Why We Stubbornly Cling to GDP

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Why, despite widespread criticism, do we still cling to GDP as primary metric for economic vitality? In the same 1934 report where Simon Kuznets first introduced the concept of GDP, he cautioned:

“Economic welfare cannot be adequately measured unless the personal distribution of income is known. And no income measurement undertakes to estimate the reverse side of income, that is, the intensity and unpleasantness of effort going into the earning of income. The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income…”

The GDP question is a metaphor for our economy on the whole: why, despite glaring and well-documented failings, do we carry on using the same system and methods that are causing the failures? …

A Policy Proposal

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Executive Summary

This document proposes a basic income for the U.S. in the form of a negative income tax (NIT).

It proposes an income floor for all adults (18+) in the economy of $13,000 per year, indexed to the federal poverty line. This proposal leaves aside the question of how best to include minors, but no basic income is complete without either a reduced rate income floor for minors, or a child allowance passed alongside.

Under this proposal, an adult earning $0 annually receives the full $13,000. As their earnings increase, their NIT benefits are phased out with a 33% tax rate, zeroing out benefits for incomes beyond $39,400. …

(Consider the Basic Income)

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Drawing by Paula Ensign

Basic income could be like injecting a syringe of vitality into our weary veins, from which a rush of economic possibilities would re-color our perception of the world.

These days, the only thing that feels so certain as the need for socioeconomic change is the learned sense that nothing will, in fact, change. The powers that be will prevail. We will lead the lives society arranges for us, like schoolchildren who awaken to find their outfits already hanging on the doorknob.

We may harbor the inchoate idea that the whole of life should perhaps be arranged differently. But we’ll learn to let that be. We’ll learn to savor the small pellets of satisfaction as they come, like birds passing overhead that wrench our heads skywards, granting us a distracted moment to marvel at the great blue expanse above, only to return our gaze to the earth we’ve grown so ambivalent towards. …

Poverty, Inequality, & Post-Scarcity

This is an essay about Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the same way that arguing with your spouse over leaving dishes in the sink is really about the dishes. Sure, the dishes matter. But there are deeper, subliminal forces at play. Those are what really matter.

UBI spearheads a resurgent utopian energy to ground economic policy in radical, pragmatic visions of a better world. UBI matters, but coaxing that renascent energy into bloom really matters. The conviction behind this essay is not that we need a UBI. …

Complexity Economics & Ending Poverty

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Though we remain mostly unclear as to whether chickens precede eggs, or eggs precede chickens¹, a sentiment is afoot that new ideological paradigms precede radical policies and structural change.

From systems theorist Donella Meadows, novelist Marilynne Robinson, to progressive economist Mariana Mazzucato, we find variations on the idea that policies emerge from paradigms, rather than paradigms emerging from policies.

This logic tells us that to supplant the status quo with a new system — one that determines not to desecrate the planet, not to let working classes languish in toil and precarity while income shares of the top 0.1% …

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Art by Cynthia Decker

Scarcity is often considered a natural, eternal condition. There is not, and cannot be, enough for everybody, wrote Thomas Malthus in 1798:

“…the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.”

Because of resource scarcity, life is not free; we must earn our livings. Surely, life has never been ‘free’. All species appear to organize their lives around the pursuit of vital resources, and secure them with expenditures of dollars, or labor hours.

But what if, for the first time in the history of sentient life on earth, humans in the 21st century have enough accumulated cultural technologies, ingenuity, and wealth to discard the condition and dynamics of scarcity as life’s organizing principle?

Designing for Emergence

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What is the universe, and what might it want? Obviously, I’ve no idea. But we’re mythopoetic creatures, and even the humblest among us cannot help but weave stories about what we are, where we are, and what we might do in response. We live inside these woven stories like cocoons suspended in oblivion.

The philosophy of networks coming into being through the work of Christopher Vitale is one such story. It is a networkological metaphysics, in that when it zooms out as far as imaginably possible to survey the universe, it sees a network.

Metaphysics are necessarily imaginal exercises. They cannot be tested, proved, or verified anymore than we can learn every last secret of the cosmos. But they might be the most important stories we tell, for they are the arbiters of possibility, the groundwork of imagination, and the garden walls of human life. Metaphysics are our storied maps of the universe, and being mythopoetic creatures, we are also map-bound creatures. Our evolving potentials in the world are products of our jumping from map to map, from metaphysic to metaphysic. Each map posing a new terrain of possibility, new potentials realized through new networked relations to the universe. …

Moving beyond neoliberal individualism towards digitized cultures of interdependence & democratized liberation.

Every morning I wake up to the kind of decision that might look small on the surface, but for which that visible surface is just the tip of an enormity that lies beneath. Do I roll out of bed and sit on my meditation cushion, or just pour the coffee and get right to work on whatever essay is open on my computer? …

The distinction between subjectivity & objectivity is illusory, and the hierarchy it creates is harmful to our shared experience of what it’s like to exist.

Imagine a group of children in a round swimming pool, all swimming clockwise along the pool’s outer edge. Soon, their patterned behavior will begin stirring the water. The spinning water makes it easier to swim in circles faster, and so a self-perpetuating system of coordinated behavior emerges.

Now a child decides she no longer wants to play the game. She stops swimming in circles, preferring instead to float on her back and gaze into the blue sky above. But she’s in the same water, and it’s still spinning because everyone else is still circling. Her behavioral and experiential possibilities are subject to their shared environment. …

Feeling the Loss of Biodiversity as the Loss of Our Own Limbs.

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What is needed are methods of making knowledge visceral. Practices of feeling the transiency of sugary delights, feeling the plight of whales stuffed with plastic as they wash upon the beach to die, or feeling the loss of biodiversity as the loss of our own limbs.

There’s nothing like a vending machine in the lobby of your apartment building to remind you that no matter who or what you imagine yourself to be, you are mostly a brute, unruly, gullible animal.

With each pass through the front door, veering off towards the staircase on the right, my gaze drifts left, towards the large rectangular machine containing bright yellow, orange, and red packages of sweets. They disgust me. So vile and shamelessly designed to prey upon my basic animality. …


Oshan Jarow

Interested in many things, like consciousness, meditation & economics. Sure of nothing, like how to exist well, or play the sax (yet). More: www.MusingMind.org.

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