Sunday, October 09, 2022

As climate change threatens traditional prosperity, free societies can innovate new definitions for the good life.

I've been pondering about how various societies keep people inline; so to speak. Some use brute force; like North Korea and Russia. We could be reduced to ant colony servants; given increasing technology in the hands of despots.

Societies also tend to use the promise of a better life to keep people inline. Sometimes that's a religious afterlife. Think Iran.

Most of the time, these days, its the promise of growing prosperity. Moving ahead in economic terms for current citizens and their children. The promise of an improving life keeps leaders in power.

Given our planet's limits, the promise of greater prosperity seems to be faltering more and more. This can frighten leaders, in places like Mainland China, as returning to poverty can end the credibility of governments and lead the masses to rise up in rebellion.

Here in Western democracies, we have more flexibility than authoritarian societies so I don't think we have to rely as much on the promise of prosperity, religion or brute force to keep people inline.

Like so many societies, prosperity is a big tool to keep people satisfied, here in USA as well. It's like the phrase; "bread and circuses" that was said about the Roman Empire.

At the same time, I think we can redefine what prosperity means more easily than authoritarian societies. We have more freedom of thought and innovation. Folks can innovate away from our society's mainstream traditions in business, religion and lifestyles.

As earthly resources are limited, traditional versions of prosperity are threatened. Innovation is needed. Even in technology, innovation means that greater consumption of resources isn't necessary to improve things. Compare the smartphone, of today, to the room sized computers of the 1960s. We can create new forms and definitions of wealth. Bigger isn't necessarily better.

In thinking about economics, however, the smartphone has great utility, but it is no longer defined as a major source of wealth in terms of our money traditions. The smartphone is mass produced reducing it's money value. A smartphone can be cheap, even compared to one month's rent for an apartment.

Ownership of a home that was taken for granted in the 1960s can mean one is a millionaire today.

The definition of wealth can vary, but having a place to live is still important. Even societies, such as ours, do have their dysfunctionalities.

Still, we have to find ways to innovate to continue. Tiny homes, more density, for instance.

Moving on to things beyond just technology, there are the topics of social fulfillment, fairness, health, peace, safety and so forth.

In social fulfilment, similar innovations can happen. Compare "life in the closet" for gay people of the 1950s, to life today; in most western societies. Think about the rights of women. Think about the rights of minorities. Think about the rights for minority points of view.

There are so many innovations and new ways to define the good life.

We can innovate to redefine what "better" means. Authoritarian societies have more trouble doing this.

We have flexibility in our economic, social and religious ideas. Our definitions of what is "better" can change. In many ways those definitions will have to change due, in part, to climate change.

An open society can be more flexible and less rigid than authoritarian societies. I think this can be a survival strategy for civilization as we know it.

No comments: