Monday, May 24, 2010

If Not Self-Reliance, Perhaps Mutual Reliance?

Ms. Schor is less nostalgic than programmatic. She argues that greater self-reliance could help provide an effective strategy for coping with unemployment and reducing environmental degradation...As a child of the Woodstock era, I think it would be cool if she were even partly right. As an economist of the 21st century, I’d like to figure out if she could be.
I will admit I read this quickly, but my impression is that this is way too back-to-the-earth for my taste. However, I find a seed of potential in contention is that contemporary Americans could do much more to be mutually supportive. Carpooling kids to sports for example--I feel like I have practically had to beg people to carpool--when I was the one offering rides. There seems to be such a pervasive "I don't need any help at all" mentality. Or a dinner party, I off-handedly suggested that it would be easy for 3 suburban families to share a lawnmower. People looked at me like I was crazy.

Think of the specialty tools we buy that we don't need more than once a year (if that). Not only do we incur the cost of buying them, we also incur the cost of storing them. I am more than happy to share my small collection of such tools with neighbors--thinks like the DeWalt compound miter saw that I bought for a deck project, or the sturdy hand truck hanging in a corner of the garage. There is absolutely no need for every suburban family to own their own copy of such things.


  1. You can be my neighbor! I've thought of that as well. Which reminds me, I ought to bring that up at the next homeowners association meeting.

    I think the main obstacle to such cooperation is that neighbors don't know each other well enough these days, which leads them to not want to trust their stuff to someone else. Sharing is great so long as it doesn't come back broken or worn out.

    It's a great solution, but the reasons why it doesn't happen more is indicative of a larger problem

  2. "... easy for 3 suburban families to share a lawnmower. People looked at me like I was crazy."
    -- LOL. People are just to set in the current paradigm of thinking/living. We need more Eriks on Earth.

  3. I agree with both of you (kind words Paul--I am much more talk than action though). Although I think it is more the not knowing than actual trust that is the obstacle. I let a neighbor I don't know that well borrow my hand-truck. Not much risk in that; the upside--for both of us, really--is much bigger than the downside. Lawnmower somewhat higher risk, but really not too high.