From Erik Reece’s UTOPIA DRIVE:
“Our utopian past suggests that we should replace our current culture of accumulation with a needs-and-services economy that actually delivers on the promise of well-being instead of hocking flimsy substitutes made in China and Bangladesh. Our consumption of material goods…tends to reinforce the competitive sense that what I have is better than what you have. Such a psychology and such an economy create an endless negative feedback loop in which we keep consuming to the detriment of the natural world and toward no enduring sense of real satisfaction with ourselves or others. Studies have shown that though we consume twice as much as we did in the 1970s, our sense of happiness hasn’t moved up an inch…in fact, since 1970, the United States’ Index of Social Health, a seventeen-indicator measurement that combines data on suicide rates, income inequality, and life expectancy, has fallen 45 percent.
“An economy based on more authentic needs and services (good local food, good restaurants, good schools, good health care, good live entertainment, sustainable design, and clean energy) would, I believe, speak to a truer sense of well-being while simultaneously making our communities less dependent on resource extraction. What’s more, an economy based on human capital (labor, talent, conscientiousness) instead of natural capital (fossil fuels) and financial capital (debt) would go a long way toward increasing a sense of trust and conviviality within communities. Social capital would circulate alongside a local currency, and the local currency would help maintain the circulation of local goods and services. Thus a positive feedback loop would replace the negative loop I’ve just mentioned. And here’s another positive feedback loop: the more we trust others, the more of the hormone oxytocin we produce in the brain; and the more oxytocin we produce, the more we trust others. In short, an economy of pleasure and purpose would replace an economy of accumulation and waste.
“Imagine how different this country would look if even a fraction of Americans took such [ideas] seriously and acted on them. Of course all these ideas sound—I’ll say it one last time—utopian. Yet the only thing that prevents us from acting on any of them is our own lassitude, our prevailing sense that nothing important can be done to change the current state of things. That, of course, is exactly what the very few who buy and wield power in this country want us to believe. To succumb to that lassitude is to admit defeat and wait the rising floodwaters. The only force that can overcome such lethargy is the engine of the imagination. Nothing fires the individual and collective spirit like the possibility of a more welcoming collective future and a more authentic personal present. We can head out today toward the utopia of reconstruction. We can build the road as we travel.”