Abundance and Austerity

Long ago in economics class, I learned that we produced the goods we needed with natural resources, labor and capital. Today we burn through more resources, have more capital, and have the best educated workforce in history. So why are we desperate? Why can't we pay for sufficient teachers for our kids?

I'd like to hear your answers: why don't ordinary people working hard live lives that feel abundant? Why isn't providing adequate schools easy? What's changed?

Challenge Desperation

  • Why isn't there abundance?
  • Why aren't there jobs?

It's often hard to focus on what Occupy is or wants, but I think one of the key starting points is that there is enough of two things currently in short supply:

  • there is enough work to be done
  • and there are for now enough resources

for everyone to have a job.

We've seen our economy move rapidly in the other direction in recent years -- despite an overall tendency towards deregulation and less progressive taxation! You can think that gov't tends to mess things up: but for 30 years we've been lowering or holding steady taxes on the richest and working for deregulation, so that can't explain the collapse of the middle class and the move away from shared abundance. Exercise: what has changed in the last generation reducing the sense of abundance in the US? (Use the comments.)

We have abundance available today. We may leave our kids debt and wrecked planet, but at least today, America has the resources for us all to live quite fine lives, certainly to pay for buses and teachers and after-school programs for kids. Open your eyes and you see people screaming and crying for the chance to work.


One explanation I've heard, is that a teacher standing in front of a class is no more efficient today than 30 or 50 years ago. Meanwhile, we've learned how to make stuff really cheaply, using all sorts of automation. So the salary to teach 20 kids (or more) has gone way up, in terms of how many Big Macs or "baskets" of consumer goods it takes to pay the teacher.

I think a good place to start would be to start measuring value in more ways than just dollars. This is not an original idea. Look into Triple Bottom Line or Gross National Happiness.