From my essay discussing excellence vs. elitism & privilege: http://www.pdfernhout.net/post...
So, the question becomes, how do we go about getting the whole world both accepted into Princeton and also with full tenured Professorships (researchy ones without teaching duties except as desired? :-) And maybe with robots to do anything people did not want to do? This is just intended as a humorous example, of course. I'm not suggesting Princeton would run the world of the future or that everyone would really have Princeton faculty ID cards and parking stickers. Still, that's a thought. :-) That motel for scholars, The Institute For Advanced Study, is already a bit like this (no required teaching duties), so it's an even better model. :-)
But you might object, who will run the kitchens, repair the roofs, plant Prospect Garden, and so forth? Essentially, who will be the Morlocks to support and maybe eat the Eloi on staff? :-)
Well, that's where this analogy breaks down, although one could perhaps imagine robots as the Morlocks (maybe without the whole eating PU staff for fuel thing).
"A prototype robot capable of hunting down over 100 slugs an hour and using their rotting bodies to generate electricity is being developed by engineers at the University of West England's Intelligent Autonomous Systems Laboratory."
So, for the rest of this essay, I'll assume the "scarcity" world (at least in the USA) currently works more like, say, G. William Domhoff suggests:
"Q: So, who does rule America?
A: The owners and managers of large income-producing properties; i.e., corporations, banks, and agri-businesses. But they have plenty of help from the managers and experts they hire. ... I will try to demonstrate how rule by the wealthy few is possible despite free speech, regular elections, and organized opposition:
* "The rich" coalesce into a social upper class that has developed institutions by which the children of its members are socialized into an upper-class worldview, and newly wealthy people are assimilated.
* Members of this upper class control corporations, which have been the primary mechanisms for generating and holding wealth in the United States for upwards of 150 years now.
* There exists a network of nonprofit organizations through which members of the upper class and hired corporate leaders not yet in the upper class shape policy debates in the United States.
* Members of the upper class, with the help of their high-level employees in profit and nonprofit institutions, are able to dominate the federal government in Washington.
* The rich, and corporate leaders, nonetheless claim to be relatively powerless.
* Working people have less power than in many other democratic countries."
And what is the current result of that system of social organization? We create a self-fulfilling prophecy of scarcity in part through fearing it, and then acting on that fear. (And the only antidotes to fear are things like joy and humor. :-) Consider, say the US military and Iraq. The USA invades Iraq and produces terrorists that now justify having invaded as well as now devoting more money to the military. :-( Now people are saying the Iraq war, promised as a "cakewalk" will cost about three trillion US dollars before it is done. So, now we need to cut back on US social programs like R&D and nursing homes and also reduce aid to poorer countries (which might have truly helped prevent more problems). Thus we ensure more scarcity at home and abroad.
How much of the US monetarized economy goes into managing "scarcity" in terms of person-hours of work?
* A big chunk of the prison system,
* A big chunk of the legal system,
* A big chunk of the military and police,
* Most guards,
* Most of the management chain,
* Most of the banking system,
* Most sales people,
* Most of the insurance industry,
* Most of the Welfare and Medicaid government program staff (eligibility and oversight),
* Most lawyers and related proceedings,
* Much of the schooling and grading system, and
* Most of the government.
Add it all up, and maybe it is 90% of the person-hours consumed by the money economy by now? That's just a wild guess, of course. :-) I'm sure someone else better with numbers could refute or affirm that. But it is loosely based on a study mentioned in the essay linked below.
If you consider that a lot of service work is unnecessary if people had more free time (babysitting, restaurants, teaching, home construction, entertainment) then even less hours in the money economy are really needed in a society with a lot of leisure to raise children, cook meals, putter around the house, take on apprentices or educate neighbors on demand, and sing their own songs or make up their own stories.
And of course, child-rearing and day-to-day housekeeping and volunteering probably represents many more person-hours than the 10% or so of the total person-hours that the money economy uses for real production (actual work on factory goods, actual labor in agriculture, actual work making energy etc.). So clearly people will do important tasks for intrinsic benefits.
Things may have been different 100 years ago when most US Americans still lived on somewhat subsistence farms, and so most work was local and for one's own family and business. But somewhere during the past century, I'd speculate a shift happened where the amount of hours spent guarding exceeded the amount of effort spent producing. And then it probably just got worse from there, to the current situation where most work was related to guarding, even though work that is mostly guarding may also euphemistically be called "cashiering", "teaching", "managing", and so on. Pick almost any job and take most of the guarding out of it and it becomes more enjoyable.
It's important to look at the hours people work on various tasks, not the money value assigned to the tasks. If all those person hours are going into guarding functions, then of course there is little time left over for playful productive work.
And note, this estimate is without even giving a long hard look to rethinking how things could be done to be easier or more fun. Down the road, once tasks are redesigned to ignore the guarding aspects, they might be more efficiently done. For example, think of all the time people waste waiting in supermarket checkout lines or at toll booths. Or the time educators devote to attendance and grading.
The above is all an echo of this essay by Bob Black :
"The Abolition of Work" (written as I graduated in 1985, but I only saw it a couple years ago through the internet)
"Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you'd care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working."
How might a "post-scarcity" society really work?
So, how might a "post-scarcity" society really work? How could a "post-scarcity" society emerge at all, given this (obsolete) elite social deadlock Domhoff outlines?
What if some people get some "free" stuff somehow, and they use it, and in the process of using it they make more free stuff than they got? Let's assume these people then freely give this extra stuff away for free to others who use it to make even more free stuff. If everyone starts doing this, soon there could be an enormous amount of free stuff going around. A chain reaction (but a good one). Of course, as with any exponential process, with ever more free stuff on the way from more and more people, the problem becomes, where to find the space to put it all? (Hint: maybe "Space". :-) ...