In oil-rich, desert kingdoms, it costs you more in water to rinse out a plastic cup than to use a new one.
In oil-scarce, agricultural countries, it costs society more to wrap up a half-eaten sandwich for later consumption than it does to just throw that shit out and make a new one later.
That’s where international trade comes in.
You see, there’s supply and there’s demand. But modern, overproducing economies such as ours demand demand. Because without demand, supply isn’t even supply. It’s just this shit. The demand for demand is known as “meta-demand” or D-squared in fancy economic equations designed to make it seem like a science.
But there’s a limited supply of demand. If demand were unlimited, there’d be no demand for it. That is, there would be no meta-demand and all our supplies would become shitty.
Now, the lazy subsistence peasant who would rather work shorter hours than produce an agricultural surplus (a mindset criticized by that famous theorist of the Industrial Revolution, Max Weber) is actually right:
If you work harder one year to create a surplus, yes, you make more money that year but you thereby flood the market with your product, lowering its value in future years. Your product worth less money, you then have to work even harder in following years just to make what you were making before you stupidly decided to work harder.
So fuck Weber.
Compounding the problem, when the peasants make more money the amount of money in the hands of peasants increases, thereby lowering its value. So not only is your product worth less than before, your money is also worth less.
Having stumbled headlong onto the gerbil-wheel of the Technological Revolution, humanity as a whole is constantly lowering the long-term value of its work product just to make some money in the short-term. Given the inexorable trend towards full automation, soon our work will be worthless and so will our money. We’ll be living in world of inexpensive shit that no one can afford.
What you want instead is a world full of costly things that everyone can afford. That’s the ideal, impossible though it be.
Hypothetically, in a world of only five people (“A” – “E”), wherein A makes a profit on B who profits on C who profits over D who profits from E, if E doesn’t make a profit from A the whole system collapses. And that’s why economics doesn’t make sense with just five people. It takes millions of people to confuse everything and make it work.
Only then are real solutions possible. For instance, it’s a truism of capitalism that government spending did not get us out of the Great Depression; World War II did. But what was World War II? Military spending. And what is military spending? It’s government spending.
Therefore, the best kind of spending a government can do is to buy expensive shit and then blow it up, hopefully with a resultant loss of life in the process. That creates real value.
World War II put America on top by severely weakening the competing economies of Europe. In fact, it so weakened them that America was then forced to give money to Europe (via the famous Marshall Plan) lest America’s economy should collapse. In other words, “E” had to make some money off of “A.”
And so, all you A-list, wealthy people, if you really want to stay on top you need to give this peasant some money. And no, I’m not going to work any harder for it–that would ruin everything.