Basic survival should be free: a Tumblr rant

I wrote a thing this morning. It's about providing for people's basic needs worldwide. It's like 700 words long and I'm kinda proud of it, so I'm reposting it here. 1dmetalfan:


food should be free. water should be free. housing should be free. power, fuel, electricity should be free. basic necessities should be free.

the idea of “people should have to work for a living” carries the implication that some people deserve to die

You do realize that if all of these things were to happen your quality of life would go down, right? Like… if everything is free to everyone, than a lot of people’s lives would go down in quality.

Like, I’m not saying if you can’t afford it you don’t deserve it or anything, but I think that people who can pay, should pay.

Your sentiments are nice, but naive. Especially seeing as how a lot of experts agree that we may soon be going to war over water, because there is not enough clean water for everyone.

Is that really your argument? “Billions of people are dying of thirst, hunger and exposure to the elements, but we shouldn’t do anything about it because it would maybe cause me a little discomfort sometimes?”

By definition, if there are people whose lives would drop noticeably in quality if we were to adequately provide for the basic well-being of all people, then those people are currently enjoying luxuries that depend on the death and suffering of those people whose lives and well-being are systematically threatened.

"A lot of experts agree" is the kind of statement that folks usually expect a citation for. Now, I recognize that Tumblr is an informal medium and it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to present their academic journals to permit entry, but my guess is that experts who think a water-based war is coming don’t think it’s because there isn’t enough water in the world, they think it’s because none of the major world powers are willing to invest the resources necessary to provide functionally unlimited free water for everybody, because it wouldn’t be a profitable endeavor.

I won’t speak for you, but I’ve met a lot of people who hear phrases like “Wouldn’t be profitable,” and immediately jump to “It would absolutely be unreasonable to pursue this goal, and if a government did it the people ought to revolt.”

And that’s one of the problems with a capitalist system: it circumvents moral decision making. (Here’s one of many papers on the topic. Since it’s early and I don’t have time before work, I’ve only skimmed the abstract. See above: Tumblr is an informal medium.)

I’m not sure if it’s because we’ve been brought up to think this way, or if it’s a natural effect of capital, but when people are encouraged to think about a decision in terms of whether it will make them money, the rest of their decision making systems seem to shut down. The Profit: Yes/No switch skips over the Benefit, Harm, Moral Decency and Long-Term Personal Well-being switches.

So it’s safe to assume that, if we only think of whether the pursuit will be profitable, nobody’s going to pursue the expensive, non-profitable but very achievable and obviously morally positive goal of providing free water for everyone on earth.

Those of us advocating for free basic necessities for everyone aren’t posing that question. We’re asking people to switch the rest of their decisionmaking back on. To accept that taking on a little personal loss is worth the gain of knowing that, worldwide, nobody’s going to die of thirst, starvation, exposure to the elements.

And, furthermore, as a question of non-capital based self-interest, knowing that if everything goes pear-shaped in your own life, you’ll at least definitely be able to survive while you pick up the pieces. Because capitalism offers no one the guarantee that they’ll be able to keep their money and a lot of us are closer than we like to think to the possibility of not-enough.

War is only inevitable if there keeps being not enough to go around, and there will only keep being not enough to go around if we keep refusing to solve the (again, extremely solvable) problem of people not wanting to ever spend money they aren’t personally going to get back.

It’s the same apprehension that’s holding back progress on climate change, clean energy, medical science, government reform, and, frankly, the wars we’re already having.

So, yeah. The world in which everybody has enough food and water and shelter might be a world in which you have a smaller variety of microwavable burritos to choose from. Things might even get so bad that there might only be one McDonald’s in driving distance from your house. But if you’re in a place, financially, where things get worse for you instead of better when everybody gets enough, you can’t possibly with a straight face say you deserve to keep the stuff you’d be losing.

EDIT like 5 min. after posting, for clarity, to put in a word I missed in paragraph 10 of my response.