Useful And Fantastic: Fantasy Economics
"What some first imagine, others are liable to do,## writes Val Yule.
When I was seventeen, I thought it about time that there was fantasy fiction for adults. And lo, now, the sci-fi and dystopias are out-published by fantasies of quests and personified ultimate evil and strange names. Meanwhile, real life is liable to copycat. What some first imagine, others are liable to do.
It's now about time for Fantasy Economics. For imagination to cast ahead of what is immediately practicable to what might be, like Jules Verne, throwing a line ahead, and seeing if it can be reeled in.
Humans are animals that can fear the future, because they have the imagination to do so beyond conditioned responses to stimuli that they have known before. They have also, the imagination to try to do something about it. That has been the evolutionary function of imagination, that put them to the head of the rest. Why then, in the face of so many predicted calamities, don't they?
Climate change, global warming, nuclear bombs, mutating viruses, world terrorism, monstrous droughts, floods, stock market crashes, secret governments, animal extinctions . . . People dare to think about many of these, for entertainment. Blockbuster films and horror thrillers and dystopic sci-fi rub them into conscious and unconscious minds.
Future fiction has encouraged imagination to think about ways of getting away from it all, in space-ships carrying the remnants of us to the farthest points of the universe, and scientists work on how to divert possible meteors before they hit us. In terms of national defence mechanisms, these could be labelled as projections, displacements and compartmentalisations. When it comes to facing the looming threats s realities in individual lives, the defence mechanisms are denial, suppression, repression, rationalisation, and splitting. Intellectuals make analyses and publish books when these cannot arouse action, that can be labelled intellectualisation.
I would like to raise the question of why more imagination is not going in to what might be done about these looming crises and calamities, which we now know so much about. The secondary function of imagination in evolutionary terms has been as a way to teaching, a transfer of knowledge through stories, and a third function has been escape, to help make living in the present bearable. But the primary function has been imagination as a means of progress "What if?' And so people moved out of trees, used fire, planted seeds, rode logs in rivers . . and always what was done was first imagined.
But down through the ages, the common man has more often had to bear with helplessness than had a chance to find a way out. People sat in cities, helplessly watching the enemies arrive that will destroy them, sat watching plagues spread, been forced to build castles with dungeons for the warlords that will use them imprison their protest. They have been unable to leave as pogroms drew the nets tighter.
Every day even the weather is a reminder that although man ascends into the heavens to see beyond galaxies, and manipulates the very makings of life with nanotechnology, gods we are not. Humans can imagine death, but their efforts to prevent it still fail.
And so often, the marvellous things that are achieved are almost immediately countered by their abuse split the atom and make nuclear bombs, receive information from the uttermost parts of the earth and soon most of it is spam. Heal, or dig wells, build dams, drain swamps the next thing it only Seemed a Good Idea at the Time.
So now here we are, looking over cliffs in every direction and responding according to our own immediate self-interest, whether to deny, to escape, to devise stratagems to continue to accumulate wealth, or to think of doing something so small it will make no difference, or something so big that its failure will be another disaster.
The little green aliens who may land on our planet after it is dead may wonder why no intelligent life managed to prevent the catastrophes.
Consider the motor-car, space shuttle, bionic ear, in vitro fertilisation, cyberspace, cell-phones, skyscrapers and undergrounds. Consider all the inventions that were inconceivable when I was a child.
What then, is inconceivable now, that might be possible within a decade, or preferably less, given that we may have less time than that? Social inventions that take into account that we all suffer from Original Stupidity and the range of unsuitable defence mechanisms. Let us be as naive as Jules Verne and look what happened to his ideas. Let's have eco-fi that considers just how the wonders of sci-fi and Quests are supported and produced.
In our busy world, we are all so busy writing and doing about other things, as the tsunami wave is going out to sea before it rolls back.
In schools, students study Revolutions, not reforms.
Revolutions pull down with the aim of building anew every builder prefers that to renovation. Jericho is built and rebuilt, city upon destroyed city. There are many plans for new economic systems that could be built when the old is wrecked. A clean slate. One type of ecofantasy.
But another type of ecofantasy is reforms, so that the old is not simply destroyed. Consider the goals, and set the vision of artists and thinkers to cast a path to reach them. What exciting TV series, and Mini-Ideas for radio!
Capitalism could be improved it is only partly developed and still full of bugs. Its major problem is that it is like a bicycle that dare not stop unsustainable growth has to be sustained unless we change how capitalism works. "What is the use of saving the planet if the economy is wrecked?' asked NSW Premier Iemma. We could have an economy that does not get wrecked, that grows in quality not quantity.
Suppose the response to the risks of carbon emissions is not to set up carbon trading to my mind a swiz, and a smokescreen pretending something is being done, so that emissions can continue on their merry way by those who can pay for it, as if planting trees can even make up for all the many more trees being simultaneously clear-felled, and as if their future nurture were guaranteed somehow.
Suppose instead, the production of waste is stopped. Half of all that is produced is wasted at some stage or other. Possibly half our carbon emissions goes to producing waste! And another ten percent on getting rid of it.
Cutting waste would of course drastically affect commerce, as people wasted less and bought less, and refused to buy built-in-obsolescence and unmendability and undurability and biscuits sent for trade across the world to compete with other biscuits.
And of course, the greatest waste is producing armaments and the increasingly horrible means for civilian destruction, and clearing up the destruction of thousands of years of civilisation.
The finance that now goes into producing waste could go into paying for jobs and producing products that are needed (only work out how to pay.) If all the jobs needing to be done were being done, there would be no unemployment.
Suppose the concept of usury returned, so that only risk capital returned more than 5%. Suppose investors made money from investment, but not share-trading. That there was an end to the continual development of hedge funds and future-trading and money-trading and negative gearing and private equity companies and all those other ways that make financial dealing more profitable and exciting than actually using money as a means of exchange of goods and service and to finance the jobs and products that are needed.
Fantasise - if directors saw no profits for themselves if companies are taken over and asset-stripped and empty-shelled. If pirates could no longer make hostile take-overs of prosperous concerns, how much boardroom action could be directed into actually running companies rather than expending their major energies trying to expand by take-overs and mergers, or trying to expand in order to make themselves safe from takeovers, with themselves devouring as a way to avoid being devoured.