162. LIFE WITHOUT WORK
This is a fun scenario to goof around with:
Tomorrow, fuel imports to the US come to a complete halt, due to a perfect storm of terrorism, weather, acts of war etc. 60% of the US oil supply (12mbd) is lost, and the US must now survive on only 8mbd -- or else start tapping reserves. Private inventories are 314 million barrels, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is 686.9 million barrels. That's a total of 1000 million barrels, which will be used up in 83.3 days, if drastic measures are not taken.
A state of emergency is declared, and the country is powered down. The number one priority is to get people with frivolous jobs to stop working and consuming energy. The only people allowed to work are those who provide absolute essentials, such as food, water, electricity, fuel, energy equipment, heat, phone, critical transport, police, emergency services etc. The system is totally bare-bones, and no expansion of work permits is allowed.
So some people are still working, as usual. Most people, though, are laid off, and anxious because they don't have a job. The government understands this. They know they can't keep people from working without providing them some form of subsistence. A bold idea is proposed: Social Security, unemployment benefits and welfare will be suspended. Cash payments will no longer be made to beneficiaries. The trust fund will also be temporarily accessed by the government. In return, the government will purchase essential goods and services (staple foods, water, electricity etc.) and provide them to the entire U.S. population. It's crazy and "communist", but this is a crisis, and something has to be done. We simply can't drain the SPR, and at the same time, the people have to be fed. Normalcy will be restored at the soonest possible opportunity, but during the crisis, the TV says: "we would like to ask that you cooperate with the national effort to reduce working".
After a few weeks, an emergency task force is convened. The government realizes it can't keep paying all these bills for food, so they simply expropriate all the food according to existing executive orders. This doesn't mean that they go out and physically seize all the food; they simply declare food to be public property. This way, they can get the food for free, and they in fact, institute a law making food rations free of charge. When you're hungry, you just walk into the grocery store with your ration card and pick up some food, as usual.
Now, you may wonder why the farmers will do the work producing the food, if they don't get paid. Don't they have to make a living? Well, no actually. They're already "making a living" from the universal food/utilities dole. Granted, this may lead some farmers to be lazy, but that problem will be solved by calling for volunteers to do work related to agriculture and food distribution. These volunteers are all being supported by the universal dole, so they don't need a paycheck, and are simply helping because they enjoy the work. It's a nice break from just relaxing all the time, so there's many applicants for every volunteer position. (Remember, frivolous energy-consuming work is frowned on by the system, and working without a permit is a crime. The government is more than happy to round up lots of "work criminals", and put them in prisons where they can be put on the dole and prevented from working.) Farmers who don't want to work for free can thus be phased out in favor of farmers who don't mind working for free. The new farmers would work on the agriculture system much like programmers work on Linux. Food would become an "open-system" available to all for free, and created/maintained by hardworking volunteers.
I think modern people have some real psychiatric "issues" with the work ethic. On the face of it, you'd think that "life without work" would be a reason to celebrate and relax, but people are addicted to work, and "life without work" is a troubling, frightening concept. It's like I noted above: you would probably need brutal laws and criminalization to PREVENT people from working. That's how bad the disease is!!
Here's a related news article:
Philippines to work four days a week to save energy
I think we have to face it, folks. It's all this "working" that is sucking down the energy. I know it's unthinkable, and hard to come to grips with it, but frivolous work is the cause of energy problems, not the solution.
It may seem communist to pay people for not working, but we do it all the time. We pay farmers to leave their land idle.
Instead, why don't we pay people doing frivolous jobs (like tax preparation or sports memorabilia sales etc.) to be idle, and take away the subsidies from farmers so they produce a massive glut of food and cause food prices to drop to ridiculously low levels?
-- by JD