Kim Stanley Robinson got me thinking yet again when he posted this excellent article on post-capitalism.Â Post-capitalism, by the way, seems to be as well-defined as post-human.Â In other words, not.
But we ought to start figuring out what happens next.
Unregulated capitalism has problems.Â The most recent example is the current recession/depression/downturn.Â The images on the TV screen while I worked on myÂ fiction today were demonstrations at the G20 with signs saying – literally – that capitalism has failed.Â There is at least some truth in those signs.Â An AP article in the Seattle Times today suggests that countries with bigger social safety nets are riding this out a bit better than we are.
Don’t get me wrong — out of all the forms of economic governance we’ve tried on a large scale in the last few centuries, I like capitalism best.Â After all, for all their lofty visions, communism and every other version of tightly controlled economy has also failed, and failed worse. We don’t want to return to Red Russia, to Hitler, to Mao, or to Stalin.Â Ultra-rich CEO’s and failed banks are better than the loss of all human rights and – at least in some cases – widespread poverty.
So how can we do better?
One of the biggest tensions right now is between the present and the future.Â Capitalism works in the present.Â It rewards the next election, the next quarter’s results, and the stuff we don’t need that we spend the next paycheck on anyway (the current American version ofÂ capitalism spends millions of advertising dollars convincing consumers to spend money we don’t have). But we have today’s problems that we need to solve for the future.Â Climate change.Â Energy. Population.Â World health.Â Genocide and war and terrorism. Â And the future’s problems that we need to plan for: genetic engineering and nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.
Today’s political and economic structure is neither nimble enough nor thoughtful enough to get us safely to tomorrow.Â Â It’s also not compassionate enough.
So what’s next?Â Kim Stanley Robinson offered some good ideas in his article (linked to above).
I’d propose the following set ofÂ principles:
- We need effective, transparent government that is not too large and not too small.Â We need this in multiples, and worldwide.Â But not just one.Â A single worldwide government makes the hairs on the back of my neck rise.
- Social movement must be allowed (people must be able to make their situations better or worse by their own actions).
- We need values.Â Not values that severely restrict people’s choices, but values that respect the rights of various people to make different choices; values that honor the idea that there just might not be one true way.
- We need a base level of health and humanity for all.
- Science has its problems, but still deserves great respect.
- All people who can do soÂ must be expected to give back.
- We need a model for economic health that doesn’t require ever-expanding consumption of throw-away goods.
- The model must allow for world governance (not government) on issues about human rights and the health of the planet and war.
- Power must be diffuse and offer checks and balances.Â These checks and balances must work as well as the democracy here in America (not perfect, I know) and include the corporate world.
What am I missing?Â What else do we need to think about to even frame the questions?