Karl Arnold Belser
18 November 2015

Whuffie is the currency that Cory Doctorow uses in his post-scarcity society novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It is neither a fiat money nor a commodity money. Whuffie in Doctorow's novels is a kind of popularity measurement that one explicitly accumulates in a digital form. It is a currency of reputation that one might gain from his or her activities.

This is not exactly the kind of Whuffie I am talking about. I prefer to think of the Whuffie as satisfaction points that a person accumulates within himself that is measured by the amount of respect that a wise person might get. I will hereafter call it Satisfaction Whuffie.

Satisfaction Whuffie is the currency people might accumulate wen they are unemployed in order to motivate them to work together as a community. It appears that there will be huge increases in automation, robots and artificial intelligence that will eliminate many jobs. I expect low employment participation to be a chronic problem in the future.

Capitalism has assumed that money accumulated by the rich would be reinvested to create more goods and hence require more employment. This is not the case today. There is little demand because many people do not have money to buy the goods produced by automation. As a result the wealthy are not reinvesting in expanded facilities. Instead, they are shrinking their companies by using their wealth to buy back company shares. This is the type of shrinkage that one might expect in a very low growth environment.

The increase in unemployment as measured by the employment participation rate will probably happen so rapidly that people will not be able to create meaningful jobs that pay a living wage. The employment participation rate is currently at a 36-year low. Further
the resources of the Earth are finite so that the human population on Earth probably has to be reduced to prevent the human race from going extinct. The questions are: 1) What happens to these unemployed people? and 2) how can the population of the Earth be reduced without human rights violations? One would not want the fascist evolutionary humanitarianism like that of Nazi Germany to re-emerge.

I hope that the world's governments decide to keep the social contract they have with its citizens to provide the current citizens with a reasonable standard of living. However, I suspect that the social contract might have to be modified such that the unemployed that are living primarily on government largess e do not multiply  and increase their burden on society.
Part of this newer social contract would have to be a control on birth rate and a practically based right to die. Just like companies are repurchasing shares to shrink themselves, I suspect the population of the world will have to shrink.

Why might one need satisfaction Whuffie?

Satisfaction Whuffie would be the appropriate currency for people in transition. I am one of these people. I have been retired almost 20 years and I am living off Social Security and IBM pension payments as well as receiving inexpensive medical through government Medicare. I could live off of this income but I do have income from other investments. So I have no utility for more money. I do, however, have a need to have a purpose for living, and this is where Satisfaction Whuffie comes in.

My significant other, Jackie, and I started and now run a 501(C)(3) non-profit called the Committee to Promote Square Dancing. Its purpose is to teach new dancers and to have them join square dance clubs in order to increase the social capital of the local area (San Jose, CA). We have run this activity for about 10 years with the partial subsidy of the City of San Jose. I GET tremendous satisfaction from this activity and the respect we receive is adequate compensation. I firmly believe that one needs a "purpose" if one is going to live a long and happy life.

My example is a description of what older people might do. They are past the child bearing years, and they might decide to not use up all of their resources (and the government's resources) to live another month, which is the kind of mis-allocation of resources that is happening commonly today. The unresolved question is what might the government do and how might they implement a restriction on child bearing citizens who have no hope of making a living.

There are both male and female contraception methods that would implement this intention. However, there would be enormous resistance to such a requirement by the Christian churches and the American Civil Liberties Union. The argument is simply that the rich can afford children and the poor cannot.

The puzzle, which I cannot solve, is how does one convince the society at large that if the world population does not change its ways, the human race will become extinct. The course of the current extinction is well described in Elizabeth Kolber''s book The Sixth Extinction.

For example, I have pointed out in previous posts that Christian charity has increased the African lifespan by about 16 years and that the average African woman is having 6 children that will not be educated. This will cause the African population to rise by a billion people in the next 50 years and these people are very likely to continue migrating to Europe.  See my post Illegal Immigration. Will the the Europeans allow a plague of people to invade their territory. I am interested to see what happens. It may take a crisis like this to cause the required social change.

I believe that the unemployed people in the American society might very well become involved in activities that they think are important. The value of activities that generate social capital are hard to quantify in dollars, but it is a necessary ingredient in a democratic society. Satisfaction Whuffie might make the transition to a smaller world population a pleasant one. However,I think, the process for implementing a change in the social contract would prove controversial, but worth exploring in, say, a science fiction novel.

Last updated November 18, 2015
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