Chapter 16 – A New Economic System: The first step is food

In order to consider a new economy that will replace capitalism, let’s imagine the following scenario: We are going to find a million human beings who are currently being crushed by capitalism. They are suffering through life in a disgusting slum or refugee camp. It is important to understand the current situation and the nature of existence for hundreds of millions of human beings today:

  • Their housing is tiny, dirty and dangerous. It is probably made of whatever found materials are available, perhaps cardboard, plastic, wood scraps, etc. There is no heating or air conditioning. Cooking is probably done over a fire [ref]. The floor is probably dirt, or perhaps covered in cardboard or an old piece of carpet. [ref]
  • There is no supply of clean water in the home. There may be no supply of clean water anywhere nearby.
  • There is no sanitation system.
  • Food is scarce, often poor quality.
  • None of the modern technologies or conveniences that we take for granted in a developed country are available.
  • And so on…

These articles provide insight into what life is like in a slum of this type, lest there be any doubt about the conditions:

The people currently living in these ridiculous situations literally have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from a new economic system that provides a great standard of living for every citizen. They are currently living in extreme and degrading poverty, in terrible conditions.

Our goal is to provide these one million people with a new economy where their basic human needs like food, water, clothing, housing, health care, etc. are all provided for in abundance. We want to raise them to a standard of living similar to that of an American making $52,000 per year [2018 dollars], as described in Chapter 5.

Start with Food

We need a starting point for discussing a new economy for these one million impoverished people, so let’s start with food. By understanding how these one million people can grow, cook and serve their own food for themselves, we can understand how the new economy that replaces capitalism will work.

We start with food because food is essential to human survival. We all know this. Without enough food, people die of starvation in just a few weeks. With low quality food, both disease and spiritual decay are inevitable. What is “spiritual decay” in this context? It is a loss of spirit, a loss of the happiness, a loss of the will to live. There is no question that people, like all other animals, fare better on a high-quality and ample diet compared to a low-quality and insufficient diet.

Therefore, if we have a million people whose quality-of-life is important to us, we know that we need to provide them with an average of 2,500 high-quality calories per person per day. Our new city needs to produce 2.5 billion calories every day to adequately feed this population of one million people. [Note: 2,500 calories per day is high, but we use this to ensure plenty of food.]

Let’s put some stipulations on this food:

  • The one million people are going to grow the food themselves.
  • The food that these one million people eat is going to be of the highest quality. Imagine the food that you would be served on cruise ship, or at a banquet, or at a great buffet restaurant.
  • The food is going to be professionally prepared for the one million people, and served to them in nice restaurants.

All three of these points bear explanation, because the reasoning may not be intuitively obvious:

  • The new city needs to grow its own food for itself to avoid vulnerability. If the new city is dependent on some other group of people for food, the other group of people can easily cut off the supply of food and/or use food as leverage. The new city must be food-independent to avoid this possibility.
  • The food is going to be of the highest quality because humans do best and thrive on high-quality diets. Obviously people could survive on 1,500 calories per day of something like dog kibble. However, these people would be miserable.
  • The food is going to be professionally prepared and served in restaurants for three reasons: 1) this method produces the highest-quality food, 2) this is the highest-efficiency and lowest-waste method of food production, and 3) many people in the general population are terrible at food preparation on their own. The expectation that every “normal human being” will also be a “great chef” is as absurd as the notion that every normal human being will be a talented sculptor. Many human beings do not particularly enjoy food preparation or cooking, nor are they very good at it.

Anyone who has ever been on a cruise ship knows that the food is fantastic, that it is virtually unlimited, and that food excellence is a big part of the cruise experience. If you have ever been to the buffet restaurant at a great hotel, it is the same kind of thing – the food they serve is out of this world. The point is that the people staying on a cruise ship or staying in a hotel are not preparing meals on their own in their rooms. Instead, they go to common areas for eating – restaurants, buffets, coffee shops, snack shops – and they eat wonderful food there prepared by professionals [ref].

Understanding the new economy

Imagine that today you are living in a huge, festering, stinking slum in India, Africa, Brazil, Mexico, China, etc. You may not know where your next meal will come from. Whatever it is, your meal will be terrible and not enough. And you have no options, nor any way to improve things. You are stuck in this disgusting slum for life most likely. Approximately one billion people are living in these slums on Earth today [ref]. The current capitalistic economic system that has created these slums is serving a wretched existence to hundreds of millions of human beings each day, and our goal is to completely eliminate slums on planet Earth. Imagine existing in a slum like this, and we come by and say to you:

Let us introduce you to a new economic system, where you contribute your time to the economic system each week, and in return every meal you eat will be cruise ship quality, and served to you in a restaurant, 365 days a year.”

What do you imagine that the response to this proposal might be from your typical human being trapped in a disgusting slum or refugee camp? Obviously the response would be enthusiastic – this sounds like a dream come true compared to starving in a slum. Billions of human beings currently living on planet Earth today would leap at the chance to have high-quality food in abundance on a daily basis. This is the kind of economy we are going to create for everyone on the planet.

If you think about the process of serving high quality food to one million people every day, you realize that there is a finite amount of basic foods that need to be harvested and/or served each day. To have cruise ship quality food, we realize that these one million people every day will need for example:

  • 360,000 pounds of wheat
  • 320,000 pounds of potatoes
  • 76,000 pounds of rice
  • 13,000 pounds of oats
  • 700,000 eggs
  • 50,000 gallons of milk
  • And so on…

These are basic foodstuffs, all grown on farms. We simply look at the aggregate of what the one million people ate yesterday to understand what these one million people will be eating today.

We further realize that wheat can be ground into flour, and the flour can turn into white bread, wheat bread, sourdough bread, raisin bread, muffins, biscuits, pastries, cakes, pancakes, croissants, spaghetti, macaroni, rigatoni, dumplings, pizza crust, breakfast cereal in 15 forms… there are all kinds of things we can do with wheat. Similarly, potatoes can turn into mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, hash brown potatoes, potatoes au gratin, French fried potatoes, tater tots, potato chips, potato/broccoli medley, perogis, etc. Milk can turn into cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, butter, ice cream, milk chocolate, etc. Peanuts can turn into roasted peanuts, honey-roasted peanuts, peanut butter, peanut brittle, candy bars….

So there are several different activities that will be happening every day in the food sector of our new city:

  1. Basic farming, where staple food ingredients (commodities) like wheat and potatoes are grown and harvested.
  2. Food processing, to create intermediate products like cheese, peanut butter, noodles, etc.
  3. Food cooking/preparation, where meals are created that are served to people in restaurants.

Each day, all of these different activities boil down to a certain finite number of tasks that these one million people must accomplish to produce, cook and serve the food that they all will eat. For example, all of these tasks need to be performed today:

  • The new city needs a certain number of people planting potatoes today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people cultivating potatoes today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people harvesting potatoes today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people transporting harvested potatoes to the restaurants today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people peeling potatoes today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people cooking potatoes today to serve to the city’s residents in high-quality meals (in myriad forms – mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potatoes au gratin, French fried potatoes, potato chips, potato/broccoli medley, etc. – in all of the different restaurants)
  • The new city needs a certain number of people planting wheat today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people cultivating wheat today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people harvesting wheat today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people threshing/winnowing wheat today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people grinding wheat into flour today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people transporting wheat flour to the restaurants today.
  • The new city needs a certain number of people cooking flour today to serve to the city’s residents in high-quality meals (in myriad forms – bread, rolls, biscuits, tortillas, pasta, pancakes, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, crackers, cereals, etc. – in all of the different restaurants)
  • And so on…

The thing to understand is that, in this city of one million people, there is a finite number of tasks that must be accomplished each day in order to harvest, cook and serve meals to the one million residents. It is a lot of work, yes, but it is finite, and we also have one million people available to do the work. It turns out that, on a per-person basis, only a tiny amount of work needs to be done per day. So how do we divvy up all of the tasks to everyone fairly?

The Task Allocation System

It will be easy to write software that can look at the entire food production equation for the new city each day. This software will understand the amount of time it will take to grow/harvest all of the different foods, the amount of each of the different foods that people are consuming, the amount of time needed to prepare and serve all of the different meals in restaurants [ref], [ref], the amount of time needed to clean up, etc.

Let’s imagine that, on average, this totals up to 200 million hours of human effort that are required each year to completely handle all of the growing, cooking, serving and cleaning of all of the food for the new city each year. This means that each person in the new city will contribute 200 hours per year of their time to food production. This is roughly 33 minutes of a resident’s time each day. The software divvies this work up amongst the one million people who can do the work.

Where does this 200 million hour estimate come from? The growing of the food is highly automated and efficient using modern farm equipment today. It takes just a few hours of human time to grow an acre of wheat, for example. An acre of wheat yields about 2.5 million calories. Corn is similar in terms of human time required for production, and corn yields 14 million calories per acre at harvest. It takes perhaps 50 hours of human time to grow an acre of potatoes, which yields 10 million calories. If we need 2.5 billion calories per day for our one-million-person city, growing all the food will only take, on average, 12,500 hours per day of human time, if we assume the amount of time needed for potatoes per acre. This is only about 1 minute of human time per resident per day. If we add up all of the time needed to process the food, cook the food into meals, serve the food in restaurants, wash the dishes, clean up the restaurants at the end of each meal, etc., the total is approximately 200 million hours of human time per year, or an average of 33 minutes of human time per person per day.

What if we go a step further – we make a broad assumption that only half of the people in the new city can work on any given day. The other half of the residents are, for example:

  • children who are in school
  • senior citizens who are simply too old to work
  • sick people who are unable to work today
  • vacationing people
  • and so on…

What if we assume that only 500,000 people can work at food production today, rather than one million? Then it is still only about an hour per day on average that is needed per working resident of the new city. The point is that the amount of time that any individual person needs to contribute is small and reasonable. [See Chapter 20 for details]

And now, instead of starving in a slum, all one million residents of our new city are eating like kings.

Imagine if we said to one million impoverished people, who are living in absolutely appalling slum conditions today, the following:

“We invite you to come live in a new city where, in return for contributing about one hour of your time per day, you can eat cruise-ship-quality food in restaurants every day for the rest of your life. Would you like to join us?”

How many of the billions of impoverished people starving on planet Earth today might accept this offer? For that matter, how many millions of people in the United States, who are being dealt a terrible hand by capitalism in the U.S., would gladly accept an offer like this?

People have preferences

To review: We have a piece of task allocation software that knows the complete food equation for the new city each day. It knows all of the tasks that must be preformed today to feed the one million residents. The question: How does the software divvy up all of the tasks amongst the one million residents?

The first thing to understand is that every human being is unique, and therefore has personal preferences:

  • Some people like to work in the morning, and some people hate waking up before noon.
  • Some people like to drive tractors, and some people would prefer to frost a cake.
  • Some people are allergic to peanuts, while some people would love to work in a peanut butter factory because they cannot get enough of the stuff.
  • And so on…

The software system that allocates all of the tasks to the city’s residents can let people input all of their preferences like these, and then allocate tasks based on everyone’s preferences.

There may be people in the new city who enjoy variety, and say “surprise me” to the task allocation system. The software can assign tasks to these people in a random rotation. One day a person is planting potatoes for an hour on field #1,436. Another day a person is cooking gourmet French fries for an hour in the “American Bistro” restaurant. And so on. It is going to take time for a person to travel out to field #1,436, so the software accounts for that time. Because of the travel time, the software might ask a person to work 8 hours one day, and then do nothing for the next week to even out the load.

Other people might be quite specific in what they prefer to do. They can sign up for 200 hours of tasks that they would prefer to be doing or enjoy doing for the year. They could also sign up for how they prefer their time to be allocated. One person might prefer to work an hour every day. Another person might want to work for 8 hours one day a week and have the rest of the week off from food production. And so on. The software does not really care. If just gives everyone exactly what they want to the best of its ability.

If we allow people to freely sign up for tasks, there are likely to be certain tasks that no one may ever sign up to do. For example, people may be less likely to sign up for “washing dishes” than “baking bread.” Everyone can help out with these less-wanted tasks by random assignment. Perhaps, out of every year, each resident needs to spend two hours cheerfully cleaning dishes in a restaurant in order to get that task done for the new city. If no one really wants to wash dishes, say, we ask everyone to wash dishes for two hours per month or 2 hours per year (depending on the task) to spread out the load. It really would not be that big of a deal, because everyone shares these tasks.

The Giant Advantages of This New Economy

Do you see what has happened here?

  1. First, we have taken one million people on planet Earth that capitalism has absolutely abandoned.
  2. Then we have asked them to contribute a little bit of their time each day.
  3. We have used a software task allocation system to organize their efforts.
  4. And then a miracle has happened – instead of starving in a slum, these one million people are now eating the best food possible in restaurants every day.

To put a finer point on it:

  1. We have taken one million destitute people.
  2. They are not destitute because they want to be – they have been forced into destitution by capitalism.
  3. These one million people have the ability of work, and a willingness to work, and capitalism has instead abandoned them, delivering to them absolutely appalling living conditions with no possibility of ever having “good jobs”.
  4. We have simply created a better economic system for these destitute people, so they become able to work to feed themselves, and now they are eating like kings.

Think of all of the capitalistic absurdity that we have eliminated with this new economic way of thinking:

  • There is no unemployment in this new system. Everyone contributes a little bit of time in return for the food they need.
  • There are no ridiculously low wages.
  • There is no starvation or disgusting, low-quality food like people are forced to eat in slums.
  • There are no more recessions or depressions or inflation.
  • There is no concentration of wealth.
  • There are no economic elites stealing trillions of dollars from the system in the form of gigantically absurd executive salaries, private executive jets, demonically huge dividend payments to people who do no work at all, monster advertising budgets, absurd asset capture, corrupt lobbying, political contributions, limousines, executive parties/junkets/vacations, executive skyscrapers and so on. All of this ridiculous overhead and waste and theft is gone.

Without question, this system is shockingly better than capitalism in every imaginable way when it comes to delivering food to the city’s one million residents. Everyone is better off. For every impoverished person on the planet, which is billions and billions of people, this new economic system is a miracle. Even in a fully developed country like the United States, more than half of the population would be better off under this new system instead of capitalism. This is the simple power of the new economic system described in this book.

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