Visualizing a Plenitude Economy


The Center for a New American Dream presents Juliet Schor’s Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth. In the 1970s, researchers predicted that human overuse of planetary resources would surface at the beginning of the 21st century. Almost on cue, food prices skyrocketed, peak oil got closer and pollution destabilized the climate. In 2008, financial collapse erased a trillion dollars of wealth and the US lost over 8 million jobs. Three years later, there were 44 million people on food stamps and five job seekers for every available position. Meanwhile, the richest 5% of the population had managed to grab a record 65% of the country’s wealth. Wall Street and big companies were thriving, but poverty, anger, and social discontent were rising. The official discourse allows for just one way of solving these problems: expand production, rev up the engine and hope the jobs will trickle down. But no realistic estimates of growth are high enough to reemploy the 25 million people who are out of work or can only find part-time jobs. And the indiscriminate growth we’d get would intensify ecological overshoot, which in turn creates more financial instability. We can’t just trade one problem off for another. We need to reduce ecological impact and create jobs. How do we do that? We absolute have to get off fossil fuels, and innovation and technology are essential. But a common suggestion, technologically-driven “green growth” is only a partial solution, because growth itself degrades planetary resources. We also have to challenge our devotion to endless growth by building a new economic model and way of living. We need a plenitude economy. Its central insight is that changing how we spend our time is the key to reducing environmental impact, creating more jobs, and giving us all a better life. Americans could use a break. Since the 1970s, working hours have risen by about 200 hours a year. That extra work creates stress and impairs family life. Long hours also boost carbon emissions. So let’s reduce worktime. Rather than hiring 4 workers for full-time schedules, an employer takes 5, each working 80%, or a 4-day workweek. Yes, we’ll need to address the costs of benefits, but that’s solvable. Some years ago, the Netherlands government did this for all its new employees. Eventually the whole Dutch financial sector went to 80%. A fairer distribution of work makes the income distribution fairer too, because too little work is a major cause of poverty. Giving people more time off is also at the heart of the trend to DIY, or do-it-yourself. People are growing vegetables, bee-keeping, canning and brewing beer. They’re building low-cost, eco-friendly housing; generating energy; sewing clothing, and even making manufactured items with desktop-sized computer-controlled machines. DIY is savvy economics because 21st century technologies have raised the productivity of small scale production. It allows people to live better with less money, exercise their creativity, and even start businesses as they develop expertise in new, eco-intelligent ways of producing. And when people work less, they tend to consume less. The planet gets some time off too. Plenitude practitioners are also finding security by linking up with each other. There’s a wave of social innovation
for sharing, bartering, informal and neighborhood exchange, re-use and re-sale. The sustainability movement motivated it.
The internet facilitated it. And the economic downturn mainstreamed it as cash got scarce and time got more abundant. People are having fun and saving money with clothing and soup swaps, car and ride sharing, couch surfing and tool libraries. They’re building social capital as an alternative to the borrow-and-spend consumer culture. So there’s the new model: a plenitude economy that gives people more time away from work, expanded opportunities for low-impact economic activity, and a commitment to social connection and community. It’s a way to reclaim a human scale to our economy, take responsibility for our lifestyles, and treat one another and the planet with the respect we all deserve. The Center for a New American Dream: more of what matters.

100 thoughts on “Visualizing a Plenitude Economy

  1. What nonsense. Let's all go to 32 hour work weeks. With a 20% cut in wages we will all have to be on foodstamps before long. Those people gardening and doing tool libraries are no doubt forced into it because they can no longer afford to buy their own food or tools. Bartering is the last desperate merans of survival for the impoverished. I knew as soon as the eco-chondria set in and I heard the word "sustainable" this Plenitude notion would be an epic fail. More capitalism! Less government!

  2. it's not about finding more jobs per se, it's about changing out economy to a self managed economy that doesn't constantly rely on money to facilitate needs/exchange.

  3. when did this video talk about inventions? In fact, it hinted that if people had more time to DIY, they would probably have more chance to explore their passions and invent something. makes sense to me. Steve Jobs created apple out of his garage.

  4. diy time to them is gardening and being a farmer to become self sustainable. i brought up inventions because it mentions the netherlands as being like this model she is proposing and it has developed so little inventions it would be pointless to site them off. the only way that this model is even possible is through gov regulation, something that has proven to slow economic growth. in this model no one would be able to afford steve jobs inventions.

  5. Most people wouldn't need foodstamps if they worked 32 hours a week, depending on the cost of living.

    You know your argument is essentially how Chinese workers rationalize working 60 hours a week right?

    You have to draw a line. Worker productivity is increasing so much over the last few decades that the 40 hour work week is redundant.

    And before you say anything about my work ethic, I work as an ASM 55 hours a week, 6 days a week. I would be happier and more productive

  6. Welcome to the FREE WORLD. If you're not happy as a 55hour/6 day week ASM, then change careers! One of the blessings of Liberty is the right and power to govern your own life. As for me, I have a full time job and I am self-employed in a private venture. Your schedule is 'part time' to me. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I am happy to be taxed for the support of the old and disabled, but not one cent for the lazy, or the whiner. I owe it to God to maximize the potential He gave me.

  7. Well I am sorry that you would rather have no life and work more than 55 hours a week.

    I for one have aspirations that require time outside of work to accomplish, such as caring for my family, getting my masters, and maintaining my good health.

    I can't do that if I have to work like a dog forever. I am not going to be a slave forever.

  8. My dear IndigoVagrant, don't worry – I have a "life" outside of work. I am happily in love, I have a great family, and I enjoy the company of good friends. I too have aspirations outside of work that require time, such as finishing my second book (harder than anything I have ever done) and building my private venture. The goal is to have all my time free to myself and family-and have it early. At the rate we are growing now, I should be able to retire comfortably at 50. Maximize your youth!

  9. Great idea! But this fails to address the paradigm shift necessary for people to consume less – via wanting less. Finding a way to work 80% is more feasible than finding a way to live without your Ipad or smart phone. Both need to go together, hand-in-hand for any real solution to be realized.

  10. This is also happening in the Netherlands. It really works. All we need is LESS. And giving and sharing will make the world a better place. For EVER ONE. Including the sceptics. I'm pretty positive about that 🙂

  11. It;s so cool. I've been thinking about so called social green economy and DIY for long time. Im creating bisnesplan of ecovillage, going to build for a start small solar instalation and wind turbine. Also thinking about build hydoponic system and what most important I wanna teach people this style of living and practise skills. How to build a passive buildings, generate power, grow healthy food, create fuels, etc.This kind of stuff and experience we gonna need in upcomming recession.

  12. People who "afford Steve Jobs inventions" are slaves to consumerism. The are not the ones who invent. They are the ones who shell out and consume.

  13. or they are people who like music and believe technology improves their lives instead of thinking that anything shiny must first burn down a portion of the rainforest. inventions and improvement is what creates economic growth not brainwashing people into thinking that playing on a playground your whole life is fulfilling. wanting stuff isnt evil and videos like this are only made to make the poor people hate better off people. (because apparently they are killing the environment.)

  14. Slave to a master that's been planted in his head is even less free than the one who has been put in shackles by a physical master. Slaves to debt are free to take that loan/mortgage. Slaves to corporate feudalism are free to take that 60 hours a week job to buy more stuff they don't need. Much like that protestant minister in Python's Meaning of Life, you are not really free if you refuse to exercise your freedom.

  15. Watch “Occupying Chairlifts” on youtube, a simple rule tweak on inheritance ends up changing the direction and purpose of modern human life! Here’s a fair way to transition forward, something specific we can demand, protest for, and adopt ourselves! Spread it around! If this isnt the best answer, at least we’re thinking about what might be. What if we were really just this close to having it work right?
    Oh yeah, it's a Ski movie thing. Watch “Occupying Chairlifts” on Youtube!

  16. This is retarded.
    It would only lead to bancrupcy of small buisnesses that run the economy and growth of giant corporations.

  17. Working two and three jobs also cripples the economy. Not only that but, but now and days everyone in the house has job. Combine that with machines taking the place of workers and our jobs issue becomes clear

  18. how do you figure? did you watch this at all? it PROMOTES small businesses. workplaces in general wont have any less work done, because there will be more workers to compensate for the less time.

  19. Yeah and if done without damaging the brain, shooting somebody in the face with a shotgun is not lethal.

  20. I like how the video makes no actual proposals, but simply describes an idylic state of affirs. It's once you get down to how they actually plan to bring about this utopia that you realize it's just a cover for Communism.

  21. Yeah you're right, taking an active stance in your life by making things instead of buying them, not spending money that you don't have, and working four days a week instead of five with say, one extra person, sounds like Communism to me! (sarcasm, for those of you that missed it) Communism is an ideal, not a realistic economic strategy and doesn't belong in this conversation. Neither does "conservative" or "liberal." This is a discussion about investment and what "growth" actually means.

  22. We need to eliminate job-killing regulations like the so-called Affordable Care Act which actually makes medical coverage less affordable for workers *and* for their employers.

  23. I guess I already practice Plentitude Economics, I skip every 5th work day, grow lots of high value weed… I mean plants…. no, I mean weed, and sit on my ass as to consume less so I can help the planet. I'm not lazy, I'm a believer in Plentitude.

  24. I see one main issue with this. It's true that companies can spread out work amongst more individuals and, ignoring current resistance to income equality, make wages more equal across the corporate hierarchy to offset the poverty from insufficient work hours. However, health benefits cannot be divided up like work hours. More workers would mean more healthcare costs for companies.

    This is where government healthcare can step in. Before plenitude, we must address healthcare properly.

  25. Don't lie; you know that this kind of thing is a slippery slope to tyranny! Why, I reckon you gots the Devil in you! Out, Devil!

    Soon's people start talking 'bout sharing and lookin out for everybody, an not using no more than you need, that's when you know the Devil is in town… uh, except when Jesus is sayin it, or somebody quotin Jesus.

    If Stalin was alive today, he'd be one a them long-haired hippies for sure. Lazy tyrannical peacenik FASCISTS!!!

  26. Capitalism has saved more humans than any other economic system. It has raised the standard of living of almost every single person on the planet. Socialism (your beloved) has served to execute millions in the 20th Century.

  27. Even if it were communism, it wouldn't be worse than what is coming if we continue this way… Because the only way to don't have complete anarchy with everyone against everyone in an capitalistic economy working with growth is… fascism.

    So capitalist fascism or "communism" … ? Easy choice for me…

  28. I spoke of: 1. vastly increased life span. 2. higher educational levels, 3. vast reduction of child death rate, 4. vast increase in leisure time activities. I can go on and on. Capitalism creates these. Capitalism rewards those with initiative and intelligence. It provides incentives for people to improve their lives and thereby vastly improving that of their society.

  29. Step 1. Visualizing a Plenitude Economy, Step 2. ??? Step 3. Everyone's Happy, or almost everyone. The biggest, hardest and most important chunk that's missing here is Step 2. It's easy to say "Oh, look at the Scandinavians", but they're countries with high development index, low population and in some cases like Norway, a lot of natural resources. Most quixotic ideas are implementable in small scales, like how communism works in small communes, or how anarchism works in Freetown Christiania.

  30. All this sounds terrific but it will never happen because rich people can't make money off of it, and thats why things never change.

  31. Increased lifespan was not a result of capitalisn it was a result of medicine and better standard of living created by innovations in science. Education is not affiliated with culture, it is simply facts and theories. Child death rate was reduced as a result of better medicine and protection, not as a result of money. leisure time has been reduced as a result of capitalism, i do not understand why.

    Money isnt edible, it cannot cure disease, it cannot protect people, its a means to an end.

  32. Yes it was due to capitalism. Capitalism rewards intelligence. It rewards efforts. It rewards innovation, creation and hard work. Socialism and your beloved communism do not. All the improvements were due to individuals acting in their best interest creating products and services that expanded and improved society. I suggest you read a bit more history before speaking again.

  33. No: never wanted, socialism or communism or technocracy. all corrupt all broken i want no isms or cracies. As the opposing view it is your duty to provide meaningful evidence, i dont know what history i need to look at?

    Im quite interested to hear the good side of capitalism, but you need to help. tell me a story give a quote use an image, something, anything to back this idea up.

  34. I did. You just missed the last 300 years of human progress – all because of Capitalism. Socialism and such – look at all the failed states and millions murdered in the 20th C.

  35. Interesting the stupid producers of this video failed to mention the earth has been cooling since 1998… And every single ACW model failed to predict this. Maybe if the model is wrong, then its conclusions would be… WRONG ALSO! Peak oil… Not yet. In fact we now have more proven and reachable reserves than every before. Seems research is a step too far for these liberals.

  36. I was born at the end of that century and i dont know much about history, simply giving a large time-frame and saying something in it proves your point is vague and unclear, it certainly could be proof but you didnt point at specifics and how they connect to your conclusion.

    My argument is that capitalism forces an obligation to work in exchange for survival through access to food, water etc and later luxuries using money as a basis. How can we be equal if we dont have equal purchasing power?

  37. There is equal purchasing power. You trade your effort for the effort of others. That is the basis of capitalism. Money is just an exchange mechanism that makes it easier to trade value for value. I still suggest – more history and reading.

  38. Capitalism for the majority of history has served us well (Up until late 1920's onwards,) i will admit this, but with our present technology we can transcend it. But not in the way shown on this video, the system shown here does not answer the fundemental problem with societies of any kind.

    Industry has given us a significant increase in production, this increase was unfortunately wasted on frivilous obsolescent garbage to satisfy our senses at the expense of our long-term mental health.

  39. Interesting you chose the 1920's as your time when capitalism stopped serving man well, that is also when the progressives started to alter capitalism in view of their totalitarian worldview. Fabin's, Hitler and Stalin were all the same – progressives.

    You forget the massive improvement in our lives from the 1920's onward. Would you choose to live in the 1920's or in the 21st Century with our appliances and conveniences – all brought to you by Capitalism.

  40. What you are doing is referred to as "An argument from final consequences" this is similar to Theists justifying gods existence by pointing to the ability of our universe to sustain life. I will answer your point however.

    The "progressives" began then, because the system stopped serving them, they looked for alternatives and unfortunately failed to create a workable solution.

    The improvements were not produced by capitalism because capitalism is intangible, *[Humans] did this not [Money]*.

  41. A Resource Based Economy is also worth looking into.

    Watch Paradise or Oblivion on Youtube or look att The Venus Project.com 🙂

  42. LOL so much work to be done re-formatting our energy production sector…. BUT THERE ARE NO JOBS?!!? GTFO "government"

  43. I'm just going to stick my nose in this debate really quickly. Just to clarify a few of my own perceptions that you seem to want to umbrella under Capitalism.

    Scientific and Technological discoveries cannot be put under the umbrella of Capitalism. Scientist would have been driven by personal curiosity Capitalism aside. That's not to say that Capitalism didn't help by allowing investors to donate money towards the discoveries. But, correlation does not mean causation.

  44. The earth has not been cooling since 1998. 1998 was a statistical outlier due to an El Nino. Most of the heat gains are stored in the oceans, which have been warming. When an El Nino hits, the oceans are given the opportunity to release the heat that has been stored.

  45. Capitalism is the economic model whereby individuals own the means of production. Communism is the economic model whereby the community owns the means of production. There is nothing inherent in either system that guarantees the ideal society.

  46. Lots of the innovations in science were motivated by the underlying theory of Capitalism, supply and demand. Why would people really want to invest so much time and effort into something they don't get a return on. Education improvements, resultant of a demand for higher quality education to keep up with new theories and ideas required to work in a capitalist society. How has capitalism reduced leisure time??? Money is an intermediary that makes bartering unnecessary, a more efficient system.

  47. Innovation, especially in the modern world where new ideas are more complicated, require a lot of resources, something a scientist's curiosity cannot create themselves without the existence of a system that allows for this resource transition, Capitalism.

  48. Umm…Let's see…what's happened each time that the government has decided to let business do its thing with little to no regulation…Oh, look at that, productivity exploded, that's good…oh wait…then everything collapses in on itself. Both the Great Depression and the recession/depression of the mid 2000's – present, were caused in no small part by allowing businesses to run with little to no regulation or supervision.

  49. Just because Capitalism becomes both a motivator and a means to an end does not mean that Capitalism resulted in the invention or discovery. As I said before Correlation does not equal Causation. That means just because they have a few threads connecting does not mean that one directly effected the outcome of another. Most of our modern tech didn't come directly from capitalism or pure science. It came from military science accidents that then transferred to public sector improvements.

  50. I believe an even more efficient model would involve provision of necessity free of charge and finding a new motivation better than money.

  51. I don't know about efficient but definitely I agree, I've always thought about a technology based model would be great and in a way creating new technology will actually increase potential profits for those who invest in it e.g. a new source of energy, but unfortunately as humans, generally if we don't see the short term benefits of something to themselves they don't see a point in doing it…

  52. But you're just agreeing with me. If something motivates an outcome then it is a cause, of course I'm not saying the only cause but certainly a large factor. Correlation is like saying that generally invention causes capitalism, vice versa or some third, fourth, etc variable. If you say capitalism motivates then it IS a cause. Also I'm not sure about the statement 'most modern tech' came from military science accidents….

  53. An interesting question arises, once we have ifinite abundance (Nanotech + surplus energy or some other means) What will we as a species strive for?

  54. RIght, since if I'm not drinking the Steve-aide, I must be a stinkin' commie… (btw I do a lot of creative work on my computer but it doesn't mean buying an iPhone will turn you into Salvador Dali or Karlheinz Stockhauzen, despite what Apple marketing made you beleive). Sent from my Mac, where I'm still not thinking quite that differently…

  55. hoover was not laissez-faire and had restrictions on asset prices and set wage floors which resulted in businesses not being able to hire people for low enough wages to produce a profit . there are many videos on youtube that show the causes of the depression and laisses faire capitalism isnt one of them. same with the tech bubble. if you look at the federal interest rates in 1998-2001 and 2004-2007 its ironic how the second the fed rises them, the economy has a set back.

  56. Well, what I mean is that a lot of people want more and more and consume a lot which is doing our planet no good. A fact isn't it? If we stop being so material it could have a very positive contribution to save our planet. What is wrong with sharing and giving? I think my opinion was being interpreted in a negative way. But things happen. I'm surprised that my comment was interpreted in such way. And I don't think I said people should be compelled. This will never work.

  57. Postscript: Then we can examine what passes for "work" done by most folks just to survive in the top-heavy capitalist Ponzi-Scheme mislabeled as an "economy". Most of what many people do for a "living" is paper-pushing, resource wasting and basically hostile to the Planet we depend upon for survival…

  58. Precisely, When i said motivation i did not mean motivation for invention, i meant motivating humans to uphold civilisation without them becoming corrupt.

  59. Everyone who insists in having a car, will have one. If there willing to live somewhere rural, or fight traffic for 3 hrs day in the city. Those are your choices.

    If you don't hold it against me for having an ebike and using mass transit. I wont hold your car against you.

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  61. Not really utopian. The Venus Project or a resourced based economy is utopian, but this can be implemented right away in a voluntray way. There are job, salaries, freedom to exchange goods. Its the same as now but with a few mino/major tweaks that make it more 'fair' for everyone and its less of a burden for the planet.

  62. Nice to see people offering intelligent options to real problems. Here is another source: http://www.ic.org

  63. Good idea but a little idealistic. The trouble is that employers really want to hire only three employees to do the work of four. They already pay lower than a liveable wage which make working less hours difficult to sustain. This of course is my observation as with the last 66 months having worked only 42, with only 18 of those months allowing for full time hours.

  64. Unfortunately with out abolishing the Federal Reserve, and changing the way our monetary system works then nothing will change and things will only get worse.

  65. People want to attain "things" in life in order to be fulfilled.Well we all know they won't,they will be chasing it and probably get it,and then die and lose it.Pointless life with that kind of view.
    After all your purpose here at this evolved state is to discover the truth of life by yourself.
    GOOGLE: THE TRUTH CONTEST

  66. The only thing that lack in the plan is the fact we all got to forget about the fact we need money. Otherwise there's always gonna be someone or a small group of people who gonna chose whats the rest of the others have to do in they lifes…

  67. This is a great video. The 'leisure' industry was a brilliant construct of 'capitalism' to always Go, Go, Go!!!  Walt Disney, Hollywood, The 'travel' industry and other vehicles of the economy made us always in a state of Wanting MORE from domestic industries like manufacturing and others that gave us less or nothing at all (Detroit to Rust Belt economy).

  68. Good video – the main issue may hinge around the very way that we calculate value on the basis of growth and consumption alone – present value of a future sum analysis and all of its derivatives. This is the way everything in our society is valued and particularly monetary investment. This will take a militant new form of economics that involves development, improvement and enhancement without increased consumption and reliable means of measuring the real values. This does not need to be a direct challenge to capitalism and free enterprise – but rather an enhancement involving real costs and real values as agreed upon by common experience

  69. This will never work in a GOP governed nation. The GOP engineered the wealth grab of the 1%. The only escape is suicide or drugs.

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