I’m uncomfortable with the phrase “post-scarcity economy.” It suggests that scarcity is gone–dealt with. We’ve had the scarcity to end all scarcities, and from now on, we can all have as much of everything as we want, no matter what.
I don’t think that’s true. It is true that the US has enjoyed almost seventy years of a degree of plenty that was previously unheard of, but think of where Britain was during the fifties. Rationing that began in the late 1930s didn’t end until 1954, FCS, and even when it was officially over, luxury goods were still scarce in the shops. I’ve been reading Beverley Nichols’ Merry Hall trilogy (if you like gardening and/or cats and/or flighty Englishmen who would have gotten along with Bertie Wooster, look him up), which was written over the course of the 1950s. At the beginning of the third book Beverley cleans out his outbuildings. He finds a flower catalogue from 1911 and flips through it. What does Beverley marvel at?
The plenty of it. Literally everything was there. A person could order any flower he could imagine. Beverley luxuriates in the wonder; the whiff of a bygone age. He might be a well-to-do, well-heeled Englishman who can drop a pretty penny on old balustrades scavenged from derelict Victorian houses, but he can not have anything he wants. Money isn’t the issue; things just weren’t available.
The old Chinese curse says “may you live in interesting times.” Beverley lived through interesting times–and frankly, I’m starting to wonder if the broad patterns of the 20th century aren’t about to repeat themselves in the 21st. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is one of my rationales for Stocking Up.
I don’t hoard. Not yet, anyway. My house is sanitary and at least 90% of the available floor surface is clear, aside from normal furniture. Almost everything I have has a shelf to go on. But as to the amount of yarn I have? Fabric? Books? Art supplies? Notebooks and pens? Clothes? The amount of food in my (walk-in) pantry? A lot more than everyday need calls for. Certainly more than I could knit or sew in ten years. But I feel comfortable having it there, and–this is true, I don’t care what you say–most of it has reached a critical mass. I have enough yarn, because I have enough to last me at least a decade. I have enough fabric for the same reason, and art supplies. My book acquisition, in the last few years, has shifted from art and literature to how-to manuals. Because, ladies and gentlemen, if the internet went down tomorrow, and wasn’t back up for (insert length of time, from ten hours to ten years), how many of us would be up Schitt Creek?
Civilization isn’t going to collapse. I took enough history courses to understand that its Cliff’s Notes are “it seems like the world is going to end, but it doesn’t.” Things could get a lot less plentiful than they currently are, though. War and rationing. Trading sanctions. Who knows? Nor do I think that scarcity would be a permanent situation. Since the second World War, society has arguably made a leap forward comparable to the leap from hunting & gathering to agriculture: we can have a lot of things made for us by machines that couldn’t be, a hundred years ago, and that knowledge won’t go away easily.
I don’t know where I’m going with all this, other than to defend my current mania for gardening. Isn’t it a perfectly normal kind of mania to have? The June 2 episode of Gardener’s World featured a primary school where gardening is a regular lesson for all the students. I think it would have been lovely to have had that at my schools. I think it’s lovely to be doing it now. Growing a few tomatoes or strawberries because they taste better than store-bought is still a paradigm away from growing all your own fruit and veg, though–a leap that I sometimes make in my head, but am absolutely unprepared to make in real life. But let me tell you, when you have a whole packet of seed for tomatoes or beans or whatever, it’s an almighty temptation to sprout it all and grow it all on and plant it all out, and have enough beans or tomatoes to feed the whole neighborhood. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
I think it sounds sensible, in a fantastic kind of way. For the moment, though, I only have so much arable ground (Read: here in Cascadia, they bring in sand to level lots for building, which leaves it un-gardenable. Phooey.), and that limits my production. The first raised bed is now in existence, though, no thanks to Home Depot, who fluffed the second order, too. Grr.
Off I go to keep killing myself in the garden. It’s the only sensible thing to do.