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new economics

Adbusters put out a call for short pieces on economic insights, so I posted this off to them. It was fun to write, and remember what's important:

The experiment nearly worked, and could have done, with its simple elegance. Providing that people were glued to the meme of ‘how much can I manage to spend?’, they were easy to control. As most folk drove air-conditioned cars, there was no talking on street corners, and little conversation through the car window. Processed food and eating watching TV reduced the chance of people talking over the dining table or the kitchen, and the shop assistants in the food store didn’t gossip. Managing the almost continual flow of material from the shops to the house to the dump took much time, and people didn’t seem to mind that the rubbish they threw had only been paid for hours before. Tiring commuting patterns and long hours at work ensured that few had the time to talk at home, or over long walks in the park or the country. As Mark Vernon wrote, ‘That's the genius of so much human exploitation: it can be taken for progress’. Mind control was strong, and nearly complete.

It would have worked except that, just in time, a few people started asking the question ‘how little can I live on, by choice?’ Is it £10,000 a year for my family, or five times that? At last, realisation. Fresh, cheap food cooked slowly tastes good, and allows space for words. Talks over walks have a magic that seeps deep into the conversation. Cycling and walking around community makes connections between people, hearts, minds and smiles. When the question of ‘Do I really need that?’ started to kick in, people realised that mind control was happening, but this time around, it was their own minds. At last.


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