Sunday, January 27, 2013

Let's Get Local

With global unemployment rates on the rise, the future appears grim for hundreds of millions of people around the world. The statistics are very unsettling, and the situation appears to be hopeless. However, the problem is not that the world is coming to an end because of job shortages. The real problem is that we continue to approach economic problems from a free-market institutional perspective, and in doing so we perpetuate our own economic crises.

Large institutions have gradually supplanted natural, sustainable, community-based ways of living. These large institutions have strategically installed themselves as the intercultural, inter-societal conduits, or channels through which our means of survival are exchanged and distributed. We trade our time for money from large institutions, and then use that money to buy things back from those same large institutions.  Because societies have surrendered to industry, we have found ourselves trapped in a state of dependency.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that profit-dependent organizations must continue to expand, or magically create new profit ad infinitum in order be a lucrative pursuit for investors/owners. Eating from the same finite pie of profit, over time, for-profit organizations must find novel ways to continue profitability. With shrinking consumer bases— owing to consumers ever-increasing unemployment and limited purchasing power—  organizations increase profitability by squeezing more production/profit out of the same human resources. Beyond this point, in the never-ending pursuit of profit, human resource expenses must inevitably be reduced as well; leading to greater unemployment. Small businesses are no exception to these inevitabilities, because although many may not be beholden to investors, their free market struggles are the same as publicly traded companies; shrinking consumer bases, increased price competition, etc. In sum, the belief in the fantasy of sustainable, infinite profit is dangerous and self-destructive.

If our well-being is contingent upon the perpetual expansion, or profit-dependent survival, of  organizations that by their very nature must eventually discard people in order to secure their own futures, we are most certainly doomed to either unemployment or severely decreased wages. We cannot expect the current economic trajectory to magically transform. Anyone with a basic comprehension of systems understands that if you jam the same inputs into the same function without reconfiguration, the output(s) will not suddenly change.

Since the correctness of my arguments is abundantly clear to rational minds, the real question is: What can we do to improve our plight? Let's start by embracing cooperatives, eating local, and try to avoid feeding the monsters by not patronizing the wealth-extracting supermarkets and retail chains that decimate diversity, community, and opportunity. There is no shortage of fertile farmland, we have strong communities, and very able/skilled people. Therefore, I believe that a sustainable future is achievable within local, not-profit-dependent communities.

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