“What do you think are the top 2 or 3 issues that a ‘new economy’ must address, to be successful in Australia?”
- The future of work – Precarity, Underemployment and Automation
- Equitable access and Responsible custodianship of resources
- Reframing what we value and Meaningful lives
“The robots are coming.” This is only scary if nothing else changes and we simply replace people with robots and fail to create other means for individuals, families and communities to get access to what they need. Personally I love the idea of a non-sentient being cleaning public toilets, harvesting in the hot sun, or performing a repetitive task on a factory line.
The problem comes simply when the deal is we exchange hours and skills for money, and using only that finite amount of capital we seek to procure all of the necessities of life and a few of the comforts too.
Being in a position to exchange too few hours or not in possession of the right skills at the right moment can only have one result – we fail to meet our basic needs, or recklessly seek to do so in a dog-eat-dog race to the bottom whereby we willingly plunder our environment and exploit a weaker economy (including its workers) as we manoeuvre our way through life in survival mode.
We’ll do some crazy and morally suspect things when we’re staring at the possibility of losing our access to the things we need or have grown attached to.
I genuinely believe there are abundant resources available in this world, however a model of unrestrained growth – in consumption, in population, in profits, in production, in our list of wants – directly causes short-sighted custodianship of the planet. The neo-liberal capitalist economy not only benefits from such actions, but in fact is predicated on it. There must be losers because without them there can be no winners in capitalism. Sadly losers outnumber winners at a ratio of 99% to the 1%.
What the New Economy represents to me is a fresh, responsible approach to environmental sustainability as well as equitable communities in which each individual has enough of what they need to thrive. If we all were free to pursue passionate lives doing meaningful work, the desire to own the latest energy-hungry consumable goods, abuse our bodies as an escape from our depressing realities, or ‘get ahead’, signalled by the amount of marble our houses are built with, would all be diminished. If I were at liberty to find purpose by spending all my time raising children and you could apply yourself to mastering foreign languages, and we could both still have enough to eat, a comfortable place to sleep and access to the goods and services we require to live full and healthy lives, what’s to fight over?
I want to see us reward every participant in the new economy for acting in the greater good, but enable freedom of individual choice to assign value to a less narrow range of options. In doing so we could solve some of the most threatening tensions we face. When scarcity and a fear of personal lack are removed as the driving force behind how we choose to live our lives, collectively we are able to provide for each stakeholder sustainably into the distant future. I strive towards a life whereby all of us can find meaning and connection outside the current economic system which necessitates we sell ourselves for money. I want to see us move beyond a moral code which prescribes that we are worth only what we work to produce and consume. Only then would we be liberated from soul-destroying jobs and be free to embrace the technological age with its promise of convenience, efficiency and human-centred design.