Working people imagine what it would be like to win the Power Ball. Winners of the Power Ball might have access to hundreds of millions of dollars. With access to this amount of money, winners are able to buy whatever they choose. These winners can travel to wherever they want. They can also live in whatever part of the world that might suit their fancy. While this might be a pleasant dream, working people understand that winning the Power Ball is a totally unrealistic goal.
My dream is a bit different from winning the Power Ball. My dream is that everyone in the world will have a lifetime right to all the things we need, and many of the things we want. These would include a lifetime right to: food, clothing, housing, transportation, communication, education, health care, and exposure to cultural activities such as music, art, sports, dancing, film, as well as the theater.
Many will argue that this is also a totally unrealistic goal. I do not agree with that perspective. Clearly, there are enough resources in the world to eliminate poverty. Clearly there are billions of working people and farmers who would like nothing better than to work towards making this a better world. So, what is the problem?
Today politicians, corporate officers, as well as the editors of the media argue that there simply isn’t enough money to improve the standard of living in the world. These people forget what money actually is.
Money is only a means of exchange that is used to purchase commodities. Saying that there is an insufficient amount of money to make this a better world is not an argument that the resources do not exist to accomplish this goal. Concretely, how can resources be used in different ways to make this a better world? We can begin by looking at the cities.
Today, most cities throughout the world contain a collection of skyscrapers. These skyscrapers house enterprises like corporate headquarters, banks, advertising agencies, insurance companies, and corporate law firms. These enterprises do not directly contribute to producing the goods and services that I listed above. How could this change?
Today nations commonly import food, clothing and electronics from around the world. The skyscrapers can be transformed into places that grow the fruits and vegetables we all need and want. Light industries like garment and electronics can also be housed in these buildings. This transformation would clearly greatly reduce the cost of transporting these commodities. Eliminating the so-called need for corporations, banks, advertising agencies, and insurance companies would also greatly reduce the production costs of commodities.
Today working people need to purchase expensive automobiles, as well as pay for insurance, maintenance, fuel, and parking. We do all of this so we might sit in traffic jams on our way to work. There clearly is another way to organize a traffic system, especially when it comes to the cities.
High-speed rail lines have the potential to transport people to and from the cities much more efficiently than the current system. Rail is also the most energy efficient means of transportation, as well as a system that is considerably safer than the automobile.
We might keep in mind that every year there are tens of thousands of fatalities due to auto accidents. If someone chose to have a few drinks, they could get home safely on a rail car, and not be concerned with loosing control of an automobile.
Today politicians routinely promote patriotism. Oftentimes politicians use these patriotic sentiments to argue for war.
In a future world, a rational government would encourage communication between people from all over the world. While the online service Facebook is a profit making enterprise, this so-called service demonstrates how in a future world there might be a regular communication between working people all over the world. Instead of looking to compete with citizens from other nations, we might work towards improving the standard of living for everyone, no matter where they live.
In a rational world, we would be working considerably fewer hours than we work today. This would mean that we would have a lot of time to travel. Imagine living in various areas of the world for extended periods of time and establishing friendships with the people who live in those nations.
Today medical experts diagnose children with Attention Deficit Disorder, and prescribe drugs to treat this problem.
Many of these same children look forward to receiving presents of video games during the holidays. These children have no problem with paying attention to these video games, and we might wonder why experts diagnose these children with A.D.D.
Clearly we can imagine how the educational system in this country might be made fascinating for young and older students. Imagine leaning mathematics through the study of music, dance, sports, and art. Imagine learning about the sciences by planting crops in the ground and using those crops to prepare food, clothing, and furniture.
Yes, we have the potential to make education fascinating for the young and old. However, in today’s world governments choose to close down schools and make lesson plans even more alienating for students.
Today health care is a system reserved for those who can afford it. The Department of Agriculture estimates that one out of every six people in this country do not have enough food to eat. Clearly, a rational government can make vast improvements in the health care system by simply feeding people.
A healthy diet as well as exercise throughout one’s life, will certainly contribute to better health. However, there is another ingredient that I believe needs to be mentioned.
Imagine that a rational government might actually work to make our jobs less alienating. Imagine that we might only need to work twenty hours per week. Imagine that working people had real control over our working conditions.
All of this would reduce the stress that causes so many problems in the world today. Without the kind of stress we currently experience, we might wonder why citizens of a future world might ever want to use addictive drugs?
Today the cost of housing is astronomical. Interest rates on mortgages as well as taxes mean that people who purchase homes routinely pay for that home several times before it is paid off. The alternative is to rent, and the cost of renting might be prohibitive. These conditions explain why many working people are homeless, or feel the need to live with their parents for extended periods of time.
In a rational world everyone would have the lifetime right to a quality place to live. Homes would be made to last. Maintenance workers might be responsible for all repairs needed for the home, as well as the housekeeping duties. While this work might sound alienating, these workers would only need to do their jobs for twenty hours per week.
My opinion is that these ideas demonstrate that when people who have power argue that there are no resources to improve our standard of living, they simply aren’t stating the truth. We live in a society dominated by the political economic system known as capitalism.
This system means that the number one priority of society is profits for corporations. Corporate officers are legally bound to maximize profits for shareholders. Government officials routinely give exorbitant financial incentives to some of the most affluent people in the world. People who purchase hundreds of billions of dollars in advertising effectively control the press.
These policies have resulted in a reality that can only be considered absurd. Eighty percent of the population in this country own no more than six percent of the financial assets. A mere 50,000 people own and control the lion’s share of wealth in this country.
In the year 1929 the stock market crashed and the world entered a period of nine years of depression. This depression wasn’t caused by a lack of resources. After the depression, resources suddenly appeared. However, only when the labor movement went on a strike wave, did the standard of living improve.
The near financial collapse of 2008 demonstrates that the people who have power have learned nothing since 1929. Once again the government has supported corporate interests demanding that the standard of living of working people continue to deteriorate.
I’m writing this column on the Fourth of July. This is a national holiday celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This declaration argued that: “mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
The only way to escape the present reality is to replace the current government with a workers and farmers government that makes the human needs of people its top priority. With this kind of government the world that I imagined is a real possibility. If the world continues to support the status quo, we can only expect our standard of living to continue to deteriorate.
Steve Halpern is the author of the novel Looking Back From 2101. This novel transports a Jewish factory worker into the year 2101. In this future world poverty and discrimination are no longer a part of the human experience.