Beyond Imagination Chapter 5:
Spiritually Driven Economics
Spiritual Economy 101
For a more complete coverage of issues related to Wealth, I encourage you to read Unlimited Wealth by Paul Zane Pilzer. It's outstanding. The views that follow are my own, however, not necessarily taken from others. My largest complaint is that the way economics is practiced is for the most part devoid of spirituality. This is largely because of flaws at the very basis of free enterprise and free market economies. The key to economics is how to get dollars now to make more dollars later, profits! In particular, in a free market, the value of a good or service is whatever the market will bear. The cost of labor is whatever the laborers and the employers can agree on since these are services provided by the laborer to the employer.
Where services are rare or special, the price generally goes up, in some cases astronomically. What is overlooked, is that we the people end up paying for it all in the long run -- the goods, the services, the costs of everything -- we the consumers pay all the bills. Unlike the case of the government, however, we have little control over the owners and companies that make up the bulk of the private sector economy. The only vote most people have is with their pocketbooks -- to buy or not to buy. And, of course, the encouragement has been to buy and buy big. As a result, we have one of the biggest consumer societies in the world. Other countries from around the world work extremely hard to get into and establish a sustaining base in our market and until recently, we received their goods gladly.
If human's are created equal, however, then their labor should be relatively equal as well. One should not receive better compensation than another simply because skills or talents are different. A job is a job, requiring an individuals focus for a determined length of time.
Money as the Medium for Exchange of Goods and Services
Money is simply a medium for exchanging goods and services. This prevents having to barter with a number of different individuals for the goods and services that one needs. It would be very useful to evolve to a credit/debit account per person where credits would accrue for any goods and services provided and debits would be deducted for any goods and services consumed. This could be done in a manner that allowed some borrowing, but such cases should be monitored by appropriate counselors who could ensure that the appropriate help, education, or other services were provided, if required. At some point, people should be responsible for policing themselves so that they acquire what they need and put in a fair amount of service in exchange. Until people are trustworthy, however, they will need such a credit/debit monitoring system to help in curbing their needs for goods and services. After individuals have reached heightened levels of spirituality, the credit/debit account would only need to apply to goods or services that were not freely provided in their immediate community.
What goods and services are to be available deserves discussion. We're used to a free market that allows an ever increasing array of goods and services to be available. It is not clear however that this array has any guidance or control other than the questions of whether a suitable portion of the population will buy it. We further blur the situation by allowing advertisers to hit a suggestible, sometimes gullible public with a barrage of commercials that affect the individuals on several levels. This is not a fair way for advertisers to operate. It is legal, yes. However, it is not ethical when one is using a variety of psychological techniques that the individuals have not been trained to counter.
It seems that their should be some sort of economic guidance panel that represents the people and serves as a central point for evaluation of new goods and services. Prior to putting such goods out on the open market, test evaluations should be done to ensure these are worth committing resources to. If it is decided that particular products or services are of benefit to society, then the scale of distribution should be decided as well -- limited-competitive, unlimited-competitive, limited-needed, unlimited-needed. In general, goods/services that address wants should compete against other such goods/services while goods/services that address needs should have societies full backing to ensure that they are built or done in a manner that is integrated and optimum. The desire is to get the best product/service to those who need it in the most efficient manner.
Economy as the Medium for Employing People
The economy is the medium for employing people so that they can exchange their skills and services for the money the need to but the goods and services they need. Because everybody must have their needs met, it is only rational that everyone should be employed. What all these people might be doing will be addressed later. The bottom line is that there is enough work in society for everyone to be doing something that is useful and beneficial.
If the private sector cannot pride sufficient jobs then the public sector can. If necessary, a completely public sector economy could work so long as the goods and services needed by society were understood and were produced or provided by appropriate public sector agencies and plants. Further, if people were treated as the owners of the plants they work at, there would be much better quality assurance and motivation than typically occurs in the private sector.
It is useful to consider the economy in a few sectors: a private sector that addresses wants, a private sector that addresses needs, and a public sector that addresses needs. At some point, as the society evolves, needs and wants should become one. When spirit is fully enfleshed, whatever it desires is a need for its further expression.
People Should be Paid Whatever is Required to Meet Their Needs
The bottom line is that the social contract is to provide individuals with what they need in exchange for them giving society the best that they have to offer. Since money gives people the freedom to buy what they need, they should be given a sufficient amount to meet their needs. In the present economy, this also gives them the freedom to buy what they want at the cost of one or more of their needs. Until people are educated properly, this will need to be treated as a teaching area as well. People must learn the difference between wants and needs. At the same time -- during some transition period they should have the opportunity to earn additional income as well that allows them to satisfy emotional attachments to want. It will be useful to monitor consumption and provide appropriate guidance while this retraining is on-going. After all, much of the training that got people into this position to begin with was do to action or lack of action on the part of government anyway.
People Work Best When They Like What They're Doing
Each person on the planet came with a purpose and a unique set of abilities and talents for achieving that purpose. The greatest benefit to society comes from effective execution of The Plan. This involves preparing and training the individual in whatever way is needed to actualize their innate abilities and talents and then employing the individual in an activity that uses those skills in a manner that leads toward fulfillment of the individual's purpose. It may take awhile for the proper timing to unfold. However, during any interim periods work should allow the individual to hone and further develop their skills while doing their assigned tasks. The bottom line is that people should be employed effectively, and they will be most effective when they enjoy what they do.
We may need to reconsider the way we design work. We need to get away from assembly line kind of labor where we employ large numbers of people to do relatively simple tasks over and over again. This is not the kind of work fit for humans to do. Machines have advanced enough to employ them for such tasks. Similarly, bureaucracy where paperwork is done in a similar manner should be eliminated as well. The key consideration, is to use people where you truly need people. Use the right tool for the job.
If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Well
Everything that is done should be done well. After all, the resulting goods and services are meant to be consumed by us, the society. Whatever is done for society should be the best that one can do. If everyone is committed to doing this, the entire society benefits immensely with goods and services that are the best in the world for addressing the needs of society. Further there is an added benefit. If we are truly building a new society that addresses all of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of individuals; we will be producing a variety of new goods and services for which their will be no world competitors, though their will be a potentially large world market. The bottom line is that there is a great benefit in thinking forward, and creating new goods and services of value - - we don't necessarily have to compete at things that others can do, we can use our unique innovation and creativity to do new things and to come up with better ways to do the old.
Doing something well should be assessed at the holistic level for the society as well. Our works should agree with whom and what we are, spirit expressed in flesh.
It is Value, Not Cost That Is Important
Value is what something is worth. It may have little or nothing to do with what it costs, though in general, cost and worth should be related. Value is determined by what something does for the consumer or purchaser. Market value in the past has been defined as what the market (consumers) were willing to pay.
For society, needs must be met on a mass scale, so economies of scale can be taken advantage of to allow needed goods and services to reach a large part of the public at true cost. In general, cost involves materials, facilities, labor, and distribution The effort and resources that go into the entire system should be proportional to the value of the goods and services that come out. In particular, goods and services of high value should also be of high quality. Tradeoffs need to be made to determine what level of output is acceptable for society. The bottom line is that we only have so much resources so we have to optimize overall value to cost ratios.
Anything Creative is of Value to Society
As spirits, we are here to express ourselves creatively. Anything creative thus has value to society. Whatever we express as individuals, we express as a whole as well. Creativity must be actively encouraged. However, it can be guided as well into channels or avenues that are sanctioned by the society. Remember, mavericks have their value, also. We need freethinkers who can come up with ideas that are bold and new. We don't necessarily have to like them, but we must respect the originality of the creator. Creativity, anywhere, is the expression is spirit.
All great societies of the past have valued creativity -- primarily in the artists and architects, but also in literature and other realms as well. One of the grand achievements of our unprecedented individual freedom, is a collective creativity that astounds many of our rival economic competitors. They have looked to us for years for new ideas on many fronts. However, our that same emphasis on individual freedom has prevented us from effectively working in groups to bring our ideas to the competitive market.
The Japanese in particular have exploited this weakness, sending some of their best and brightest to the best American Universities to study the latest research, then bringing it back to apply it to the latest consumer products. They are masters at this, nearly magicians in bringing ideas into reality as products. This too requires a creativity of a slightly different sort, an applied creativity that is as important as coming up with the original idea to begin.
Many People Work Better As Teams
True individualists are rare in this world. Some people have the individual discipline, skills and talents, and motivation to work alone; but most people work better with others around them. Working as teams allow these people to mutually benefit from each others talents and skills, allowing the team to get things done that none of the individuals may do alone. Further, if the team sets goals at the team and individual level, then strong motivation is provided for getting various part of the job or task done. This works not only in the workplace, but in school as well, where students may learn as much from their fellow students as from class. In many job areas, this also allows each individual to have a variety of tasks -- reducing repetition and boredom. Further, individual creativity is engaged to be on the lookout for ways to improve anything about the tasks or the resulting products.
The net result is that synergy can arise in teams that truly work together to achieve something. This synergy benefits the whole endeavor, resulting in a great benefit to society as well.
Market Economies Are Wasteful by Their Very Nature
Market economies are wasteful of resources. The can't help it. Cost is the key factor. If resources are relatively cheap, it doesn't pay to do anything to conserve them. It only pays to worry about factors that impact profit. If waste reaches a point where there is sufficient potential for doing something to significantly reduce cost -- only then is it important. If labor is being done in a foreign country where wages are cheap than the waste involves human labor as well, since tasks aren't optimized to reduce the labor involved as they might have been.
Another area of waste is in the way goods are built and used over time. From a manufacturers standpoint, the key task is to produce and sell. For a consumer, the task is to acquire and get value from a product. One key factor is turnover. If everyone buys a stereo once in a lifetime, the stereo manufacturers have a limited market compared to if they buy one every five years or so. Manufacturers thus have an incentive for designing in obsolescence into their products. Each product that wears out or breaks after some warranty duration becomes a potential new sell. Similarly, there is an incentive for adding new features or making design changes to encourage buyers to replace older items with newer ones.
A third area of waste is duplication of products. Many companies create products that are very similar to each other. These products then have to compete for our attention and our dollars. Supposedly, this results in lower cost to us. However, to compete, advertising is required that allows each product, or at least each brand name, to get into our awareness. In addition, the size of each production run is less because several different similar products must be produced. Both of these factors result in increased cost.
Much of this is tolerated only because the consumer never has any real say in the process. The economy from a free market standpoint provides a means for owners, investors, and entrepreneurs to profit by producing and selling goods and services to a body of people that have the means to acquire such goods and services because they are employed either by the government, by themselves, or by the private sector owners. Part of the success of free enterprise came when employees became paid well enough to acquire the goods that they produced, thus increasing the potential market for these goods.
Unfortunately, there have been relatively few controls on advertising -- so, many things can be sold via association of those things with other things to which good feelings are already attached. Very little advertising is intellectual. If it were, it would have little effect on the general public. What moves us are the things that make us feel good, whatever that might be for each of us. Typically, we don't receive any training in this area, so the techniques of the advertisers go unnoticed even though they control much of our buying behavior.
The Use of Competition to Foster Innovation
Competition does have its utility as well. In particular, competition can motivate competitors, driving them to do more than they would have without the additional challenge. However, in the current environment, the losers suffer economically. Society wins in all such endeavors however, if the lessons learned from the competitors are shared. It is beneficial to know what works and what doesn't. Further, the individuals involved grow from their participation hence are more valuable for the next project. People should be encouraged to group into strong teams with a breadth of knowledge, experience, and skills that allows them to do a wide range of work. Work that needs to be done or problems that need to be solved should be broadcast so that groups can apply for the jobs they are well suited for. Evaluations should be done on a regular basis to provide feedback and to assure appropriate resources are being applied to the job or problem.
Competition also fosters innovation; by getting different groups to tackle the job or problem in different ways, different approaches yield different solutions. This is extremely helpful to finding not just a solution, but a good solution. Sharing of partial progress can benefit the entire process as well, preventing wasted effort in doing things that have already been done. The bottom line is to enjoy the process -- and to engage people's talents and abilities as fully as possible in the process. The end results do not matter. To a large degree they are determined by the Plan. What matters is that effort is applied to whatever is felt must be done by the society. We must act in accord with our beliefs as a society. Through consistent action in accord with our hearts the Plan will unfold in all it's magnificence. The goal is to do always what is right, regardless of what the consequences may be.
Feedback as Incentive to Guide Creative Expression
While all creative expression is valuable, some may be more valuable to society than others. Feedback can be used as an incentive to guide creative expression of individuals to be more in-line with what the public likes or wants, especially in those areas that are consumer oriented. However, mavericks and lone wolfs are useful as well, and these will express as their souls dictate -- sometimes regardless of what others might think. As the society becomes freed to engage in more artistic and creative endeavors, more and more effort will be applied toward using this creative effort to move people emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Also, it will be found that teams of people can be even more effective than individuals in inspiring and amusing others. Laughter is a necessary ingredient for the health and wellbeing of everyone. Play and fun is important as well. Society is interested in anything that works, especially those techniques that work well. Elegance is a prime directive for spirit. It often appears to the mind as beauty, but a beauty that comes from being designed in a perfect fashion for ones function.
There is Plenty of Work for All to Do
In a society, there is always plenty of work for everyone to do. It's only a matter of declaring it to be so and making it a priority in our lives. There are always problems to be solved, areas that can be improved, new services that can be provided, and a host of things that people could be doing. These provide the perfect opportunity for consuming any available labor. There is no good reason why anyone who wants to work should be unable to find employment so long as society is plagued by major problems. This is particularly important since employment is how society provides individuals with the means for meeting their needs. One way or another, society pays for those who are unemployed to get at least their basic needs met -- whether through unemployment insurance, charity, or increased crime. Why not address this problem up front, and guarantee employment to everyone that needs a job? My sense is that this will be far cheaper in the long run and will also help to ensure that several problems get addressed in the near term that would otherwise have had to wait. Al Gore's report on Reinventing Government already identified how government should work -- so the raw pattern for structuring people into responsible and empowered teams is already in place. It's up to "We, the People" to decide what it is that we want government to do for us. It seems the first priority is providing those services which allow all of us to do more and do whatever we do better. This is a problem/challenge that is of the greatest importance. The bottom line is that if everyone does more and does it better, society wins in a very big way. In addition, the processes and methods we develop will give us a clear advantage against our competitors, an advantage that can be used to spread our prototype of cooperatively interdependent community around the globe.
In the current economic system, we are far from employing everyone. This is primarily because society does not yet consider it to be society's duty to ensure that all of its members are employed. This is our choice -- it can change in a heartbeat. All we have to do is establish another arm of the society or government that finds more effective ways to build communities where all individuals are employed in meeting the needs of one another. Living in such communities would not require thousands of dollars per month per family, hence might be cheaper than the cost of keeping these people on the streets. We'll get to this in more detail in a later chapter.
Everyone Can Do Something of Value
Each person has unique gifts and talents which can be used to do something of value to society in some way. Individuals are literally born with these abilities -- and all come with a purpose for which these abilities are necessary. It is society's responsibility to ensure that the individual is given the proper training to actualize these gifts and talents in a way that benefits both the individual and society. Every person is important. We cannot afford to waste the abilities and talents of anyone. Everyone is special and unique. Each has something to offer that no other person can offer. We must respect the uniqueness and sacredness of each individual and realize how much society loses whenever these special talents go unused.
Society Can Always Use More Services
People can always come up with additional services that society can use, especially if they have been taught to value and use their creative abilities. It is important to establish some metric for the usefulness of something, however. Where the benefit is obvious and the number of people affected is large, this is easy to calculate. In other cases, may not be so clear. It may be up to individuals or teams of people to do preliminary work upfront on their own time to show the potential of an idea prior to any strong backing or funding from society. In such cases, where useful knowledge, products, or services result; the people involved should be rewarded for their initiative and dedicated work. Wherever possible, society should encourage the investigation of new ideas -- providing relevant guidance and information where possible to prevent duplication or waste of effort.
People Should Only Do Work That Requires Their Skills
People can be happy in any work that can be done with dignity. Anything that is worthy of human labor can be treated in this manner. Dignity is an attitude that the doer of the work takes on in response to seeing the work treated with respect. In the near term, there may be many tasks that people must do because alternatives are simply too costly. This will change as effort is applied to come up with ways to do these tasks more elegantly.
Over the longer term, however, people should only do work that truly requires the abilities and talents of people or work that allows them to achieve some level of joy in accomplishment. More and more, we'll see tasks that can be accomplished with love. Where possible, future work should be designed to accommodate people and should be optimized for them. Unless absolutely required for some good reason, people should not be expected to do work that was not human engineered to provide the appropriate environment for people to do that work effectively and elegantly.
The Right Job for Every Individual
Individuals should have the opportunity to select jobs that are of their liking provided they have done their best in developing their talents. Where possible, it is good to have people like their work -- but this is not possible for society to guarantee because it is up to the individual to set the attitude within which they do their work. In general, work should be aligned with skills and talents. However, there still may be tasks that no one really likes. Where possible these should be assigned as punishment or should be shared in a manner that spreads the burden between many. A third alternative would be to reward people who chose the added burden. The overall goal should be to automate such tasks so that they can be accomplished by machines rather than people.
For special people with rare gifts and talents, extra effort should be taken to ensure such gifts are employed for the maximum benefit of society. Similarly, many other individuals may be able to do many things. What they should do is whatever they are most interested in that provides an opportunity for their growth and their happiness. Where possible, work should be fun and interesting. Further, it should be challenging to the individual in some way.
Society benefits from enhanced productivity when people are assigned to jobs for which they are well suited. This provides maximum opportunity for job satisfaction and also for challenge and productivity. Everyone wins when people work better, smarter, and more effectively.
The Art of Maximizing Return On Investment
The bottom line in economics is always some sort of return on investment. At the top level the investment is the capital of the investors, the labor of people, and the resources needed to produce products and services. The return is profit to investors, wages to people, and goods and services to whoever desires to consume them. The current system focuses only on the profit that is returned on the capital invested. This is a very shortsighted focus; it is definitely not in society's best interest.
Society's return is in people earning the wages by which they can buy the goods and services they need and want. For this to work, several things must happen:
- The goods and services generated must be sufficient to meet
the needs of people and at least some of the wants of people as
- People must receive adequate wages, after taxes, to buy the
things and services they need. It is even better if they can buy
some of the things and services they want. A different way to
state this is that prices must be such that whatever is required
to meet needs is affordable to all people. Of course, since
individuals differ, their levels of needs are different. If
income is not sufficient to meet needs, society will have to
supplement income earned or otherwise provide for any lack.
- All people that want to work should be employed. Actually, all people should be employed or should work in some manner, whether this be in the private sector, in the government, or as a volunteer associated with an agency or organization that provides service. Where possible, people should be employed in a manner so that they can support meeting their own needs. Otherwise, society will have to meet their needs in other ways.
People are a very valuable resource that should not be wasted. Non-renewable resources should not be consumed unless they have to be. Decisions to use such resources should be made by the government in society's best interest; and then, only after carefully weighing the cost versus the benefits of whatever goods are generated. Environmental factors should be considered as well.
Balance: The Key to Long Term Survival
The needs of society must be met. This requires some level of consumption of resources and interaction with various ecosystems. In addition, some of the wants of society must be met to satisfy higher level drives such as the pursuit of happiness. It does not matter that such things may not be required for happiness. Wants in themselves are part of the learning cycle and can move people to take whatever actions are necessary to meet the wants. Individuals have a hard time distinguishing between needs and wants so some level of accommodating wants must be incorporated into the economic system. Balance is the key, however. As a society, we need to keep our consumption in check to ensure that we don't needlessly waste resources or put any part of the Earths environment in jeopardy. We need to do things in better ways, to ensure that we don't harm the environment. If that means that it takes longer to get something, or that it costs a little bit more -- so be it. This may be a small price to pay in the longterm versus what the alternative might have given us.
We need to do things in a manner that is not going to detrimentally impact society now or in the future. We probably should consider things in terms of at least five generations, if not ten. Though, with the rate things are changing, it's hard to think even five years ahead. We don't have to let technology or science push us in ways that we are not ready for. Technology has come a long way in the past 50 years, much further than the mass thinking has moved. It is not clear that we are ready to accommodate more gadgets. Hell, we haven't really assessed the impact of present ones. All around we see signs of systems out of balance, pushed beyond their means to cope. At some point, this has to stop. We have to catch our breath, see where we are, evaluate if this is really where we want to be, and then do whatever it takes to alter our course in the direction of more balance. This does not mean we have to be fixed and rigid, we can be moving in a balanced manner as well. But, balance there must be. Without it, our very survival comes into question. In fact, it's not clear that we haven't overdone it already and passed limits that we or our Earth cannot recover from, no matter what we do. However, even if that were the case, it's better to operate from right knowledge and take our actions accordingly.
Fostering the Pursuit of Happiness
To pursue happiness, we have to have some clue of why we are here in the first place. Happiness is a feeling-state of being. It comes to us as a result of how we interpret what is going on within and around us. For most of us, happiness is temporary and fleeting -- and we never quite get a handle on what causes it. The bottom line is that feeling-states are choices that we make at some level, but the choice must be consistent with our beliefs about happiness. The easiest way to pursue happiness is by (1) finding out what we love to do and doing it, and (2) getting to know ourselves as demanded by all metaphysical teachings.
Ever Increasing Job Satisfaction
If we develop our abilities and talents and constantly pursue work that uses these talents in creative and challenging ways, we give ourselves a good shot towards pursuing happiness. This should allow for ever increasing job satisfaction -- and since our job occupies a large fraction of our time, job satisfaction can lead to a greater degree of life satisfaction. This doesn't guarantee happiness, nothing does; but, at least it allows for it.
Creativity and Commitment to Purpose
The natural urge of the soul is to be creative. So, if we find ways to express our innate creativity, whatever that might be, we will be expressing more of whom that we truly are. Further, if we can find our purpose for being and commit to that purpose, we will find that our life falls into place and things happen beautifully with a naturalness that is awesome to behold. In this state of being, happiness is a by-product. It is the sign that verifies that we are on the right path. The pursuit of happiness then becomes a pursuit of purpose in our lives. The times of happiness we encounter along the way will tell us when we were engaging our true talents and allowing our soul to be more fully enfleshed.
Multiple Concurrent Jobs in Varied Areas of Life
Each of us has multiple concurrent jobs, only some for which we are paid. We have a job that we do to support ourselves and our families, if any. Our primary job, however, is to learn about ourselves. We also have jobs of providing service to others in society. These others may be family, friends, or strangers. Since we have many skills and talents, we need a diversity of outlets for employing these skills and talents; no one outlet is enough. Where possible, it is best to find outlets that provide some service or benefit to others. However, solitary pursuits are perfectly fine as well if they help to make one happy.