- Wed Feb 23, 2022 3:49 pm
In hindsight, "by the sweat of your brow, you shall eat", may have been a better substitute to "if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat". But then again, the dictators may have instead forced everyone to do manual labor for every meal regardless of their actual occupation. Or maybe they may have demanded that you season your meal with your sweat before eating it. An efficient soviet salt reclamation method to be sure, but not the most sensible or hygienic way of dining. Because sometimes in a totalitarian rule, it just does not have to make any sense whatsoever. You're too busy with other more important things in life; such as worrying about ha-ha-ha-ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive...
If Oliver and his compatriots managed to throw off the dehumanizers' shackles and brought about a system where rule of law by the people would be supreme and above the dictates of (temporary or otherwise) bureaucrats, we would ideally expect that the right to pursue one's own business venture would be one of those important pillars that the new system would try to support. One would hope to instill the same drive as was achieved with slogans such as, "Land of opportunity" and the "American dream". But what do these things actually mean? Personally, it means the opportunity to be able to bootstrap oneself and to have a fighting chance in successfully running a business and to make a decent living. It means that one only needs to apply oneself, to be "willing to work", and to profit "by the sweat of one's brow". It means to be one's own boss and to not be in bondage to any external dictates and unlawful controls. Lofty ideals indeed, one that can likely only be achieved for ideal people in an ideal community. But humanity is not ideal, and that is a major component that should be factored in in any such ponderings.
And so what is to be done when the ideal is known and acknowledged, but the practical is derailed and were to drift in a tangent? From a certain perspective, such is a symptom of too complex a system driven out of control. One of the ways to fix it is to break the system into smaller manageable components and to try something different, which hopefully will give it better scalability and adaptability. If we were to apply the same process as before to the smaller setup, then it has the danger of restarting and propagating the same issues again, only to end up with the same problems as we encountered in the beginning. So what is this different thing? Before we establish that, let us first consider the following rule of sound design practice. If you want anything to work well in both small and large scale, it needs to be simple. Complexities can always be added to the baseline, but those complexities can be replaced at any time without affecting the foundation. Hence the overall infrastructure and the idea would remain firm despite the mishaps and incompatibilities arising from higher abstractions. In contrast, something that is built on complexity but sold as being simple achieves the opposite. It's like building castles on sand; that slip into the sea; eventually...
In consideration of this well-established and logically sound design method, if one was to have a business in a most basic sense, then one would first need the ability to exchange the goods and services that one has for other people's inventory. And contrary to what most people would claim that currency is the most simplest method to achieve this, the most direct way of engaging in commerce is to barter. For example, I can sell my bag of apples for a gallon of milk and a culture dish of lactic acid bacteria (for making cheese). I could have gone and got the same from a different farmer but we came to an agreement for mutually satisfactory reasons, and hence we engaged in trade of goods. If such a transaction is the most basic exchange that one can partake in, and this is the basis for the concept of business and commerce that exist today, then why not support this practice using technologies available at our fingertips? One can imagine a system where a local network of digital bartering can take place in much the same way as any physical market does. You may bid for certain goods, have meetings and calls to examine those goods (VR/AR bazaars?), schedule pickups/deliveries, and the transactions can be recorded (or not) and presented to you for tax purposes (if such a thing can even be taxed at all) later on. And although such bartering can be achieved without needing currency, money is a useful abstraction, which can be added as a layer of complexity on top of this baseline. After all, using rare feathers, shells, stones, metal, and paper is still a form of bartering. The business model would then be inherently local, connecting the people in one's vicinity to perform barter commerce without the need to use a medium of exchange.
But bartering need not be restricted to physical goods either. They can be local services. A seamstress can provide a sowing and outfit modification service in exchange for an LP record and a manicure. Or a babysitting service can be provided in exchange for concert tickets and a basket of scones. A delivery and pickup service can be provided for power tools and beer (please do not use either or in combination while driving). None of these things need currency, especially when they are done in small scale. It's only when the transaction becomes large or beyond one's immediate personal need that it becomes necessary to use currency instead. This is how rural villages have worked for thousands of years. There is no compelling reason why it cannot also be done for any geographical area consisting of populations with convenient barter apps on their personal computing and communication machines. It would facilitate in creating physically dependent communities, who need each other and support one another. Plus, it would work out much cheaper than doing one's shopping at a local mega-store; paying in a flexible transaction-specific market, rather than using a pegged currency for goods and services that operate on state-wide "market value". If such transactions are given for free, would they then be considered charity? If you give to your neighbor what he needs and he thanks you in return, is that a concern for the tax collectors? If an apple was sold for a lemon, would the tax man like an apple slice or a lemon slice? Or would he insist that you find the money somehow by Tuesday, or else? Would they not be forced to insist that you pay them their cut of their money based on their market value regardless of the actual price that was not expressed using their currency? An interesting predicament to be sure. How can capitalism work without capital, and the threat of capital punishment by those sitting at the Capitol? Who knows? Do the fairies?
We must cultivate our garden