Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Reforming economics

"If you live on less than a dollar a day, you're poor".

Hmmm. There's no doubt that you might be. It would certainly be true if you lived where money was the primary indicator of wealth. For example, if you rent your shelter, your money will roughly determine the quality of the shelter.

But that's only true in places where monetary economies have taken control.

It's not true in a subsistence economy, or a natural economy. Your hard work, that of your family, the local resources, the level of cooperation among your neighbors -- all these things are much more important, tangibly, than money.

When you start defining poverty in terms of money, you've lost the game to the extreme capitalists. You lose to people like Jeffrey Sachs, who believes the destiny of the world's peoples is nose-to-the-grindstone support of export economics.

Sachs says: "The world is more unequal than at any time in world history. There's a basic reason for that, which is that 200 years ago everybody was poor." Think of what he's saying here: things are getting better, because things used to be universally bad. It's a very progressive-sounding sentiment. However, it means that the lives of aboriginal, indigenous people in a natural economy, since the dawn of man, were worthless. That's what the word "poor" means.

The notion that there's value and freedom in living with nature, either as a nomad or a subsistence farmer, means nothing to people like Sachs. Maybe he'll understand that, as these lifestyles become ever more rare, they're becoming ever more priceless.