As production becomes increasingly efficient and requires ever less labor, civilization is faced with a horrible dilemma—abundance.
Without scarcity, there can be no market.
Money deprived of a market is a goldfish flopping about after its bowl has been shattered.
For those who enjoy the benefits of money, unfettered abundance can only bring on a fate worse than death—to become perfectly ordinary with nothing to justify a sense of superiority or to distinguish oneself from the faceless crowd.
It takes a lifetime, even generations to accumulate money. A decrease in the importance of money would destroy gains won through years of labor and sacrifice. Many would lose their life’s work.
The incentives bring the wealthy to the obvious conclusion.
Efficiency in production cannot be allowed to result in indiscriminate abundance.
Scarcity must be maintained at all costs.
For most human beings, money is the shackles of slavery. It is always scarce and without it one cannot be considered a member of society or even a human being.
Ironically for this majority, as the production of goods becomes more efficient, money must become more scarce. If less people are needed to produce, less people are paid.
Thus wealthy people’s goal of maintaining the integrity of markets and the value of money is inimical to the interests of most people.
Abundance has resulted in zero sum conditions that pit the wealthy against everyone else as never before.
This is why we see a different sort of conflict developing. This time it is not about getting a slightly better deal under the existing system. It’s not even about unseating the wealthy and taking over the top of the pyramid.
The scope of what is happening here is far wider than most people yet understand.
The system itself is at stake.
Let us look at some possible new worlds:
1- The Powerful Stay In Power
There are only as many cattle as demand supports.
This same principle applies to the human herd.
As less people are needed, the population of workers must shrink down to the level of equilibrium.
-Perhaps some people would perish of privation
-Fertility in the herd drops because of scarce resources.
-Social strife spurred by scarcity causes millions of deaths.
-Direct and indirect means used by the powerful to reduce the population to a more manageable level.
A critical precedent is established once and for all: societies exist to serve the rulers. Anyone else is livestock.
The rulers want each generation of cattle to be more useful and pleasing than the last.
Predictably, genetic engineering and selective breeding become the norm.
The process of human domestication that began 10,000 years ago is finally taken to its logical conclusion.
In the underclass, at least, humans as we know them cease to exist.
2- Abundance Destroys Money As The Means to Power
The powerful are unable to maintain artificial scarcity. Like a high tide, the influence of money over the world begins to recede.
Basic human needs such as food and shelter are massively devalued or even become free.
In a world where people aren’t just desperate to eat and keep a roof over their head, pointless tasks that no one wants to do(most of the economy) are abandoned.
The money system likely continues, but only where there is sufficient scarcity.
A new period in human history begins but it isn’t a utopia. Indeed, without scarcity to keep people in line, such a world would be one of disorder. All the impulses that people must suppress in order to eat for another day would be unleashed on the world.
Is this world better or worse? As in outcome 1, it depends on who you are.
For followers who instinctively love predictability, the world is a much darker place.
For those who thrive on creativity, critical thinking, and chaos it is a great age of opportunity.
3-A Middle Road?
The length of the working week is reduced from 40 to 35 to 30 and so on. The job is gradually and peacefully phased out.
Unfortunately, the moderate path comes with certain problems.
Already, the 40 hour workweek is a myth.
People in salaried jobs commonly put in 12-16 hours a day.
A monthly salary is a blank check for an employer: the employee ends up working as many hours as they possibly can. The employer then gets to hire less people.
Furthermore, no one creating a job wants to have their best worker work only 30 hours in order to share time with someone less competent. Equal distributions of jobs or hours can’t work in an unequal marketplace.
What really happens then is that only the most desirable people end up with real work to do while most of the rest of the population is underemployed or idle. The elite employers and employed won’t support an unskilled, unneeded, disruptive underclass forever.
This trend drives the world towards outcome 1.
As most people find they can rely less and less on traditional jobs for their livelihood they inevitably start looking for alternatives.
Abundant leisure time and urgency results in millions people stopping to think about the world they live in.
The artificial nature of scarcity becomes obvious.
Social unrest in favor of abundant resources ensues.
This trend drives the world towards outcome 2.
To say the least, this middle passage seems precarious.