, votes are clearly established as a form of currency that is granted weekly to every citizen. From this notion, a conversion factor would be derived between vote value and money so that every purchase would have an equivalent monetary and vote value. Nevertheless, it is imperative that individuals not be able to transfer vote values and nor for organizations to transfer any part of their development fund. By this method, individuals would have the ability to spend 1.00 vote values each week or save that value by converting it to money. When an individual can be minimally sustained in society solely on the worth of his or her vote value (i.e. without money), stage 6 is complete. Estimated timeframe: 6 months to 10 years (highly unpredictable).
Stage 6: Operation Taxation and the Automation Initiative
The government passes a law that taxes all operational expenses to pay for an automation initiative that is aimed at reducing operational expenses for organizations. The operation tax increases the financial cost associated with all aspects of operating a business and in turn, the collected tax money is used to fund a team of analysts, engineers, and technicians whose job is automate the operation of organizations in an efficient, effective, safe, and robust manner. At first, the automation team will automate organizations tasked with essential services (eg. utilities, hospitals, etc.) and then refocus its efforts towards less essential organizations. Though automation will force many individuals from their employment, they are able to live solely based on vote values (described in stage 6). This initiative will create higher-order jobs that are much more difficult to replace (such as engineers) and encourage education and culture among citizens, liberating them from the need to work only to make money. Automation will increase the efficiency of society as a whole, contributing to people’s short-term happiness and support for the initiative. Eventually, the automation procedure for an organization would become streamlined, drawing from past experience. Stage 7 would be complete when it is generally accepted that the purpose of any employment is to fulfill a desire for betterment, pleasure, utility, expression, or creativity and the employed individual would do the same task regardless of employment status. Estimated timeframe: 10-15 years.
Stage 7: the Psychological Shift
When it is no longer necessary for a person to have monetary income to live a fulfilling life, money will become obsolete. When the systems that deliver a generally acceptable standard of living have been sustainably automated (food, housing, education, entertainment, etc.), a psychological shift derived from an innate desire of people to be productive will force lawmakers to officially eliminate money from having a basis for individuals but not organizations. For most people, living without an income (i.e. boss) will mean a more independent existence doing whatever they desire. With the gradual elimination of money and introduction of democracy as the currency of individuals, a system is established that can accommodate for abundance without violence and without destabilizing the current way of living. Estimated timeframe: 10 years.
Like it or not, we will all have to deal with abundance soon. This democratic system is one approach to dealing with the issue, which our current economic system doesn’t do at all. The best thing that you can do is think of the reasons why this approach may or may not work and start a conversation with someone about it. Eventually, if the issue catches the attention of lawmakers, it may begin to shape their vision.
Photography courtesy of Wanderer Online photography editor Antony Ta