Thinking about Abundance over Scarcity

Derek Thompson suggests in “A Simple Plan to Solve All of America’s Problems” that America moves away from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset.

There’s a lot to agree with here. Rentier capitalism goes away with abundance. An abundance mindset doesn’t fully respect natural scarcities though. A growth mindset—more of everything—can’t fully be supported by our ecosystem.

But Americans won’t enthusiastically support decarbonization if they believe that it is the path to pain and deprivation. Building a green-energy movement requires convincing people that they can still have big cars and home comforts if we build a clean-energy grid that electrically powers better cars, better houses, and a better life. To win the political battle for a cleaner planet, we need an energy mindset focused on plenty, which says: If we build the right infrastructure today, your future will be awesome.

Way more people deserve better housing and better life-supporting-appliances and systems but “plenty” has put us where we are today. We do need more and better in some areas like housing but we also need less, smaller, and “enough” in other areas cars and consumer goods.

More, more, more also ends up being hard on people. Here’s an easy one:

From 1900 to 1904, New York City built and opened 28 subway stations. One hundred years later, the city needed about 17 years to build and open just three new stations along Second Avenue.

The working conditions for the immigrant workers building the subway lines at the turn of the century were horrific.

Moving away from scarcity-driven capitalism is a good thing but we also need find ways for degrowth.