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What next after capitalism?
April 9, 2013 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Recent posts here, here and here discuss a growing sense that climate change is going to be worse than we thought. A link to Charles Stross's musing on a future that included climate change was discussed on MeFi here. But Kim Stanley Robinson asks a slightly different question: If capitalism is the driver of climate change, what happens next? What does post-capitalism look like?
posted by BillW (90 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
"What does post-capitalism look like?"

This is a false premise. What does post-capitalism look like? It looks like Switzerland. It looks like Sweden. It looks like the Netherlands. It looks like Singapore.

Which is to say, it looks like capitalism.

You could say we are that moment now. Half of the world’s people live on less than $2 a day, and yet the depletion of resources and environmental degradation mean they can never hope to rise to the level of affluent Westerners, who consume about 30 times as much in resources as they do.

Even besides ignoring that population isn't projected to increase indefinitely (increasing women's rights and greater access to birth control and all that -- for example, Russia), this is also a false premise.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yes, there's definitely a way that even a steady level of population can consume resources for all eternity without the planet running out. I can prove it mathematically if you give me infinite paper from infinite forests.
posted by DU at 9:50 AM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


There's definitely a way you can miss the point, too. ZING.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:53 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


What is post-capitalism? Same as it's always been: soviets + electrification. A century after Lenin, though, and the former is self-organizing, and the latter is solar-powered.
posted by No Robots at 9:57 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does the word postcapitalism look odd to you? It should, because you hardly ever see it.

Hmmmm. "Post-capitalism" gets 113,000,000 hits on a Google search. Kim Stanley Robinson surely can't actually believe that these are new ideas he's discovering for the first time?
posted by yoink at 9:58 AM on April 9, 2013


If capitalism is the driver of climate change...

No, capitalism is NOT the "driver of climate change." That would be activities *within* capitalism that ignore their associated externalities; or perhaps those capitalist activities that continue to use convenient, readily available, and often cheaper (if only via subsidy) dirty power options over energy-efficient, cleaner and renewable alternatives. Capitalism only drives climate change as long as its actors are allowed to pretend part of the equation doesn't exist or doesn't matter.
posted by mystyk at 10:04 AM on April 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Since every sign for me points to a growing capitalism in many areas of the world, I see no sense in postulating a "post capitalism" at this point.Those countries that proudlhy did not have capitalism now wallow in it: China and Russia.
posted by Postroad at 10:04 AM on April 9, 2013


Maybe we can all just camp in the national parks like the protagonist in 50 Days of Tedium or whatever the hell that horrible book of his was named.
posted by malocchio at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2013


All countries today embrace state capitalism. This is the precursor to socialism. State capitalism will endure until the proletariat acquires sufficient discipline to abolish itself.
posted by No Robots at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess this explains why 2312 was such a bad book...

(I mean aside from it being idiotic, the characters and dialogue were so wooden I expected the reveal to be that everyone was an. AI I mean, the writing was on the level of *bad* fan fiction...)
posted by ennui.bz at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Believe in government". This is a science fiction writer, yes?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2013


I guess this explains why 2312 was such a bad book...

I will fight you.
posted by Sokka shot first at 10:16 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, capitalism is NOT the "driver of climate change." That would be activities *within* capitalism that ignore their associated externalities ...

This. Perhaps the problem isn't capitalism, per se, but an over-broad definition of "property."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:18 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read a scary book about the politics of climate change that posited that China was the best model of a government that could effectively change individual and corporate behavior. Makes sense to me. I mean, in the U.S. we have corporations as people, so the idea of telling, say, Apple to shut the fuck up is antithetical.
posted by angrycat at 10:20 AM on April 9, 2013


"What does post-capitalism look like?"

Barren.
posted by markkraft at 10:20 AM on April 9, 2013


What does post-capitalism look like?

Soylent
posted by Thorzdad at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell: "What does post-capitalism look like?"

This is a false premise. What does post-capitalism look like? ... it looks like capitalism.
Istanbul is still Byzantium! Mexico City is still Tenochtitlan! Yes?
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2013


> Mexico City is still Tenochtitlan!

Why they changed it, I can't say. Maybe they just liked it better that way?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:40 AM on April 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


We need to just fix the damn problem, because it is fixable within the current system.
posted by stbalbach at 10:53 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


According to kimstanleyrobinson.info, he has lived at Village Homes in Davis , California for most of the past 20 years or so. That's bound to influence his perception of what post-capitalism could look like.
posted by aniola at 11:00 AM on April 9, 2013


Capitalism is an economic system wherein private property and the private (or corporate) profit motive drives decision-making.

There's no reason (other than its current widespread adoption) that capitalism drives climate change.

As though socialized or communal property and central planning never ignores externalities. As though socialized/communal property with central planning wouldn't have made use of the massive energy cheapness of fossil fuels.

What we have isn't capitalism as the cause so much as it is the process of regulatory capture (which is a danger even in centrally planned economies) that permits bad actors to continue getting what they want without regard to externalities.
posted by chimaera at 11:02 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


> There's no reason (other than its current widespread adoption) that capitalism drives climate change.

The "reason" is that someone who is fundamentally against capitalism will try to conflate the concepts in order to imply that socialism is the antidote to climate change. It is a rhetorical tactic for winning a debate by gaining control of the argument's frame.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 11:18 AM on April 9, 2013


His recommendations are fascinating:

• Believe in science.

• Believe in government, remembering always that it is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and crucial in the current situation.

• Support a really strong follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.

• Institute carbon cap-and-trade systems.

• Impose a carbon tax designed to charge for the real costs of burning carbon.

• Follow the full “Green New Deal” program now coming together in discussions by the Obama administration.

• Structure global economic policy to reward rapid transitions from carbon-burning to carbon-neutral technologies.

• Support the full slate of human rights everywhere, even in countries that claim such justice is not part of their tradition.

• Support global universal education as part of human-rights advocacy.

• Dispense with all magical, talismanic phrases such as “free markets” and promote a larger systems analysis that is more empirical, without fundamentalist biases.

• Encourage all business schools to include foundational classes in ecology, environmental economics, biology, and history.

• Start programs at these same schools in postcapitalist studies.

-----

I would add another bullet point to the list:

• Accelerate investment in commmercial space interests, including both energy production (mining) and colonization. We must begin seriously looking to tap into other sources of energy and find room for growing populations off-planet because our own world cannot support both indefinitely. Climate change is symptomatic of our lack of solutions to the planet's dual problems: finite resources and finite space.
posted by zooropa at 11:23 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Humanity can't do 'ism's. All we ever managed is 'ish'.
posted by srboisvert at 11:24 AM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Capitalism is an economic system wherein private property and the private (or corporate) profit motive drives decision-making.

...

What we have isn't capitalism as the cause so much as it is the process of regulatory capture (which is a danger even in centrally planned economies) that permits bad actors to continue getting what they want without regard to externalities.


Why do those bad actors keep getting that permission, I wonder? It's almost as if there's some sort of... I don't know, economic system... wherein private property and the private (or corporate) profit motive drives decision-making.

And people, come on, the fact that an imaginary global state capitalist (communist) system would likely also fuck up the planet is a pretty weak argument against addressing how a very real global market capitalist system is definitely fucking up the planet.
posted by regicide is good for you at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


yes, isms always confuse things. people have been trading things and also sharing things since the beginning. Good bet that we'll keep doing that? I liked his bit about the spiral, and how once dominant 'capitalist' empires have reached a 'financial transactions' stage maybe things aren't looking so hot for it. I personally prefer the 'resource depletion forces a very messy de-integration of world economies/information' model as opposed to the 'science makes clean drinking water from cesspools and gives us cube food' option. Neither is very pretty, but the former seems like it might be preferable in the long term.
posted by notesondismantling at 11:34 AM on April 9, 2013


If capitalism is the driver of climate change
Après moi, le déluge.
posted by Flunkie at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the "happy end" to post climate change, post capitalist scenarios, is 90% of the population toiling in unmechanized peonage, while an elite group surveys them for signs of inventiveness or capitalist impulses. But at least they'll get to enjoy village life.
posted by happyroach at 11:36 AM on April 9, 2013


Reading the overview, I don't think KSR is saying that a soviet-style system would have worked better. What's done is done, for better or for worse.

I got the distinct impression that he's focused on what future economic system will capitalism evolve into. Possibly some kind of Star Trek-style "we don't use money" economy where infinite wealth and infinite resources produces a great stabilization of humanity.

Now I'm off to re-read the Mars Trilogy. I, too, thought 2312 was lousy. Anyone else enjoy Galileo's Dream?
posted by zooropa at 11:36 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Believe in government, remembering always that it is of the people, by the people, and for the people

Support the full slate of human rights everywhere, even in countries that claim such justice is not part of their tradition.


One of these things is not like the other.
posted by katya.lysander at 11:41 AM on April 9, 2013


As though socialized or communal property and central planning never ignores externalities.

Maybe, but an externality is very different under capitalism vs. under a socialized system. If two people A and B agree to a transaction that creates a negative externality for a third person C — let's say it pollutes C's air — it's very difficult to deal with that in a market system because C (and D, E, etc.) are not parties to the transaction — they are external. If the economy is under democratic control then everyone is a party to the transaction, there are no external actors who are accidentally affected by it. Everyone who is affected by the decision can participate in making it. Yes, this could still mean we decide to destroy the environment, but we probably wouldn't do it the way we're doing it now. The destruction of human life due to climate change will be vast — if those people could participate in the decisions that will ultimately kill them, they would probably choose a different path than the one we are on now.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


"We've had [the conversation about what can replace capitalism] ever since the 1930s; people have dedicated their careers to devising solutions; and it's not like they've come up empty-handed. You might think that something of these seventy years of debate on the problems of command economies, market socialism, mixed economies, the foundations of egalitarianism, and the varieties of possible economic arrangements, might've sunk in, so that idiots advocating 1919-vintage War Communism would not be the only people with a coherent point of view.... I just feel like somebody should've been handing out free copies of The Economics of Feasible Socialism --- 50,000 of them, by the sound of it."

"Profit is the motor of capitalism. What would it be under socialism?... In order to have a rational market socialism, publicly-owned firms would have to be made autonomous — and this would require a socialized capital market: a constellation of autonomous firms, financed by a multiplicity of autonomous banks or investment funds, all competing and interacting in a market, yet all nevertheless socially owned."


(hat tip to kliuless)
posted by weston at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a pretty senseless debate. Capitalism isn't the prime driver of climate change, growth is. Growth is a prerequisite in the modern age. No government can pay down it's debt without it. Growth almost certainly can't happen without capitalism (or at least not at the growth rates needed). So eliminate capitalism based growth and the modern world collapses on its debt burden.

Post-capitalism looks dystopian. I'm thinking it'll look like the end of Cloud Atlas, when Tom Hanks is a goat herder.

The real question is what comes first, economic collapse or environmental? If economic collapse comes soon enough, then environmental collapse may be prevented. If environmental collapse comes first, economic collapse surely won't be far behind.
posted by karst at 12:14 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


this is also a false premise

You are correct. We have learned nothing and experienced no resource-related events in the past 23 years.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2013


"The real question is what comes first, economic collapse or environmental? If economic collapse comes soon enough, then environmental collapse may be prevented. If environmental collapse comes first, economic collapse surely won't be far behind.
posted by karst at 12:14 PM on April 9 [+] [!]"

Why would economic collapse prevent environmental collapse? I would think the environment would be better off not repeating the past 100 years than repeating it. That is, if the economy were to collapse to a state in the past, what would prevent the human race from endeavoring to grow again as cheaply as possible again?

Does the blue realize that the grandest plans to tax our cleanest fossil fuels into oblivion will make trees economically viable to burn, again?
posted by otto42 at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2013


Something I've been chewing on lately: we have two ways1 of allocating scarce resources in our society. One is the market way — whoever offers the most universal-store-of-value gets the thing valued. The other way is lining up for it.

I think we should use the market for fewer things and queue up for more things, because queueing is fundamentally more in keeping with the spirit of democracy than the market is. Moreover (and political theorists going back to at least Locke have commented on this), currency-based systems have a problem rooted in the fact that having possession of a lot of the universal-store-of-value is the best way to get more of the universal-store-of-value2.

If resources are allocated, insofar as is feasible, by first-come-first-served rather than most-money-most-served, they will tend to be allocated more democratically, since regardless of how much money you have, you've only got one body to stand in line with.

So, there you go. I'm arguing that breadlines are better than capitalism, and I'm not even sure if I'm playing devil's advocate or not. In any case, it's a way to combat the tendency of a few powerful people taking more than anyone should ever reasonably have. Well, okay, provided that currency can't be exchanged for places in line.3

1: this is not anything like an exhaustive list.
2: Money tends to flow downward toward where money already is pooled, which results in a tendency toward this sort of distribution. The distribution of number of incoming links to websites work the same way; if you're putting up a link to something, you're much more likely to put up a link to something that a bunch of people already know about and have linked to, because most likely, you found out about it from following links left by other people. Links seek well-linked sites, money seeks moneyed people.
3: Cutters get stitches.

posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:38 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Capitalism is an economic system wherein private property and the private (or corporate) profit motive drives decision-making.

I think that characterization actually goes too far. What this describes strikes me as more like corporatism or proto-Fascism: the takeover of state institutions by commercial business interests (or regulatory capture). It's possible to be a Democratic nation that encourages capitalism without necessarily establishing an explicitly capitalist state, nor explicitly favoring profit motive driven decisions in policy, while the same can't be said of communism, which leads to some important points that I think are sometimes overlooked.

'Capitalism' describes a set of very broad, loosely-related economic theories ranging from mercantilism to state capitalism (this Wikipedia article is actually pretty good on the subject, though you might just go straight to the citations and start digging there), not a coherent political or ideological system. I'd argue one of our biggest mistakes was re-imagining Capitalism (now denoted with a Capital "C" so it doesn't look silly standing there next to a big imposing word like Communism) and Communism as rival ideological systems during the Cold War. Unlike Communism, Capitalism was never a deliberately engineered, totalizing political system that subsumed or obviated the need for the state (despite inherently having that potential when left unchecked, as the historical fact of the existence of fiefdoms, Banana Republics and company towns amply demonstrates). It was/is a label for a set of complex power relations that obtained in economic and political spheres, not a theoretical model for how a political system should work.

In our frightened Cold War-era push to meet communist radicalism on the world stage with an equally potent ideological radicalism of our own, the vibrant American ecosystem of right wing think tanks and assorted hucksters reformed certain nuggets of popular received wisdom about the nature of the relationship between the state, its corporate charters, the public interest and economic reality into a virulent anti-communist counter-ideology now popularly accepted without controversy among the hard right in the US and still given far too much credence in discussions among moderates and nominal American leftists. Where once we popularly viewed our own system, in contrast to the Communist state in USSR, as being devoid of any particular, totalizing economic dogma, we now imagine ourselves as protectors of a rival, totalizing economic system with dogmas of its own named Capitalism.

So eliminate capitalism based growth and the modern world collapses on its debt burden.

So we have to follow our book-keeping fictions wherever they lead, even if its off the side of a cliff, eh? This kind of thinking (and I don't mean to suggest it's unreasonable or uncommon) is exactly what I mean about how we've let Capitalism become our own form of economic totalitarianism. Humanity shouldn't have to pre-clear all its ambitions and values with a banker. What we decide really matters to us in reality should be all that matters to govern our decisions about policy-making and spending. If we're willing to do the necessary work and achieve something through public policy that may not be immediately profitable to us because it's what we want or need to do for the greater good, we shouldn't allow humanity's future potential to be constrained by some people's particular ideas about economic necessity. When Capitalism becomes no more than a system of economic fetters constraining our ability to respond to immediate human needs and to direct our own fate in the big picture, then it's at least no better than communism.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:38 PM on April 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Recent posts here, here and here discuss a growing sense that climate change is going to be worse than we thought.

Worse than you thought. I've actually been pleasantly surprised. I thought humans would be gone by now.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:44 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real question is what comes first, economic collapse or environmental?

1,000 gold coins says environmental.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two morons jumped off top of a skyscraper. One moron says "well, we haven't hit the ground yet, so we just need to slow down," the other moron replies "Why slow down? We just need to change direction and we can fly anywhere we want."

The post-capitalist future is right in front of you to see, if you decide to stop looking away.
posted by pleurodirous at 12:52 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: soviets + electrification.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:53 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


My relatives lived through (and escaped) the Russian Civil War. They rebuilt a life for themselves, and it was all taken away when the Russians invaded their country during the war. Several families live in their house now. Needless to say, I know on which side of the barricades I'll be if the communists ever try to take power again.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:54 PM on April 9, 2013


> If resources are allocated, insofar as is feasible, by first-come-first-served rather than most-money-most-served, they will tend to be allocated more democratically, since regardless of how much money you have, you've only got one body to stand in line with.

Oh, I remember this story from the Soviet Union. From the moment I could walk, I would stand for hours with my mother in the meat lines in freezing weather so there would be another body there to receive a bit of meat.

I also remember that the best way to get stuff that was scarce was to have connections and trade favors.

> currency-based systems have a problem rooted in the fact that having possession of a lot of the universal-store-of-value is the best way to get more of the universal-store-of-value

Non-currency-based systems have this problem rooted in the fact that having the power to allocate is the best way to get more allocating power. In a world where you try to eliminate currency-based universal-stores-of-value, the universal-store-of-value is corruption.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 12:56 PM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


AlsoMike: The destruction of human life due to climate change will be vast — if those people could participate in the decisions that will ultimately kill them, they would probably choose a different path than the one we are on now.

That's assuming that those people actually do, or will, think and act like those decisions will kill them specifically. I have a hard time believing that's going to change.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:58 PM on April 9, 2013


I'm guessing that the 1%'s view of post-capitalism is pretty clear, being actively pursued, a valid reason that they fight tooth and nail to keep what they've got, and nothing at all like what the 99% can envision, even in sci-fi.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:00 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And when I say best way, I mean the only way. You're not going to get allocated to if your bribes aren't good enough. My grandmother traded her skill in piano by giving lessons to officials' kids, so we could get permission to stand on the right lines.

Currency is a stand-in for the barter of goods and services, so their repayment can be variable and delayed. Removing currency doesn't remove the fundamental process from which it derives.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 1:02 PM on April 9, 2013


I-Write-Essays: Yup, that's why I'm like "wait, is this what I'm arguing for?" The best I've got is that queueing is great in a more or less post-scarcity economy, but markets (because of their really admirable ability to encourage MASSIVE overproduction) can deal with genuine scarcity better.

I am not convinced that the misery inflicted by lines is more than the misery inflicted by markets. Moreover, given that our chief problem right now is brainless hyperproduction eating our resources and fouling our nest, the massively slower pace of production encouraged by queue-based systems might be just what we need.

(I lined up in cold weather as a kid, too, so that I could help my folks bring home bags from the food bank. To be fair, Seattle is probably a nicer place for standing outside in winter than like anywhere in the former Soviet Union.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:08 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The real question is what comes first, economic collapse or environmental? If economic collapse comes soon enough, then environmental collapse may be prevented. If environmental collapse comes first, economic collapse surely won't be far behind.
posted by karst at 12:14 PM on April 9 [+] [!]"

Why would economic collapse prevent environmental collapse? I would think the environment would be better off not repeating the past 100 years than repeating it. That is, if the economy were to collapse to a state in the past, what would prevent the human race from endeavoring to grow again as cheaply as possible again?


When I say economic collapse, I don't mean a little recession (like '08). I don't mean a little Depression (like '29). A proper economic collapse would certainly result in a substantial population decrease. When the first "Too Big To Fail" fails, and the 2nd one, and on and on I think we will see an old fashioned fire like the ones that ripped through Alexandria or San Fran, but economic. And more to your point, do you think a team of engineers, given a blank slate, would choose a global industry of oil extraction, refining, distribution, and the elaborate tools to burn said oil at the final destination, or a renewable?

The real question is what comes first, economic collapse or environmental?

1,000 gold coins says environmental.


Well said. I think you can sorta point to (early) environmental collapse as a driver behind economic woes, the way that you can point to global warming as a cause of Sandy, the way you can point to steroids for Barry Bonds' 76 HRs. Resource depletion (ie peak oil) drove us to attack Iraq, which burned up a couple of trillion dollars, and helped cause '08. Would '08 have happened without the war in Iraq? Maybe, but it certainly wasn't made better because of it. That's why queuing won't work. There's always going to be a guy with a gun who wants to cut in line.
posted by karst at 1:12 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


One possibility that has been suggested (and actively discussed by Kim Stanley Robinson in the Mars trilogy) is social credit. In part because it includes costs to the "commons" in the calculation of costs.
posted by BillW at 1:15 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the "happy end" to post climate change, post capitalist scenarios, is 90% of the population toiling in unmechanized peonage, while an elite group surveys them for signs of inventiveness or capitalist impulses. But at least they'll get to enjoy village life.

What's the word for something that's like a red herring, but so widespread and manifestly wrong that people just believe it without thinking? "Canard" doesn't do this justice.

For starters, I don't even think it's possible to go back to "unmechanized peonage", because we'd never be able to feed a big chunk of our population. Nobody's saying we have to give up every technological advance or modern invention, even if we had to cut our energy consumption by half. What we need to do is stop pumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere every day. The end of overconsumption as a way of life doesn't have to mean "going back to the Stone Age". It does mean we'll probably have to think more carefully about how we manage our economies, agriculture, and transportation. What's the alternative? [goes off to rent download Idiocracy]
posted by sneebler at 1:17 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a successful idea for how to tax emissions. It does point to a way forward.

Carbon Taxes Make Ireland Even Greener
posted by karst at 1:19 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


somewhat amusingly, this was the banner ad on accuweather when I looked at it just now:

Stocks soar--but some wealthy citizens are preparing for the “End of America.” Here’s why...
posted by angrycat at 1:24 PM on April 9, 2013


> For starters, I don't even think it's possible to go back to "unmechanized peonage", because we'd never be able to feed a big chunk of our population.

I didn't take his comment as advocating a particular policy platform we should adopt, so much as stating what will happen after we lose a big chunk of our population due to starvation, war, etc.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2013


Whatever post-climate change economics looks like, its looking like there will be a lot fewer people participating in it.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:37 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I-W-E, you're right - it just annoys me to see that trope that the only alternative to the current system is "becoming a hunter-gatherer" or whatever trotted out in every online discussion about how climate change is going to affect our future.

Plus it's right next door to the idea that we can't democratize food distribution in the world because hey, I've got my stuff - let them get their own. We probably don't have to go through a massive population die-off because of climate change. But we probably will have some sort of planet-level catastrophe before we stop saying "no, no, we can't possibly change our economy or our lifestyle because we can't afford it any longer - where would the profits come from?"

One of the alternatives is that we could start working together to prevent this catastrophe from occurring. I feel like those of us who see this coming could be doing more to prevent it, instead of waiting for The Big One - whatever form it takes - to convince people that change is required. But what, exactly? (I know this is vague, but I'm out of time.)
posted by sneebler at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sneebler: In her Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler proposed we try to fix things by starting a space-travel cult.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:08 PM on April 9, 2013


"And more to your point, do you think a team of engineers, given a blank slate, would choose a global industry of oil extraction, refining, distribution, and the elaborate tools to burn said oil at the final destination, or a renewable?"

The engineers do not get to choose, only the billions of people (or millions if there is a huge die off) that are the end users of that energy get to choose. Unless all other human needs are met, and then some, people choose cheap.
posted by otto42 at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2013


I'd like to respond to each response specifically, but I do concede that I probably lost a fair bit of signal in trying to keep my initial comment brief.

In general, I have yet to see a functioning large society or nation in which externalities are significantly better handled than that in Social Democratic Europe. It has suffered less regulatory capture than the US's "freer" market system, and has suffered less regulatory capture in the form of "we're the government, we're putting this smelting operation here whether you like it or not" than the communist states.

But again, the problem isn't capitalism per se, it's the fact that the easiest path to energy goes through fossil fuels. Both developed and developing nations (capitalist or not) find it very hard to resist fossil fuels.

The TRUE problem is the fact that we humans are under-sensitive to high likelihood but long term cumulative risks (obesity epidemic, anyone?) and over-sensitive to very low likelihood but high impact risks ("don't let your kid play outside or the kidnappers will get 'em!")

The economic system doesn't have nearly as much influence as our innate and unfortunate risk inclination as a species.

With regard to climate change, we keep getting reminders that our lifestyle is putting us on the path to Bad News, and the need to deny those risks is so strong that in many parts of the world we couldn't even be having this conversation because so many people deny it's even a risk at all (particularly those with a reason to sow denialism).
posted by chimaera at 2:21 PM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am a behavioral economics PdD student, and many of my cohort are resource economists, so this stuff is on our minds ALL THE TIME...Personally, I think the next step is a system that is neither socialism nor capitalism - one favors labor, the other favors owners of capital. I think that the sustainable economy of the future will be the one that figures out how to get the interests of land (environment), labor (social needs) and capital (assets put at risk for profit) in line with one another so that our MUTUAL benefit is acknowledged. I call this system "Mutualism". Personally, I think this will come through triple-bottom-line accounting practices and getting private companies to foot the bill for what have previously been called "externalities" (aka: pollution, non-living wages, etc) that the government eventually is left paying for. It IS happening. We ARE working toward this future. What we really need is for MORE THOUGHTFUL PEOPLE TO BECOME RESOURCE ECONOMISTS!
posted by SarahBellum at 3:25 PM on April 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


Stay on the bus, everyone!
posted by threeants at 3:29 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


In post-capitalism, all transactions are performed via mail.
posted by windykites at 4:42 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm super skeptical of models that present owners of capital as taking "risk" and therefore being valuable, since most of the actual bodily risk involved in production falls on the laborers rather than the owners. But aside from that, I'm intrigued by your ideas and would like to sign up for your resource economics newsletter.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:45 PM on April 9, 2013


YCTAB: Thanks, that's interesting. The "God is change" thing is pretty much Buddhism restated, starting with "Life and Death are the great matter. Impermanence is swift".

I know it's not a popular viewpoint, but I think the whole narrative about outgrowing the Earth and moving on to other planets is just wishful thinking. There's no evidence (yet) that interstellar manned travel is even remotely possible, but again, people keep bringing it up as an answer to overpopulation, climate change, etc. We now have a whole Science Fiction industry (of which I'm a fan) devoted to promoting these ideas. Meanwhile, the problems discussed in this thread become more pressing every year, and we don't even have any moon bases. Yes, in the past, there was always somewhere else we could move in search of more room. Sadly, we can no longer outrun population and pollution.

It's basic Buddhism to say that we (sentient beings, if not all life) are all in it together, and like it or not, impermanence is a feature of this life, this world. Where else could we go where this is not the case?
posted by sneebler at 4:47 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


sneebler: yeah, in the novel the actual content of the religion is presented even by the creator of same as beside the point; she more or less presents it as a means to get people to do something (anything) bigger than themselves, and by so doing save the world in literal terms. So the core insight, within the frame of the book, isn't so much "God is change," but instead "It turns out you people won't keep the planet alive for yourselves, but you might keep the planet alive for a dream. So here, have a dream."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:30 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the doom-and-gloomers ... It will be interesting to check back with you guys and gals in 20 years.

You'll all be happier and you'll look back on this moment and laugh about how wrong you were.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:18 PM on April 9, 2013


So we're all fifth circuit adepts by now right? On to communo-anarchism, then?
posted by cmoj at 9:36 PM on April 9, 2013


For the doom-and-gloomers ... It will be interesting to check back with you guys and gals in 20 years.

You'll all be happier and you'll look back on this moment and laugh about how wrong you were.


Imagine yourself saying this 20 years ago.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:46 PM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


The driver of climate change is the Sun. And the oceans, clouds, volcanos, cosmic rays, UHI effect, plants, animals, ever evolving eco-systems, precipitation, and probably a million other variables that humans have no idea about. :)
posted by GrooveJedi at 10:12 PM on April 9, 2013


But we do have an excellent idea that atmospheric CO2 levels are hugely outstanding against the history of the planet. Seems like that might have effects.
posted by cmoj at 10:36 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Imagine yourself saying this 20 years ago.

There's no need to imagine, let's just look at what the doom and gloomers said 20 years ago and see where we're at today.

Paul Ehlrich - July 28, 1971 - "I’m scared,” the lean, intense scientist (Paul Ehrlich) told an interviewer. “I have a teenage daughter whom I love very much. I know a lot of young people, and their world is being destroyed – my world is being destroyed. I’m 37, and I’d like to live to be 67 in a reasonably pleasant world, not die in some kind of holocaust in the next decade." (full text) 0 for 1.

Also in 1971 - " I think we will soon see boycotting of the automobile industry, the oil companies, the utilities. Among other things, people are just going to stop paying their bills."

Paul Ehlrich - 1974 - "In the early 1970s, the leading edge of the age of scarcity arrived." He said their would be mass starvation in the 1970s "or at the latest, 1980s"
"If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”
"We are facing, within the next 3 decades the disintegration of nation states infected with growthmania." "By…1975 some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” How'd that all turn out? I think we're up to 0 for 7 now. Lots more here.

1988 - James Hansen forecast 5C warming by 2040 in Suzuki's Book (page 9)

1982 - Scientists predicted that the melting polar ice cap would cause up to 18 feet sea level rise! Considering sea level rises in terms of mm and cm, this is absolutely preposterous and not backed up by any empirical measurements or science whatsoever. 18 feet? haha!

1964 - Hubert Lamb, CRU Director predicted a little ice age for Great Britain. In 1972, he made the same prediction again. Don't forget to pay particular attention to the alarmist nature of the propaganda style headlines. ;)

1922 - Greenland to melt and Michigan to become sub-tropical. ;)

1923 - Popular Mechanics - Will the North Pole melt entirely?

And of course there are the countless predictions by numerous "scientists" and "activists" that the Arctic would melt in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and of course this year as well. I actually have a bet with a member on here that the Arctic won't melt by 2020. I'm looking forward to collecting via Paypal, Cash or Money Order.

Here's one from 1924! - "MOTHER EARTH DOOMED."

Hansen predicted peak ice loss in Antarctica the "fastest warming place on the planet" which is currently breaking records for most ice ever recorded in the satellite era.

Of course there are dozens more, but I'll stop here. How'd they do? 0 for everything, by my count, yes?

It's so sad and disheartening for me to see so many people succumb to the fear based military/government/media propaganda and psychological warfare. At the end of the day, we're ants in someone's backyard. Mother Earth could get rid of us with one shrug of her shoulder if she wanted to. The Earth is fine as it has been for hundreds of millions of years. Humans on the other hand ... we're in trouble. But this silly idea that we have even an ounce of a percentage of effect on the overall health of Mother Earth including the climate is a typical ego-centric view to the point that's offensive for someone like myself. The scientists will say this and that all the time and at the end of the day, they really know very little as illustrated above. Love the Earth, live in harmony with it but reject junk science and massive fear campaigns. Learn to recognize propaganda stand up against it. Cheers.
posted by GrooveJedi at 10:54 PM on April 9, 2013




But we do have an excellent idea that atmospheric CO2 levels are hugely outstanding against the history of the planet. Seems like that might have effects.

Except that life thrived on the planet with CO2 levels at 4,000PPM and other very high levels throughout many times in Earth's history, long before silly humans ever did a single thing on this planet.
posted by GrooveJedi at 10:57 PM on April 9, 2013


People have predicted collapses before that didn't happen, therefore collapses can't happen!
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 11:32 PM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think there's a kind of long-running category error with capitalism.

Capitalism is one particular way of organizing the production of goods and provision of services. There are other ways to do this: for instance Feudalism, Marx-Leninism and possibly various future alternatives.

The error creeps in when people start to identify capitalism with the production of goods and provision of services.

We saw this a lot with the reaction to the Occupy protests. "Ha ha, these protestors use iPhones made by capitalism, what hypocrites". Yes, the protestors live in a capitalist economy where goods and services are provided by capitalism. That doesn't invalidate them asking for alternative ways to provide goods and services. In the same way, someone living under Marx-Leninism is not a hypocrite for protesting against it: even if his apartment block was provided by Marx-Leninism, he can still believe there are better ways to provide such things.

Climate change is caused by the production of goods and the provision of services (e.g. transport). In the present world, these goods and services are mostly organized by capitalism. If alternative methods of organizing goods and services were used, the degree of climate change might be lesser, or it might be greater, depending on how the alternative.

Lots of people seem to want something called "post-Capitalism". But the details of how post-Capitalism is to work seem to be either vague, or to represent fairly minor tweaks to currently existing capitalism.

From Robinson's list, here are the ones that seem like tweaks to existing capitalism:
Believe in science.
Believe in government, remembering always that it is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and crucial in the current situation.
Support a really strong follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.
Institute carbon cap-and-trade systems.
Impose a carbon tax designed to charge for the real costs of burning carbon.
Follow the full “Green New Deal” program now coming together in discussions by the Obama administration.
Support the full slate of human rights everywhere, even in countries that claim such justice is not part of their tradition.
Support global universal education as part of human-rights advocacy.
Encourage all business schools to include foundational classes in ecology, environmental economics, biology, and history.
Here are the ones that seem vague:
Structure global economic policy to reward rapid transitions from carbon-burning to carbon-neutral technologies.
Dispense with all magical, talismanic phrases such as “free markets” and promote a larger systems analysis that is more empirical, without fundamentalist biases.
Start programs at these same schools in postcapitalist studies.
Most of these things seem pretty nice. But while the phrase "post-Capitalism" sounds pretty dramatic, as usual it seems a bit underwhelming when you look at the detail. As usual, the non-vague stuff seems like pretty minor tweaks to capitalism, and the vague stuff doesn't have enough detail to analyse. We really need to know more about how "larger systems analysis" works, what the new structure of "global economic policy" is, what's on the syllabus of "postcapitalist studies" courses before we can evaluate them.

My guess is, when we start to look at those things in detail, they will break down into minor tweaks to existing institutions, incentive schemes and academic disciplines, and statements that are too vague to really analyse...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:26 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nice try, GrooveJedi, but I was responding specifically to the claim that we'd all be "happier" in 20 years than we are now. Looking back 20 years to now, that would have been a (retrospectively) laughable claim in 1993.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:24 AM on April 10, 2013


Not to mention GrooveJedi ignores our seemingly infinite capacity for rationalizing away/normalizing bad news. A lot of the predictions of bad news are playing out exactly as expected. But we're so good at coping psychologically with bad news that we barely even notice anymore. For example, there was a time in living memory when we aspired to "keep our water clean." At this point, in an age when ocean acidification is a growing problem and marine life die offs are commonplace, we all just know and accept that we can't necessarily trust the cleanliness of our tap water and we curtail eating seafood because, rather than tackle the underlying problems, we've opted to adapt to them. Noting that our impacts on the environment are bad and consistently getting worse isn't doom mongering. Life will go on, in some form or another, but we're missing serious opportunities to avoid longer-term misery, and maybe even more importantly, to learn from our mistakes.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:52 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, consider how little fuss at the street-level is generally being made about oil spills penetrating into suburban neighborhoods now. There was a time when an event like this following so closely on the heels of history's biggest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico might have driven ordinary people en mass to demand better, safer and cleaner energy alternatives. But we're so accustomed now to disasters on what we used to view as an enormous scale that the Arkansas spill almost seems like a quaint little problem now (it's not, but I'm not seeing much of an impassioned public outcry). That's not because things aren't worse or are getting better, but because the human mind is masterfully adept at coping with and minimizing the psychological impact of really big problems.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:01 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Groovejedi, I find climate change deniers such an interesting bunch. There's overwhelming scientific evidence to support it, overwhelming anecdotal evidence to support it, deductively it makes sense, and yet this contingent of seemingly rational humans reject all of that and decree that it's a lie. You pick a handful of quotes from a couple of the most extreme predictions and call the whole thing a sham. I think the overwhelming consensus is that it will be more like the frog in boiling water scenario than a Micheal Bay movie.

For the doom-and-gloomers ... It will be interesting to check back with you guys and gals in 20 years.

You'll all be happier and you'll look back on this moment and laugh about how wrong you were.


For the naysayers...it will be interesting to check back with you guys and gals in 200 years. You'll be dead obviously, but if you could you'd look back at this moment and despair about how wrong you were.

Here's some recent stories that point to the boiling water theory. Anecdotal, yet taken together a pattern emerges.

Hundreds of sea lions washing up in California

Toxic Algae Threatens Florida’s Endangered Manatees

Smog dents Beijing’s expat appeal

Ice That Took 1,600 Years To Form In Peru's Andes Melted In Only 25, Scientists Say
posted by karst at 9:55 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nice try, GrooveJedi, but I was responding specifically to the claim that we'd all be "happier" in 20 years than we are now. Looking back 20 years to now, that would have been a (retrospectively) laughable claim in 1993.

How silly. Happiness is a choice. If you're not happier than you were in 1993, are you going to blame that on climate change? What utter nonsense.
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:24 PM on April 10, 2013


Groovejedi, I find climate change deniers such an interesting bunch. There's overwhelming scientific evidence to support it, overwhelming anecdotal evidence to support it, deductively it makes sense, and yet this contingent of seemingly rational humans reject all of that and decree that it's a lie. You pick a handful of quotes from a couple of the most extreme predictions and call the whole thing a sham. I think the overwhelming consensus is that it will be more like the frog in boiling water scenario than a Micheal Bay movie.

I find people who use words such as "deniers" a pathetic bunch.
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2013


While GrooveJedi trolls, I'll just jump in to mention that this discussion hasn't congealed around one clear definition of capitalism, and that is definitely part of the problem. If capitalism is "free enterprise," then yeah, how can you blame that for all of the world's problems and say we need to toss it out? If, instead, capitalism "the insatiable conversion of all meaningful things into inputs for the creation of more capital," then that does sound rather insidious and like a cause of something such as unchecked, unsustainable resource destruction.

Is capitalism one or the other? In a world where pretty much the entire spectrum of societies, from the U.S. to Norway to China, is more or less on board with "capitalism" (yes, I understand the many asterisks attending China, but at the end of the day, they are a HUGE working part of driving the same basic world economic structure that the US is) we have a real definition problem.

But at base, the point as I take it is that a system where every source of positive feedback is towards financial profit is not very conducive to solving existential problems rooted in unpriced (or "imperfectly" priced) goods. That kind of just makes sense, really.

I am intrigued by SarahBellum's post, because as a social scientist myself (sort of more a hybrid across econ, soc and poli sci), I agree that the problems are rooted in a model of the economy which assumes that everything is perfectly priced, anyone can frictionlessly jump in and out and do whatever they want, whenever, etc. I guess I'd just say that what is STILL missing after we price the land and the carbon, and after we understand that people are really semi-conscious creatures of habit, is how informed, conscious, equal exchanges among individuals come to be. And I would suggest that for that, a wide variety of socialist thinkers (NOT to be conflated with totalitarian ones! It's a Venn diagram, people), is a perfectly good field to begin looking for inspiration.

KSR's proposal in the last link from the post, by the way, seems fairly moderate, and doesn't even raise the fundamental socialist tenet of collective ownership over property. Sounds a little more like what the Dems were hoping would come from a more FDR-like Obama presidency, plus an interesting wish for business school curricula, which could benefit from a LOT more additions than a broad grounding in natural science and ecology.
posted by LoneWolfMcQuade at 3:32 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


part of regulatory capture, that seems pretty blatant at this point, is to make government work as bad as possible in order to discredit it (starve the beast!) so its functions can be privatized from which newly minted owner-operated 'service providers' can extract rents...

-At least 28 of Max Baucus’s former aides are now tax lobbyists
-Former SEC chief Mary Schapiro declares revolving door dead, joins shadow regulator
-Former Regulators Find a Home With a Powerful Firm
-A thorough guide to Promontory, DC's "shadow regulator" firm
-Get your free bank deposit insurance here
-Where Bank Regulators Go to Get Rich
-Banking Consultant Promontory to Face U.S. Senate Panel
-Senators Draft Higher Capital Requirement for Biggest U.S. Banks

as lawrence lessig keeps pointing out, we the people must reclaim our lost republic:
Because there is an economy here, an economy of influence, an economy with lobbyists at the center which feeds on polarization. It feeds on dysfunction. The worse that it is for us, the better that it is for this fundraising... every single one of you knows this. You couldn't be here if you didn't know this, yet you ignore it. You ignore it. This is an impossible problem. You focus on the possible problems, like eradicating polio from the world, or taking an image of every single street across the globe, or building the first real universal translator, or building a fusion factory in your garage. These are the manageable problems, so you ignore — (Laughter) (Applause) — so you ignore this corruption.

But we cannot ignore this corruption anymore. (Applause) We need a government that works. And not works for the left or the right, but works for the left and the right, the citizens of the left and right, because there is no sensible reform possible until we end this corruption. So I want you to take hold, to grab the issue you care the most about. Climate change is mine, but it might be financial reform or a simpler tax system or inequality. Grab that issue, sit it down in front of you, look straight in its eyes, and tell it there is no Christmas this year. There will never be a Christmas. We will never get your issue solved until we fix this issue first. So it's not that mine is the most important issue. It's not. Yours is the most important issue, but mine is the first issue, the issue we have to solve before we get to fix the issues you care about. No sensible reform, and we cannot afford a world, a future, with no sensible reform.
interestingly, i think if republicans wanted to pivot they could embrace a platform of simpler, more effective gov't rather than the reflexive anti-gov't stance they've chosen to adopt thus far, but it seems as an agenda item at least democrats appear unwilling to cede the higher ground :P

-Simpler: The Future of Government
-Another Look At The Nanny State
-Ten Steps Toward a Simpler World
-Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Good Idea?
-Where The Free Software Movement Went Wrong (And How To Fix It)
-ladders

viz. Former Obama Regulator on the Future of Government
cf. Nudged In The Gut & Is A Burger Worth 2.6 Miles?

re: resource economists, check out jacque fresco! (the venus project: resource-based economy ;)

also btw Beyond GDP and the rise of the non-monetised economy & Robots, China and demographics

oh and How the Soviets saved capitalism & Neill Blomkamp's 'Elysium' And Technology As An Escape Hatch For The Upper Classes
posted by kliuless at 4:44 PM on April 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


David Graeber: A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse
posted by homunculus at 5:47 PM on April 10, 2013


Except that life thrived on the planet with CO2 levels at 4,000PPM and other very high levels throughout many times in Earth's history, long before silly humans ever did a single thing on this planet.


Yes, but humans didn't live during that period, let alone raising crops that would feed billions. Feel the water heat up little frog!
posted by BillW at 5:58 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find people who use words such as "deniers" a pathetic bunch.

Today I learned that there is no flag for 'trolling'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:14 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess the disconnect for me is that I can identify global warming as a problem, and I can identify problems with capitalism, but I can't see how a kinder, gentler post-capitalism economic reality will work to prevent climate change. Unless we are willing to tell the 6.5 billion people that don't have hot showers and cold beers that they will never get them, then co2 emissions will only continue to grow (irregardless of socialist/communist/capitalist).

David Graeber: A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse

Thanks for the link, I'd been meaning to read his book on debt. The excerpt linked doesn't excite me though. It's easy to talk about debt forgiveness but for an expert on debt I'd expect a more nuanced solution. One person's debt is someone else's savings. When Greece told its bond holders they'd have to take a haircut, Cyprus' banks came up short. Cyprus banks go broke, savers see their savings evaporate. Where does it end when writ large? And afterwards what happens? Who will underwrite the new Thorium reactors or utility scale wind farms in our post debt world?
posted by karst at 9:30 PM on April 10, 2013




My relatives lived through (and escaped) the Russian Civil War. They rebuilt a life for themselves, and it was all taken away when the Russians invaded their country during the war. Several families live in their house now. Needless to say, I know on which side of the barricades I'll be if the communists ever try to take power again.

reminded me of this article: Founding Father of the Quants Was Revolutionary Marxist
One of the more interesting ironies of history is that the man who laid the foundation for modern quantitative finance began his career as a Marxist revolutionary.

Jacob Marschak may not be a household name today, but he inspired a number of financial practitioners and thinkers, from Milton Friedman to Harry Markowitz, and his insights are now the backbone of trading strategies and computer algorithms worldwide.

Marschak was born to a Jewish family in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1898. He played a part in the Russian Revolution as a teenager, working as a Menshevik activist. The liberation of Ukraine from the czar's Russian Empire vaunted Marschak into the position of labor minister of the short-lived independent state of Terek.

Within months, the state was absorbed by another region and then subsumed into the Soviet Union. A disillusioned Marschak fled to Germany, where he received training in the Austrian School of free-market economics. He hoped to make a permanent home in Germany, but when the Nazis came to power, the Jewish-radical-turned-Marxist-turned-Austrian-School-economist wisely left the country, moving first to England and then to the U.S., where he joined the New School in New York as part of an anti-fascist University in Exile...
more on capitalism and the environment:
  • Energy in Germany - "the world's first major renewable energy economy"
  • Good sentences about China - "China is using physical capital as a loss leader in order to grow cities that will produce network effects will in turn foster the human capital that really makes a country rich."
  • Robots, China and demographics - "It's perhaps notable that the only country that is seeing both a rise in the use of robots and unemployment is the US. Germany, on the other hand, which has proportionately many more robots than the United States, has achieved higher economic growth with almost no reduction in manufacturing employment... According to IFR, the increased use of robots in countries like Japan and Germany is possibly being offset on the workforce front by a declining population." [1,2]
  • Superior Mayan engineering - "What is 'manufacturing-export capitalism'? Basically, it involves policies designed to get a country to export as much manufacturing output as possible. That means, first and foremost, capitalism, since private companies are good at exporting manufactured goods and state-owned companies are not. But it usually involves a huge raft of government policies to get the country into a position to do lots of manufacturing exporting. Those include education (because you need a literate workforce), public health (because you need a healthy workforce), infrastructure investment, urbanization (because you need the workers close to each other and to consumers), property rights (especially for farmers to sell their land and move to the cities), and rule of law. It also means giving the working class the feeling that they have a stake in the economy and society, that society cares about them and not just the rich people. That's really important, since strikes and labor strife can make a country a very unattractive hub for manufacturing..." [1,2]
  • The Great Convergence - "[Y]ou will go from 500 million to 1.75 billion people in the Asian middle class. So, this Asian middle class will now, in a sense, dominate the world economically, politically, culturally... The part you're worried about is politically. You think that we have a very strong, if you will, international society, but very weak governance at that international level."
  • The Measure of Civilization - "[W]hat we're are seeing now with East Asia, and particularly China, is that like the United States 200-ish years ago, they're now being drawn into a global economy and for quite a while, they were a periphery, some still are, really, a periphery to an American dominated global system. But the big trend is pushing toward then rising to the top of this global system."
  • Mathematicians Predict the Future With Data From the Past - "The 100-year Secular Cycles, Turchin believes, are caused by longer-term demographic trends. They occur when a population grows beyond its capacity to be productive, resulting in falling wages, a disproportionately large number of young people in the population, and increased state spending deficits. But there's a more important factor, one that better predicts instability than population growth. Turchin calls it 'elite overproduction.' This refers to a growing class of elites who are competing for a limited number of elite positions, such as political appointments... There are competing theories as well. A group of researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute — who practice a discipline called econophysics — have built their own model of political violence and concluded that one simple variable is sufficient to predict instability: food prices."
  • U.S. Isn't Broke, Dollar Won't Fail, Capital Economics Says - "Taking into account total domestic assets and liabilities, the U.S. economy's overall net worth is about 550 percent of gross domestic product in 2011. , Paul Ashworth, the chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note. That compares with official figures showing U.S. GDP at close to $15 trillion, while national debt has ballooned to $16.8 trillion after nearly tripling since 2001... 'At first glance it does appear that America is caught in some sort of debt super cycle,' Toronto-based Ashworth wrote yesterday. After accounting for increases in domestic asset values 'the rise in credit market debt and total financial liabilities does not look particularly egregious... The overall balance sheet position of America is not a disaster. It is important to look at both sides of that balance sheet because both sides have been expanding.' " [1,2]
remember: "We should worry more about the real world and less about the paper world." [1,2]
posted by kliuless at 3:20 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, but humans didn't live during that period, let alone raising crops that would feed billions. Feel the water heat up little frog!

Yes but warmer temperatures and more carbon dioxide = thriving vegetation, which equals more foods. Logic, much?
posted by GrooveJedi at 11:15 AM on April 12, 2013


yea!* "Forests in the eastern United States appear to be growing faster in response to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a new study has found." :P

re: graeber, if you haven't had your fill of academic controversy yet, check out delong's 'takedown' of debt: "David Graeber's chapter 12, at least, got quite a large number of things wrong..."

also btw...

-The Use and Abuse of Monetary History

-Tyrannies: "The twentieth century's tyrannies were more brutal and more barbaric than those of any previous age. And—astonishingly—they had their origins in economic discontents and economic ideologies. People killed each other in large numbers over questions of how the economy should be organized, which had not been a major source of massacre in previous centuries."

-Why Should We Care?
Why should you care about how our history and the history of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents--the history of the long twentieth century, 1870-2010--will appear to people five and more centuries into the future?

[...]

We must remember that we are, at best, but slouching towards utopia.

I think that this particular Grand Narrative is the most interesting take on the economic history of the twentieth century. Others are free to disagree. In my view, that others are free to disagree, and value that freedom, and have more power and resources to research, express, and communicate their disagreement worldwide than ever before—this reinforces my belief that this particular grand narrative is the most felicitous one to tell.
oh and speaking of a republican pivot, Burke Not Buckley: The case for community-centric conservatism
At the most fundamental level, Burke was a communitarian. It is institutions — governmental, professional, religious, educational, and otherwise — that compose the fabric of society... For the Burkeans of the 1950s, emphasis on community was at the heart of a properly conceived conservatism. [Russell] Kirk wrote: "True conservatism... rises at the antipodes from individualism. Individualism is social atomism; conservatism is community of spirit." Robert Nisbet titled his book The Quest for Community.

Though it may surprise people who have been taught that Edmund Burke is the father of modern conservatism, the Burkeans were, in fact, defeated by a rival group with a nearly diametrically opposed view. The leader of that group was William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review. When, in 1952, Buckley first articulated his philosophy in God and Man at Yale, he called it "individualism," though the nearly absolute laissez-faire philosophy he advocated became better known as libertarianism.
---
[*] "Dyson has suggested that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be controlled by planting fast-growing trees. He calculates that it would take a trillion trees to remove all carbon from the atmosphere..."
posted by kliuless at 3:54 PM on April 12, 2013


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