Scarce, valuable, economical – our way into the future – The world in a hundred years

by Friedrich Wegenstein

My utopia does not have a hundred years, but challenges us here and now. In the spirit of Kant, it challenges us to free ourselves from self-inflicted immaturity and to take responsibility for ourselves!

Each one of us decides by his understanding of this world, his buying behaviour, by his demands on his life but above all by his participation in the democratic formation of opinion, in which world the human species will live in the future.

We have increasingly let the economy take the helm of our self-determined democracy out of our hands!

The argument has always been: if the economy is doing well – everyone is doing well. This argument is used by politicians in some form almost daily. But is it even true?

Economic growth seems to us today to be a matter of course. Between 2006 and 2015, government debt in the euro zone grew by around 58%, with simultaneous economic growth of only around 17%. Total debt – including private debt – will amount to an incredible 188% of GDP in Germany in 2015 – 233% in the USA, 325% in the Netherlands and 400% in Japan.

It is becoming increasingly clear that these debts represent an uncovered cheque on our future.

Growth cannot continue forever and is therefore less and less available for debt repayment. FTAs open the door to cheap goods, but undermine our domestic, democratically agreed standards, cost industrial jobs and cause the environmental damage we want to avoid at home – elsewhere. The money supply is growing faster than economic growth, and at the same time the ability of the economy to create jobs as it grows – not only because of digitisation – is declining.

Over the period 2000-2015, the euro area economy grew by around 50%, but the number of people employed in the economy grew by only 7.6%, with part-time workers accounting for this increase.

The result is increasing inequality of income and wealth and political destabilization.

Economic growth always requires additional consumption and new consumption and means a growing waste of resources. The global consumption of fossil fuels for energy generation increased by 196% between 1973 and 2015. The UN’s Climate Council speaks of the highest concentration of greenhouse gases in at least 800,000 years – and they are still rising – and of an irreversible process for many hundreds more years.

At the moment we behave like a carousing glutton who believes he doesn’t have to pay his bill and mortgages the future of his children.

All resources are scarce and valuable and we must therefore always use them sparingly. The growing world population is also forcing us, with an even lower consumption of resources, to enable more people to live on this earth in the future.

It is up to us how we want to deal with this world and its people, for example when habitat becomes scarcer due to climate change and pollution. How do we want to tackle the problems as early as possible? How do we want to deal with each other while respecting human rights?

The longer we wait, the harder this confrontation will throw us back into danger and into need and barbarism.

Strong democratic movements are needed to put a stop to current developments.

Our current economic system is neither economically nor ecologically sustainable.

The social prestige that builds on this, being able to afford as much as possible, is outdated. To strive for such prestige is less and less justifiable. The value and scarcity can only be expressed in a way that is tangible for all if, contrary to previous practice, the actual and complete costs – including recycling and restoration to the original condition – are allocated to each economic good and included in the prices. This undoubtedly raises many questions that we need to address.

My utopia is to find a democratic way to redefine economy.

A future economy will no longer have the task of producing as much material goods as possible, but rather to balance scarcity and abundance and to integrate itself harmoniously into human life and the environment.

“Scarcely Valuable Thrifty” is the title of my new book. If you like my guest article and want to learn more about my suggestions for a better world, you can order my book online or buy it in bookstores. If you would like to get in contact with me, I would be pleased about a mail from you.

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