I was reading Bill Bonner’s recent post Zombies Born of Government Spending where he posits the notion of zombies in our economy. As Bill defines it:
“In economic terms, a zombie is a parasite. He contributes less to the economy than he takes from it. He lives at the expense of others.”
His argument is that social welfare programs as practised by most of the developed world only work during good times. As he argues:
“It’s relatively easy to turn people into zombies. And it’s fairly easy to support them when an economy is healthy and expanding. But when an economy goes into a contraction, you can no longer afford to give the zombies their meat. Then what?”
This is an interesting question. Western societies have created a group of people with few skills and no means by which they might generate value to exchange. Nor do many in this group appear to have bonds to the society within which they exist and they exhibit few loyalties to ideas or ideals outside of mere existence and consumption.
But the real issue is how we create a new economy, one that is founded on creation of real value and its exchange, and not ephemeral things (like hybrid securities and CDOs). One that sustains and nurtures community rather than destroying it through extreme competition and crazy ideas like the priority of shareholder value above all other things.
This raises some important questions:
- If the government can no longer sustain them (or us) then what happens?
- How do we create ways of connecting people with skills to share with those who want to learn?
- By what mechanism can we develop shared values that support the creation of valuable skills?
- How do we create communities of people that choose to contribute and collaborate for the common good?
We don’t have to let what’s happening in other places happen here. We have the choice. We can create communities where real value is exchanged between real people. Not what passes for value in the some places – faux celebrity, immediate gratification, and continuous consumption – but sustainable and sustaining value.
There used to exist such things as commons in the past – commonly held land and other resources. But we have few of these remaining to us nowadays. It might be times to create some new common resources to share in a fair and equitable manner? We have already seen the rise of new forms of sharing and common ownership through Creative Commons on the internet. It makes me wonder what other things for which this approach will work. I suspect that Mark Pesce’s work on his Plexus innovation is a beginning in this quest.
It is worth considering how we can each begin to nurture collaborative behaviour and thinking in our local spheres to work against the zombie world view.