Imagine a world without debt, poverty or money- a world where deforestation, pollution and famine are a thing of the past and sustainable resource management, technology and human ingenuity guarantee a high standard of living for every human being. That’s the vision behind a Resource Based Economy (RBE), a socio-economic philosophy coined by inventor, architect and Venus Project Founder, Jacque Fresco.
Built on the idea that capitalism and human conditioning are largely to blame for much of humanity’s downfall, Fresco’s vision for a Resource Based economy takes aim at the political and social inefficiencies that underpin the current economic system. His critiques of capitalism explore the undeniable nexus between unchecked growth and low quality goods produced with cheap labor and resource exploitation. Similarly, resource based economy advocate and Zeitgeist Movement founder Peter Joseph, cites outdated social systems for issues such as war, poverty, famine and climate change. However, both Fresco and Joseph point to our reliance on political discourse, rather than the scientific method for most of the world’s most complex problems.
Envisioning a Resource Based Economy
As you can imagine, implementing a resource based economy seems an almost improbable, if not an impossible undertaking. For one thing, it will require humanity to re-think traditional resource management practices and economic systems as we know them. Be it capitalism, communism, or socialism, all other economic systems and ‘isms’ would be replaced with a value system tied exclusively to humanity’s collective ownership of natural resources.
In order for this to be possible, proponents of RBE call for a comprehensive assessment of all Earth’s resources- both renewable and finite. But that’s just the first step. In addition to identifying the location and availability of all Earth’s resources, cooperation and consent from all existing governments would be needed to deploy an international management system to identify the most efficient means of utilizing resources for housing, food, energy and other human necessities. A great deal of research and planning would be needed to develop new distribution systems and create a strategy for the delivery of life saving aid to humans on the brink.
Eventually all socio-political systems, economic systems and even boundaries would be dissolved. While a resource based economy is similar to communism, in that goods and services are distributed equally, the goods and resources used to produce them are wholly owned by every citizen. And unlike communism, socialism and even democracy, neither political discourse nor authoritarianism would dictate the what, when or how those resources are allocated.
Instead, resources are sourced, managed and allocated using the scientific method and the principle of ‘dynamic equilibrium’. Essentially, every individual is entitled to the highest quality of goods that is attainable without impeding on Earth’s ability to renew the resourced needed to create those goods. Moreover, the form and function of all goods, products and developments is agreed upon by scientific evidence and ongoing evaluation. Outdated technology, nuclear power and fossil fuel extraction would be abandoned, due to their inability to provide high quality goods without compromising ecosystems or creating waste that would also need to be managed
From Scarcity to Abundance
Once resources became equally shared and allocated, our arbitrary assignment of value for trading resources (money) would become useless. Suddenly problems like how to feed the impoverished, shelter the homeless and heal the sick become a matter of data crunching and logistics. Politicians, bankers, accountants and other professions that existed to support the previous economic system, could then be deployed for more useful, life-affirming activities.
Initially, human capital would be needed to return the earth systems to homeostasis and manage the literal and figurative baggage of unchecked consumption and resource exploitation. Eventually, manual labor, apathy, poverty and want would be replaced with more free time, creativity, and cooperation. Without the perceived limits of money, and bound only by the ability to efficiently utilize resources, innovation would truly become a function of ingenuity and rigorous testing. Humanity would be able to create the future we want, using just the resources we need.
One of the last, but must important transformations for our society to undergo would be the rapid breakdown of oppression and divisiveness. Traditional power struggles related to the control of goods, money and influence would eventually fade away. Social constructions like racism, sexism and classism would be replaced with high quality education and the scientific understanding that there is only one human race.
Moving Towards a Resource Based Economy
Even though a resource based economy is a far cry from our current economic system, there may be some basis behind Fresco and Joseph’s ideas. You might even go so far as to say that in some ways, humanity is already moving towards it. For instance, organizations such as the Global Footprint Network have already taken on the monumental task of calculating Earth’s carrying capacity, alongside the ecological footprint of the average human. According to their Earth shot calculator, humanity already used all the natural resources and ecosystem services that the Earth can renew in a year, just 8 months into 2017. And while the results are grim, measuring growth is one of the first steps to curbing it.
Evidence based policy, has also maneuvered its way into the political discourse. Following on the heels of the evidence based medicine movement in the early 1800’s, researchers began conducting numerous experiments to test the efficacy of practices in education and criminal reform. To fill this void, organizations such as the Coalition for Evidence Based Policy in the United States, and the UK’s Economic and Social Resource Council’s Centre for Evidence Based Policy & Practice have already begun organizing for more scientifically sound policy.
Initiatives such as Project Drawdown have taken evidence-based policy a step further by utilizing research from scholars, scientists, activists, and businesses to publish a plan to reverse the effects of climate change. Not only is their plan the first comprehensive plan to reverse global warming the world has ever seen, they purport we already have the technology and resources to do it in 30 years. And thanks to Moore’s Law, which demonstrates that technology grows exponentially, the prevalence and efficacy of technology is only going to increase.
Perhaps most significantly, is the fact that consumers have already begun to embrace alternative economic systems. The rise of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and the emergence of the sharing economy has increased humanity’s interest in asset-sharing. A global study published by Nielson Global Survey, found that 68% of online users were willing to share their property for payment. The Brookings Institute estimates that the sharing economy is on pace to grow from $14 billion in 2014, to $335 billion by 2025. And although the sharing economy is still functioning in the capitalistic framework, intentional communities, cooperatives and non-monetary exchanges such as time banking, are also disrupting the market.
Fresco’s vision for a resource based economy provides an alternative to scarcity, political dogma and social upheaval- but only if humanity is willing to embrace the cultural shift needed to implement it. And even if we don’t embrace a resource based economy, there’s no denying the fact that our survivability as a species depends entirely on natural resources and our ability to use them wisely. Point blank, our current economic system isn’t cutting it and humanity needs to make a choice: change our ways, or perish because of them.
A 1985 letter from the Universal House of Justice, the governing body for the Bahai’ Faith, sums up the dilemma best…
“Whether peace is to be reached only after unimaginable horrors precipitated by humanity’s stubborn clinging to old patterns of behaviour, or is to be embraced now by an act of consultative will, is the choice before all who inhabit the earth. At this critical juncture when the intractable problems confronting nations have been fused into one common concern for the whole world, failure to stem the tide of conflict and disorder would be unconscionably irresponsible.”