The job I held before my current one was working as a server (among other things) in a high-end bakery. My boss, the sous chef, loved to bake; she also ended up working at least 90 hours a week, worked often on her one day off a week, had to deal with whiny, bitchy customers who berated her for no reason, had fits of overwhelming stress that she sometimes took out on others, and generally had to bend over backwards to make money. When I was on the clock, I was running around constantly, making sure everything was always perfect, and submitting to every whim of every customer, no matter how much I just wanted to set them on fire. We weren’t fulfilling some critical function of society, though. We were selling cakes, cookies, and coffee, three things that exactly zero people on Earth need. However, as a business, we needed to make money. We didn’t have a choice, or rather the choice was make money or you won’t have the means to survive.
Our current economic system prioritizes all allocation and economic activity by the amount of profit it generates. Necessities, and providing them to the deprived, generate a very small amount of profit compared to luxuries and their provision to the richest members of society. The profit motive is at the very heart of the behavior that apologists call “human nature”: The prioritizing of personal luxury over the necessities of people who don’t have them. When you can take $0.75 in materials and choose between making bread for the poor or cupcakes for the rich, obviously the latter is going to get you a bigger reward.
Anyone who’s worked a retail or customer service job has had to deal with people making a huge fuss over something really minor or out of the employee’s control. One that comes to my mind was a woman that chewed me out for 15 minutes because she had to pay municipal sales tax. If not for the fear of losing my job, that woman would have gotten such a verbal thrashing from me she would have to go home and hug her children for dear life to keep from going insane. Instead, I smiled at her and calmly tried to explain that because she is in the city of Leesburg, there is an additional tax, and then I showed her the 5th grade math involved in adding a sales tax to the price of an item. I don’t even remember how the story ends, but it was definitely not with her apologizing and saying “oh, you’re right.” More likely than not, it was with me discounting her purchase by far more than the extra eight cents that she was in a tirade about.
“The customer is always right” is the ultimate embodiment of how deluded the collective conscious of capitalism can be. We expect kids who are being bullied and subjugated by people far older (and hypothetically more mature) than them to not only take the bullying, but to be happy to have the opportunity to be in such a position, to smile at the customer, and to give them whatever their black, empty heart desires. Why? Because those bullies have money and the ability to misrepresent the situation to other people in a way that could make the business lose money. There are a great many people who are ordinarily friendly that turn into absolute cunts as soon as they have power over a servant. Everyone knows someone who seems friendly, but as soon as you’re in a restaurant, they’re treating the staff like peons in the court of their kingdom.
Why do we worry so much about the perfection of service and luxury goods, and hardly at all about people that are homeless and starving? Why are there burgeoning industries around getting people to buy luxuries, completely useless electronics, and million dollar cars, yet organizations trying to feed the poor usually have to beg for money? One is clearly more important than the other, to anyone who isn’t completely psychotic. I challenge anyone to tell me seriously to my face that making more iPhones is more important than providing food to those that don’t have it. Our society’s priorities have no sense about them.
Natural economics seeks to straighten out our priorities to a much more sensible order. At no point should a luxury ever be considered more important than a necessity. That holds true even if the necessity is for the laziest person on Earth and the luxury is for the most important person in human history. Items are prioritized according to the function they perform, independent of how badly they are wanted, or how much the person that wants them “contributed to society”.
The allocation and production of necessities to the level of fulfillment necessary for people to live is kept entirely out of the hands of people. There is no need for anyone to decide this problem, and control of the essentials for life is a very easy path to dominating others. Production of the goods used to fulfill basic needs, outside of the automated system, are considered luxury goods, and fall under the same set of constraints as other luxuries.
Luxuries are produced on a voluntary basis, but are prioritized on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the lowest priority. Despite being voluntary, they are subject to system constraints. On a regular interval, ecological, resource, and energy constraints for the duration of the period are calculated. Luxury goods can be requested by users, and those requests are sorted by priority. Starting from the top of the list, all requests that are possible under the constraints will be fulfilled. All requests are visible to the public, applying social pressure to keep the “shopping” under control. For this reason, there is no changing of priority levels according to how many copies of something an individual has requested; though it could be greed, there may be some legitimate reason behind it. Designing an automated system to deal with these contingencies, dealing with false positives or negatives, would not be worth the effort, when people are capable of policing themselves.
So then the question is, how do we prioritize luxuries? Clearly some luxuries like spices, books, instruments, and scientific tools are for creative purposes and healthy for us and society overall. On the other hand, some luxuries like guns, alcohol, cigarettes, and most drugs are for destructive purposes and unhealthy for us and society overall. These set the extremes of the scale. In an early VIAAC or similar social system, the priorities won’t be perfect. But, since constraints are rigidly applied, this is not a critical loss of economic function. The only real penalty is possibly higher opportunity costs. Eventually, as resources’ properties are quantified, we will be able to create indices to automatically prioritize them.
Though there is a strong emphasis on the production of luxuries in today’s economy, there is no clear evidence that we are any happier or better off with them. Many who espouse the wonders of modern society cite our increased lifespan and decreased prevalence of disease. What they ignore is that these come from a very tiny minority of all economic activity, and those benefits are kept out of reach of most people on Earth. The reason, of course, being that the people who develop these benefits are compelled by the economy to build their own personal wealth, which is primarily used for luxury goods and not necessities. An economy based on natural economic theory would never put the luxuries of someone over another’s survival.