I continued thinking about the topic of minimalism after The Minimalist Taurus responded to my post The world is maxed out. What would really happen if we all became minimalists?
The Minimalists have an article about that, Stimulate the economy like a minimalist. I’m not sure they offer a solution. It certainly isn’t a quick fix because that’s not possible. The Minimalists defend the only possible position, which is that we need consumption and not consumerism. So a true minimalist is not interested in stimulating the economy, but that sounds problematic to me, because how do we make extreme changes like that?
People, and especially children, have always wanted what others have. The fictional character Anne of Green Gables for example wanted a dress like the other girls had, but Marilla was a very minimalist mother. There are degrees of minimalism, and each individual and family must figure out where they draw the line. Many families today have multiple pc’s, androids/iphones, ipads TV’s, game consoles etc. We frequently want things we think we need, but that may not be the case.
This is a deeper, much deeper question in my opinion. I used to write a lot more political posts, and in one of my older posts I referred to a liberal report from 1975 called The Crisis of Democracy. The point wasn’t that democracy was fading, but that it wasn’t. The report is known for the phrase “an excess of democracy”, used to describe the period in the 1960’s and 70’s where the people had used its voice to protest inequality. That is a threat to powerful people. The fear of democracy is an old one. It probably goes back to when kings and a small elite governed the people, and when democracy was created, they wanted to keep most of their powers.
The US constitution inspired the founding fathers in my country too, and there was a strong aversion to small democracies among the US founding fathers, maybe strongest in James Madison. Some have defended Madison saying he didn’t really hate democracy. He supposedly only attacked democracy because he wanted a big country with a strong central government, rather than local government close to the people. That’s arguing semantics, because if you want to increase the distance between the government and the people, you are not exactly getting too much democracy.
Knowing this it’s reasonable to assume that there’s been a struggle between the majority and the elite from the beginning. One side wants democracy, the other one doesn’t. The few people at the top, whether they have political or financial power, don’t want less of it. The point isn’t that they could manage just as well with $ 100 million as they do with $ 200 million. They simply don’t want the rest to be better off. They don’t want people to think and to become minimalists.
Many rich people are probably incredibly bored. They are used to getting anything they want, and they don’t have to wait for any of it. Rich people today have more opportunities for diversion than a fictional character like Mr. Darcy, but otherwise nothing much has changed. Life is mostly about chasing the next high. We all have that lifestyle today. We use the things we buy to feel better. It may sound like a conspiracy theory, but I think businesses and governments have encouraged this development. This has been a way to fight “an excess of democracy.”
It makes sense in my mind to spread the wealth. Imagine a big business that has a profit of $ 1 billion a year, and perhaps a handful of families own a big chunk of the stocks. There is a limit to how much money these families can spend locally. They could buy a hundred cars, and go completely indie either we are talking about food, skinproducts or culture, but why would they if they have the attitude to people many of them have? They are not going to reform themselves on their own.
Now imagine that they paid the workers so much that the surplus would be reduced to $ 700 million. The shareholders would still be the absolute elite, far above the majority. This wouldn’t be a socialist regime that hates capitalism, but there would be another $ 300 million for workers to spend on buying goods and services. Instead of a handful of people going to the salon, restaurant, movie theatre, traveling across country and staying in hotels, there would be thousands doing it. That seems like a better way to fuel the economy. I like the term we use for locally produced food, short-travelled food. It comes from people, not machines and warehouses. You know you support a sustainable lifestyle, and ultimately give people democratic influence.
I wonder what the power’s response to a massive shift would be. Countries that claim to be against regulations would join socialist countries in regulating people to death. Unfortunately, my own people loves being regimented. They are far too willing to go along with anything the authorities come up with. So they wouldn’t protest if for example a farmer’s market in the town square suddenly was banned. I still think it would be worth the fight.