The world has been coming together for a very long time. Trade between civilizations has given each of them a peek into new worlds which dazzled and challenged them in turns. From the Silk Road of 2,000 years ago to the shipping lanes of today, trade has often defined how the world comes together.
As important as this has been, it has never been even or reliable. Trade is defined by people and their desires. Economic value is always what the buyer is willing to pay for something, and far too often the definition of things like money and credit has had a large role in how it works out. Contact between people brings more than physical goods, too – it brings envy, greed, curiosity and concern among many other emotions.
A world defined by people and their needs is a connected world. But those connections have to be at a human level more than at a money level if they are going to be sustainable. Connection in and of itself is one of the Five Points of the definition of People’s Economics for this reason.
A world which seems to move faster all the time usually doesn’t feel like it at all. Like a car on a highway, speed is never what people sense. Yet the faster the speed, the more likely it is that every bump in the road or sudden gust of wind can cause an accident.
A few decades ago, cars felt simply dangerous at high speeds. As technology advances they become more comfortable and much safer because they are more stable. It’s not a static balance that they achieve, but a dynamic reaction to every bump and every change, correcting it back to controllable and level.
The same sense of dynamic stability is essential to a faster moving economy as well. This is why it is one of the Five Points of People’s Economics.
After World War II, America settled down to a comfortable life and much of the world started to rebuild. Using the industrial models that defined the times, including the war, the entire process was described in terms of developing a “consumer economy.” The main economic function of people was to consume what industry produced, guaranteeing profit and growth. It was dynamic in that money changed hands rapidly, yet static in the view of where capital comes from and how it was used.
As more nations developed the process was expected to continue. But it did not. Societies, particularly in Asia, found many reasons to save money and develop themselves and their families for the long haul. This has been a critical change which, when applied properly, makes market based systems work even better.
This is also why a true market based system focused on people has to emphasize investment over consumption. It is a big part of the definition of People’s Economics, as this continues.
A world which depends on technology is a world which depends on skills. The word technology literally means “the study of skill,” and the acquisition of new skills defines a developing economy. There can be little doubt that the skills and ability to implement new products, processes, or systems is what will continue to define a technology driven world.
This is a matter of people, not money. It is at the core of what People’s Economics, the process of increasing the value of the greatest resource of any nation on earth – the drive, skills, and connections of its people. It is the second of the Five Points which define People’s Economics.
While there is little doubt that rapid change in technology and connection is putting a strain on the world, the path forward is far from clear. Many people want to move backwards, at least in connection, and place barriers between people.
That impulse is understandable. History shows us, however, that the world has nearly always moved forward in learning,skill, and connection. A look backwards is a look at the ghosts of the past staring straight back at us, their future. They saw progress as a way to a better life.
There are problems to solve, however. People’s Economics is based on finding people based solutions for a better life to these problems. And so the Five Points can be described in terms of the reasons for anxiety about the future that is racing towards us.
Futurists and economists often spend a lot of time contemplating the systems and hardware of the world unfolding around us. The promises of the information age, quantum computing, Industry 4.0, and many other well laid plans are expounded on at great length by enthusiasts with imagination. Yet in all of this, there is something usually missing, something incredibly important:
How is the world that is coming going to work for people? How will it help us all have a better life?
We can see fractures already. Economic systems which bring prosperity do so at a large cost in nature and workers. Families are under strain from changing times, yes, but largely due to demands for more and more work at greater distances. Automation takes away much of that work, bringing more misery than comfort. And the prophesy of abundance is a chimera.
Correcting this is what People’s Economics is all about.
It’s been a bizzy week. This repeat from ten years ago deals with a topic that has become a central issue in People’s Economics – fairness. This first treatment of the topic wasn’t very helpful. But it’s an interesting starting point.
Fairness is an important concept in this thing we call Civilization. If we all lived as hunters and gatherers on the grasslands, we wouldn’t have a lot of interaction with large groups of people. The inevitable disputes that arise could be settled by a simple code or the intervention of an elder.