Friday, 18 January 2013

Questioning the current model?

I wanted to use this latest blog to ask a few questions, rather than just spout off, to ask some very fundamental questions to us all. Questions about are we really happy, does ownership make us feel more satisfied and what are the alternatives?

Increasingly for the majority of us, life is becoming a blur, dashing from one customer or meeting to the next, trying to be more productive or just trying to stay in the game. Squeezing the kids into a busy schedule between work, shopping and cooking a meal for friends.

Hang on a moment, rewind that a bit........squeeze the kids in!!!! Surely the children are our most prized asset and should bring us love and joy that mere acquisition alone could never do!

OK, I know that sound very sloppy and possibly even a little rose tinted, but I believe it highlights one of the fundamental problems with our way of life, capitalist culture and underlying happiness. What could we all do to change this, to live a better, more relaxed and fulfilled life?

We could all work less hours for a start, its not as crazy as it seems, several studies show that a working week of 21 hours would create full employment and more opportunity for recreation and community interaction. That might seem a little scary in the context of out current lifestyle, but it is a more natural state for a species that is inherently tribal.

If we work less, surely we earn less? Yes, that would be true, but we don't have to individually own everything that we use. If you live in an average suburban house, you will have some lawn and in all probability own a lawnmower. You then go out on a weekend and use it for half an hour, and that is that! However, if you (and your neighbours) have more more time, then many more of you could share that lawnmower and the garden tools too!

Bike pools and car pools are becoming more popular, hopefully the idea of sharing over ownership will become the norm. this will have the dual benefits of reducing expenditure and resource intensity, win win!

But wont that lead more recession and job losses? Probably, but herein lies another thread of our underlying problem, which is the economic model itself. The current model of capitalism is based upon a model that demands year on year growth to support monetary expansion and lending. This model is facing obvious limitations as we reach environmental thresholds and population growth increases demand for energy, food, water and increased wealth and living standards.

If we just focus on the main principles of well being, then it is possible to support a larger population in a more sustainable way. It is the accretion of wealth and belief that acquisition and ownership relates to well being that needs to be challenged.

Are there alternatives? Yes, without doubt there are numerous different economic models, we just need to be educated about them and accepting of the rules as to how they work. The current capitalist model is often termed as being neo-liberal, that is to say (in simple terms) it advocates free markets, which should self regulate and through investment and the subsequent return on investment create growth. An important facet of this though, is that the wealth that is created will be distributed, if not evenly, at least fairly across the whole domain.

This has not been the case however, in recent times with the formation of the super rich and global corporations. Through careful manipulation of money supply, interference in democratic process and endless advertising of an aspirational society, the distribution of the wealth created has become extremely uneven and a huge proportion of the wealth now sits in fewer and fewer hands, this is neither conducive to a stable society, nor a stable economy.

There is plenty of wealth to go around, but we are not conditioned to see that sufficiently to realise that need to and can change it!

I hope that as the realisation of the failings of the current model become more stark, that each of us will ask more questions and come up with innovative and individual ideas to change it. This can only lead to greater and more robust democracy, improved well being and satisfaction as well as a more sustainable and livable society.