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Economic minimalism

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This is proposed as a suite of methods for doing-more-with-less. Economic minimalism can serve numerous goals, including "treading lightly" (conservation of natural resources) and independence from financiers, an important consideration for projects that require independence-in-general, such as pub wan. Economic minimalism is served by norm set's that minimize outlay and periodic costs with high priority. Economic minimalism also serves the pubwan ideal of inclusivity. (see pubwan is)


Why economic minimalism is needful:

economic insecurity

Finitude of resources

opportunity cost

Some strategies for economic minimalism:

cheap housing

Mass transit

minimal packaging


An interesting case study in economic minimalism is found in Henry David Thoreau's Walden, specifically the first chapter, appropriately titled Economy.

The book Walden describes a one-person experiment in economic minimalism, which included some financial record keeping. He debunked certain (apparently) widely held beliefs of the time (c. 1849), such as the belief that meatless diet was insufficient to humyn nutritional needs.

It is hoped that the included quotations from Thoreau's work fall within fair use. If it helps, try to think of this page as a book review.

Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown.

pub wan, of course, seeks to shed some empirical light on the (often false) dichotomy between luxuries and necessities.

It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them; or even to look over the old day-books of the merchants, to see what it was that men most commonly bought at the stores, what they stored, that is, what are the grossest groceries.

This really hits the nail on the head concerning what pubwan is all about! The efficient shopping list has been proposed as a sort of informational "sieve" for identifying the "grossest of groceries." (I love that expression.) It's refreshing to know that the cause of transparency is nothing new. Unfortunately, this wisdom seems to be lost on most consumers. Thanks to loyalty cards, the merchants are looking over the day-books (or their informational equivalent) of the millions.

The common people have become just as passive in their role as economic producers as they have as consumers. Examine the following (emphasis mine)...

Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood. "do you wish to buy any baskets?" he asked. "No, we do not want any," was the reply. "What!" exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, "do you mean to starve us?" Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off,--that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed,--he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man's to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other's while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one's while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.

I speak only for myself, but this, in a nutshell, is the end which justifies (for me) the means that is economic minimalism, and the creation of pubwan. Minimal consumption begets the luxury of minimal production. In the maxhi schema, minimization and maximization can apply to qualitative, as well as quantitative aspects of both productive and consumptive pursuits. This is why jobs (see sample job normspec), and not just consumer goods, are presented as examples in the sample normset. Today's job-seeker is selling so much more than the willingness to produce... also for sale is willingness to waive rights, willingness to express conformity, willingness to defer values to the bottom line...

The notion I describe as a sample housing normspec is also elegantly expressed by Thoreau (again, emphasis mine):

However, if one designs to construct a dwelling-house, it behooves him to exercise a little Yankee shrewdness, lest after all he find himself in a workhouse, a labyrinth without a clue, a museum, an almshouse, a prison, or a splendid mausoleum instead. Consider first how slight a shelter is absolutely necessary. I have seen Penobscot Indians, in this town, living in tents of thin cotton cloth, while the snow was nearly a foot deep around them, and I thought that they would be glad to have it deeper to keep out the wind. Formerly, when how to get my living honestly, with freedom left for my proper pursuits, was a question which vexed me even more than it does now, for unfortunately I am become somewhat callous, I used to see a large box by the railroad, six feet long by three wide, in which the laborers locked up their tools at night; and it suggested to me that every man who was hard pushed might get such a one for a dollar, and, having bored a few auger holes in it, to admit the air at least, get into it when it rained and at night, and hook down the lid, and so have freedom in his love, and in his soul be free. This did not appear the worst, nor by any means a despicable alternative. You could sit up as late as you pleased, and whenever you got up, go abroad without any landlord or house-lord dogging you for rent. Many a man is harassed to death to pay the rent of a larger and more luxurious box who would not have frozen to death in a box such as this.

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