Jul. 5th, 2013

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm reading Debt: The First 5000 Years, and it has me seriously rethinking my thoughts on economics and even libertarianism. It's an extremely dense book, so I have a lot of thoughts, and I need to read more on them before I commit to any them, but here are things I am thinking right now:

  • I've treated the economics of capitalism/the market as physical laws, as inescapable as gravity. And they pretty much are, in this society, at this time. There are other societies where they are not, where humans orient themselves towards something else, and it's worth examining the costs and benefits of each.
  • Capitalism is based on an assumption of constant growth that can be very destructive. The author is an anthropologist, and I've never heard an economist say it, so I want to read more, but it feels true. This is tied in with Protestantism somehow but I don't know how.
  • Societies where more than a trivial percentage of the population can't support themselves collapse. This is true even though "support themselves in the manner to which they which to become accustomed" is a moving target. Today's peasants may live materially better than anyone on the planet 100 years ago, but they're scoring against something else.
  • A credit-based market among neighbors, where everyone is using credit from and extending it to everyone else (=medieval markets), is very different from a system where everyone goes to a few central organizations, otherwise removed from them, and gets money to use somewhere else (=modern banking).
  • Most of the things I like about capitalism are actually things I like about free markets, and maybe I can get the latter without the former.

Let's talk about the constant growth thing. I was recently faced with a series of decisions at work in which I chose the path with the higher required effort, higher growth potential over the easier ones. I did this in part because I'd had jobs where I coasted, and I found them unfulfilling and was unhappy. This decision path has worked out Poorly. It's cost me a lot, and I haven't accomplished anything I set out to. I am probably going to end up jumping to the safer path I was offered initially, which would seem to make the months of distress completely wasted, and thus the choice wrong. And yet, I don't feel it was. I am proud of myself for trying, and I couldn't have lived with myself if I'd taken the safe path.

Why not?

Some of it, which I figured out right this second, is that I would have been doing it out of fear, and facing down fears is a huge good. So good for me on that. But another driving factor was the belief that I need to grow, and I think that's tied in to capitalist/protestant notions of need to grow. I don't *need* more money. There are more toys to buy, but the additional happiness purchased would be low to non-existent. There are doctors appointments and personal trainers and specialty prepared foods to buy for my health, and those are expensive, but there's no point incurring the health costs of a more stressful job in order to pay for them. There's security, and knowing how long I could last without a job, but again there's no point being miserable now to buy myself out of misery later. So really what we're seeing is my inability to accept not being the best, or at least doing my best, at everything, ever. That's an exhausting way to live


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