Technocracy has as its aim to create a society based on the premise of the "Highest possible quality of life for the greatest amount of people for the longest possible span of time". Of course, a lot of organisations working with society have similar aims, regarding sustainability. Most of them have chosen to work within the framework of the price system. Movements advocating sustainability usually support the idea of creating a society which is in balance with nature and not only in "more" balance with the surrounding environments. Some are also radical in the aspects that they suggest to eliminate money.
But will this eliminate scarcity?
The motivation of this article is to explore the technocratic definition of abundance, and compare it to the economist's view of scarcity and abundance.
Scarcity under a price system
The reason why there is inherent scarcity is not because of physical restraints in the territorial base, according to the economist, but has more to do with the consumer demand. The assumption is that all demands are equal, that for example the needs of a single mother in a favela in Saõ Paolo in Brazil, is equal to Jay Leno's wants of a 611th Chrysler with gold plates from year 1958.
In this model, all demands are absolutes and all other infringements upon the demands except poverty are seen as unacceptable as they lead to "inefficiencies". According to this model, as earlier stated in my article about Energy Accounting, all human needs and wants are equivalent to each-other, and all needs and wants are without any borders, i.e, human beings always want to possess more and more.
Thus, scarcity is actually relative in this model, as a knight with a silver plate armour would envy the knight with a golden plate armour, and it is inherently based on subjective judgements about value, rather than physical scarcity in itself.
Thus, when economists and technocrats are talking about scarcity, the economist is talking about something which is going on inside a person's head, while the technocrat is talking about the physical constraints of a particular geographical zone. How much fresh water there is, how many minerals, how much capacity to grow food. For the economist, the important thing is rather "how much are people willing to work to get hold on these resources,
Thus, relative scarcity according to the economist will always be absolute.
Or will it?
What constitutes ownership?
Ownership is by its very nature exclusive. It means that you, granted by society or by your own strength (given if you live in an area plagued by social chaos) holds a physical object, a bit of land or a privilegie, and that you have the right to interfere and punish people who also are trying to use that property.
Some things are naturally exclusive, as the food you have been eaten or the (particular) energy you have used in operations of electronic equipment. Some things could be made exclusive through laws or the use of force, like most of the things you are owning - these things are thus exclusable. Some things are naturally inexclusive, like air or a stream of fresh water.
In most of Europe, the usual way to organise the administration of property or land, is to deal it out in the forms of ownerships, which are sellable (and then of course buyable), rentable and possibly to use as a security for debt. By definition, we could then say that Europe works by allocating out ownerships and reaffirming them through legal and physical means (police, courts).
The ownership grants are very different in size and forms, and the rules tend to vary between European countries, but yet, the general tendency is clear. We are supposed to operate the machinery, the water and the living we have through ownership.
What constitutes usership?
Usership, in contrast, means that you have the exclusive right to use something without hindering anyone else from using it as well. One example of a usership is collective travel. Another one is public parks. In Sweden, we have a rule which is called "The Right to Roam" (Allemansrätten) which allows you to enjoy nature and camp almost everywhere you want on the countryside.
Under such a system, you still have responsibilities to not for example vandalise or junk down the service you are utilising.
Thus, we see that usership is actually not something new but something which exists under the current system as well, and which thrives (public travel is increasingly getting popular due to the more environmentally aware urban citizenry).
Not only society is using usership as a mode for operating travel and recreation, but smaller groups within society is doing that as well, like for example sport clubs, youth houses and public educational facilities.
Of course, there is a gray zone between usership and ownership. Sport clubs do not for example allow people who are not members of the group use their equipment. It is therefore sane to speak about a grade-scale characterised by exclusivity. We are not implying that exclusivity is inherently bad either, even though it could be used to discriminate against people (the discrimination is inherently unacceptable if based on factors which the person herself could not affect, like ethnic origin or gender).
Usership and ownership in a technate
We often forget that the basis of the technate is personal ownership of one extremely important thing.
Namely the energy certifikates.
The energy quota which a person possesses in a technate, is the sole, exclusive privilegie for the benefactor of that service. Even though Karl and Jasmine are receiving access to an equal share of the production capacity of the technate, they could not exchange their certifikates, or trade parts of their energy quotas with each-other, since the energy certifikates are designed to allocate energy credits into machinery operated by the technate.
The ownership of your energy quota, marks your right to access the production capacity of a technate.
Thorough the rest of the technate, all the land and all the production facilities, are open to your right of usership. You have the right to use electric machinery, and have such installed at your house and apartment. You have the right to the semi-exclusive usership of such machinery during the time when you are using it. If you for example wants to use a private vehicle to travel from one urbanate to another, you plug in your energy certifikate. A screen will appear where you will get the option of how long time you want to use the vehicle, from maybe a few hours to some months or even for the duration of the consumption cycle.
Thus, the technate is characterised by an absolute personal ownership to a share of the resources, while the resources themselves by the definition are usership allotments. You cannot own a particular factory or a particular mean of production, but you have the right to use your energy quota to allocate their usage upon you.
Hence, Jay will only be able to have one car
One drawback of this system, or one of its benefits, depending of course on where your interests and values lie, is that you cannot accumulate. Since you only have one body, one identity and one certifikate, you could not for example get a garage for your personal, exclusive ownership, and then assemble 600 cars of a particular brand.
Where the main benefit lie, is that since the Energy Quotas are a share of the production capacity during a given time, and that people could only "consume" what they are actually using, we won't get any queues, since we won't get any hoarding.
The characteristics of a sustainable society
Our current socioeconomic system has a certain property that the whole system depends on; economic growth. Economic growth makes the system unsustainable. The reason for that lies with the finite nature of our World and its resources.
When we start to run out of the very things we need we start to come to a halt. No more growth if we have no more room to grow in. No more growth means no more economic growth and the end to our current socioeconomic system. Thus, our current way of doing things; our current socioeconomic system does not have the sustainability property. We cannot keep going as we have done so in the past.
So, if we cannot sustain our current socioeconomic system then what type of socioeconomic system can we sustain? How will that allows us to meet our needs and allow us to reach our potential?
- From the forgoing we can see that a stable population would form one of the first characteristics of a sustainable society would have. We would need to keep the population at about the same level. No more exponential growth. That would mean that we would not have a economic system that needs growth to maintain itself.
- Another characteristic we could sum up as reducing our demands on the Earth. The less we need the less we need to produce and the less we take from the Earth. We can reduce our demand through reducing waste and increasing efficiency, thus getting more with less. Though building products that last and through matching our supply to our demands. No more producing things for profit, wasting resources as we go.
- Reuse forms another characteristic of a sustainable society. If we take what we have and use it again or use it for another purpose we save the need of having to produce another item. In doing so we can help cut back on our production and pollution.
- A sustainable society would also recycle as much as it can. This comes after reducing and reusing as it takes a bit more energy to recycle. Through putting back into the system things that people no longer have a use for we save the need of having to extract the resource from the Earth thus helping to reduce what we produce and the associated pollution.