Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What if We’re Asking the Wrong Question?

For years, newspapers have been decrying the “new economy,” where “nobody wants to pay for anything anymore.”  Aside from the fact that their logic is just wrong (I would gladly pay a nominal fee to receive access to my town’s very own St. Louis Post-Dispatch online), it got me thinking: everybody is looking to monetize everything nowadays.  They always ask “how can I make a buck off of this?”

Obviously this is fine—it’s the principle upon which our economy is currently built.  People not only obtain their living from cash, but they also derive a sense of self-worth from it.  People always have the sense that they’re somehow “worth” whatever it is that they’re paid.

This thought process is incredibly dangerous.  You’re no more inherently “good” or “bad” for society because of the salary you make.  Hell, I used to pull down a pretty obscene amount of money for basically doing other peoples’ homework.  It sucked.

I’d like to think that this blog does a small service to society—if nothing else, it can get people thinking about some of my crazy ideas.  Of course, I make very little money off of this blog.  But I don’t write it to make money at all—anything I make off of it is purely ancillary to whatever benefit I get in terms of sorting out my thoughts, bringing them to others, and improving my writing skills.  These are the things that are really driving me to try to put out a solid, thought-provoking product everyday.

That got me thinking—are we asking the wrong question when we’re trying to make money off of everything?  What if money didn’t matter anymore? 

“Hey now, Bub, what kind of Commie, Pinko shit are you advocating here?  I think we showed those reds what’s what in a little tete-a-tete called the Cold War.”  I’m not saying that we should abolish money or anything along those lines, but what I am advocating is to think about what you would do if there was no such thing as money.  What would you fill your days with?  Drinking and hanging out with friends?  Maybe to some extent.  But there’s still plenty of time in the day to get a lot of important stuff done before doing that.  Also, where would all of that culture, be it TV shows, movies, plays, podcasts, etc. that you would enjoy come from?  Somebody would still need to create these things.  I have a feeling that most of the people that would do so are already pursuing those endeavors in some form or another, some more successfully than others.

But think about it: what if “the basics” were accounted for.  Say we find a source of free, limitless energy, so we can basically create whatever we want out of nothing.  What would you do?  I’m sure that there are reporters and newspaper writers that would still do what they do out of sheer love of their craft.  These are the people that should be in the newspaper business.  I’m sure that you have a similar passion to pursue.  What is it?

There will always be less-than-desirable jobs out there that need to be done.  Janitor is one.  Plumber is another.  Still, there’s a part of me that thinks that there are even people out there that enjoy being plumbers and (maybe even) janitors, for reasons that we might not even think of right away.  Also, as we keep making those technological leaps forward, we’ll be able to use some combination of robotics, new materials, and the internet to take care of a lot of these issues. 

But enough about robots and self-cleaning materials—the important part is to think of what you’d do if money wasn’t an issue at all.  Not even if you had all of the money in the world, just what if it didn’t matter.   Any thoughts on what you’d do?  Leave them in the comments.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and former attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

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