What Do I Mean by “Resource-Based Economy” (or “RBE”)?

What do I mean by “TVP - earth computer center - Copyresource-based economy” (RBE)?

I use the acronym “NLRBE” (natural law/resource-based economy), all over my website. But the NLRBE model merely builds upon the RBE model, as explained by this blog post. So, if we want to understand the former, it helps to first understand the latter.

So, what am I referring to when I say “RBE,” or resource-based economy?

I am referring to my spin on a concept fleshed out by Jacque Fresco.

Fresco, and his organization, “The Venus Project” (TVP), were apparently not the first to use the phrase “resource-based economy.”  Nonetheless, I’m talking here about my spin on their vision (and to the extent my spin differs significantly from theirs, I’m okay to have what I’m describing considered a “hybrid RBE”1

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This could get us into a whole discussion about terminology generally.  That is, how do we decide between using a term in a loose, inclusive way, and a strict, narrow way?  On the one hand, the former can allow people who are mostly on the same page to find one another and discuss their differences, by searching the relevant common term they are using.  On the other hand, the latter offers the most clarity about what everyone using the term is talking about.

I use the term “RBE” in the looser, more inclusive way though.  In other words, I prefer to use the term to indicate agreement with a general “train of thought,” as Peter Joseph of the RBE-aligned Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) puts it.

That’s in part because I’m more concerned about mostly-like-minded people finding one another, than creating a different term for each person’s slightly different perspective, in the name of precision.  This is the same reason I’m OK with using the imprecise term “pencil,” rather than using a different term for each individual, slightly varying pencil.

And it’s in part because, Fresco, TVP, TZM and I all claim to be willing to adjust our perspectives, based on the emerging knowledge that the scientific method continually brings.  So to lock all the specifics of the vision into place for all time, despite constantly emerging knowledge about relevant topics, from psychology and physics, would seem to contradict a core RBE principle of relying on science rather than fixed belief.]).  Their vision is covered pretty thoroughly between TVP’s 48+ minute video (to the left), and TVP’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

So, here’s my interpretation of Fresco-TVP’s RBE model.  First, I’ll put it in a sentence.  Then I’ll break the sentence down.

The RBE model, in a sentence:

An RBE, fully realized, would be a voluntarily chosen, border-free, world-wide economy, in which a critical mass of the world’s people would agree to make optimal use of the scientific method, green-energy, technology, automation, shared property access, volunteerism, and the world’s carefully tracked resources, in order to make ongoing, sustainable, high quality, and equal abundance for all a reality, which would 1) leave little need for “greed,” “corruption,” labor, or restriction/force-based, reward/punishment-based strategies, such as poverty-forced labor, trade/money/debt/credit systems, prison, war, or crime, and 2) result in an exponential increase in quality of life for all, in part due to the foregoing, and in part due to a likely significant increase in public health, across the board, and in rates and quality of art and innovation, made available to all.

Breaking that down, here are what I see as the key, underlying components of an RBE, along with supporting evidence:

  • Probably not attainable in anything but a fully-realized RBE:
    • Border-free world; and
    • World-wide adoption by a critical mass of people.
  • Some would argue possibly attainable in pockets,2 as we hopefully transition to a full RBE:
    • Egalitarian decision making3, through which participants ultimately choose:
      • Optimal emphasis on conveniently shared raw resources, property, and property access, versus property ownership.  This would allow us to make the most out of the earth’s finite resources (think car lending libraries, where just the kind of car you need drives itself to your door when you’re ready to go), and allow for maximal innovation (think open source intellectual property, which allows rapid innovation upon innovation to occur – for evidence of this, see discussion later in this post).
        • This is not to say I don’t share the growing recognition amongst RBE-fans that there will be a role for at-home, customized manufacturing of goods as well (albeit combined with appropriate resource-use considerations and recycling protocols), given the continuing development of 3-D printers.  I’m not certain whether or not Fresco-TVP has integrated this reality into their vision.  However, it would seem in keeping with a key underlying RBE principle, of utilizing/accomodating emergent scientific knowledge, technology, and human tendencies, to the extent consistent with other RBE principles.  In any event, again, to the extent Fresco-TVP would disagree, I’m fine considering my tweaked vision a “hybrid RBE.”
      • Optimal use of technology, automation, computing, and artificial intelligence, versus labor.
      • Volunteerism, versus production that’s forced, via threat to short-term survival of the “self”4 (to the extent labor is even needed, with optimal automation);
      • Careful tracking and management of the earth’s resources;
      • Optimal use of green energy sources, versus polluting energy sources; and
      • Optimal use of the scientific method5;
    • In order to make possible:
      • Sustainability of the earth and its inhabitants;
      • Needs of all met as a given, rather than contingently;
      • Needs of all met abundantly, with little labor required;
      • Equal access by all the world’s people, to abundant goods and services;
    • Thereby eliminating:
      • The need for most labor (given optimal automation and innovation);
      • The need for restriction/force-based, reward/punishment-based strategies, such as:
        • Poverty-forced labor (since when their needs are met, people are generally eager to contribute voluntarily6);
        • Trade/money/debt/credit systems (since consumption would be based on desire, need, and sustainable/optimized/automated availability, not enforced restriction or artificial scarcity imposed to secure profit as the only means to short-term survival of the self);
        • Crime or imprisonment (given the use of technology to work around people’s tendencies, e.g., driverless cars rather than drunk driving law and enforcement; given that it appears most crime and imprisonment are directly or indirectly associated with poverty and/or inequality, which would both be eliminated in an RBE; and, given that, in an RBE, people would be helped rather than punished, to the extent problems still existed);
        • War (given shared resources, versus fighting for sole ownership; given no need for acquisition of profit, via such things as sales of munitions; and given a voluntary, gradual shift to science-based decisions, versus controversial religion-based decisions).
      • The need for “greed” or “corruption”:
        • Equal access to abundance-by-design should eliminate any incentive for “greed” for the purpose of trying to “keep up with (or surpass) the Jones’.”  It appears those who research the effects of inequality on societies would agree.
        • Secure abundance-by-design should mean individuals would no longer gravitate towards “greed” or “hording,” in a fruitless attempt to quell ever-present anxiety borne by knowing they are “on their own,” as they are now, in our monetary market system.  Similarly, such secure abundance would presumably eliminate the incentive to “cheat,” engage in “corruption,” or otherwise overlook what would typically be people’s natural, intrinsic motivation to contribute to long term societal and environmental well-being,7 out of sheer desperation to secure short-term survival of the self.
    • Resulting in dramatically higher quality of life for us all, even those now the wealthiest amongst us, given the foregoing, as well as:
      • Likely dramatic increase in everyone’s happiness, physical health, and relational health, from living in full alignment with our evolutionarily-beneficial, physiological tendency towards empathy and compassion, as suggested by numerous studies.
      • Likely exponential increase in public health, across income levels, from living in a state of equality, per relevant research.  According to recent research out of the UK, greater equality generates increased public health, for even the wealthiest individuals.  The research is described in this TEDTalk and on this site.  It shows that, for each of eleven different health and social problems, outcomes are significantly worse, across the board, in more unequal rich countries.  The areas of public health that are significantly better in more equal rich countries, compared with more unequal rich countries include:
      • Likely exponential increase in quantity and quality of art and innovation, and resulting technology, for all to enjoy:
        • More creative and higher quality innovation:
          • In an RBE, people would have their needs met as a given, not as a “reward” for doing this or that.  Hence we’d get more creative and higher quality innovation.
          • But how can this be?  Don’t we need to put people’s survival at stake in order to “motivate” them to contribute?  That is, don’t we need to tell people that they’ll only get rewarded with survival to the extent they contribute?  And, likewise, tell them that they’ll be punished, with survival-threatening deprivation, if they don’t?
          • As it turns out, the answer is generally “No.”
          • As hundreds of studies confirm, generally speaking, when people’s needs are otherwise met enough to be able to contribute, and they are not rewarded for contributing, or punished for not contributing, they want to contribute, and they contribute in more innovative and higher quality ways.8
          • By contrast, when we only meet people’s needs contingently, on an if-then basis (e.g., pay for performance), we generally get lower quality, less innovative production.9.
          • That’s in part because psychological effects of punishments and rewards shift people’s focus from what would otherwise be their “intrinsic” interest in doing whatever is being rewarded, to the “extrinsic” motivation of getting the reward or avoiding the punishment.  This shift generates either distracting levels of anxiety in compliance, or a rebellion of sorts, where people do as little as necessary to get the reward or avoid the punishment.10.
          • Put another way, we get more innovative, higher quality output when we allow intrinsic motivations, such as the desire for contribution, mastery, purpose, and autonomy, to be the only motivators.  Whereas, when we distract people from their intrinsic motivations, by inserting extrinsic motivators, i.e., punishments and rewards (e.g., you’ll only get to survive, to the extent you spend your time and energy acquiring profit, or even to the extent you truly contribute to others), we all suffer the consequences, in terms of lower quality, less innovative production.
          • Even if we were able to create laws to try to make it so people would only get to survive to the extent they spent their time and energy truly helping people and the planet – not just if they profit financially – the research cited above suggests we’d end up problematically distracted from our intrinsic interest in truly helping people and the planet, and we’d do a poorer job at it to boot.
          • By contrast, if we met people’s needs by design, then just got out of their way, their intrinsic motivations would suffice to do all the motivating, and quality of output would increase naturally, with no need to suffer the poorer quality and creativity that comes from punishments and rewards, and no need to divert energy into the extensive efforts involved with devising and enforcing punishments and rewards.
          • There are many reasons for this, alluded to above, and supported and described by the research mentioned previously.11  The only exception to this phenomenon may be, to some extent, in cases of very low skill, menial tasks.  However, these are arguably fully automate-able, and so would be in an RBE.
          • Let’s consider just one of many ways we get lower quality output in our current reward/punishment-based monetary market system: “planned obsolescence”12.
            • “Planned obsolescence,” involves designing and manufacturing products that need replacement sooner than is technologically necessary.  This adds up to massive overuse of raw materials and landfill space over time.
            • Why would corporate CEOs permit this?  It’s clearly not in alignment with anyone’s deepest, intrinsic motivations to contribute to the long-term well-being of all, including current and future generations of CEOs’ families.  What might the answer be?
            • One possibility is it’s because CEOs, like all of us, are constantly threatened with a punishment of lack of survival, to the extent they don’t attain profit.  Or, put another way, they’ll only be rewarded with survival to the extent they consistently achieve profit.
            • Not surprisingly then, we find CEOs typically doing whatever they can get away with in order to achieve maximal profit, even when at odds with their intrinsic motivations.  For example, they’ll go along with designing products to break prematurely, when they see this will bring repeat purchases and, hence, higher profits.  And they’ll go along with this despite all the destruction this design strategy brings to their children’s and grand-children’s social and environmental habitat and well-being.
            • “Planned obsolescence,” can thereby be seen as a natural result of having distracted CEOs from what would otherwise be their natural intrinsic motivation to truly contribute to the well-being of their own family, the human family, and the habitat they all occupy.  And the distraction comes from the extrinsic motivation of a threat to their short-term survival if they don’t maximize profit.
            • We’d like to believe the solution is to simply create laws that prevent such outcomes, within the current monetary market system.  That is, we’d like to believe we could legislate our way into forcing people to make rewarded profit only the type that’s good for people and the planet.  For example, we might think by aggressively preventing the formation of monopolies, we could keep competition strong enough to prevent planned obsolescence
            • I have two concerns with this approach:
              • First, even if we could institute laws that made it so that only true contribution was rewarded, we’d get lower quality and less innovative contribution, per research cited previously.
              • Second – and this is key – I see it as unlikely that we’d be able to consistently institute such laws in a system that starts by rewarding profit (with short-term survival).  The trouble is, in a system that starts by rewarding profit, you’ve already distracted CEOs from their intrinsic motivations, training CEOs to seek profit first and foremost, and by any means plausible – including intensive, and often successful, lobbying against measures that might limit profits.  That is, the mere presence of reward for profit, distracts from the otherwise naturally present intrinsic motivations to truly contribute, or even support laws that require true contribution, when those laws also in any way threaten such profits.
            • The net result is, we, understandably and predictably, run around marauding the planet, our quest to find the shortest possible route to profit.  And we do this despite how at odds this behavior is with our intrinsic motivations to contribute to the long-term, real well-being of ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and the planet they call home.
            • This is a key reason why I’d like to see a system that supports us in reversing this course.  That is, I’d like to see us shift to a system that meets our needs by design, and thereby stops the systematic interference with our otherwise naturally present intrinsic motivation to truly contribute.
        • Faster pace of innovation:
          • We could expect this in an RBE because, for starters, we’d have a much greater  number of the world’s people able and interested in contributing.
            • With everyone’s needs met by design, we’d have billions more out of poverty, educated, and otherwise physically, mentally, and emotionally able to and interested in research, creation, and innovation.  And, as we learned in the prior section, people with their needs met unconditionally have such intrinsic motivations to contribute, and are able to in the most innovative and highest quality ways.
          • Also, we’d have a much higher percentage of all that available human energy relieved from the need to focus on war, crime, law enforcement, book-keeping, accounting, taxation, making money off of money, etc, and instead free to produce real benefit, for all to enjoy.
          • In addition, innovation could happen at a faster pace in an RBE, because this is what’s possible when intellectual property is shared, rather than protected.
          • All we have to do is look at the “open source” software phenomenon to see this principle in action.
            • Open source software is software that is specially licensed to allow people to freely improve upon it, so long as they allow their improved version to also be improved upon by others.
            • This kind of software has resulted in rapid and high level innovation, of phenomenal quality, comparable to propriety software (and even higher quality than proprietary software when the programs aren’t huge, due to standardized processes proprietary software companies alone can afford to implement for larger scale projects, suggesting that open source software could be better at all sizes, if better resourced).
            • But, “How can this be?”, the world asked, when the phenomenon was first discovered.  For, unlike proprietary software, open source software is created by programmers getting their survival needs met elsewhere, then working for free on open source projects, in their spare time!  As it turns out, consistent with the science previously mentioned, when people’s needs are otherwise met, then you merely let them, they will innovate – and, all things being equal, they will do so in higher quality, more creative ways!13
            • Given the foregoing, when we merely allow access to all potential innovators, who otherwise have their needs met, rather than allow access only by relatively drastically limited number of paid staff, the mere power in numbers can allow so much more innovation to occur overall.
            • In other words, open source innovation is innovation that “shouldn’t” have occurred at all, and that only some can currently “afford” to contribute to, in this world where needs are not met by design.  Just imagine how many more creative, eager, nourished minds could and would join in the innovation in an RBE, creating even more innovation where there otherwise would have been none.
          • Unfortunately, however, we currently place significant obstacles in front of potential innovators who want to improve upon pre-existing intellectual property, inevitably slowing the potential of rapid innovation upon innovation.
            • We do this my saying that people “own” their intellectual property.  And ownership means they have the exclusive right to profit from and improve upon it.  This means others need to seek permission from the intellectual property owners.  In addition, in circumstances under which they’re able to get that permission, they typically must pay for the privilege.
            • Needless to say, all this erects significant additional barriers to volunteer innovation upon innovation, and must limit it accordingly.
            • Why do we erect such obstacles to volunteer innovation?
            • Ironically, it’s because of we’ve assumed people need such ownership rights in order to want to innovate in the first place.  That is, we’ve assumed that people need “extrinsic” motivation to innovate, e.g., rewards, if they do innovate (i.e., profit and what’s needed for short-term survival of the self), and punishments, if they don’t (i.e., deprivation that threatens short-term survival of the self).
            • Yet recent psychological research14 , and the open source software phenomenon, belie this notion.
        • Thus, I believe the RBE model would produce more and better quality art and innovation, at a faster pace, with what we now know to be true from psychological research and the open source software movement.  Otherwise meet people’s needs, and then just get out of their way.  All else being equal, the results should be more, higher quality, and a much faster pace of innovation.

So, now you know what I mean when I say “resource-based economy,” or “RBE.”  Because I have so much hope in the RBE model, I refer to it a lot.


  1. True, the phrase, “hybrid RBE” is perhaps most often used to describe the kind of economy we might achieve in the transition between our current monetary market system and a full RBE (as Fresco/TVP would define “RBE”).  However, I believe the phrase could also be used to refer to a hybrid between Fresco/TVP’s vision, and someone else’s.
  2. This is actually a huge topic by itself.  I hope to get into it in an upcoming blog post.  For now, suffice it to say, Fresco, TVP and the pro-RBE organization, “The Zeitgeist Movement” (TZM) tend to argue that there’s no way to really live RBE values in our all-pervasive monetary market system.  Hence their focus on linear education, rather than on trying to form and live in RBE-like intentional communities, for example.
  3. Fresco does not envision forcing people into anything. Hence, I consider his vision to entail egalitarian decision-making at its core.Rather, he predicts that over time we will voluntarily decide to make more and more of our group decisions based on 1) science and reason; 2) qualified volunteers; and 3) artificial intelligence.  He even goes so far as to suggest that we may one day delegate all of our group, resource tracking, resource use, resource allocation, and design decisions to artificial intelligence (AI) systems.  That’s because he’s confident we will eventually see virtually every decision as a technical one.  That is, he believes we’ll see logic and data as the primary ingredients needed to answer the question “How can we meet the most needs, consistent with RBE principles, in the most efficient, sustainable way, in this particular case.”  And, he believes, AI will eventually be sufficiently equipped to handle all related data collection, technical analysis of that data, and resulting design and distribution decisions.I’m not sure to what extent his prediction is realistic, but I am grateful that he only predicts we’ll likely choose this path over time.  Again, he doesn’t envision forcing it upon people.  My prediction is that we’re a long way from all voluntarily choosing this level of delegation to AI, if we ever get there at all.What kind of RBE group decision-making model do I believe might people support sooner?In the wake of Bitcoin, the open source movement, and other technology supported decentralization, I believe the world’s people are getting ever closer to supporting an egalitarian, consensus-based, software-facilitated, open-source-software-like, world-wide, direct democracy – which may or may not, over time, delegate more and more to AI.Now, Fresco and I both have concerns about “democracy,” as we know it today.  I agree with him that it’s deeply corrupted by the influence of the monetary market system.But I believe that in an RBE, where everyone’s needs are met by design, we could trust an egalitarian, consensus-based, software-facilitated, open-source-software-like, world-wide, direct democracy.Why?Gone would be the reality that each decision-maker is left on her own to do whatever she has to do to ensure her short-term, narrowly-defined survival. That is, since, within an RBE, each decision-maker could trust that all her needs would be met in abundance as a given, she’d be free to do what Maslow and more recent psychological research predicts she will.  That is, she’d be free to make decisions based simply on socially beneficial, intrinsic motivations, such as compassion and a desire to truly contribute.  For information on the intrinsic value of compassion, click here.  For why extrinsic motivators, like threat to survival, are neither needed nor helpful as motivation for people to contribute, compared with intrinsic motivators, see studies detailed in books like Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn, especially.  But also see the book Drive, by Dan Pink.  Or, to get a nutshell sense of some of the science, you can view this animated talk re Dan Pink’s conclusions.  Given all this, the foregoing is the RBE decision-making model I’m currently most comfortable with and excited about.As a final note on this topic, again, to the extent my view on decision-making differs significantly from Fresco’s or TVP’s, I’m happy to have mine considered a “hybrid RBE” proposal.
  4. By “self” I mean to include both the literal self and potentially those nearest and dearest to oneself, e.g., one’s spouse and/or children.
  5. But see comments in prior footnote
  6. See studies detailed in books like Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn, especially, but also Drive, by Dan Pink.  Or, to get a nutshell sense of the science, you can view this animated talk re Dan Pink’s conclusions.
  7. Id (see prior footnote)
  8. Id (see prior footnote).
  9. Id  (see prior footnote).
  10. Id  (see prior footnote).
  11. Id  (see prior footnote)
  12. Creative Destruction and Destructive Creations: Environmental Ethics and Planned Obsolescence,” by Joseph Guiltinan, Journal of Business Ethics, May 2009, Volume 89, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 19-28.
  13. See studies detailed in books like Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn, especially, but also Drive, by Dan Pink.  Or, to get a nutshell sense of the science, you can view this animated talk re Dan Pink’s conclusions.
  14. Id  (see prior footnote)

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