Friday, April 26, 2019

Not Yet Created

Collaborative Partners,

George Monbiot is getting flak for proposing the end to capitalism, without offering a completely worked-out replacement.
The economic system is incompatible with the survival of life on Earth. It is time to design a new one  
Let me defend Monbiot, by way of “agreeing with what he meant”, as Hillary Clinton recently did, while explaining Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to push for Trump impeachment.
I do present a process for development of a new market economy, which needs to develop to meet the emerging economic circumstances, which have never exactly existed in the past.
They will change, too. This adaptation in groups is what we do that sets us apart in the ecosystem on the surface of the blue planet.  
First, a Monbiot quote, with which we can agree, basically about thermodynamic principles. To run any process requires a reduction in total energy/entropy in a system. Something must be “dissipated”.
“A system based on perpetual growth cannot function without peripheries and externalities. There must always be an extraction zone – from which materials are taken without full payment – and a disposal zone, where costs are dumped in the form of waste and pollution. As the scale of economic activity increases until capitalism affects everything, from the atmosphere to the deep ocean floor, the entire planet becomes a sacrifice zone: we all inhabit the periphery of the profit-making machine.”
What this thermodynamic analysis leaves in the long term is the work done from sunlight by photosynthesis, but we are not suddenly reduced to that, because we still have so much order and knowledge, and analysis capacity, which has come from burning coal, oil and gas.
That technical capacity is currently dedicated to burning more coal, oil and gas, as rapidly as possible, but that directive is already foundering.
The big question right now, the immediate problem, is how 7 billionish people stop running down hill faster and faster, and do something less doomed.
Individuals with wiggle room can make adaptive changes in the right direction, and they will need to expend available energy and technical resources to make those small changes. Any of those changes will be open to logical attack for being wasteful, but in that analysis, we can only curl up and die.
Our greatest potential as a species lies in optimizing our strong suit to the cultivation of photosynthetic living ecosystems on the face of the planet. It’s something we do.  
The progressive goal of this for humans is to have a good quality of life by being healthy and helpful and cooperative versions of the animals we were born as, not struggling to become more like machines, fighting distraction, fatigue and the urge to urinate. (We’re about at the end of that alley.)
This contrasts with the capitalist prime directive of winning by being the most effective at expending energy and resources every day, and thereby dominating and displacing the other contestants in the competition. That is short-termism.
I recently saw a genetic analysis, done over 150 years or so, that American families in a few towns with very good birth and death records, maximized their longer term growth by having fewer children later and investing in them. In the short term, breeding like rabbits won, of course, but I postulate that it failed badly in “selection events”, when things got difficult and needed sustained work and insightful innovation to adapt successfully.
Look up there! Selection Event on the horizon! …  
Next agreeable Monbiot paragraph:
“This drives us towards cataclysm on such a scale that most people have no means of imagining it. The threatened collapse of our life-support systems is bigger by far than war, famine, pestilence or economic crisis, though it is likely to incorporate all four. Societies can recover from these apocalyptic events, but not from the loss of soil, an abundant biosphere and a habitable climate.”
Now, a Monbiot paragraph with which I disagree, but mainly due to the boundary conditions, which he seems to assume. Rent extraction destroys real political economy in the long term, as per classical economics, but “wealth creation” happens within certain defined boundaries, and if those boundaries are defined as “photosynthesis” and “using stuff that already exists”, and “burning fossil fuel as a transitional investment in the new system”, then it looks pretty do-able. “Growth” needs rethinking.
“In the New York Times on Sunday, the Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz sought to distinguish between good capitalism, which he called “wealth creation”, and bad capitalism, which he called “wealth grabbing” (extracting rent). I understand his distinction. But from the environmental point of view, wealth creation is wealth grabbing. Economic growth, intrinsically linked to the increasing use of material resources, means seizing natural wealth from both living systems and future generations.”
Here is another paragraph about reframing goals/objectives/success, with which we can agree:
“Like coal, capitalism has brought many benefits. But, like coal, it now causes more harm than good. Just as we have found means of generating useful energy that are better and less damaging than coal, so we need to find means of generating human wellbeing that are better and less damaging than capitalism.”  
More agreeableness:
“There is no going back: the alternative to capitalism is neither feudalism nor state communism.”
I accept Monbiot’s closing summation, a call to cooperative problem solving:
“So what does a better system look like? I don’t have a complete answer, and I don’t believe any one person does. But I think I see a rough framework emerging. Part of it is provided by the ecological civilisation proposed by Jeremy Lent, one of the greatest thinkers of our age. Other elements come from Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics and the environmental thinking of Naomi Klein, Amitav Ghosh, Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, Raj Patel and Bill McKibben. Part of the answer lies in the notion of “private sufficiency, public luxury”. Another part arises from the creation of a new conception of justice based on this simple principle: every generation, everywhere, shall have an equal right to the enjoyment of natural wealth.
I believe our task is to identify the best proposals from many different thinkers and shape them into a coherent alternative. Because no economic system is only an economic system but intrudes into every aspect of our lives, we need many minds from various disciplines – economic, environmental, political, cultural, social and logistical – working collaboratively to create a better way of organising ourselves that meets our needs without destroying our home.
Our choice comes down to this. Do we stop life to allow capitalism to continue, or stop capitalism to allow life to continue?”  

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