May 29, 2010

It seems the whole world is obsessed with growth. Certainly, among the truly poor, living from hand to mouth or actually starving, there is a desperate need to make life at least less perilous and miserable. But the “poor” people in the USA live well above that level.

For most Americans, I see a real need to pause and evaluate our quality of life. For all our relative wealth, why aren’t we happy? How many people are enjoying their lives? Not just a few moments here and there, but all day, working, traveling, eating, tending to house and home, doing the big and little chores of daily living?

Not many, from what I can see. All around me, I see stress, insecurity, lack of sleep, and people always hurrying, behind schedule. We set impossible goals and then fret that we can’t achieve them.

At some point, you might think that people would say, “Enough”, retire, and enjoy the rest of their lives. However, when asked how much people want, no matter how much they have, the answer seems to be, “more”.

Technology marches on. New gadgets, comforts, and conveniences roll off the production lines. Methods improve and more work is automated. Less labor is needed to produce more goods more cheaply. Will our hunger for “more” ever reach a limit? How long can we sustain full employment? Will robots replace us and leave us all unemployed? Will growth finally stop in this future nirvana?

In one Science fiction story I read long ago, the main character was an all-purpose humanoid robot. The Robot was the sole support of his owner, who lived a life of ease. Does this suggest where we are headed? After a fashion, I think it does. But not in this century

Somewhere in the distant future, we may achieve a balance where we live off the proceeds of our investments, and work as much or as little as we like at whatever we care to do, with or without pay.

That’s what I do, now that I’ve retired. My “investments” are in a Social Security pension, a company pension, and my home. All of my work is unpaid. I’m happy and very busy. A life of ease doesn’t suit me.

But the security of being a capitalist certainly does reduce the stress.


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