A classmate in my course gave us the tip about a lecture from David Schweickart in Uppsala on Monday evening on an alternative to capitalism called Economic Democracy, so some of us went to listen to him. I had lectures the whole day on Monday so I have to admit that by 19:15 when this lecture started I was not so focused any longer. The discussion afterwards was interesting though but I should probably read David Schweickart's books to get a better idea of how such a system would work, the main idea however, is that the decisions in companies would be taken democratically by many stakeholders and not only by the shareholders, as today. As he said during the lecture; "why does our democratic rights finish when we go to work?".
To learn more you can read his books or see videos on YouTube from a previous lecture he held in Uppsala.
David Schweickart referred to an interesting article by John Keyens, when he was talking about working less to produce the same amount and not consume more (which is not making us happier and destorying the environment). The article is called "Economic possibilities for our Grandchildren", written 1936, where Keynes argues that maybe our needs are not insatible after all and perhaps this could give us possibilities to prosper and have more freetime than ever before.
Here's some quotes from the paper by Keynes (may be read in full here);
Now it is true that the needs of human beings may seem to be insatiable.
But they fall into two classes – those needs which are absolute in the
sense that we feel them whatever the situation of our fellow human
beings may be, and those which are relative in the sense that we feel
them only if their satisfaction lifts us above, makes us feel superior
to, our fellows. Needs of the second class, those which satisfy the
desire for superiority, may indeed be insatiable; for the higher the
general level, the higher still are they. But this is not so true of the
absolute needs – a point may soon be reached, much sooner perhaps than
we are all of us aware of, when these needs are satisfied in the sense
that we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes.
I draw the conclusion that, assuming no important wars and no important
increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at
least within sight of solution, within a hundred years. This means that
the economic problem is not – if we look into the future – the permanent
problem of the human race.
Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his
real, his permanent problem – how to use his freedom from pressing
economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound
interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.
For many ages to come the old Adam will be so strong in us that
everybody will need to do some work if he is to be contented. We shall
do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day, only
too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines. But beyond this,
we shall endeavour to spread the bread thin on the butter – to make what
work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible.
Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a
great while. For three hours a day is quite enough to satisfy the old
Adam in most of us!
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social
importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. .... The love of money as a possession – as
distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and
realities of life – will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat
disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological
propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in
mental disease. All kinds of social customs and economic practices,
affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and
penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and
unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful
in promoting the accumulation of capital, we shall then be free, at
last, to discard.
The pace at which we can reach our destination of economic bliss will be
governed by four things – our power to control population, our
determination to avoid wars and civil dissensions, our willingness to
entrust to science the direction of those matters which are properly the
concern of science, and the rate of accumulation as fixed by the margin
between our production and our consumption; of which the last will
easily look after itself, given the first three.
Since 1936, I guess our population has grown tremendously though, so I guess Keynes idea already fall on that but it is quite interesting that there is some sort of simple living movement going on at the moment though.What's your toughts on this? Do we have it is us to share our wealth and if so could working less be a solution? Furthermore, could economic democracy be an alternative to capitalism?