It is claimed that the so-called free-enterprise system creates incentive. This may be true, but it also perpetuates greed, embezzlement, corruption, crime, stress, economic hardship, and insecurity. In addition, the argument that the monetary system and competition generate incentive does not always hold true. Most of our major developments in science and technology have been the result of the efforts of very few individuals working independently and often against great opposition. Such contributors as Goddard, Galileo, Darwin, Tesla, Edison, and Einstein were individuals who were genuinely concerned with solving problems and improving processes rather than with mere financial gain. Actually, very often there is much mistrust in those whose incentive is entirely motivated by monetary gain, this can be said for lawyers, businessmen, salesman and those in just about any field.
Some may question that if the basic necessities are accessible to all people, what will motivate them? This is tantamount to saying that children reared in affluent environments, in which their parents provide all the necessary food, clothing, shelter, nutrition, and extensive education, will demonstrate a lack of incentive or initiative. There is no evidence to support this fallacious assumption. There is overwhelming evidence to support the facts that malnutrition, lack of employment, low wages, poor health, lack of direction, lack of education, homelessness, little or no reinforcement for one’s efforts, poor role models, poverty, and a bleak prospect for the future do create monumental individual and social problems, and significantly reduce an individual’s drive to achieve. The aim of a resource based economy is to encourage and develop a new incentive system, one no longer directed toward the shallow and self-centered goals of wealth, property, and power. These new incentives would encourage people to pursue different goals, such as self-fulfillment and creativity, the elimination of scarcity, the protection of the environment, and the alleviation of suffering in their fellow human beings.
People, provided with good nutrition in a highly productive and humane society, will evolve a new incentive system unattainable in a monetary system. There would be such a wealth of new wonders to experience, explore, and invent that the notion of boredom and apathy would be absurd. Incentive is often squelched in our present culture, where a person dare not dream of a future that seems unattainable to him or her. The vision of the future that too many see today consists of endless days of mindless toil, and a wasted life, squandered for the sake of merely earning enough money to survive from one day to the next.
Each successive period in time creates it’s own incentive system. In earlier times the incentive to hunt for food was generated by hunger; the incentive to create a javelin or a bow and arrow evolved as a process supportive to the hunt. With the advent of an agrarian society the motivation for hunting was no longer relevant, and incentives shifted toward the cultivation of crops, the domestication of animals, and toward the protection of personal property. In a civilization where people receive food, medical care, education, and housing, incentives would again undergo change and would be redirected: People would be free to explore other possibilities and lifestyles that could not be anticipated in earlier times.
The nature of incentive and motivation is dependent upon many factors. We know, for example, that the physical and mental health of an individual is directly related to that person’s sense of self-worth and well-being. Furthermore, we know that all healthy babies are inquisitive; it is the culture that shapes the particular kind of inquiry and motivation. For example, in India and other areas of great scarcity there are many people who are motivated not to accumulate wealth and material property; they renounce all worldly goods. Under the conditions in which they find themselves, this is not difficult. This would seem to be in direct conflict with other cultures that value the accumulation of material wealth. Yet, which view is more valid? Your answer to this question would depend upon your frame of reference, that is, your culturally influenced value-system.
Many experimental psychologists and sociologist have shown that the effects of environment play a major role in shaping our behavior and values. If constructive behavior is appropriately rewarded during early childhood, the child becomes motivated to repeat the rewarded behavior, provided that the reinforcement meets the individual needs of the child. For example, if a football were given to a child who is interested in botany, this would not be a reward from the child’s point of view. It is very unfortunate that so many individuals in our society today are not appropriately rewarded for their creative efforts. In some instances individuals are seemingly able to overcome the shortcomings of their environment in spite of an apparent lack of positive reinforcements. This is due to their own “self-reinforcement” in which they can see an improvement in whatever activity they are engaged in, and achieve an intrinsic sense of accomplishment; their reinforcement does not depend on the approval of others, nor on monetary reward. Those children who do depend on the approval of a group tend to be afflicted with a sense of low self-esteem, while children who do not depend on group approval usually acquire a sense of self-approval by improving upon their own performance.
Throughout history, there have been many innovators and inventors who have been ruthlessly exploited, ridiculed, and abused while receiving very little financial reward. Yet, they endured such hardship because they were motivated to learn and to discover new ways of doing things. While creative individuals like Leonardo de Vinci, Michelangelo, and Beethoven received the generous sponsorship of wealthy patrons, this did not diminish their incentive in the least. On the contrary, it empowered them to reach new heights of creativity, perseverance and individual accomplishments.
This is a difficult concept to grasp because most of us have been brought up with the value system that has given us a set of notions about the way that we ought to think and behave about money and motivation. These are based upon ancient ideas that are really irrelevant today.
It has been stated that war generates creativity. This deliberately falsified concept has no basis in fact. It is government financing of war industries that helped to develop many new materials and inventions. There is no question that a saner society would be able to create a more constructive incentive system if our knowledge of the conditions that shape human motivation were applied.
In this new social arrangement of a resource-based economy, motivation and incentive will be encouraged through recognition of, and concern for, the needs of the individual. This means providing the necessary environment, educational facilities, nutrition, health care, compassion, love, and security that all people need.
Published with permission from the author: Jacque Fresco, Founder of The Venus Project, www.thevenusproject.com