Everyone in mainstream politics talks about the importance of creating jobs (of building things, like cars, and selling things, like weapons) when it’s becoming increasingly clear that our jobs, the things that we do, are deadly, and are responsible for all sorts of problems.
Just look at Hurricane Matthew, or the rains that drenched Louisiana this past summer, or any of the other floods plaguing the world over the past decade. Where do you think all that water came from? Among other places, it’s coming from melting ice – ice that’s melting because of global warming. And the globe is warming because, frankly, too much work, too much business, is being done.
Think about it. People have been working more and more, and have been more and more productive for decades, and where’s it left us? While the rich are richer than ever, most people are sicker and poorer than ever, with greater amounts of debt, on a less livable planet. Indeed, even if our endless economic output weren’t destroying the planet with its unceasing pollution, devastating the oceans, killing human and non-human animals alike, it’s not making us (or most of us, at least) anything but worse off. So, maybe we ought to think about working less and creating fewer jobs. It may sound counter-intuitive, but why not?
Imagine what would happen if we just shut down the auto industry, the fossil fuel industry, and the commercial meat industry (to say nothing of the weapons industry) all at once. What would happen? Where would that leave us? Well, a lot of people (people in the fast food, auto, and fossil fuel industries, as well as in related industries) would be out of work, and wouldn’t be able to pay the rent, or pay for food, or other things.
This would be a problem, but only a short term one. And there’s a simple solution: make all of the things that people need to live well available for free, like libraries. That is, housing, nutritious food, health care, etc. should be free. Because adjusting economic production to accommodate the demands of a decommodified economy would take some time, something like a basic income law could be imposed for the interim. That would take care of unemployment – not just from the affected industries, but across the board.
What’s the next problem? No more fast food? Well, if people aren’t impoverished to begin with (short on money or short on time) one might find that fast food is in less demand anyway. And for those people who just love fast food, well, they can just make their own burgers and fries at home. Why not? If they just can’t live without meat, nothing would stop them from hunting. Remember, it’s only the commercial meat industry that’s being shut down. Anyone with a sling shot or bow and arrow can go out and kill a squirrel or deer and eat it if they really want to. And if people just can’t accept living in a world without servants? Well, I don’t know what to say about that. But if we want to slow down global warming we’re going to have to end our culture of exploitation – not just of exploiting the environment, but each other as well.
What about the auto industry you ask? Rather than asking: how can you talk about shutting down the auto industry? We should really be asking ourselves: how can you not? Not only are all of these cars wrecking the planet, and killing us more than all the terrorist attacks combined, there are already plenty of cars on the roads. These will just have to last a bit longer.
The fossil fuel industry? This can be phased out over the course of a few years, until better public transit is available and electric adapters are developed for existing cars, and people learn to stop overusing so much. But in cities, where most people live these days (not just in the US but, as of last year, in the world in general), the private car should be designed out.
This shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. For most of human history there were no cars, and they seem to have overstayed their welcome. Bicycles, which are far more efficient and healthful than cars, and other types of machines, along with trams, trains, buses, and other forms of public transportation, can get people around. And what’s the loss? Global domination? Please. Everyone will be so much more healthy, and well-rested, will have so much more time and peace, if people can just get over their ideological ways of seeing things.
A few of us (like Trump, and Bloomberg, and the Clintons, among others) won’t be able to live in great luxury at the expense of the well being of the planet, and everyone else, anymore. That’s true. But that’s not too much of a price to pay. Is it?