This continues the Organomic Thesis. If you’re new, you may prefer to start with the
Year Zero: Progressive Economic Primer I – II
The Organomic Manifesto III – V
The Tenets of Organomics VI – X
4 Books to Change the Future of Economics
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Resistance will fall away, in the light of what we’re unearthing. What seems out of reach today, tomorrow will be common sense. Such has been the course of history, of many an inevitable revolution. Pulling aside the curtain on the game, our plan is not concerned with egos and left/right polarities, instead only focusing in on the real costs, ecological crises and the limits of our real resources, as we build out a system for measuring the totality of value. Dealing here with a $50T/year sum, we step right past the billionaires to get to the real money, vilifying only the closed-minded. This proposal is larger than any one of us, any party, wing, or this single document, larger than a simple list of Tenets. It will evolve from here, as a living science must, but this is our original contribution, a handful of straight-forward statements and policy proposals.
These are the first Tenets of General Organomics:
- Only sustainable systems survive.
- Infrastructure is inherited.
If 7 words could change the world, if common sense could be phrased so simply, we might end poverty and ready humankind for the century ahead, and these are the first words we would choose. Each of these axioms is, in the final analysis, to be taken as self-evident, but we arrive with more than just a pocketful of proofs.
We are hardly the first to name the insanities of 20th century economics – warfare and environmental destruction, surplus and excess. We are not the first to advocate for those who fall through the cracks, only to phrase and support it all just so. We come with more than mere reason, organizing decades of evidence.
Yet if proofs were factories, maybe society would’ve been paying UBI to Homemakers – a living wage for living work – at least since 1995. Believe it or not, by that time empirical studies around the world and at the UN had well shown that
- Homemakers are not unemployed, representing a productive sector of economics comparable to total GDP. In Sections VII and IX of this Thesis we examine the statistics, revealing such unaccounted or satellite value in the Invisible Economy as would run a large country.
Proofs are not factories, however. Despite the growing chorus regarding progressive ideas like Modern Monetary Theory (Stephanie Kelton, an economic PhD and major proponent of MMT, was a trusted adviser to Bernie Sanders during his 2016 US presidential campaign), Resource Based Economy (Jacque Fresco and the Venus Project have been promoting theories of sustainability and resource inheritance for over 30 years), Universal Basic Income (Andrew Yang famously ran for US President on this platform in 2020) and others, still we careen off course.
Organomics presents study after study, sourcing data from Oxford, the UN and the US government among others, but we will not pretend that this usurps understanding. We won’t pretend that science is more influential than money in politics. If it was, if it did, if economics were so simple as sums in a row, we might’ve reached a sustainable conclusion in the 1980s, avoiding these tipping points and traps – resource depletion, record setting storms, mass extinction and large-scale environmental collapse. They have been pounding at our door, and it is past time we take a serious look at why we even still act as if we don’t hear them coming.
- Large populations of well-educated, ready-to-work people are incalculably valuable. Society must nurture the potential of the Ready Unemployed – as with the building of roads or filtering of water – viewing education, health, livelihood and economic security as investments in vital infrastructure. These are not debts in an intelligent, successful society.
- Process Improvement – the evolution of technology – accounts for more value than all labor and capital combined at any time, resulting in widespread surplus. We can measure the additive value of technology via the concept of Real Labor Intensity, that is Newtonian work per labor-hour, its reduction over time, and in our surplus across the economy. In Section IX of this Thesis we present our argument for the scope of wealth-as-evolution, based on an aggregate of studies and evidence.
As a cumulative science Organomics picks up where MMT, RBE & UBI leave off, bringing in object-oriented programming techniques and gaining insight from a quiver of other sciences. Modern Monetary Theory debunks federal deficits, revealing how they actually represent public surplus. There is only one place for federal spending to go, in this sense, and that is to the public sphere.
It says we can spend until we reach the limits of our real resources or inflation. Resource Based Economy claims these resources by right as the inheritance of the masses. This Thesis will show exactly how and where, as technology gives us access to the product of our world like never before. We do the math, but we also acknowledge when equations are not the proper language. As Organists it is our responsibility to transcend mere academics. We must thrive.
- Money does not equal wealth. Real Value is a much larger, multidimensional category. Cash is not the sole cornerstone of economic function, just a relative medium of trade and stored value.
- Processes, ideas, products and labor which we produce, consume, own, gift, trade, share, preserve or steal comprise the original Organomic Spectrum of Real Value.
Taking a broad sweep outside the models of trade, we recognize categories of value that are sometimes not interchangeable, and a variety of modifiers thereof, which are not always exclusive. This is the analog domain of Real Value, where we begin to render the categories of real-world wealth.
- Algorithmic Function is the primary language of economy. The systems science approach to economic and social questions may be communicated via diagrams of interconnected flows. Representing inputs, internal mechanics, rules, choices and outputs, they may grant a view of the subsystems as functional Organs within the larger body of our society and economy. This approach emphasizes functional separation, insulating infrastructure from tangential failures like inflation, and allows for the simultaneous function of disparate and essential systems without any need to quantify.
- Any system, no matter how complex, may be finite and knowable in the algorithmic sense. By approaching the science in terms of components and flow, we are able to identify even the immeasurable aspects of wealth, or unknown mechanics, then work to find their places in the flow. Should we decide to add Gross Domestic Happiness to the diagram, or otherwise modify our theories as they evolve, it will be relatively easy to do so because of this object-oriented approach.
- What is not essential, hinders. This is not a genocidal commitment to efficiency, to be absolutely clear. It’s the experiential understanding that energy wasted is value lost. Here we commit to Occam’s Razor as a guide in both theory and practice.
These 10 original Tenets comprise the General Theory of Organomics, unique within the realm of economic and social science. Next, the Special Theory focuses on our specific systems and active solutions. Deliberate in the language of the economic revolutionary, Special Organomics comes to the table with direct answers to modern questions. Following General Organomics does not require the acceptance of the special theory, which brings a more difficult learning curve. The special theory builds out directly from the general however, rejecting false compromise and delay, accepting nothing less than a peaceful and immediate transition to a sustainable world economy.
There is a storm bearing down. Our lives and heritage depend on what we do next. The list becomes increasingly radical as we continue.
We now present the Tenets of Special Organomics:
- Activating the potential Real Value revealed in the 3 Invisible Mammoths – General Tenets 3,4 & 5 – Homemaking and the Invisible Economy, Process Improvements, Gross Potential Labor and the Ready Unemployed – we stand and face the challenges of the 21st century as the richest generation in history, claiming our inheritance without mincing words. $50T is our conservative estimate for US aGDP.
- Our Modern Employment Theory prizes high unemployment, paired with UBI and a Jobs Guarantee, in response to the rise of automation, and the challenges of climate change and degrowth. We go against old macroeconomic theories wherever they conflict with science, facing the unsustainable resource costs of last century’s methods of mass production, squarely. The Ready Unemployed are a resource – and more than that – the healthier, wealthier, more educated and higher their living standard, stability and numbers, the better.
- We seek nothing less radical than the abolition of federal taxation. Recognizing that taxes do not fund federal spending (in monetarily sovereign nations), implementing a suite of methods for the control of inequality, inflation and currency circulation, Special Organomics renders taxes largely obsolete. Our infrastructure having become dependent on this archaic extortion, we recognize a step-by-step approach to its safe dissolution.
Borrowing tools from established disciplines does not leave us beholden to their limits. Where MMT and others look to refine capitalist ideas to run society, we throw off the yoke of these falsehoods entirely. Capital must also serve society, not only the other way around. There are practical ways to control for inflation and employment, as well as value our currency, without perpetuating the 5000-year shell game of taxation. As MMT informs with clarity, taxes do not fund government spending in monetarily sovereign nations. Rather, they are a tool of coercion and control – in good weather a control against inflation, in bad a cause to cut infrastructure in the name of budgetary theory that does not hold water today, and at worst a cesspool of corruption. Government debt is, by definition, a public surplus. As the issuer of our own currency, we are only ever limited by ecology, labor or other practical boundaries, and never by a lack of money itself. Special Organomics refuses to perpetuate the ancient cons of kings and bankers, proposing other means of expiring money from circulation when it is necessary.
We remove the profit motive associated with federal taxation (and its loopholes), purging large pools of dangerous political influence. This vampirism of the corporate state upon its own tit, this corrosive undercurrent of governments throughout history, is a subject for much further study, but here, unadorned, stands the principle and promise of the abolition of taxation for its own sake – Special Organomics no less than a Robin Hood with arrows in flight.
- Inflation is a market phenomenon and must be isolated from infrastructure – kept “on the table.” This can be done via financial circuit breakers, Minimum and Maximum Wages, Housing Guarantees, a Jobs Guarantee and other measures. Inflation can’t be allowed to direct social policy, which must raise our aims higher than just steady pricing. The old economic boogeyman of inflation has run its course and may be isolated, prevented from broadly threatening social and economic stability.
- Self-perpetuating systems arise spontaneously from the feedback loops of capitalism, finding viral expression in the profit motive itself. Special Organomics is concerned with unraveling parasitic, unbalanced profit motives from the workings of infrastructure, and everything outside of the free market. We claim as the domain of this study the broader nature of these self-perpetuating systems.
From here, our Tenets become increasingly bold, yet independent still, not necessarily dependent upon the successful implementation of the changes – nothing less than paradigm shifts, each – already discussed.
- The Inheritance of Infrastructure does include Housing, Healthcare, Food, Education, Banking, Recycling, Transportation and Defense, in addition to more commonly understood societal goods or services like Water, Sanitation, Broadband and Power. Origination and maintenance costs are differentiated clearly, where standing infrastructure is not to be paid for into perpetuity. Our houses do not therefore rightly belong to the banks, after so much as a single generation or a single paying-for, but to the people. This may require occasional resets, via paid nationalization.
- Organomic Paid Nationalization (OPN) is a process of profit-sharing and direct democratic decision making, without totalitarian control or political appointments like the more ill-conceived nationalization programs of the 20th century. Recognizing those socialist mistakes, OPN shall be defined by delivering infrastructure ownership to the people. The extremes of pay inequality must be leveled via Minimum and Maximum Wages, to create solvent arithmetic, girding the marketplace. The banks may be compensated for assets at full market value when necessary. Some infrastructure, like housing, is best transferred directly to individual ownership via Organomic Paid Nationalization. We’ll revisit this concept in Section X of this Thesis.
Organomic Paid Nationalization acknowledges the inherent contradictions of state control, hybridizing the process into a flexible form akin to corporate takeover, yet less controlling (seeing such consolidation as it’s done currently in only corporate markets – like Disney acquiring Pixar, or Nestle buying up water rights – as often ruining their acquisitions in ways to rival any misguided state effort, short of Stalin). OPN is an individualized process that goes beyond the scope this Thesis, whereby a voting population may become a board of directors, with proper checks and balances given over to both national and corporate constitutions – or their like. Functional Digital Democracy paired with OPN acquisitions clears a distinct new path.
Nationalized infrastructure should not be considered exclusive from private competition, wherever possible, to gain the positives of both approaches. Yet OPN infrastructure will often have inherent advantage, discounted for the people, by the people. For the Organist, a thriving society is paramount.
- Any market that fails ecologically, like anything else that does so, dies. Limited to “the table” as described, it may then be freed to a great extent of the red tape that today attempts to guide by the invisible hand. Following degrowth principles, sustainability must be achieved, with a renewed emphasis on quality of production and widespread reductions in waste and consumption. Via UBI, a Housing Guarantee, Jobs Guarantee and other measures, the goals of the market must include solvent arithmetic, where income and costs of living coexist rationally.
The complex and redundant laws of taxation ultimately confuse the nature of economic policy, returning funds to the power that issues them, with the rider of corruption. We do not need them for our left-branch MMT framework. Circumvented, unrestrained by ethics, old tax and subsidy structures have turned political lobbying into a massive industry. Here our tomes of tax law simply fall away without undue consequence, as a mathematical set of bricks we no longer need to fortify collective economic action. Perhaps we will use them to warm the homeless.
Combining tools like Maximum Wages and Net Worth, the extremes of the profit motive may be leveled out. Those powers of reward can be refocused away from corruption at last, toward innovation and proper solutions to actual problems, for which they are an exceptional motivator. Maximum Wages are every bit as fundamental to a solvent economy as minimums, and the future will think us fools for missing these clues for so long.
The Organist will often avoid economic math beyond basic algebra as meaningless or worse, without a science first capable of defining a dollar itself. The exploration of denser math is yet encouraged, believe it or not, along with research of nearly every other kind, with this understanding. Much of Keynesian and Austrian theory is ultimately incorporated as-is by Organomics – simply kept on the table, understood as foundational studies of money and its flows, one of multiple subsystems of the Organomic Body. As a doctor may study the flow of blood, it is understood that the ready goal of each organ is not simply and always to obtain the most blood.
Within the full Spectrum of Real Value, aGDP may represent as little as 1/12 of what is truly going on – the measures and rates of change regarding our resources, access to them and living standards each given weight – what is owned, produced, consumed, traded, gifted, shared, preserved or stolen – cross-referencing ratios of sustainability, rates of consumption, and degrees of function. A fuller Organomic picture may compare favorably to a clock, or a body.
Even by more conservative measures, like the one we are embarking on beginning in the next section, GDP as we know it accounts realistically for no more than 1/2 of all production. The other half of worldly wealth – tens of trillions of dollars each year that we are just sitting on – is here excavated, the 3 Invisible Mammoths.
Complex financial instruments and endless acquisitions are challenged by Organomic thought to produce functional results. In the language of algorithmic function, a sum by itself is meaningless. As we transition from a language of pretentious mathematical equations, toward one of functional algorithm, there are numerous ways to answer the liquidity problems (like inflation) presented by common hoarding of financial assets.
Reducing tariffs and opening borders, even conservatively so, produces deflationary pressure. Flattening income distribution and expanding public profit-sharing with OPN infrastructure, removing so many houses, education and more from the banking and loans sector, will make large strides to eliminate debt-based economics itself. All of this isolates market risk from livelihoods, ensuring social stability.
Cash that must be removed from circulation need not be taxed, but rather simply expired – which may be made possible now like never before with digital currencies and blockchain. Minimum Wage, Maximum Wage, Net Worth and a Jobs Guarantee each might serve yet another role here: of relieving inflationary pressure. The Crown no longer needs their pound of flesh.
Instead, the problem we are faced with is a system in need of a sustainable flow of currency to facilitate the proper amount of production, to do everything we must, and an understanding of the real costs involved.
Organomics recognizes this, expanding the MMT viewpoint to clarify: just as a monetarily sovereign government may produce currency with a keystroke on a computer, money removed for the sake of balancing the overall system need not “go” anywhere. By simply retiring our excess currency with these limits, Occam threatens to pink-slip the IRS and quite a few busy lobbyists, sending them home to reevaluate their Earthly purpose, with UBI, a Housing Guarantee and full recompense for relevant assets.
- We aim to refine and contain the role of government. Combining economic security with a restrained profit motive, Maximum Wages and Net Worth applying to Congress as to anyone else, the driving purposes of government and market alike must become function if we are to survive, and quality if we are to thrive. Corruption is yet another self-perpetuating feedback loop, draining from the system like rust on an engine, which we aim to root out in every instance via utter transparency.
- We declare the end of war, worldwide, as a realistic collective goal, bringing functional math to bear on the tremendous costs, in lives and Real Value lost to this archaic, tragic abomination. As an economic motor, the production of destruction is a viral mathematical error, a flipped modifier which we are ready now to correct, without caveat.
- We advocate the development of Digital Democracy and a Living Federation of Nations, as the fruition of historically unreachable ideals, augmented by technology which will allow privacy, accuracy and accessibility. Using the internationally successful banking systems as templates for a new technology of secure online voting, encrypted by blockchain or other technology, we will empower unprecedented voter turnouts, with quick international recounts and verifiability, including error-correction like never before. With such a system in place, we move to position the Democratic Populous directly alongside any House, Parliament or nation, active in the decision-making of the world, with institutional checks against abuse of power.
We are the largest, richest population in history. Giants must be willing to take full-grown steps. Each of these Tenets is a realm of study in itself, not to be mistaken for full descriptions. Special Organomics is unabashedly far-reaching. Some of the terms referenced here – MMT, RBE, UBI – are established fields already, and we encourage the eager student to venture into those well-lit rabbit holes with eyes wide open.
The foundations of Organomics are deep.
Still others – like Organomic Paid Nationalization and a Living Federation of Nations – find their first direct expression here and will become explorable only in due time. First, there is groundwork still to lay.
We’ll stop the list now, though this is not the end, as a good bookmark to return to those world-changing ideas. For the moment, let us bring it back a bit closer to home, to a topic far fewer will contend.
Let’s talk about our mothers, revisiting the origin of economy from another perspective. The Organomic model insists that we seek a full account. The real labor of the homemaking sector rivals GDP. So long as it is ignored in our accounts we will at best have a half science – like an account statement that covers checking but not investments.
Men can be homemakers, of course, but ignoring the gendered bias in economic history would be a far greater injustice than overstating it. Any astute economic theory must include our mothers’ contributions in full. All pretense aside, it’s about time she takes her due.
First, we need to get a handle on the stakes. How much money is on the line here? How we measure value has a high degree of subjectivity, but while experts lack full agreement on dollar figures for this nonmarket group, many have already made the attempt. Let’s look at the evidence:
As our baseline – our first clear but present measure of money we’re collectively just sitting on – the US Bureau of Economic Analysis endorses an estimate of the Homemaking Economy (as a Satellite Account not included in GDP) at $3.8T, or 26% the size of GDP (Accounting for Household Production in the National Accounts, 1965 – 2010). Ignoring $3.8T nationally in 2010 was basically equivalent to only taking 80% of our net pay, even though we worked the whole month, all year – nationwide.
At that we’re just getting started.
How much is an hour of homemaking worth? That BEA report uses a basic laborer’s pay for all work discussed. However, they also conclude that the hours dedicated to homemaking tasks are constant across income levels. This means that for janitors, nurses, psychiatrists or CEOs, making a home requires about the same amount of labor.
A median wage is then, at least, worthy of parallel analysis with a low and high. So we’ll compare the median from 2010, $24/hr (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 2010, by the US Census Bureau), to a base labor wage of $10/hr. This will more than double the final estimate (240%), to 62% of unadjusted GDP. This assumes that some people are making homes with the talent of a young construction worker or entry level clerk, and others with the dedication and skill of a doctor, executive or team lead. This spread is reasonable for a then $9.3T sector of the nonmarket economy (2010). There is no reason for looking only at the base wage, to the exclusion of all others. There is no reason that a professional chef, when she operates at home, would perform at a level akin to a base living wage, or that a college counsellor would not provide professional level career advice to her own children – or parents.
This 62% of GDP holds up well within the zone of expectation – in size and methodology – to other documented efforts. The Swiss government estimated the value of unpaid work at 70% of GDP way back in 2004.
A 2011 Australian study by the think tank PwC, titled “Understanding the Unpaid Economy,” counted childcare alone as the largest national industry – 3 times as large as the financial and insurance sector. Their results indicated a market value for unpaid household work of anywhere from 33% (replacement value – often minimum wage) to 59% (opportunity cost – paying professionals a professional wage) of the total Australian GDP.
The 1995 United Nations Human Development Report came through with a figure of $16T for the worldwide state of “Invisible Output.” With an official global output in the same timeframe of $23T, we have an international figure from this UN report equal to 70%, though the exact portion of this due to homemaking is unclear.
Salary.com goes bolder still, estimating a fair salary for a full-time, live-in mother at $178,201 in 2019.
At this high-end full time average of $91/hr (2.7x the median of $33/hr – which is 2.7x a base labor wage for 2019), Salary.com reports using something closer to an opportunity-cost method, choosing an amalgamation of marketable skills from accountant to groundskeeper, cook and tailor. If we average 18 hours/week at the task across the whole population (as suggested by the American Time Use Survey), given 255M adults in the US in 2019, $21.7T in value was actually produced by the Household Sector in 2019 (101% the size of total GDP).
So we have a realistic range of value here, worth anywhere from 59% – 70% of unadjusted GDP, with a low boundary at 26% and a high at 101%. While $91/hr may assure overestimate, $10/hr is certain to be well under.
To test the realism of the BEA’s base labor estimates, we suggest you go ahead and hire someone to do everything your mom did for you for 18 (or 30) years, for $10/hr. We’ll wait, you test the market for that answer. It is sad that this is the closest our government has yet come to any recognition of her economic contributions at all.
But while we wait for you to conduct those interviews, let’s contemplate the meaning here, and why exactly we’re so much more ready to accept the lowball historically when it comes to our mothers.
It is production to maintain a home. What would the real estate market be without homemakers, or live-in handywomen? It is production to raise a child. Are education, medicine and the sustenance of our people societal debts? Or are they values? The answers to these questions are not philosophically inert, but reasonably, measurably as large as 3/4 of total GDP. That is to say we are leaving trillions of real dollars on the table, even by conservative estimates, ignoring from a position of historical patriarchy a major economic sector – because if dad won’t pay, who should?
For the Organist the answer to these questions is simple, no matter how you measure it, even at $10/hr: Homemakers are not unemployed.
It’s quite the story though really, how we got here.
In Section III of this Thesis we talked about the 7,000-year history of currency, but the first adoption of coin should not be mistaken for the beginning of all value. Our study is going to begin a mote earlier.
Two million years of cultural evolution predates the first agrarian societies, 1.7M of those years came even still before homo sapiens, and in this time we developed language, fire, technology itself – weaponry, boats, musical instruments, visual art and the first cookware – religion, monuments, family values and more. These are all examples of the accumulation of wealth long before money, as traditions became technology over hundreds of thousands of years, equipping all future generations to address the problems of life with more tools – more inherited value – than those who came before.
Then, about 12,800 years ago, the comet Clovis struck the Earth, with an explosion that scattered diamonds across the North American continent (scientists believe there’s a very good chance that’s what happened, anyway). The world’s climate changed abruptly, mammoths went extinct, and we started farming, tilling soil and shaping the land. Sparking greater accumulations, our proto-economy sped up like wildfire. In the blink of an evolutionary eye, organized domestication and larger permanent constructions emerged, defining homes, villages and then cities, as families settled in place.
Imagine the phase transition from water to ice, as the molecules suddenly slow down and crystalize, forming solid bonds across what was moments before a moving liquid. This visualization serves as a strong analogy for the patterns of cultural gain as they may have transformed at the time, becoming more predictable, solidifying with the home – and homemakers – at the center of each unit.
The first trade of metals for goods occurred around 7000 years ago, but innovations like writing, the wheel, empire and banking all predate actual coins by thousands of years; minted coin first arrived about 600 BC. Electrum coins emblazoned with the image of a lion were a part of Lydian, Turkish culture, setting a precedent for how we count wealth to this day. In the 1990s we began to transition to digital currency, but coins remain the model even so, and around the world this is still how we trade nearly every single thing. Literally a billion transactions per day were recorded in 2018.
What is the value of two million years of innovation – or even just a few hundred thousand, depending on your measure – and how does it relate to the concept of inherited wealth in 2021? We’ll return to this under the banner of Process Improvement in Section IX.
To our purpose now, we’ll ask: What portion of this economic development is dependent on or emergent from the acts of homemaking?
Imagine that water-to-ice phase transition again, and understand that the crystal at the heart of every condensation of knowledge, technology and livelihood, is and always has been the family unit – the primary brick, the foundation of all long-term accumulations of wealth in human society. When assets are inherited, they remain with family or tribe, and it has been this way for millennia, across many cultures.
So when the first trades were taking place, coins were given exclusively for goods that originated outside the home or tribe – not because homes are worth less, but because they are the essential building block of all accumulation.
The only place to trade was outside the home. As millennia passed, the consolidating force of profit took root deeper in society, eventually permeating nearly everything, with its fingers in every inheritance of wealth. Businesses grew from humble beginnings, to become large repositories for the accumulation of money (though asset inheritance remains most often within familial lines). Without being subjugated like our homemakers, business itself demonstrates that people working together for mutual benefit may still warrant economic recognition. Without this, they are either slaves, or moms.
In the mortgage-debt world, where livelihood is now unremittingly defined by bankers’ notes, when all citizens are expected to pay their way, it becomes absolutely necessary for economics to account for homemakers by the same measures as any other production. Without this, homemaking – the central pillar of all economy, raising children and keeping homes – itself has become a luxury, often rushed, externalized or nonexistent.
In the next section we’ll discuss a deeper arithmetic of GDP, to illuminate just how real the hole we’re speaking of here is. In Section IX we’ll compile a gross state of the invisible and satellite economy. This is a great blindness of our age, as large as $5T – $20T per year in the US alone, in 2021.
All of this labor, historically, has been given away. Our family units are partnership economies in microcosm. Homes are the original cells of the Organomic body.
We’re not here to disparage dad’s role in all of this, to deny for even a second that men have played the part of caregivers throughout history, or to suggest that only binary households have been the unexceptional norm. This Invisible Mammoth of Organomics is empowered by contributions from men, homosexuals, asexuals and household relationships of all types, and is in fact not concerned with gender or sexual partnerships at all in modern terms.
Still the monumental role of women in the genesis of the world cannot be understated as a genuine phenomena unlike all others, economically bearing forth something akin to half of all innovation, production, accumulation and preservation of technology, process development and wealth itself throughout history, generally and identifiably in a spirit of partnership, non-competition and family. This economics of partnership, which served us for hundreds of thousands of years, served the dominant patriarchies that erupted after the invention of coin and government, and was subjugated definitively during the postindustrial bloom.
As automation begins to lighten this load, our numbers explode, and the real productive value of our in-home economies is only increasing, at least in step proportionally with time.
Our inability to properly account for them did nothing to dissolve their foundational relevance to everything that has come since – that some 50% of every house and coin is in fact owed, and long overdue, not to the banks, but to our mothers.
Let’s talk through the math. In the conclusion to Section VII we took a fast 50% – women being about half of the world population (51%). Among the lessons in a scientifically grounded study of human affairs – like that of gendered economic history here only touched upon – is that our results will often vary with our methods, and the context of our search. For an algorithmic analysis, knowing a number’s purpose is essential without exception.
In subjective measures a reasonable approximation may be even more useful than an intricately calculated output, wasting fewer resources in the mining, and every bit as close to accurate. Multiple approximations may be more useful yet.
A sum, by itself, is meaningless. While not all sums in Austrian or Keynesian economics lack context to this dire extent, it is precisely the ubiquity and exaltation of dollar-value numbers which has fed the profit-bearing vine into every aspect of society, worldwide, on a blind lie of the total dominance of trade. Leaving us paralyzed, it constricts with greed and inertia, precisely when we need the most agility from our massive economy, facing the ecological cliff and rising storms of consumption.
How much is Homemaking worth? Is it 50%, 26% or 101% the size of GDP? Is it rightly an average – mean or median – of all acceptable methods? An unbiased observer must admit that these answers all have merit, if not equally so. 26% may be the reasonable answer in terms of today’s dollars, if our goal is to support homemakers via UBI without delay, while minimizing inflation, in a market that is bound still like an addict to the scarcity models of the previous century.
For those more intent on getting mom her due, and less concerned with perfect price balances at the market, 70% could be a consistent benchmark.
Estimating the invisible sector at an even size with GDP is going to appear more reasonable than initially thought – putting our domestic and trade economies in line with the 50% gendered split – as we bear down on next steps without the rose-tinted lenses of imperialism, manifest destiny and profit clouding our view of what is “product” and what is “cost.” As we broaden our view to illuminate the 2 remaining Mammoths, even the differences between these percentages may start to appear trivial, given the size of what we are unearthing. This is a mass of product doubling or tripling the entire size of GDP.
As informed by Modern Monetary Theory, fiat currency like ours, or any distributed by a sovereign nation, is created at will every day by nothing more than keystrokes in a computer. We could literally double our money supply overnight, if we could figure out where it was all supposed to go, and somehow control for market spasms and inflation.
If the resultant consumerist binge doesn’t thrust us over the cliffs of mass extinction or market collapse, it’s shocking just what we could accomplish with enough money. Ignoring inflation for a moment, the question of what we could buy becomes one of ecological limits, total labor, product and resources – of which we have access to so much currently that the position of most economists is that any attempt at their full measure is generally irrelevant. Through the lens of MMT we see that the money supply is entirely within our control, and Organomics informs us about the real scale of our productive surplus. Combining these insights it becomes suddenly clear: We are shackling ourselves unnecessarily.
Are we to measure the sun itself? How much raw manpower is represented by a population of 5.2B working-age souls (worldwide, 2020)?
As it turns out, we live in strange times. Not only can we measure the sun, but we’ve already done it. The Earth receives 240W per square meter (NASA Earth Observatory, Climate and Earth’s Energy Budget, 2009). What we lack is context for what that number means in terms of realistic potential productive value. Enter Organomics.
Even progressive economists will shy away from considering this, convinced with the mainstream that we are always at or near the limits of economic activity, inflation being frighteningly apocalyptic. A boost of 20% could shatter us like 1929 or 2008 or worse, let alone the 70% – 300% increase being bandied around here like magic dust. The discipline on all sides is consumed daily by debate over a mere 2% of GDP ($418B in 2020) – the target growth rate for inflation. Special Organomics pulls back the veil on this false conflict, illuminating that spending power over 200% of our national budget is by all appearances a very conservative undershot of where we truly stand.
We reveal exactly how the classical model is flawed – crippled at the roots – so long as we continue to leave our inheritance unclaimed, and how for the sake of misunderstood, idolized numbers, we allow our very land to grow fallow.
It is not magic dust at all, but more like a comet that exploded 12,800 years ago, showering the world in diamonds. Science, history and multiplication are all a little bit stranger than we may sometimes imagine – in our bubbles of retail, finance, hunger and rent – but they will carry us into the future nonetheless, like the Nile to the sea.
Next, we’ll take a few pages to estimate the sum of adjusted GDP (aGDP). This analysis should not be taken as an endorsement of GDP methodology in anything but a narrow sense. Neither is it a complete accounting by Organomic terms. That would be much longer than this introductory space will allow. Not only more sectors, but in fact more modifiers, must be positioned to model the economy in anything nearing useful resolution, and the result will never be reducible to a single number. For the moment, however, it serves our point to flesh out the immediate and broad impact of some Organomic ideas within a more standard framework.
Money loaned = production. This is the normal equation that creates businesses and puts new money into the economy, when central banks make business loans. Repaid with interest it explains the growth of civilization, or so the story goes. Ensuring the perpetuation of the machinery of debt through interest rates, we can never stop growing, swimming against a current of our own creation, because the amount owed in aggregate is always larger than the amount in circulation.
Production = income in GDP theory, introduced in more or less modern form by Simon Kuznets no earlier than 1937. Then income = expense, and the spiral is closed.
By common definition, in this loop, when national cashflow (money printed and in circulation) is greater than national production, inflation follows. More money chasing the same or fewer goods causes prices to rise. The forces of supply and demand thus trend toward balance.
There are troubles inherent in these equations. They form an at best unfinished picture of production, consumption, cashflow and resources, of their complex web of social and mechanical interrelations. As a scientist of ecology and the humanities first, the Organist is not motivated by profit or nationalism but by evidence, and so has no predisposition to a false, minimalist view of these networks.
We would rather admit ignorance than pretend to a system that does not work, a privilege not afforded to traditional economists, who ultimately must act as if they understand, as if their system is an expression of pure natural law, or risk catastrophic losses of public confidence. But the gulf between economists and reality is wide enough to lose nations. Real forests and mountaintops routinely disappear into these cracks.
The most common factor in all hyperinflationary crises, without equal, is war and political upheaval. (Wikipedia’s Hyperinflation entry presents the evidence in detail, citing over 25 hyper- or high-inflation events around the world and their timings, often cross-referenced with official dates of armed conflict). In war, the evidence shows that inflation tends to afflict the losers and not the winners, or via revolution: the coup and not the peaceful democratic election. Let’s be clear: all sides of a conflict will be spending, often at huge deficits, to maintain the machinery of war, yet dangerous inflation typically afflicts only the losers.
The correlation is then between bombs going off, social unrest, abrupt changes in institutional structures, and wild inflationary movements – in short, between a lapse in social cohesion, trust and infrastructure, and a drop in market stability.
In large, stable societies like the US, by contrast, stimulus or quantitative easing of trillions of dollars in new money is often absorbed with little more than a flicker on the inflationary gauge.
Inflation is a social phenomenon, more directly related to market confidence than any other indicator. We claim as the future domain of this study, more nuance in these mechanics, like the feedback of inflationary inertia, price gouging and politically motivated market manipulation. For this Thesis we present the postulate in general: When the sense of security drops, prices rise.
If there is yet a balance between cashflow and inflation, a push and pull where production determines the fulcrum – the point of equilibrium at which we should print no more cash because there are too few goods or too much demand – all market-relevant production must be accounted for.
Omitting real factors of production could put our currency far out of balance, artificially restricted, resulting in a high-stress, insolvent economy in which many will struggle (like the US economy of 2022).
Homemakers, thieves and volunteers all affect the productive output of a nation, their services intermingling, uncounted yet fluid into and out of the moneyed economy, both influencing and being influenced by inflation. At the least, every gift may leave a trade undone.
Worse still, current GDP as practiced in these equations conflates production and destruction as if they were one. They are not.
An invention of the Greatest Generation, gaining international acceptance as it drove the large wartime economies of WWII, GDP theory favors widespread calamity, loss of life and environmental devastation as economic positives, treating foreign aid and desolation with the same brush. It may seem disingenuous to treat invasions as exports, but this is essentially the course taken by GDP theory, and mainstream economists for nearly a full century.
We dispense with this insanity outright. Outside of any manufacturing boom, wars do consist of resource export, and of the abject destruction of foreign assets. Without economic recompense, however, these exports are a gross loss of value. Even noble wars must count their costs.
What is the cost of war? As we open the file on this question, the economic and social impacts flower outward like a plume of smoke, exponential, reaching into every aspect of the nations engaged. Bombs exploded, destruction of infrastructure, declines in the working population, psychological costs, opportunity costs, social instability, inflation, reconstruction and more tie themselves to the neck of every nation on the receiving end of nearly every armed conflict in the modern world. Mercy is due any economist tackling a serious estimate of the cost. We sooner measure the sun itself.
Governments are deliberately opaque on the matter, classifying real expenses, miscounting casualties, and ignoring long-term consequences as a matter of course. However, an approximation of the real and complete destructive costs of war is essential to our thesis. So we’ll start by comparing multiple efforts.
The Indian think tank Strategic Foresight Group compiled reports on the costs of conflicts throughout the world, from 2004 – 2009. They counted the opportunity costs of wars in the Middle East at 7% – 10% of the respective nations’ GDPs. Oxfam International, studying genocides in Africa between 1990 and 2005, found they cost in real terms as much as 32% – 37% of the afflicted countries’ total GDP.
However damaging this pattern may be for those countries, here we are focused on 1st world wealth, as the engine which may represent our collective future. While the US State Department has released figures for the War on Terror of about $2T, the Washington DC think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies found that as of 2019 they would more realistically be measured as high as $5.9T. A study by Brown University, that same year, came to $6.4T for the campaign. This includes debt service, veteran expenses and other categories not typically considered in defense budget reports. Over 19 years this comes out to about 2% of the average US GDP. But is it accurate?
On a broader look, the US officially put out 3.7% of GDP for defense spending (2020). This covers much more than only the War on Terror however, and even to this progressive analysis is likely not entirely destructive. Yet we find it still leaves trillions uncounted, and not due to an inability to measure.
For instance, the US government invokes an unsurprisingly clinical term, VSL (Value of a Statistical Life), to weigh the costs of a whole spectrum of public policy in terms of the lives lost. As of 2020 this number is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Transportation as between $4M and $10M per life. An odd omission from Pentagon assessments, we apply this figure to the 7,000 American forces, 8,000 contractors, 110,000 allied troops and national police, 355,000 direct civilian deaths and 350,000 indirect noncombatants to have died in result of these wars (Brown University’s Costs of War Report). 110,000 opposition fighters, and 1,000 journalists or humanitarians round out the rough figure of the human costs of this period at 946,000 lives lost. At the higher average of $10M apiece (Oxford, The Value of a Statistical Life, 2019), this represents the outright destruction of $9.5T in VSL.
1.7M disabled American vets, and 37M displaced Middle Easterners complicate things only a little further. The UN has a ready number for how much a displaced person costs, at $310/year (we’re not sure what hotel they’re being put up in, but this is in fact the official number today). $14,400/year is the average cost of an American disabled vet. Thus, $35.5B/year is added. Without anything beyond arithmetic then we have an estimate of the human cost in the War on Terror, over a 19-year campaign, of $10.2T (give or take a few billion, depending on the precision of your methods of course).
Without mentioning a single physical asset, we’ve measured quintuple the total expense reported by the US State Dept. While there is room for cold debate about the numbers, failing to incorporate lives lost in the math of our costs of war is nothing if not a gross and deliberate blindness.
Adding this human cost to the low-end estimate of asset costs reported by the Pentagon (where we are certain they were not already counted, even for purpose of comparison), we have a skyrocketing $12T cost – or, divided over 19 years, roughly 4% of average GDP for that same timeframe.
How much is the destruction of inanimate assets (buildings, infrastructure) worth, and who bears the burden of all of this cost?
As a unique sort of export, invasion incurs net cost not only for the producer (the invader), but even more so for the consumer nation (the invaded). Without any invoice to imply these exports were ever desired, one fair analysis may find that the entire cost rightly lay with the producers. Any question of dangers averted or despots disarmed, weapons of mass destruction or potential retaliation bought off, efforts at rebuilding or delivery of humanitarian aid, will do nothing to decry the cost of doing so. In fact it may well be assumed that the benefits of war are already included as normal life and commerce in GDP.
However, real estimates of the cost of the destruction of Middle Eastern physical assets by the US and their allies during this War on Terror are hard to come by – if not entirely suppressed – and so for the scope of this Thesis we will end our summary here, with a realistic range of 2% – 5% of GDP spent on purely destructive ends by the US military over the prior 19 years.
We will end this part of the analysis with an understanding that even on the high end of VSL, and including foreign lives lost, this is very likely a dramatic underestimate of the long-term and total destructive output of these wars, ignoring with due respect not only the physical destruction of structures just now mentioned – the wastage of entire city blocks – but myriad long term reductions in output, loss of resources, and opportunity costs that may be measured crossing all economic sectors, exponential as related to an intentional loss-of-life-and-infrastructure event on the scale of the War on Terror.
Environmental degradation is another result of war, but also of industry and life worldwide. An approximation of this cost must be subtracted from our adjusted GDP, to build our concept of net productive value. Let it be shown now at last, that ignoring real costs is the mark of a fraud accountant, and nothing less.
Only the insane would set their house on fire to cook dinner, yet that is precisely what we allow by not counting these costs in the standard economic model.
Thankfully the shroud of political obfuscation over this question is far less black, and numerous think tanks have come out with official estimates which we can compare in brief. As with the real price of war, this question of environmental costs is staggering in scope when treated with any realism, an entire macro-field of study unto itself. Yet also like war, in this space we are concerned with answers in the trillions, so with respect for the inherent ambiguity, a realistic approximation will suffice to get us into the ballpark, which itself will be sufficient to demonstrate that market economics must be kept on the ecological field if we want to play the game at all.
The World Bank estimates that pollution alone causes 9 million premature deaths per year, worldwide (the WHO cites 7 million, with similar methodology). The World Bank report goes on to state the costs of this pollution amount to 4.8% of world GDP.
Clearly they haven’t tried the VSL approach, and we see here again how significantly our methods will affect our results. With a $10M VSL this makes $70T – $90T annually, lost outright. The human cost of a single dimension of environmental degradation is enough to completely eclipse the combined world GDP ($84.5T, 2020). To be clear, that is to say: if we adjust GDP for net productivity, worldwide, factoring out only the immediate human cost of pollution in VSL based on Oxford numbers and World Bank counts, basic arithmetic shows a negative result of about -$5T net adjusted GDP.
This before we even touch on deforestation or climate change. Perhaps this is why career economists, consumed in complex graphs and heady theorems of price trajectories, are not seriously considering the question.
Setting aside that dark cloud – the looming unknown regarding what this measurement might mean for the degrowth trajectory of a real survivable economy, or the racial bias inherent in any PR effort to dilute it – let’s focus in again on our bastion of 1st world wealth, cutting edge healthcare and visionary new science, the USA. Here in the affluence of North America, far fewer people per capita die as a direct result of pollution than in the world at large.
At the low end comes an EPA-funded study by Carnegie Mellon University, tallying 30,000 such deaths in the United States per year. A 2019 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences attributes 100,000 deaths per year to pollution. A study in the JAMA Open from the same year found a figure of 200,000 premature deaths from pollution-caused illnesses. By the Oxford Value of a Statistical Life, this represents $300B – $2T in lost productivity, depending on methods (1.4% – 9% of 2019 GDP). In line with this, an independent Stanford Earth study found that air pollution costs the US 5% of annual GDP (2019), primarily associated with premature deaths.
Preventable deaths from pollution represent only a single dimension of the environmental degradation resultant from human affairs. The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC, an environmental organization with over 1.2M members), in their “Cost of Climate Change” report (2008) estimated the cost associated with unchecked global warming will reach 3.6% of world GDP annually by 2100, anticipating natural disasters, real estate lost to sea level rise, agricultural damages and costs to the energy sector.
Extreme weather related to climate change has cost the US $240B/year over the last 10 years, marking a trend to transcend political divides, according to a report by the Universal Ecological Fund, a nonprofit think tank in the US (The Economic Case for Climate Action in the US, 2017). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reports on a 20-year average in “Billion Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: An Overview” (2021) a much lower $94B/year.
A 2016 report titled “The Value of Land,” by the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative, found that degraded land (increased erosion and decreased vegetation) was costing the world as much as 17% of global GDP ($6.3T – $10.6T) annually. They are certified by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD, 2018), who estimated this same at a lower but still heavy average of 9% of GDP per country across a sampling of 21 countries (the hardest hit among the countries studied rose to land degradation costs at 40% of annual GDP). More than half of the world’s arable land is degraded, with 74% of land in North America degraded according to a US Department of Agriculture report (Land Degradation, An Overview). This same USDA report then lowballs the cost to the United States at $44B/year.
This exceptional variance between the official and independent numbers leaves us with high-dollar doubts about the accuracy of the USDA estimate.
The combination of land degradation and weather disasters due to anthropogenic climate change is therefore between $138B and $2.12T annually (the high estimate including the 9% average cost for land degradation around the world suggested by the UNCCD report, which may seem fair considering the US position in relevant international trade) or 0.6% – 10% of US GDP (2020).
The tendency of US official estimates to lowball the relevance of environmental costs, lives lost and nonmarket work, inclines the Organist for these approximate purposes to lean on the higher of these contending values – and even to suggest this is a vast underestimate of the potential costs of a shattered ecosystem. Lost productivity from declining health, opportunity costs in every sector, deep system ecological damage, the costs of mass extinction and more are for now ignored with respect, due to insufficient official data.
Thus we have a net productive aGDP (Organomic adjusted GDP), incorporating studies spanning decades and around the world, approximated at 76% – 96% of the unadjusted amount. Breaking this down, in summary we subtract between 2% and 5% for the average annual destructive costs of the ongoing War on Terror, 1.4% to 9% for the VSL loss due to pollution alone, and 0.6% to 10% for the combination of land degradation and extreme weather due to climate change. We find that the US GDP as presented has been classically overestimated by every account, with a margin of this error between $837B and $5T (2020).
At the low end, using US government official statistics, that error is yet larger than the entire defense budget today, in conservatively measured, fraudulently ignored costs. At the high end, that’s almost a clean 1/4 cleaved off of our collective economy. We simply can’t count destruction as production. These are only some of the most obvious and necessary adjustments, but enough to serve our original study.
How have we allowed this blindness for so long? “Asleep at the wheel” barely begins to cover it.
Here at last, the 3 Invisible Mammoths are brought up into the light. The Value of Process Improvements, Home Economics and Ready Labor, together clearly outweigh aGDP but have been entirely ignored by professional economics. Rectifying this, Organomics steadies us for the challenges of the 21st century, not a moment too soon.
We make no claim that this catalogue is exhaustive, only unique and true. Any science of the living must be provided at the outset with room to grow. In this vein, we will be content if what is presented here amounts to no more than fertile soil. Yet fertile it is.
The Value of Process Improvements is generally considered as a feature of ROI (Return On Investment) models, and a few accepted methods are developed for its analysis. These are not framed in the broad sense by which the Organist approaches.
Process improvements thrust forward entire generations and have done so for literally two million years, since homo erectus first used tools. These improvements and their effects on the economy are measurable by more than one method, and the failure to include them in our macro algorithms is enough to render the entire science of economics broken, so to speak, at the root – at the very definition of value.
Where the strict Marxist will assume that all value comes from labor, and the Austrian economist will claim value is a result of subjective agreements between parties to a trade, we Organists are ready to demonstrate that both of these concepts are ignoring the long evolution of process.
From serf labor in the Middle Ages to coal miners in the 1800s, to digital advertising admin assistants in our modern online marketplace, the growth of technology forms the very environment in which all value is generated. From the garden hoe to the railcar to the internet, process improvement drives all industry, defining societies by passing down technique and tradition along generational lines. This is important to understand for multiple reasons. Primary among them is that our tremendous modern worldly wealth, while not unrelated to labor and capital, is the result of so many past generations, their inventions and investments, an epic foundation of Value for which humanity today owes no debt and is, instead, in the enviable position of heir.
To the extent GDP is willing and capable of calculating this value, it has already done so, and nearly all of our current GDP is a reflection of technological progress. So here we focus on finding the process improvements to which current theory is blind.
As society has become privileged with greater specialization, we have built this store of value, with progressively less need for physical labor.
Organomics proposes a new, more useful concept of Labor Intensity, along with the basic mathematical, Newtonian discipline for measuring it. However, for this Thesis we will be content to continue the process of historical deduction and cross-examination, drawing our conclusions from official studies which came before us, using broadly accepted methods.
In our historical paradigm where all resources were originally scarce, all excess, waste and luxury – the entirety of the entertainment and service industries, and so much more – are the result of process improvement. Along with an increase in leisure activities classified as work – professional athletes, financiers, actors and pro videogame players are all indicative of a leisure class – we have also steadily increased the prominence of analysts, engineers and scientists, unaffordable to earlier societies.
Among the most important luxuries, relevant to a balanced market yet ignored by GDP theory, is time. A brief look at labor trends will make this clear, and there is no serious counter-claim in the economic or social sciences. So why does it not have a dollar value? Leisure time is often traded and easily commodified. The Economic History Association, in their report “Hours of Work in US History,” compiles many studies on the subject. Prominent in its findings is that from the years 1830 to 1988 the average US laborer’s workweek declined in length from 69.1 hours to 39.2.
The report goes on to explore how this was achieved via a cocktail of mechanization, legislation, unionization and diversification, all of which we will include under the banner of Process Improvement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 hours fell further to 34.6, just about halving the length of the EHA reported workweek from 1830. In 2020 the US civilian labor force numbered 161M (BLS, 2020). These 161M workers, with an average leisure time at 5.2 hours/day (BLS, American Time Use Survey, 2019), total 305.6B hours of leisure per year. At an average hourly wage of $28.44 (BLS, 2020), that is $8.69T in Value. Counting simple changes in gross hours as indicated above and dividing by 7 days in a week, about 4.9 of these daily leisure hours are due to process improvements in the last 190 years, leaving us with an estimated $8.2T in leisure time value produced, yearly.
This is not to count any leisure products, services or industries already included in GDP, or the time required for homemaking, but only leisure time itself in large but average form, on the market and impacting the push/pulls of wage and labor like any true commodity. If you’re unsure yet whether leisure time belongs in this catalogue of Value – we know it appears radical at first to some – consider selling yours. You’ll quickly find it is exactly the commodity here described, and the only block to this new accounting is social or mental – or a wonder at “where we’ll get the money” to pay for it . . . this resource that we own, our time.
“Wait,” our detractors might say with a smirk, “if time off is a product, we can all just get rich by quitting our jobs tomorrow!”
It’s true that before we are finished, our sustainability and degrowth priorities will have some counterintuitive suggestions here regarding sustainable unemployment, but for the cataloguing of aGDP in this section we offer a more general answer: in this way as well, leisure time turns out to be a market commodity like any other.
For products in a standard GDP, the line between surplus and excess may be a bit blurry, if defined at all. When palm oil is profitable, what is to stop us from destroying entire rainforests for its manufacture? If gasoline sales are positive, why shouldn’t we destroy the very atmosphere for their sake? If jobs are the goal, why shouldn’t we all work our lives away no matter the cost?
Straw man fallacies will be leveled at Organomics time and again, but they will remain simple and extreme, intentional misrepresentations every time.
As we step past quantitative to qualitative analysis, the notion of enough will be more important than ever. Subjective, best defined by ranges of tolerance, any economic model without a concept of enough will be doomed – a parasite likely to overwhelm any host.
Our search for full answers will inevitably lead through this question of surplus vs excess – demand vs damage – and a balance must be found in leisure time management just as there should have been established decades ago in forestry, transportation and employment, but that question of priorities will, for now, do nothing to delay our aGDP accounting.
It does nothing to dissuade us from the evidence that yes, leisure time itself is a commodity, already produced and in active trade, that must be measured if we are ever to grasp the full state of economics.
Moving on, we find that time is not the only product of technology with increasing surplus in each generation.
Automation, as a branch of the technology tree much older than robotics, represents staggering gains across the economy. Agriculture, construction, manufacturing, home economics and even consumption itself have ridden the rising tide of automation since their inception, in a curve which accelerated exponentially during the industrial revolution. Anywhere repetition can be maximized and choice minimized, we find ways to replace human labor with this strange evolutionary appendage: the machine. From basic irrigation to laundry machines to robotic welding, we’ve been crafting machines to do our dirty work for a very long time. Most study of automation focuses on workers’ rights and the goals or problems of labor and capital, failing to address net gains beyond a basic ROI entirely.
As Organists we approach with a different disposition. Concerned with the outright productive potential of automation and its long-term cumulative effects on generational wealth, we have no incentive to downplay any of the following effects.
Automation in agriculture is old news. The National Bureau of Economic Research found in their 1966 report, “Labor Force and Employment 1800 – 1960,” that after peaking in 1810 at 84% of the US workforce, a rapidly descending curve saw 40% workforce participation in agriculture by 1900 and less than 1% in 1960. According to a USDA report, titled “The 20th Century Transformation of US Agriculture and Farm Policy,” that percentage didn’t drop near 1% until the year 2000, but both studies agree that this threshold has been reached, not much less than about 20 years ago today. Simultaneously, agricultural output enjoyed an unprecedented boom. The USDA report finds that Total Factor Productivity (the ratio of outputs to inputs) has increased by over 100% just between 1948 and the year 2000. The same report tracked an increase in mechanized equipment replacing work animals, between 1930 and 1960, of over 500%. The USDA report clarifies that in this period, US agricultural exports increased dramatically as well, up nearly 800% from the years 1915 to 2000. Another study, by the Economic History Association (EHA), “American Agriculture in the 20th Century,” found that by 2000, agriculture required 66% less labor as compared to 1900, with 700% the output.
Automation alone then accounts for the lion’s share of the $1.1T agricultural US GDP (USDA, 2019). It’s worth over $600B by applying those EHA percentages, and the implications of this are heavy for a serious inquiry into modern problems of hunger and wealth distribution.
For now however we’re still looking for the invisible part. We need to measure the surplus, now that we can demonstrate where it’s coming from and how processes are affecting market balance. Anything produced yet unused, where historically scarcity prevailed, will be necessarily a result of process improvement in the long view. In the US, we throw away or otherwise waste between 30% and 40% of the food we produce. This is overtly to avoid the impact it would have on market prices. The EPA estimates, in their “International Efforts on Wasted Food Recovery,” this number at $218B, or 1.3% the size of total GDP (2020).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in their “Food Wastage Footprint,” reports resource, environmental and social costs of our wasted food surplus at $2.6T in the US alone. This includes measures of soil degradation, landfill effects, losses in consumer pricing, and other effects which may elsewhere be represented in our analysis, so for now we’ll lean on the lower EPA estimate. The FAO report is still worth a mention before we move on. The Real Value cost of our wasteful food distribution systems are great, definitely exceeding these higher estimates, interconnected throughout the Organomic body. Like in war, loss of life due to hunger is absolutely measurable, and undoubtedly a cost.
In construction, costs are deducted from GDP accounts before a building is sold or rented, but value isn’t added until its sale. Revolving totals of built yet unsold housing therefore represent substantial surplus wealth that is increasing yearly. According to the US Census Bureau’s “Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership,” in the first quarter of 2021 there were 9.6M vacant homes and rental properties in the US. The same report lists the median asking price at $200,900, granting a quick estimate of $1.9T in unused but livable surplus housing, nationally.
GDP will include the same homes being sold or rented year after year, so we will acknowledge the unsold homes as a store of annual Real Value. Not the least of our process improvements are reflected in homes that stand for generations, not needing to be rebuilt each time they are put on the market. As common as this fact may at first appear, its economic relevance is undeniable. Having too many houses is not in fact a sign of lower wealth, despite what GDP has been telling us.
Manufacturing itself is no more than an arrangement of processes and their improvements over time, like most of GDP. So likewise here we’ll focus on the more recent and unacknowledged aspects, avoiding prudently any chance of double-counting.
Inherited processes require no payment, a wellspring from which value blooms perpetually, to the mutual benefit of us all. This does nothing to diminish the role of labor or capital, but only to complete the tripod on which it all stands. Neither traditionally account for these evolved processes and the wealth flowing from them, whether they be public domain or protected by patent.
Robotic manufacturing is threatening to close this debate over who owns past processes – these intangible inventions of the long-dead – even further, consolidating corporate power into fewer and fewer hands, so it’s high time we started to look at it straight on. Sure, the assembly line may be patented, but what of the general robotics principles that make it possible at all? When processes are public domain, and their use revolutionizes services used widely, maybe the people at large own the surplus – by rights.
From automobile assembly lines to long-distance truck drivers, 25% of all jobs are at high risk of being automated in the next ten years, with an additional 36% at medium risk, according to a study by the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program (Automation and Artificial Intelligence, 2019). About 20M of these will be in manufacturing alone (Oxford Economics, How Robots Change the World).
The World Economic Forum reports that these trends will, however, create as many as 133M new jobs (The Future of Jobs, 2018). What is rarely considered, however, is not the quantity of this labor change, but the quality – and that’s not a reference to how much they will pay. The Organist asks: How hard will they be? From the hoe to ai, the trend has gone in a single direction for millennia, and is only speeding up, yet we continue to ignore it entirely in economic theory.
This is the Invisible Mammoth, come clear, and there is science for its measure. How many calories does it burn for a human worker to run an automated assembly line, vs manufacturing by hand? While this question is more nuanced across industry, the simple, broad answer is evidenced in every efficiency improvement throughout history – far, far fewer. This is why we do it – moving a boulder with a lever is easier than doing it by hand, almost every single time.
Added up over millennia, this energy savings becomes an unprecedented store of inherited wealth, unlike anything classical economics is prepared to deal with. For the moment though, let’s return to the conversation about manufacturing as relevant to national production in more traditional terms.
The Federal Reserve produces a report called “Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization,” and in 2021 they reported 75.2% total capacity utilization. The US Department of Commerce recently measured the manufacturing sector at 11% of total GDP (2019), and the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports it at $2.3T (2020), or 10.9% of total GDP (2020). Steadily shrinking since at least the 1950s – as a percentage of the United States’ total production – manufacturing still reports a significant surplus of capacity. By basic arithmetic then we deduce running at full capacity would produce $3.1T, valuing our surplus capacity at $800B/year.
Let’s be clear: having the ability to manufacture more than we need is also a sign of positive, surplus wealth.
Distribution processes include everything from packaging to trucking to container ships to email, a multiplicative factor in product quantities and values nationwide, and therefore are relevant both to GDP and living standards. Measuring surplus distribution for this school will be a matter of accounting for the vehicles that remain unsold and the products remaining on store shelves. Classical GDP theory will count this surplus as an unrecouped cost of doing business for car lots and retailers, et al, but the Organist rejects this as the final word. At risk of redundancy: having more than enough products is not a sign of decreased productivity.
The internet, as a means for the distribution of ideas, is possibly worth as much as all previous encyclopedias and libraries combined, multiplied by the number of active users, and more, a museum of the past and future unlike anything that came before, a dictionary and a live translator, an automated tutor and international telephone, today kept in every pocket, for some $100/mo, or an average of about 3 labor-hours in 2020. In every living room we now have a movie theater, streaming anything from classics to new releases that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. The true value of this process improvement we call the Net, and the long, accelerating curve of evolution by which it came about, is one of the great untold stories of modern economics, reshaping our world much faster than our understanding of it can keep up. To measure this value we must do far more than track sales. We must take stock of everything offered, especially what is free or stolen, adjusted to reflect instant, nearly resource-free distribution, and multiply it by the number of users.
Without ready statistics – or hardly even starters – for these aggregates however, we’ll leave this section unfinished, with only a nod to recognize how dramatic its likely impact will be when properly understood. Our prediction is unsurprising: the uncommodified internet is worth trillions of dollars every year, and contrary to current theory, the more it is free, the more it is worth.
If there are in truth more than enough cars in the US for everyone to have one, more than enough food for everyone to eat, and more than enough houses for everyone to have shelter, and generally just more than enough products for us all, from backstocks of paper towels to real towels to TVs to sex toys to hot sauce, and many brands of each no less, the impending results for our very way of life are breathtaking, not to be ignored by science any longer. With this Thesis we present only the ground level, the framework to begin to study the webwork and tentpoles of Real Value at hand, all around us.
Even without these last numbers, what we have compiled so far is more than enough to force an overdue paradigm shift – from scarcity to plenty, from supply and demand to effective production and ecological sustainability.
Process Improvement, this vault of inherited Value for which we owe no debt, for which no living labor or trade is possible, expands to include most social, legal and political algorithms as they have evolved in time. Corporate structure itself, like legal structure itself, like social structure itself, is just another kind of automation, a set of rules that form a foundation, producing and consolidating wealth day after day, generation after generation. This surplus is not a “cost of business.” It is our 21st century inheritance. It rightly belongs to us all. Its continued absence from national balance sheets is nothing less than theft – under cover of ignorance as darkness – of the very substance of our futures.
The simple sum of our surplus time, food, homes and manufacturing capacities is then only the tip of the Invisible Mammoth here defined. Yet as such, this sum will serve fine as a comparative estimate for aGDP – a launchpad for our new science. The sum of this market-relevant surplus alone is $11.1T annually, 55% – 70% as large as our running total for aGDP in 2020.
The 2nd Invisible Mammoth, Home Economics and the Invisible Economy, begins with the sum value of the keeping of our homes, raising of our children, and maintenance of our standard of living. We have already estimated this value according to traditional financial terms in section V, at 59% – 73% of unadjusted GDP, or $12.3T – $15.3T in 2020.
Here we will add the Volunteer, Gift and Illegal economies, which are ignored by classical GDP and yet fully relevant to market dynamics and totals of national production.
The National Center for Charitable Statistics measured over half a trillion dollars in the US Volunteer and Gift Economy of 2018 ($622B). Estimated at $22/hr this falls into lowball territory, given the economy-wide median wage of $31/hr the same year. Adjusting their published findings up to the median then, a likelier estimate of the Volunteer and Gift Economy was $679B (given 8.8 million labor-hours reported), approaching 3/4 of a trillion dollars.
This statistic is referring specifically and exclusively to charitable Gifts and Volunteered time, and not the enormous profits reported to the IRS yearly by the nonprofit sector. That number was well over a trillion for 2018 (the true size of the nonprofit sector then being the sum of these – our interest here is however only the portion that is not already incorporated in GDP, the surplus which we refer to as the Volunteer and Gift Economy). So it is fair to assume this trillion-dollar industry of nonprofit production requires many professionally skilled workers, from the bottom rung to the top.
The size of illegal production is harder to measure, as generally its practitioners must hide their existence in order to survive. However this has not stopped studies on the subject from arriving at realistic estimates. Known as the Underground Economy, Black Market, Shadow Economy, or Informal Economy, it includes drugs, prostitutes, bodily organs and illegal products of all kinds. A 2018 study by the International Monetary Fund estimated the Illegal Economy worldwide at 31.9% of global GDP, but this is weighted toward developing nations, with their developed counterparts averaging around 10%. Dickinson College produced a report in 2018 that agreed with this, putting the US Illegal Economy at 11%-12% of the nation’s GDP, or $2.3T – $2.5T. A 2013 study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found the Illegal Economy at a value of $2T (2012), which would put it at 12.3% of GDP in that year. Thus we also estimate an Illegal Economy of US $2.3T – $2.5T in 2020.
While there are many questions left unanswered in this number, its net-positive effect on market relationships is hard to dispute, at least to the same extent as any legal sector. Drug money buys food and shelter, every day.
Totaling these estimates, we find that the invisible Home, Gift & Illegal Economy is worth a fair-market Value of $15.3T – $18.5T annually, or 76% – 116% the size of aGDP in 2020.
Gross Potential Labor (GPL) is the last of the Invisible Mammoths, a store of inherited Value unlike anything seen before our time, and another primary driving force behind global GDP even as it is. The full Value of GPL will also be outside the scope of this Thesis, but as we begin to excavate, it is worth a glance here at the worldwide estimate of labor surplus, to properly orient our sense of scale.
Global unemployment, as estimated by the World Bank, was 5.4% in 2019, and spiked to 6.5% in 2020. While statistical methods vary around the world, this will be the best official estimate, equating to 416M – 507M completely unused individuals – willing, capable and waiting to be put to work. Estimating between $1.93/hour (Turkey minimum wage 2020) and $19.33/hour (US median wage according to the Economic Policy Institute for 2019), conservatively ignoring the higher end of 1st world wage earners entirely, this equates to a yearly surplus of available labor realistically worth $1.7T – $20.4T worldwide, or 2% – 24.1% of world GDP in 2020.
The question, as it is no less with all developed assets, is to what use and by what right they may be put – from heavy lifting to engineering, college or creative pursuits. This question does nothing to prevent the constant effect of global unemployment on markets worldwide. As Organists, we witness and measure for the first time the incredible Value inherent in an unemployed yet ready-to-work populace – the larger and more prepared – more educated, healthy and skilled – the better.
We can apply this reasoning to US statistics in short form, to gather just the tip of this Mammoth’s horn, finishing our survey of surplus value in the US today. The BLS reported 5.9M unemployed in 2019, before the Covid pandemic. At the median wage of $19.33/hour (EPI, 2019), this Ready Labor force amounts to roughly $237B in value.
Totaling these efforts, we find surplus value represented by these Invisible Mammoths at $26.64T – $29.84T per year. Compared to our running aGDP of $15.9T – $20.09T, this additional amount equals 132% – 188% of that total size. However, despite the relevance of these continued comparisons, we will remind the reader that our purpose in measuring only these surplus totals is to avoid double counting the portions of these Mammoths that are already represented by classical GDP theory, and so in the end we are building an additive total. Thus our estimated Organomic Sum aGDP, by this non-exhaustive analysis, has become $42.5T – $49.93T (2020).
Where do we go from here? You don’t need to agree with all of Special Organomics to follow the size of this math. Among the paradigm shifts we’ve discussed so far – and there are many – we can reduce the leaps here to simply valuing our surplus, and our homemakers.
Surplus of product, money, labor and time indicates more and not less societal wealth, more and not less production. Maintaining homes and raising children has economic value. As we go forward, we’ll do well also to learn the value of our idle population – our unemployed, our artists, our students.
If these simple statements seem less than rational to you after seeing the evidence, you’re free to go your own way. Here we diverge, without apology, with the math to show that these points have been the subject of a strange and expensive blindness. We will tolerate this no longer.
It won’t be long before these ideas are taken as common sense, but let history show that this battlefield is bloodied with the senseless, greedy, ignorant and misinformed at a scale that the children of our future will scarcely believe – that is unless they are still, while reading these words, paying the all-too-real ecological prices of our foolishness.
You do not need to agree with every point. We have laid a wide margin for error.
If 1/30th of this Thesis bears fruit, it will be of nearly a trillion dollar annual public benefit and no less. Of course our aim rests higher, and if the majority of this Thesis is not only accurate but as underestimated as we show it to be, it represents the largest single revelation of accountable wealth in history.
Grab that curtain with both hands. Blow out the candles and let the daylight in. Let’s start some conversations. The end of homelessness, hunger and poverty is near.
Accept only these two propositions and see that the United States has at least double the developed assets we thought we had, NOW. Accept these two principles to see how we can not only feed the world without hesitation, but face down ecological catastrophe before it destroys our future, and begin the era of real space explorations without unbalancing any accountants’ quills, no matter how sacred they may have seemed just moments ago. Accept these two propositions – that extra money still counts, that homemakers have economic value – and glimpse here the ink-black shadow of how much time and life we’ve been wasting on outdated ideas of scarcity.
Let us be the first to ring the bell, though late it comes, even here. Scarcity is over.
Follow this science with us, and together we’ll explore how humankind may at long last try to live in peace with nature, without sacrificing an ounce of our potential for leisure, technology and entertainment. We aim to grab these possibilities now and make them our own, as we are the inheritors of not only our grandparents’ real estate and bank balances, but truly of all that has come before us on this Earth – stretching back millions of years, to reap what our ancestors lived and died to sow – a crop beyond anything they could even begin to know.
The path of the Organist is not for those interested in short-sighted piles of money at the expense of the world. Survival does not favor the unsustainable. It is not for those who prize 19th century economic theories above modern techniques of scientific survey and basic math.
It is not for those who believe inflexibly that all value is the direct result of labor and/or modern capital – we build on these two concepts, making a tripod of the understanding that the foundation of generational wealth is evolution and technology.
In these pages we have dismantled the old superstitions of profit and inflation, and from this point we will not be turning back.
Here we recognize that it is the destiny of our times to unflinchingly activate this potential. Here we open our eyes to a new century, with a new science, new math and goals no less than worthy of our dedication and our lives.
The question remains. What next? Well, we’re certainly not going to avoid the dramatic, but first we must deal with the practical.
Regarding next steps for the exploration of the Organomic field, critical readers may have noted habits that will set us apart. Here let’s lay out a few simple and specific Organomic Methods:
- We have no need for illusions of certainty. More than one approach usually has merit. Therefore, we often deal with ranges instead of single numbers. We are invested in algorithmic answers to complex problems and will pretend to nothing less.
- Still, we’ll reduce to basic arithmetic and simplified algebraic functions where possible. We will not hide the vagaries of human systems behind complex math with the superstitious numerology of 20th century economists. This won’t prevent us from what may be required to build computer models and larger organizations as the theory evolves. Yet simplicity will be our guiding star. To paraphrase Einstein, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
- We employ a functional naming convention, using real terms and understood definitions. Steering away from naming new ideas after their discoverers or oblique academic references, we will attempt at all times to just call things what they are, in plain language.
- We are privileged to pick and choose from other fields of study. None of this will relegate us to their limits or mistakes. Like artists, we obtain a fuller view of our subject through repeated renderings from as many angles as possible, employing as many tools as we can find for the purpose.
- We aim for nothing less than the building of a sustainable, flourishing, intelligent world, where our human potential may at last bloom true, no longer in bondage to industry, money, royalty or any of our creations, but instead, at last, in charge of our own future. We will not hesitate to apply what we have learned. Should our reach be local, we will apply localized solutions. Like the bodies we study, we understand in our own work the ultimate importance of cells to organs, of solutions to real problems at all scales.
Looking forward then, the field is already tilled, just waiting to be planted. There is yet work to be done. The outline is clear for how we could begin.
As we’ve covered, MMT informs us that monetarily sovereign governments like the United States are not limited in their spending by taxation. Technically speaking, we can print as much money as we need, so long as we don’t pass the limits of ecology, or those set by employment and inflation.
Our sum aGDP has revealed that common understandings of employment and inflation are far from accurate, that in dollar-value terms national production amounts to at least double or triple the number we have been using, often increasing even as employment and real labor decreases.
This study has found that dangerous inflation is linked predictably to social instability. We see clearly why decades of expanding the money supply, including trillions of dollars in quantitative easing, has done very little to cause inflation in the otherwise stable US.
The supply of goods is in excess, our currency is restricted, and we’re ignoring the real costs of our actions.
All of that easing combined, without the science to show where our reasonable limits and purposes may be, has been but a drop in the bucket of what is possible. We hold in our hands a verifiable blank check passed down from our ancestors, and it is up to us to decide how to use it. This check is not magic. It’s the result of measured technology – the internet, medical knowledge, weather forecasts, etc – and infrastructure – highways, waterways, airways and more. It is a grave mistake to continue to pretend that the shared value inherent in these advances does not exist.
The question is how to allocate it.
We are not here advocating a simple doubling or tripling of the liquid money supply. That sort of immediate shock and redistribution could well lead to a breach of social stability of the kind that causes hyperinflationary events, simultaneous with a consumerist binge that may thrust us headlong over the very same ecological limits we’ve set out to solve for.
Money does not equal wealth, so converting our entire productive capacity immediately into a river of cash may not in fact leave us any richer, and the basis for doing so is as yet unproven despite our conclusions. There is risk in treating aGDP as a simple spending account. Still, the premise of weighing our cash against our assets is quite established in banking, real estate and government alike.
With some gray notion of balancing taxes vs spending, while never actually doing so, we’ve been accounting in the dark for over 50 years, trying to impose a zero-sum act on top of a little-understood major fiat system. Taxed at a normal rate of 24%, this aGDP would still provide over $6T/year in spendable value.
We have something very different in mind, of course. Dynamic wealth, like our Spectrum of Value, naturally suggests dynamic allocation.
Forests, mountains and free time are practically limitless resources if we manage them well. Sunlight is a free fusion reactor if we catch it right. Yet the transformation of sunlight into forests – into free time – is no mere transaction. It is a macro-algorithm.
Market trades work best in microcosm – a little free time and maybe sweat, traded for your food or heating, seems like a fair exchange, most days.
On the scale of nations, however, whole forests can be used up, mountains are leveled, and the goals of ecological and market balance are often diametrically opposed. Selling off the forest for dollars is a potentially mortal error for our species. At the macro scale, functional allocation of resources is paramount.
At least for those of us who would like to survive.
A full discussion of the idea will be beyond the scope of this Thesis, but suffice it to say that nobody wants to trade away all of their free time. Only a suicidal nation will trade away allof its forests, or even spend to the extent of serious shortage. Economics, without ecology, may be no less than a catalogue of ways to die.
The balances between resources are interrelated, and just because we trade for things does not mean they are interchangeable. In the rest of this section, as we explore our 3 Cycles of policy proposal, a keen reader may note decreasing and increasing balances of leisure time, solar power, cashflow, recycling and far more. In Real Value accounting, all of these resources must be tracked. The market will adjust well with changing supply and demand in some cases, while poorly or not at all in others.
We have not in these pages dealt with the empty promises of a stock market valued at $70.8T (World Bank, 2019), or the bald illusions of our money-as-debt banking system in general. Mass withdrawals crash banks and markets both for the same reason: there is far less cash at hand than there are outstanding notes, always.
This is an entire study unto itself, but the hollow core, so simply described, serves to underscore the basic Organomic argument for removing the markets from their central role.
While we began and will end with a dollar-sum outline of policy proposals, it must be understood that a dynamic and functional accounting is necessary and will supersede all others in its time. With this in our pocket, we go yet forward.
We aim to set the market free within the table of its proper function, in a sustainable and self-contained algorithm explicitly aimed to engender invention and progress, rather than the rampant, endless and ecologically catastrophic growth of profit for profit’s sake that we see today. We set the stage for this now, not with executive action and central control but with a suite of already popular policy proposals, eager to reinvigorate our modern democracy with encrypted election technology. Let this dangerous lesson – consumerism as sacred, central and for its own sake – become taboo at last with the price of so many millions of lives, with our close-as-nails tightrope walk along the cliff’s edge of mass extinction.
So a mere doubling (or tripling) of the money supply, and the resultant unpredictable market explosion – or combustion – might not be an appropriate response to these revelations of aGDP. When we speak of this blank check, we do so with a basic grasp of the concepts of dynamic resource allocation.
We advance a 3-Cycle set of proposals which will serve to increase trust in society, build stability in these Real Value foundations, nurture the population and come to grips with our ecological responsibility to future generations.
These Cycles are not to be taken as exclusive, mutually dependent in static ways, or only possible in the order here presented. Rather they form a wide web by which we might reshape our world. Like addicts on the mend, we begin by taking one step at a time.
The department of Housing and Urban Development estimated it would cost $20B to end US homelessness in 2020. If that sounds low, let’s compare it to the outright purchase of a median home for every homeless person in the US. That would cost about $156B (at the Zillow.com median price of $269K, for the 580K homeless reported by the HUD in 2020). Hunger Free America has estimated it would cost about $25B/year to end hunger throughout the country. So even at the high end, we might barely notice the societal cost of taking care of our people in these absolutely basic ways.
This would increase the stability of our society, leading to less inflation, not more. As we’ve already demonstrated, both the housing and food required already exist in our surplus, so these actions should come at very little additional resource cost. With the product already there, it is literally only cash itself that stands in our way.
In fact, at these low prices, we don’t even need Organomics to justify the expense. It is an absolute condemnation of our way of life that we have not already done these things – hardly a margin expense by standard accounts.
So with the new tools here revealed, let’s raise our sights.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA), estimates range from $7B – $265B/year to end hunger worldwide.
Professional reports on the costs of ending global warming go as high as $50T (Morgan Stanley, 2019). However this estimate is aimed at the year 2050, indicating a yearly cost of about $1.6T.
The United States, without assistance, has the wealth at hand to begin to solve these catastrophic and tragic world problems while hardly breaking a sweat – we only need to update our accounting to the 21st century.
A dearth of leadership and science is costing us dearly.
Ending world hunger, ending US homelessness, and fighting climate disaster like we mean it, combined, might cumulatively cost us some $1.7T – $2T/year. Leading to greater stability and so less inflationary risk, we do not lack the wealth, only the initiative. The Organist finds this an insufficient roadblock. We raise our sights.
The US Department of Education estimates a yearly cost for free college education at all public universities of $79B. Forgiving all outstanding student debt in the US would cost about $1.7T (US Department of Education, 2021).
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP, an advocacy group consisting of over 20K physicians), estimates the cost of Universal Healthcare throughout the US at $46T over 10 years, or $4.6T/year.
Subscribing to the MMT principle that government spending is not funded by taxation, we will for this purpose ignore the plethora of studies that indicate these are in truth large savings over current costs, as a sum of individual and insurance expenses, and treat the estimate as a simple cost. This is not to imply that the savings inherent in such programs are negligible or irrelevant – only that we don’t need them to make the point. We continue to lay a wide margin for error and a conservative framework for our estimates even here.
Adding these programs to our plan, thus educating and caring for the US public, ending world hunger, fighting climate change and ending US homelessness, we bring our cost estimate upward to $8.1T – $8.4T/year, or27% – 32% of the dollar value revealed by only the surplus portion of our 3 Invisible Mammoths. To be clear, this is not simply creating cash any more than our survey of the Mammoths was an accounting of cash to begin with. This is wealth we already have, just sitting there. Dynamically allocated, these are workers, teachers and caregivers we already have, just waiting for a chance to work for something they can believe in – to be part of a society that cares about their future. These are the unemployed and underemployed. This is food we are throwing away, housing and manufacturing that is sitting idle.
We measure aGDP only to define the MMT-implied upper boundary of our spending powers, where traditional economists fear to tread: the gross productive output of our nation, beyond which we might be stopped by inflationary fears. We define aGDP not to set our own limits, but to assure conservatives that doing all of these things, NOW, is not only within our power but easily so.
“Who is paying for all of this?” Not you, don’t worry. It is being paid for, without caveat, by our ancestors, by the processes they passed down to us through thousands of years of labor and innovation, the same processes that have left us with these tremendous surpluses.
Among the things we value in modern life, perhaps the only one in dramatically short supply is money itself. A hoarded and artificially restricted currency will leave the working class in a state of constant stress and fear for their security, while simultaneously wasting masses of resources. Does this sound familiar?
We stand here ready to rectify it.
What we have outlined so far would be the most aggressive humanitarian agenda in history, but it matches well with established progressive goals in the US as of 2022. In line with broad voter support, tearing down artificial barriers to our shared thriving, stabilizing societies worldwide in unprecedented ways, this path leads rationally to a much more grounded marketplace, where no mere price fluctuations are ever catastrophic.
Doing this math with no participation from any world power other than the United States, this is therefore quite the understatement for what could be accomplished by a union of allied 1st world powers, a Living Federation of Nations empowered by the advent of worldwide Digital Democracy.
That’s jumping a bit beyond Cycle One. We don’t want to give your parents a heart attack, after all, and there are complex webs of interacting consequence to work with in each of these programs. As we inevitably embrace the algorithmic approach to economics, we’ll find as assets themselves are spent or preserved, less consumption – regardless of dollar-value income – will enrich us all.
But time will go on from here, and so should our ambitions.
So let’s raise our sights. The more conservative among you may wish to sit down and hold onto something.
A generous UBI, paying out $2K per month to each of the 259.3M US adults with no strings attached, would cost about $6.2T/year by basic multiplication. At $24K/year, this is well above the poverty line and far below the mean. We will estimate conservatively to start, ignoring the many studies which show how UBI may actually save money in many ways, and treat it as an outright expense just to quiet the critics, not in place of other safety nets but simply additional to them. UBI targeting only homemakers and other unpaid labor, as a stepping stone to launch from, would be significantly less expensive. For instance, paying out $2K/mo to each of the lowest income 85M stay-at-home parents in the country would run us about $2T/year.
One way this might be accomplished, without printing a river of cash, would be to pair it with a reduction in the general costs of living. We’ll continue to build an additive total for now, but don’t let that blind you to the counterpoint relationships between these programs.
Outright purchase of every home in the US would cost approximately $37.6T (139.7M homes according to the US Census in 2021, at a median price of $269K according to Zillow.com). To minimize the economic shock, we propose spreading this action across 10 years, resulting in a cost of $3.76T/year. This will not simply end homelessness, but close out most of the mortgage sector, paid in full.
Removing ownership of the housing sector from the big banks’ revolving balance sheets, we give them to the people who call them home. After this initial decade of investment, continuing to fund the construction of 1.29M homes per year for new families (2019) at this median price would cost about $347B/year.
In 2020, the US government took in $3.42T in total tax revenue. While it may best be taken one sector at a time, with respect to solvent math and sustainable resource flows, the ending of federal taxation may be approximated grossly, easily at this same cost.
Having given food to the hungry in Cycle One, we might follow up here with the outright acquisition of related national distribution, in the public interest. This OPN may alter the extremes of profit – implementing maximum wage controls – transitioning ownership to the general population. Walmart was recently valued at about $386B (Gobankingrates.com, 2018). Kroger was recently valued at $29B (Macrotrends.net, 2021). Amazon has been valued at $315B (Gobankingrates.com, 2020). Together, purchasing these major distribution enterprises in the public interest would cost us approximately $730B, in a single payment lump sum.
The evolution of these networks has been complex. Spending comparably to a single year’s military budget, we obtain them for the people. Eliminating mortgages, full UBI, federal taxes and introducing discounted national distribution will have cumulative effects that will need to be balanced against each other over time, if we are to raise this shelter for our people. Yet this is the size of our infrastructure, and it is the wealth of our people. Let no one hold them back any longer.
With our aim at degrowth, this program allows the people to go back to school – or on vacation. It intentionally decimates the number of us engaged in makework, accounting and retail, in favor of quality of life. The potential lowering of 20th century GDP – perhaps by another 50% even – may balance against an increase in the understood value of free commodities. This and more will factor in as we go, beyond the scope of this basic, proof-of-concept math.
Totaling these major Cycle Two costs, counting the full UBI and OPN as discussed, we come out to a 1st year sum at $14.11T, followed by 9 years each at $13.38T, with a final ongoing expense after that point of about $10T per year.
Adding this to Cycle One, we are allocating here as much as $22.5T initially, followed by $18.4T ongoing after ten years. At no point does this estimate rise above our basic measure of Mammoth surplus and production, in fact leaving a final grace of as much as $10T/year unspent, ongoing.
Ignoring for now the multi-trillion-dollar margin of our savings in healthcare and other safety nets (potentially bettered by UBI, OPN and Universal Healthcare), and the many ways that these changes will actually create profits – not in mere dollars but in actual resources and long-term viability – how they will fundamentally redefine our sense of what it means to work and live productively, in algorithmic trade we have ended poverty and begun to fight climate change worldwide.
We have stabilized society over the course of about a decade, preparing our populace with reliable housing, education and medicine, for the challenges yet unseen ahead of us in this century and those to come. There is every reason to expect the future to make the difficulties of our economic games appear small, if not completely imaginary, by comparison.
We so free our people from the endless service of ecology-destroying consumption, to instead prepare them as a potential workforce like no other in history, empowered instead of hog-tied by the best that education, technology and automation have to offer. Counting the able unemployed no longer as a false liability, we see them instead as the greatest, most versatile resource ever known.
This is the power inherent in accounting at long last for the contributions of our homemakers. This is the change to come when we realize how the long curve of technological progress doesn’t need to be paid for again by each new generation. This is our great inheritance, and it is just waiting – like a field tilled but needing to be planted. The sun is raining down, and all the while we’re just counting dollars.
These are mind-bogglingly huge numbers, programs that could impact billions of lives. So the reader may be forgiven their inertial resistance to the way we have tossed them around so playfully. It is intended exactly that way. These are not the only moves we can make. We can come together and stop fighting over pennies – there is enough for everyone and we can overcome. Yet this is the scale at which modern society moves. If the giants of nations must be constrained to baby steps, chained to the anvils of fear, greed and mathematical superstition, we will never learn to walk.
Each of these proposals is a field unto itself, and they interweave with others in more ways than we can possibly know at this time. The jump from spending to allocating is deceptively deep.
Some hesitancy to dive headlong into major changes is healthy, and it should be clear that simply throwing money at problems like anthropogenic climate change and mass extinction will not immediately cause them to evaporate. However, “making money” while failing to face reality does not at all make us richer.
At $50T over 30 years, the Climate Action Plan we endorse here is both far-reaching and unknown. The Morgan Stanley estimate cited is far from the only report we might dig into to formulate our budget, and each will include a wide range of options.
We might bring in OPN again, to stop the profit motive from strangling our international recycling efforts, as it does. We can support the distribution of solar power. The fight to save our climate will necessarily involve infrastructure overhaul, worker displacement, damage reduction and mitigation, migration, degrowth and replanting initiatives. It will absolutely require an international coalition to reach its goals.
There is every chance we have underestimated the real costs of staving off mass extinction even at these hefty sums, and the difficulty of overcoming these thousand-year ecological storms. However, in Special Organomics this $49.93T is only the US contribution to global aGDP, and a conservative estimate at that.
Around the Earth, we have the resources. Do we have the will?
Is it worth the risk of failure, inflation, joblessness and more, to put forth even the bare minimum needed to protect this world for our children? Are we cowards, or are we humankind? We are giants of technology, unparalleled in all of history. It’s time we come together and act our age.
What we’ve outlined via UBI and a Housing Guarantee, with the aim of a practically limitless pool of educated Ready Labor, is not simply a spending plan. It is a recipe for directed degrowth. No matter how much we can do by advancing green technology – no matter if our dollars balance or not – it is clear that among the best things we must do for the environment right now, is simply less.
Less work. Less commuting. Less retail, less fast food, fewer parking lots, fewer cubicles. Less consumption, and in fact less production, will make us all richer.
And believe it or not, this is just the beginning. What is truly possible, when we throw off the chains of these ancient economic falsehoods and begin to ask the real questions about our limits?
Cycle Three brings another major wave of change. Imagine the peaceful revolution wrought so far between the lines:
With the market freed of the burden of federal taxes, the weight of healthcare off its shoulders, entrepreneurs and artists alike secure in their homes, the shape of the table begins to come clear. It is a place to innovate, to create and maintain, with a long view – a place to raise our kids. With ready labor counted as a resource and not a cost, homemakers appreciated for their labor and everyone both fed and educated, we may prepare to begin the larger tasks ahead.
The stranglehold of money on the lower classes released, and government freed from the parasitic motives of obscene profit, we may all start to realize how strange we’ve been acting, and what pride in a healthy world community could actually mean. One can hope, anyway.
But you can’t argue for long against the math.
We’ve focused at some length here on production, but what are our real resource limits, and how do we treat them sustainably? With immediate threats from climate change and mass extinction then perhaps coming under control, what has become of our long-term ecological limits? What becomes possible in a dynamic, algorithmic economy? What comes next, with the advent of verifiable, secure Digital Democracy?
When these immensely complex questions are answered, with the power of automation unleashed and our people free to work as needed or as they desire, is there anything that we won’t be able to accomplish? As we transition away from facing down our mistakes, over the course of the next 20 to 50 years, we may become far more wealthy – not by gross accumulation but so much better than that – ready to look squarely at our potential.
Exploring our solar system is not merely a job for government or private industry, but a calling for our race. Preparing defense against asteroids is an absolute necessity for our long-term survival. We might colonize other planets and moons, and eventually leave even the range of our mother sun. Until then, her resources are nearly limitless if we will learn to use them. Let’s raise our sights.
If you’re here at the end and skepticism still is holding you back, we rest in the knowledge that what has been seen in these pages can’t be unseen. If even a fraction of what we’ve said here is true, it is nothing less than revolutionary. Let it haunt your every step until you realize the tragedy of any lesser path.
Just look around you at the excess. These department stores, grocery chains and parking lots are filled beyond the strangest dreams of our craziest ancestors. Our trash piles are mountains and islands. The smoke from our engines has engendered such clouds of carbon that the future itself recedes from the shadow. We are the richest generation ever to have lived. What is our next move?
The average life of the coming century will make the wealthy of today appear poor – like a King who finally got a toilet and a cellphone – not merely in terms of the things they owned, but in their unhealed, unanalyzed, paralyzing poverty of the imagination.
For the most part however, they won’t be around to see it. Waste less time mourning for the past, our hungers and our mistakes. The future is yours, and today like every day is our bridge, our time, our moment – this, now, is yours. These, here, these decades – these tens of trillions of dollars – are your inheritance. Take it. Own it. Raise your voice and you will be heard.
Stand with us at these gates.
4 Books to Change the Future of Economics
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