Why capitalism must fail.

by Custador

(Note from Florien: Since I’m a capitalist, this does not reflect my views.)

I saw this video a few years back and was thinking about it today; it’s basically a mathematics lecture which proves that capitalism cannot work for very much longer as the dominant socio-economic system and why if it does we’re all absolutely screwed.

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This simple mathematical lecture explains everything from peak oil to the population explosion. Hope y’all enjoy and it makes you think!

Incidentally, I know that there’s a risk of apocalyptic Christians abusing this post, but hey, they’re idiots so I don’t care :-)

  • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

    Either I’m missing something, or we have different definitions of ‘proof’. All I see is an elementary lecture about exponential growth.

    • Paul

      Actually the implication of the video is that we’re already finished; the rate of growth in the use of Bronze from 5,000 to 3,000 years ago, projected forwards, means that we ran out of copper and tin years ago.

      • Custador

        Tin is actually one of the most expensive minerals due to its increasing rarity. There are wars over tin mines. All of that blood diamond child soldier stuff? Happens over tin mines too. The fact that we don’t hear too much about it because we don’t like to think of all the printed circuit boards we suddenly won’t be able to make and all the luxury goods we’ll have to forgo… Well, I wonder why that could be?

        • Paul

          I believe you’re mistaken – all the tin was used up years ago, as I explained above. Such ‘mining’ as there is now is more properly termed ‘recovery’, as we melt down bronze tools and other devices.

          Or it could be that capitalism is entirely happy to consume whatever is available that is of use – if that’s tin, then that’s what will be consumed. As tin becomes less available substitutes will be found, either in other metals, or in novel materials, or ultimately perhaps in radically different substitutes such as human ingenuity.

          Now there’s a valid criticism of capitalism possible that because it does not (and, perhaps, can not) encompass the ‘true’ value of a resource it is prone to over-consume it. That rarely means that it’s used to exhaustion, however, and it’s not a flaw unique to capitalism. It seems to me that this is a flaw of consumption, which humans, as with all life forms, are doomed to continue.

          • Custador

            So you believe that there’s an infinite amount of new resources to be found and exploited in ever greater quantity then? Assuming (as I think is reasonable) that efficient, prompt interstellar travel is a few centuries away yet: What about space to live? What about space to grow food?

            • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

              I’m still waiting for a demonstration that exponential growth in anything material is vital for capitalism. It certainly isn’t obvious to me why this would be the case.

            • Custador
            • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

              1) That’s talking about growth in monetary profit, and we’ve already established that money is not a conserved resource.
              2) It’s not difficult to imagine a system whereby individual companies are required to have exponential growth followed by inevitable failure, whilst the economy itself maintains a steady state.
              3) It’s also talking about a single company in a ‘competitive market’, where competitive is presumably defined as companies that are growing while the subject is not.

              Proving that an individual company that does not pursue growth will be at a disadvantage in a market where other companies are is not a particularly stunning revelation, nor does it say much about the economy it takes place in.

            • Custador

              *sigh* Watch the videos and comment on them or don’t watch them and don’t comment.

            • Paul

              Yes and no – I think there are finite amounts of tin that can be used to, say, prop up a table leg. There is a much greater, though still finite, range of alternatives that can do the same job. So far as I know, however, there’s an infinite supply of human ingenuity that could tell me to saw an appropriate amount off the other three legs, or make future tables with one leg, or eat from a tray in my lap.

              Further, I don’t yet understand why capitalism requires growth. It makes good use of it, for sure, but capitalism is the best mechanism I know of for the efficient allocation of scarce resources with alternate uses. Whether those resources are growing or shrinking in availability, that exercise remains the same.

            • Custador

              Capitalism doesn’t just require growth – to be sucessful, it must cause growth.

              Also: http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/archive/2010/01/five-children-killed-in-congo-mine-collapse

            • Paul

              Capitalism doesn’t require growth, it is a method for efficiently allocating scarce resources with alternative uses. Part of the incentive for doing that is growth, of course, but if my alternative is loss then stasis counts as a good result. And capitalism works fine where a system doesn’t grow, because there are still pools of growth that encourage investment.

              And, once again, you’re posting information on an event that can’t have anything to do with capitalism. We had exponential growth in tin use 5,000 years ago. Either that’s plenty of time to cause the failure of exponential capitalism in that limited market, in which case that mining disaster has nothing to do with capitalism, or it’s not, in which case you’re arguing that our economic system will fail over a period of time in which generations of civilization will rise and fall. In that case, to be honest, I don’t care.

      • Brumby

        That’s OK; the entire population died out years ago. See Malthus, Thomas.

    • Custador

      Watch all eight then get back to me. This is not hard: Capitalism requires continuous growth. Continuous growth requires continuous population growth and continuous resource usage. Space and resources are limited, therefore continuous growth is not sustainable; either we choose to abandom growth (and therefore capitalism) as an economic model, or nature will make our choice for us with disease, famine and drought.

      • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

        I wasn’t aware there were 8 parts, since you only linked to the first one. I don’t have 80 minutes to spare, so I hope you’ll forgive me for accepting your summary instead.

        I’ll bite: Why does capitalism require continuous growth?

        • Custador

          Because it’s based on money as debt and requires the continuous generaton of new money (i.e. new debt) in order to service interest payments.

          • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

            Funny, I thought it was based on money as a means of exchange for work performed. Who says you have to have a net growth in money for an economy to survive?

            For that matter, since money isn’t a physical resource, so what? It’s not like we’re going to run out of numbers.

            • Custador

              We can, however, run out of confidence in the numbers. That’s essentially what happens when we’re in recession; the value of property on which debt is secured is less than the value of the debt. That cause the value of each unit of exchange to be less, making it even harder to earn it to service debt and interest payments. The result is unemployment, bankruptcy and general economic hardship.

            • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

              So now you’re making an argument about confidence in economic systems, which is a different point entirely, and one you haven’t proven inevitably leads to economic collapse. It’s a far cry from “this video proves that capitalism must inevitably fail because exponential growth is unsustainable!”

            • Custador

              And now you’re being deliberately obtuse. Well done. Take the time to actually watch the videos before you argue.

            • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

              I don’t know why you think I’m being obtuse: you’ve derailed from your argument that exponential growth spells the doom of capitalism, and you’re instead talking about confidence issues. If they’re related, please tell me how.

              And I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to not want to spend 80 minutes on these videos. If there’s an important point contained in them, please do summarize it for us.

            • Custador

              No.

            • coffeejedi

              Is that your debating style Nick? As the conversation finds its way down new paths organically (a path that YOU participated in I might add), you suddenly accuse the other person of changing the subject when presented with an answer to one of your points that you don’t like?

              You’re awfully transparent.

            • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

              I never changed the topic – I wanted to hear what evidence there was that net growth is required for capitalism (and I still haven’t heard of any). Custador changed the topic to economic confidence, which is an interesting topic, but doesn’t serve to enlighten us as to why he thinks exponential growth means doom for capitalism. I merely asked him to prove one point before moving onto the next.

              I don’t see how that is an unreasonable thing to do, or where the “answer to one of [my] points that [I] don’t like” comes in.

            • coffeejedi

              He didn’t change the topic. You brought up money as an inexhaustible resource, he simply countered that money is consensual hallucination and that people’s confidence in it can fluctuate. He was on topic. Just because a discussion spawns a tangent doesn’t mean that the whole discussion is now “bad”. These comments are threaded/nested you know.

          • Arie

            So the analysis works if you are using a gold standard or something like that. Don’t a lot of economists argue that we have largely sidestepped this by visualizing money?

      • Sunny Day

        “Watch all eight then get back to me.”

        LOL WUT?!?

        Are you trolling Custy?

        There are Eight videos? I’m supposed to take you seriously when you tell us to watch 8 videos before commenting? Please, step off the ledge.

        • Sunny Day

          Er Step Back. Step Back from the Ledge.

          • trj

            Could’ve been a demonstration of exponential velocity.

            • Kretren

              Nick Johnson -

              Capitalism is built on an exponential because of this: population growth. Removing all other factors (disease, infant mortality, etc) our mating habits encourage vast growth. A couple (man and woman) used to generate many children because so many would die, and this tendency was embedded into our culture. Through science and medicine, living conditions improved, so when couples generated many children, simply more survived. A sustainable generation would be two children per couple: as the parents die, the two children ‘replace’ them. This is assuming the parents die BEFORE the children generate their own children, since two parents + two children + two children’s children works out to six; six being greater than four, there is population growth. Notice that I only said the children generate two of their own – this is assuming they have the children together. Logically they would have children with other families rather than each other, but on the scale of the total population the number I said remains constant anyways, so no need to mess with the simplicity on a family-by-family scale. Now of course the original parents in my example will die without producing any more offspring, but in the meantime they are consuming resources.

              Long explanation short, our population grows. Of course, we being a proud specie, we cannot accept a lower standard of living. We expect equal, if not better, standards. So in my example, say the original parents consumed 1 unit (an arbitrary number encompassing all their food, water, and other resources consumed per year) each.. That’s 2 units. Their children also consume 2 units, and their children’s children consume 2 units. Each generation consumes 2 units, which seems sustainable. In this model, suggest the environment can sustain 10 units per year. With just the original parents, that leaves 8 units of surplus. With the parents and their children, however, only 6 is surplus (realize that they’re consuming AT THE SAME TIME) and with the granchildren the surplus is only 4. Eventually, there will not be enough to sustain the generations to come.

              This is the reality. Our population grows uncontrollably, but the environment can only sustain things at a constant level. We grow exponentially; it doesn’t even grow linearly. We WILL see a backlash from our growth, and at that point capitalism will no longer be a viable model. Sadly, our ability to follow an economic model is based entirely on confidence, and such a devastating realization will shake our confidence for a long time to come.. If we make it through the mess, that is.

            • Elemenope

              Uh, average number of children per family has been steadily dropping worldwide, and is predicted (conservatively) to hit the ZPG replacement rate in 2050 or so. Mathus was wrong, very wrong, epically *wrong*.

              Why do they still teach this stuff?

            • Ty

              This curve remains true as long as we continue to increase the percentage of people (especially women) in the workforce.

              It falls apart if we don’t.

            • Kretren

              Even if, in the example I gave, the amount of children dropped per family we’d still see population growth because of the lifespan of the original parents. By the time a parent dies, he/she may already have children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren running about because a generation is, what, 40 years? And 20-year old parents are not that unlikely, so it is possible to even be a great-great-grandparent by your death. Even if the first family creates two children, the next 1.9, the next 1.8, the next 1.7… We’re seeing a growth because they all add up before the first number dies off.

            • Elemenope

              The 2004 UN report on population (median estimate) places the date at which world population starts falling in real terms around 2080 (topping out at just over 9 billion). Since the theoretical sustainable capacity for humans on Earth is something like 12 billion, I’m feeling pretty good about our chances. The low estimate places the date much earlier (at 2040) but I think that model depends too much on rosy assumptions about world economic growth.

              Ty is right; employment is probably the silver bullet. Yes, living standards will rise and in some ways this might cause resource pressure, but those resources are used (and recycled) much more efficiently than they once weer, and there is no reason to believe that trend won’t continue.

            • Kodie

              The one thing I’m worried about, and I won’t survive to 2080 to see it so I guess I will not have to worry for long, is what machines will be able to do by then. We’ve already seen some employable people displaced by machines that can do it faster and cheaper. I have already said on forums somewhere how much has changed since my 93 year old grandmother was a child. I guess I’m wondering in this future, what people will be able to do to make money so they can live and buy things. Over the history of human life, there seems to always be a need for humans, and thus a way for them to earn a living, but this little detail bothers me. The future seems more expensive and yet needs fewer people to perform actual jobs and get paid for them so they can keep up with the technology, live in homes, buy cars, have kids, steer them into productive employment when their time comes to seek work. How are we going to afford to live forever, hypothetically, if the technology exists to make that so, if alongside it is technology that employs machines to do a lot of the work people used to do?

            • Elemenope

              The distribution of labor in economies shifts as development continues, generally first from primarily manufacturing to primarily services to I would guess primarily arts (with agriculture, being a type of manufacturing, nonetheless falling far more slowly). We’ve never really had an economy make it to that third stage, since we haven’t sufficiently automated service production, though the explosion of creative content production in the past ten years may indicate we have already started. We just need to figure out how to remunerate labor effectively in that context.

            • trj

              The fear of automization was common in the 70′s and 80′s where industrial robots took over a lot of jobs. However, as it turns out the people who were laid off gained employment in other jobs, and automization has been a huge net gain to our society (and for that matter probably to the environment as well). I believe this trend will continue, based on the simple capitalistic rule of thumb – if you don’t innovate and rationalize (eg. by automating your production) someone else will, thereby gaining the advantage. The result is cheaper and more abundant products.

              Also, we’ve seen a steady increase in disposable income in the last 60 years or so. This is likely to continue as well. Each generation gets richer as a result of increased globalization and technological innovation. So economically we probably have little to fear.

            • Arie

              In Reply to Kretren. One interesting thing to note is that modern while modern medicine has done wonders for average life expectancy it really has not had much of an impact on maximum life expectancy. Yes people living into their eighties was once very rare but it was not unheard of. Really the biggest thing we have achieved is reduction of child mortality.

              So while the rate of child birth might continue to fall, life expectancy will not continue to rise, or at least it is not likely to rise anywhere near as rapidly. So you still end up with a point at which global population stabilizes.

            • Sue

              +1000 Kretren
              The only reason we (the developed world) are able to live the way we do is because we are living off the lives and resources of 3rd world people and countries and leaving they’re lands poisoned and unusable (watch the movie CRUDE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0LLQG3L6VM)
              The Gulf oil disaster, the Michigan oil spill, clean water and food shortages and climate migration are starting, even here in the la la land of civilization (watch HOME http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU, the whole movie here plus the music is amazing)

              Our planet can support many more people *if* we are living in near-starvation mode and consuming as little energy as possible, NOT if we are living at North American levels of consumption.

            • Kretren

              Dang, that would probably put my rep up near Daniel’s :P

              Elemenope, not to nitpick but economy develops, as Cust said, from primary (agriculture) to seconday (manufacturing) to tertiary (services). Each stage depends on the previous few. While there are no homogeneous economies, I would identify my country, Canada, as working towards the third stage. As Sue said, developed countries rely on undeveloped countries. As we develop, we inevitably focus our attention on the higher forms of the economy as they are more profitable. Undeveloped countries, only knowledgeable in the primary sector, willingly develop for us, but do so in what is rather a one-way transaction: we take their resources, and sell back the refined products for a neat profit. Small tangent…

              I would think the next stage of development is merely servicing the machines. Automation is replacing workers, but I think we overestimate the intelligence and self-maintenance of machines. They are suitable for refined tasks, but often lack the versatility many jobs demand. For example, a robot might act as lifeguard, but without sufficient programming mistake a dive for a fall or a pool game for drowning, resulting in improper action. And without very sophisticated programming, it would probably not give proper medical attention to specific people.. CPR might be administered in a constant manner, saving the lives of healthy adults but killing children. People, on the other hand, are ‘programmed’ by experience, and are thus versatile in mental regards. In physical regards, our bodies allow us to perform nearly infinite tasks. Meanwhile, a car-producing machine can only produce cars. It can never do your taxes.

              Therefore, the next stage of development will probably be maintaining and improving machines.. It seems to defeat the purpose of the machines, which is to save work, but I don’t see it ever happening that we develop a machine with the intelligence and the means to produce other sentient machines to do our bidding – at that point, they would stop working for us.

            • Elemenope

              I tend to collapse the agrarian stage into the manufacturing stage, only because at above subsistence levels it behaves more like a manufacturing industry than anything else. You make a very good point about systems maintenance; there will be quite a bit of labor necessary to keep the machines whirring and humming.

              I think, though, that a service economy develops into something quite different once the necessary services are saturated; content generation is the next obvious step in re-purposed creative output, the big shift there being that unlike service-based economies, media-based economies show a much weaker demand drive. People create because they want to, and then if it so happens someone else wants to buy it, so much the better. The Internet and mobile media devices have cratered the production price for many types of media, and created entirely new ones to boot.

              And we best make those there machines three laws safe… :)

            • Kretren

              Elem – A media/maintenance-based economy sounds like it would be rather short-lived. Everyone these days (myself included) wants to be an artist, but the almighty dollar forces most into a profession that is more.. productive. As a result, people swallow their pride and growth is made in areas such as science, mathematics, and so many other areas I can’t even count. Art alone is not a good avenue, as it will lead to quite a lazy race of people. This would either cause the maintenance workers to become lazy, or lead to an all-out war when the maintenance people suggest the artists have their food rations lowered.

              A world of artists would be plain annoying; so many people with some talent but no education pretending to have intent in random brushstrokes… I do find the idea compelling though. Maybe society would become a sort of university-setting, where everyone lives for the sake of knowledge, and strives to express this knowledge through scientific or artistic discoveries/products. And the people who decide to go to college.. well, those can be the maintenance workers.

              This could be a popular book Elem. Wanna co-author?

            • Elemenope

              Well, perhaps. I think being only at the start of this, we have no idea how it would mature; technological paradigm shifts often operate like mini-singularities, shielding from view what might happen afterward. Cars were once a curiosity, as were electrons, and at the time cars were introduced as a product nobody really saw how it would transform *everything* (to say nothing of electricity and later electronics).

              What counts as art can vary a great deal, too. I would imagine that besides established media, there would also be increasing demand for arts of performance, which tend to be a bit more sustainable business models, all things considered. There is a risk, as you say, that people involved in production maintenance and people involved in content creation would bifurcate into a stratified society (though I tend to wonder who would come out on top).

              This could be a popular book Elem. Wanna co-author?

              :-). Ty is the resident published sci-fi author.

            • Ty

              Ty also published a short story set in that very universe called, “Audience.”

            • trj

              Are you two familiar with Iain M Banks’s Culture novels? That’s the kind of utopian future I can really relate to. All production is automated and costs are so low that you can get anything you point at, within reason. Their society doesn’t even use money internally. People are free to do almost whatever they like (there are very few laws as well), resulting in a pampered and hedonistic, but also much more mature society, compared to our own. I suppose it’s basically a meritocracy.

              It may not be very realistic, but the novels are almost always entertaining and insightful.

            • Elemenope

              Ty also is a time-traveling illeist.

            • Elemenope

              Are you two familiar with Iain M Banks’s Culture novels?

              I’ve heard them mentioned often; I really need to brush up on my sci-fi. After going through P.K. Dick and Heinlein, I sort of took a vacation from the genre which never ended.

            • trj

              “The Player of Games” would be a good starting point.

            • Elemenope

              Thanks.

            • Ty

              I love Iain Bank’s writing, and I love space opera and far future sci fi.

              But post singularity novels almost invariably bore me to tears.

              I hope Iain doesn’t read this, because we share the same publisher, and he is definitely the big dog there.

            • Custador

              I’m re-reading thst for the nth time right now…

            • Elemenope

              But post singularity novels almost invariably bore me to tears.

              I would imagine that the task of describing this entirely new and unfamiliar world would put quite an expository pressure on the narrative, and writers who don’t do exposition elegantly would get boring. This would be high on my list of critiques for much of Heinlein’s middle period stuff.

              Or do you mean there are just so damn many of them, and they are fairly similar?

            • Ty

              I mean that good fiction (read: fiction I enjoy) is about struggle. My friend and sometimes mentor Walter Jon Williams just wrote a post singularity novel called “Implied Spaces.” I love Walter’s work. He’s one of the best prose stylist currently working in genre fiction. He’s also a brilliant plotter and has an impeccable sense for structure.

              But I couldn’t make myself love the book, no matter how much I wanted to. The characters aren’t ever really in danger, and by the rules of the personality download and clone on demand society, CAN’T ever really be in danger. They’re never hungry, or frightened, or desperate. All of the challenges are intellectual challenges.

              And while I know a lot of people who can enjoy a story like that, I can’t. I need a more visceral kind of challenge. Something that speaks to my hindbrain as much as it does to my frontal lobes.

            • Siberia

              The only reason we (the developed world) are able to live the way we do is because we are living off the lives and resources of 3rd world people and countries and leaving they’re lands poisoned and unusable (watch the movie CRUDE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0LLQG3L6VM)

              Uh?

              Well, I suppose Brazil’s not that third-world-country-ish then, because our lands are probably under producing and nowhere near poisoned. And we’ve got a damn lot of it, too.

            • Siberia

              P.S., we’re still horribly abused by the developed countries, though. Which sucks.

            • Elemenope

              Ty, that was my main problem with Clarke’s Childhood’s End. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop for the entire story and it never did.

            • Kretren

              Par chance, is there a link to this ‘Audience’ story?

            • Elemenope
  • Dan

    A few points:
    * there’s no limits for innovation
    * there’s a term “service economy”, which really can’t be down to “we will run out of everything”
    * this is exponential too: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=x^.5
    who said capitalism can’t work with that?

    • Custador

      * Innovation still requires physical resourcs.
      * Service economy can run out of things / people to service. Tertiary economy cannot survive without primary and secondary economy.
      * Adam Smith did.

    • Septimus Octopus

      f(x) = x^0.5 isn’t exponential, it’s polynomial. f(x) = x^1000000 still isn’t exponential and will be outpaced by g(x) = 2^x given enough time.
      The variable itself must be in the exponent for a function to be exponential A^rx.

  • http://stereoroid.wordpress.com/ brian t

    I’m about 5/6 of the way through “Atlas Shrugged” at the moment, and some interesting things have come up in relation to this. For example, while Rand has to be the ultimate “laissez-faire” capitalism advocate, she was also strongly in favour of the gold standard: basing all trade on a limited hard asset (gold) instead of the current untethered “fiat currency”. It places the emphasis on the creation of value as the means of economic progress: no free lunches. (No, I’m not a “Randroid”, and am in no danger of becoming one. The book is both better and worse than other commentators would indicate.)

    It should be pointed out that the Earth is not a closed system. When you plant crops in a field and wait a few months, you get much more back than you put in, thanks to sunlight. The energy from that external source (the Sun) is the basis of the world’s economy, in the form of oil etc. concentrated over millions of years, but we’re using up our energy reserves far too quickly. So, while I accept the basic maths about exponential growth (how could I not?), I don’t accept that it makes capitalism impossible. It will make it difficult, especially if the global population continues to increase and demand more resources from a limited pool.

  • Nox

    The thing is, capitalism is all about consumption of limited resources. It is about the exchange of money (a resource that would be meaningless without limits) for limited resources (goods or services). For capitalism to continue humans must consume exponentially more resources. And companies/countries/individuals will have to compete increasingly for those resources as the pool of resources decreases and the pool of people competing increases. This will of course lead to all kinds of interesting side effects such as war, poverty and an eventual lack of faith in the money itself. If only the richest 1% can afford the very basics of survival then the other 99% will quickly lose faith in the ownership of resources and there will be revolution or an attempt at one. Ultimately the choice (and it may not even be a choice by then) will come down to socialism or extinction.

  • Mike

    I just got a headache from reading through this. I need to go back to watching the “I like turtles” kid.

  • trj

    Yeah, exponents are powerful, but you can’t just uncritically presume that economical or population growth adheres to it.

    For instance, we can predict that the Malthusian horror scenario of exponential population growth will not happen. In fact, the global population size will most likely decrease a number of years into the future. Why? Because there are several socio-economic factors at play which regulates child birth (education, prosperity, more women gaining work, economic taxes and regulation, etc). It’s not just a simple function.

    Why does the population decrease in many industrialized countries? According to this guy (in episode 2), populations should definitely increase in times of peace and prosperity, yet they mostly do not. So clearly this guy is simply wrong in his assumptions.

    Similar arguments can be made for economic growth. Ignoring factors such as increased efficiency and substitution and just focusing solely on an exponent is unreliable and unprofessional.

    And finally, let me ask a question: What alternative economic system should we use? What economic system has proven itself to be more efficient than capitalism, and what system would not come up against the exact same resource limitations?

    • Elemenope

      Yup. Also, it’s a big universe with lots of stuff. Running out of things on this here ball of mud will simply incentivize finding stuff elsewhere. There’s lots of elsewhere.

      The idea that Capitalism requires constant growth really only proves that the system will collapse sometime before the heat death of the Universe. There are other non-mathematical, non-structural problems with capitalism as we use it today that I think are more dominant factors in its eventual amendment/abandonment than any growth curve mechanic.

  • SshendeR

    What a damn shame… stumbled by this blog by accident and was hoping for a quality atheist blog, but instead got a lot of leftist drivel. If you can’t see on how many levels the Ground Zero mosque is wrong, and instead you prefer to peddle the “end of Capitalism” and suck up to Muslims, then how can you honestly call yourself a true skeptic?

    From a fellow, atheist, skeptic and REALIST

    • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

      You mean the thing that isn’t a mosque, and isn’t at ground zero, and was written about by a different person than posted this entry?

      • Custador

        Indeed. The self-same blog entry on which I pointed out that I, being a self confessed Islamaphobe, found the hate mongering, fear preying stupidity of the advert revolting because, as you say, it’s not a mosque and it’s not being built anywhere near ground zero.

    • blotonthelandscape

      He means we’re not bigoted enough.

      I suggest he reads Custadors first entry on this website, about why he is an islamophobe before he comes to that opinion.

      Also, a forum for the free exchange of ideas that may be contrary to ones own is very much a liberal, secular principal, and if one has a problem with that, one is welcome to leave.

    • Kodie

      What a damn shame indeed. You know when I stumble on a blog by accident and I don’t like its content right away, I give it a fair chance to have some content I might enjoy, or I pass. Saying something about what I’ve judged that it is and what I think it should be is really stepping in it, unnecessary to say anything, just go. Not everything is going to be just how you like it, but perhaps you’ve interpreted the goals wrong. A topic is posted and we comment and discuss. This one got a lot of criticism for what the topic actually says, you deem “leftist drivel,” and you chose to comment on the whole blog rather than point out the inaccuracies in the topic in a constructive way. As a commenter posting to a blog, you pretty much suck. As a first-time commenter, you suck even more than that!

      • http://sistermoon65.livejournal.com Lisa S.

        I’m actually doubting whether or not the person is actually and atheist or a skeptic. A skeptic would have been, oh, I don’t know…SKEPTICAL…of the drivel posted about the “mosque”. They would have done a little more research.

        Fail.

    • Elemenope

      If you can’t see on how many levels the Ground Zero mosque is wrong, and instead you prefer to peddle the “end of Capitalism” and suck up to Muslims, then how can you honestly call yourself a true skeptic?

      So…if I don’t agree with you on particular policies/attitudes, I’m not a true skeptic? I’m deeply unsure of the legitimacy of that conclusion. Seems unsound. Call me skeptical.

    • Custador

      I suspect “one” is lying fo’ Jeeeeee-zhus.

    • http://theskippyreview.wordpress.com Skippy

      Then by all means, please do not ever visit this blog again or pollute the comments with your insipid, bigoted nonsense.

  • blotonthelandscape

    I think it’s premature and unnecessary to conclude gloomily that because constant growth is unsustainable, capitalism will fail. Yes, a lot of growth is not a good thing, but “have you seen the other guy?” There is no doubt that negative growth in the size of the economy (measured in GDP per capita for example) has much worse consequences than low, stable growth.

    Regarding this, I will say that the reasons for economic growth have a lot to do with their impact. If the source of growth in an industry or economy is being caused by a growth in population, then it is likely to hurt us in the long run. However, GDP per capita increases if population declines without hurting net GDP, and without necessarily requiring a growth in specific industries. And capitalism does not have “population growth” as one of its tenets; hence economic growth can be achieved in a capitalist society which reduces its population.

    I believe it was John Stuart Mill who claimed (and I paraphrase because I’m too lazy to google) that when humanity faces a population crisis that many make the moral decision to reduce the number of children, and this acts as a stabiliser to the economy, and the wellbeing of all. I believe Malthus conceded to this after his apocolyptic projection of population growth exceeding growth in food supplies failed to come true.

    I think that you have mistakenly linked the ills of unfettered population growth to capitalism.

    • trj

      I doubt the number of kids you produce depends much on moral considerations. More likely it’s a product of better education and a much reduced need to use children as a source of labour and income. This is what has historically happened as we’ve gone from agrarian to industrial societies.

      • trj

        I should probably have said “use your children as a source of labour and income”.

      • Kodie

        Are you saying that nobody decides to have fewer children in a conscious effort to do their part to control the population? That itself may be a product of education level and awareness but people do in fact plan how many children to have for various reasons, population control being one of them. I thought that’s what they do in China also, although they are governed to limit the number of children they have by law, which causes other problems.

        • trj

          I didn’t say nobody decides to limit the number of children they have based on morality, just that it I think it’s a minor factor.

          It may be that I underestimate people’s moral considerations, but I think that in the majority of cases their decision is guided by more pragmatic factors. In our modern society people no longer plan to have children in order to help with the manual labour (in fact children are arguably an economical burden). This is a trend we see whenever nations become industrialized, and I’ll venture that this (among other factors) has historically been a much stronger factor in reducing family sizes than whatever moral considerations people have had. This probably goes for China as well.

      • Elemenope

        I doubt the number of kids you produce depends much on moral considerations.

        One of the most powerful correlative factors for number of children per family is intensity of religious belief, believe it or not. Way back, I had to do a term paper on the Israeli education system; they have a complicated bifurcated system with secular schools and religious schools (yehshivot). Since the ultra-Orthodox outbreed everyone else, the educational system has inexorably slid further towards yeshivot being the dominant educational paradigm (and politics concomitantly sliding further to the right).

        This trend is mirrored fairly well in other religions and countries.

        So, not morality so much as religious social values.

        • trj

          I tend to not equate religion and morality, but that’s for another discussion, I think.

    • blotonthelandscape

      I realise that many things contribute to the reduction of population, and that moral considerations of this sort are generally informed by higher levels of education; however, it is altogether possible to take a global view and say “you know what, it’s better for humanity if I abstain from having more children than there are of me”. I have done (the child due in 2 months is the first and last), and I believe it is the only truly fair way of population control (looking at the travesties in India and China where various forms of forceful limitations have been imposed).

      These are the key things that make our generation more likely than any so far to overturn the population problem:
      Women’s Rights
      Birth Control
      Education

      However it is still a conscious decision followed by action, which makes it a moral consideration.

      • Kretren

        I severely doubt a person would abstain from having children on ‘moral’ grounds. In the end, we’re just animals who want to propagate our genes. If we decide to not have children in a population crisis, it’s not because we don’t want to make the problem worse; it’s because a child is an economic burden, and if it’s likely not going to survive in such poor conditions, it’s not worth the resource sacrifices at this time.

        If anything, I would argue that it is the people educated ABOUT population control should be the only ones able to have children. They’re making the problem worse in that sense, but they’re nurturing children who will be aware of the population circumstances and will be responsible in their producing. The people who spawn hordes of children on religious grounds have no morals – they just want children because a book told them to. Once upon a time religion was useful (a previous post of mine explained that, due to high infant mortality rates, having many children was a good idea to ensure any surviving offspring) for families, but its refusal to reverse some of its ideals has contributed to quite a disaster here. There’s a reason why, on average, educated families have fewer children than uneducated ones. It doesn’t speak well for the future well-being of our species..

        • blotonthelandscape

          I agree that religion has deviated from the moral imperative of global population reduction, due to antiquated commands to “go forth and multiply”. However, for the majority of third world countries the incentive to produce offspring is economic, and the causes are often, as above, mis-education (via religious superstition) and patriarchy, as well as inadequate medical provision.

          We have two options. The first, suitable for already developed countries, is moral guidance. We no longer profit from our children, and education and inadequate medical provision are by default not severe issues in a developing country, hence we have to make the personal choice that, no matter how well I could provide for a large family in my circumstances, it is better for others that I do not. This overturns the biological imperative to breed and foster diverse populations.

          The second choice, economic incentives and social engineering, may be required in less developed countries; by this I mean the empowerment of women, the balanced reduction of child-labour, government-led campaigns to encourage and provide birth control, and the undermining of religious dogma and fear of western society.

  • Sue

    Love seeing peak oil issues on this site =) thanks Custador

    Add climate change, crashing world economies, peak oil, devastated land-bases, crumbling infrastructure, water shortages, overpopulation and we are in for an interesting future to say the least…
    No technology will not save us from ourselves, no more than some invisible force from the sky will, same type of thinking involved in both…

    Deny all you want folks, in the words of Dylan, the times they are a-changing’. Learn to grow some food and think about how your going to deal with life once the lights go out for good.

    • Olaf

      Actually technology can reverse the damage we did to this earth. Nanotechnology could recycle waste into the independent components. For example plastic could actually be recycled using nanotechnology to make it oil again.

      This nano-technology could for example be in the form of artificial life extracting metals from waste. The difference is that instead of using mines we use waste as source.

      But in order to do this we need to find a cheaper way to create energy. Nuclear fusion is one possibility. We could then also construct atmosphere purifying technology that removes the C2 from the air and maybe create plastic or food out of it.

      • Sue

        Oh yeah we fire monkeys have done a great job correcting the damage we have done to the planet…
        Keep praying to your technology gods, good luck with that…

        Sorry Daniel, but capitalism is hanging out at the bar as the ship keeps heading for the iceberg.

        • Custador

          Yep.

        • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

          What’s your solution? Killing 9/10ths of the population and reverting to an agrarian culture?

        • Kodie

          The sky is falling? I guess I expect things to last at least as long as I’m alive, there’s nothing I can do about it after that, so… yeah. I’m not that worried, we made it this far, we always think of something.

          • Sue

            hope your about 80 years old…

            It is true there isn’t much anyone can or “will” do, we need to just keep living the way we do, don’t put off those car trips or flying off to some foreign land for a vacation, the faster we use all this crap up the faster the crash will happen which will save what little bit of the planet is left in working order able to survive us.

            I’m hoping for total extinction of the human race myself, there are others that are hoping for a return to an 18th century lifestyle but knowing the human animal as I do I can see the whole damned mess returning to slavery and feudalism…

            • coffeejedi

              Not me, I figure when the singularity hits, I’m volunteering to be among the first to have my consciousness uploaded into the matrix. We get to live our lives in a digital paradise while the nanobots take ONLY what is needed to sustain the server farm. After a few hundred years when we develop FTL space travel, again I’ll volunteer to be download back into a nanobot body head for the first off-world colony.

            • Sue

              Won’t bother me in the least LRA, everyone does eventually =)

            • LRA

              “I’m hoping for total extinction of the human race”

              LOLWHUT???? That’s crazy talk. Who peed in your cheerios this morning?

            • Sue

              The planet and the species that are being decimated by our actions mean more to me than the human species, hey everybody gets to have some hope don’t they?

            • LRA

              Well, I suppose misanthropy is your prerogative, but since I value my life and the lives of others, I don’t see your solution as a good one.

              So you’re saying you want to die?

            • LRA

              BTW, nothing will mean anything to you after you are dead. And even if humans die out, evolution will still keep happening and species will die out anyway. The planet could be struck by an asteroid and destroyed anyhow. All without people.

            • Sue

              Very true.

            • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

              You’re welcome to remove your own contribution to planetary destruction at any time you wish, Sue, if you feel it’s a net negative. The fact that few people do would tend to indicate that they value their own existence and that of their loved ones more highly than the non-sentient species we displace or exploit.

            • Sue

              Without the so called “non-sentient species” we are exploiting, displacing and destroying the system will no longer support our fabulous species, you might want to ponder that thought.

              As a long time member of Hemlock and ERGO I will take myself out of the picture when the time comes (if given the opportunity that is) unless someone does me a favor =)

              My planetary destruction contribution is fairly low, at least compared to others in the “civilized” world so I’ll hang out for awhile, thanks.
              I’m enjoying the show =)

            • Kodie

              I don’t see the need for panic, that’s all. You sound like an end-times kind of extremist. If you think animals don’t destroy things, you’ve never had termites. You seem to think every animal but humans lives in ecological harmony and would be better off without us. They’d still be animals, they’d still use the available resources until they’re gone, and multiply their own species and ruin the environment for other local species. That’s how it all works. I don’t care what happens to the human species either, at least not until after I’m comfortably dead. But oh my god, the world is crashing to its end for us and no Superman. Ingenuity got us this far, it’s going to keep going until we run out of ideas. Oh well. Earth won’t be destroyed by anything we do. Life will still manage to exist and repopulate. Other planets seem to do just fine existing and not being destroyed, and they’re terrible places to live. I mean, bottom line, you’re a little on the nutty side.

            • Sue

              Ha, I’m just having way too much fun, panic? not me.
              Actually termites are a good protein source. Everything on the planet does live in balance “except” us. Too many rabbits the coyotes get fat, few rabbits the coyotes starve to death. Actually at the moment it seems L.A. might be burning down (hum, early fire season this year?)

              The human species is not required on this planet, here we are on an atheist forum and your sounding like there is some “special reason” for us to survive.

              Hey I embrace my crazy, it’s fun and you all have given me plenty of laughs today, so thanks.

              No I’m sure everything is gonna be fine, go live your nice American life and keep investing in that 401k for that nice long retirement in our soon to arrive technologically fabulous future.
              Peace everyone

            • coffeejedi

              We have a special reason to survive because that’s what we evolved to do, just like everything else. Plus we’re intelligent, we can do “cool stuff” like land on the moon.

              You honestly think that animals consider “balance” when eating or reproducing? No, they just do what they evolved to do just like us, they don’t care one way or an another if it negatively affects another species’ sustainability. The only reason why we can cause so much destruction is because we have the means to. If those coyotes somehow got the ability to use ranged weaponry on the rabbits or could transform the land to suit their rabbit-eating needs they would in a heartbeat. Now, I’m not saying that it’s right to go about trashing the ecosystem, but there’s no reason we can’t have modern society AND do things right.

              We’re also the only species that’s sapient enough to even consider “meaning” in this universe. Because of that, it’s our duty to give meaning to things, and we can’t do that if we’re not here. What’s the purpose of your art if there’s noone there to see it?

            • Elemenope

              The human species is not required on this planet, here we are on an atheist forum and your sounding like there is some “special reason” for us to survive.

              The reason isn’t special in the big picture, but it is special *to us*, which is really all that can ever matter *to us* aside from aesthetic concerns.

              Our particular evolutionary path favored ingenuity and tool-using as a survival strategy. So far it has worked out pretty well. It is no more *special* than the termites’ evolution to be able to digest cellulose and soften wood. But it is the thing that matters to us. The environment will come into equilibrium with us just as it has with all other species and their survival strategies; already there are animals well-adapted to human presence (from head lice to pigeons to domestic cats and dogs) and plants (food grains have hit the lottery with humans), and even smaller critters such as the many human-symbiotic bacteria species and endemic non-fatal viruses.

            • Siberia

              The human species is not required on this planet, here we are on an atheist forum and your sounding like there is some “special reason” for us to survive.

              No species is required on this planet, and this planet isn’t required in this universe. Termites? Don’t matter. Rabbits, coyotes, wolves, tigers? Make no difference whatsoever. Nor do us.

              Why the double standard? Why do you care?

        • http://theskippyreview.wordpress.com Skippy

          “Technology gods”?

          • Elemenope

            A sarcastic term primarily used by people who don’t realize without the bounties of technology they would in all probability not exist, or if they did, die much younger than they are today.

            Ingrates!!! ;)

            • Custador

              I think it would be foolish to rely on imagined, unknowable future solutions to problems which themselves are by-products of solutions to other problems. Technology can be wonderful, but it has a price.

            • Elemenope

              Barring technological paradigm shifts (which accelerate the growth in the capacities of applied solutions), the progress of technology is fairly predictable. It is not an unreasonable projection to say that the problems we are facing now, by-and-large, can have technological solutions that aren’t far off. In some cases, the solutions already exist and the devil is merely in the implementation.

            • Sue

              Humans survived for thousands of years prior to *technology* and said technology has allowed women to have litters of children, kept people who should have been kept out of the breeding pool breeding, keeps people who should be dead alive and consuming, allowed excesses of food which has also allowed the population to grow beyond sustainability and allowed faster destruction of the air, land and water.

              I stand by the Technology Gods comments because it is a religion to the people who believe in it and they will proselytize it to their dying breath… Too many believe Star Wars and Star Trek were true…

              Fortunately I also believe the planet could survive us, unless we blow the place up that is.

            • http://theskippyreview.wordpress.com Skippy

              Sue, I hate to break it to you, but everything that has allowed humans to survive has been “technology.” The invention of the wheel, animal husbandry, the usage of fire and the development of tools are all technology.

            • http://sistermoon65.livejournal.com Lisa S.

              What?!?

              Star Trek movies and shows are not historical documents??

              That’s it.

              Dogs and cats living together…

            • trj

              I prefer reliance on technology gods over total genocide.

            • Sue

              Skippy, humans survived prior to the wheel. monkeys and birds use technology also, but in the meantime they are not destroying the planet.

            • Elemenope

              I sure did like the thirty-year life expectancy of those times. Heck, without technology, more likely than not I’d be dead next year. And in rough shape when I died too…what with half my teeth rotted, and probably a nasty infection or two having disfigured me in childhood. Not to mention the gangrene that will kill me. Good times!

              But sure, those were greener times, with much lower environmental impact. Sure seems like a good trade; save the planet, screw the people.

            • Sue

              =)

            • Sunny Day

              Death in childbirth Hooray!

            • http://theskippyreview.wordpress.com Skippy

              Sue, I hope you recognize the irony of using a computer to post a rant against “technology” on an internet forum.

              Oh, and if technology is so bad, let me ask you a couple of questions:
              1. How did you make breakfast this morning?
              2. What did you use to brush your teeth this morning (assuming you did, in fact, brush your teeth)?
              3. Did you bathe? What methods did you use to bathe?
              4. Do you have a job? What is that job and how do you get to the job?
              5. Are you suggesting that humanity regress to a pre-wheel level of existence?

            • Ty

              I would guess that like most extremists, Sue is chemically free of the ability to detect irony.

            • Sue

              I don’t eat breakfast, but I do drink coffee but I roast my own beans (did you know green coffee beans store well for up to 2 years and the $ is about a 1/4 of roasted price?) I did use my hand grinder (it’s an old one that has been handed down) to grind the nixtamal I made yesterday so that I can make some tamales for this weekend. I did grind up some buckwheat flour for pancakes this weekend though.

              I use baking soda on my teeth, when thats not available I’ll just use what the native americans did (without sugar and corn syrup in the diet there aren’t as many cavities and a whole food diet keep you teeth much stronger). I’ll take a shower this evening after working in the garden and using my scythe to clear weeds away from the woodpile.

              I don’t have a job (big surprise right) I’m a painter and lately I have been gardening and putting up food in the root cellar for this winter. I’m lucky because I have a little bit of money put aside and it’s enough to keep the computer working for a bit longer =) When it’s gone it’s gone.

              How do you consider me an extremist? I could care less what others do, but I do enjoy being a rabble rouser, my friends consider me a “happy doomer” if you can’t laugh life’s not worth living and I’m laughing allot these days.
              Well, enough of this fun, I need to go butcher a chicken for the Pollo Mole I’m making to go with the tamales.

              Hey, Peace all,
              I’m just trying to get people to “possibly” think beyond the programing.

            • Elemenope

              Hey, Peace all, I’m just trying to get people to “possibly” think beyond the programing.

              I don’t think anyone is arguing that your way isn’t fine and dandy for you. Only that, if one were to expand it to systemic levels, it would result in the preventable deaths of billions of people. If you are fine with billions of people dying, well OK, but don’t expect anyone else to be enthusiastic about the prospect.

            • http://combatingreligion.blogspot.com/ Curious_Scholar

              So Sue is either crazy or genius. I don’t know which – probably a mixture, 90% crazy and 10% genius.

              Living like native americans did before settlers arrived does sound pretty damn appealing. What is could be better than living simply and in harmony with nature?

              Then again I could merely be romanticizing history and maybe it sucked.
              Plus now that we have destroyed that type of thinking we can’t really return. We seek progress. Apparently Sue doesn’t understand that our cultural values can change and that technology can be used to allow us to live more in harmony with the earth. However this is going to take some time, money, and ingenuity. If we could one day make it to mining asteroids instead of our planet and abandoning fossil fuel it’d be a good start. Don’t expect it within your lifetime.

            • blotonthelandscape

              “kept people who should have been kept out of the breeding pool breeding”

              aaaaand we’re just gonna pretend you didn’t say that….

            • Elemenope

              Living like native americans did before settlers arrived does sound pretty damn appealing. What is could be better than living simply and in harmony with nature?

              Then again I could merely be romanticizing history and maybe it sucked.

              It might help if I pointed out that the vast majority of native tribes in North America didn’t live in anything like harmony with nature. They were itinerant hunter/gatherers whose usual pattern was to enter an area, hunt/fish it to death, and then move on.

            • Ty

              Indeed.

              My favorite story about the wise and in tune with nature native people’s goes like this:

              A university was doing archaeology in the Pacific Northwest (where I lived at the time) and had stumbled across some ancient burial sites. The local Native American tribes sued to keep them from disturbing the bones, saying, “these are the bones of our ancestors, and they are sacred to us.”

              The reply from the university, “Uh, no. These are the bones of the indigenous peoples that your ancestors wiped out when they moved in and took over their territory.”

              Everything that is currently alive is the product of a long line of things displacing other things from the ecosystem.

            • Kodie

              Living with a root cellar and grinding coffee by hand and butchering chickens for dinner has turned Sue into a self-righteous doomsayer. I mean, that’s ok for her to live that way, fine, but to be so certain that “technology gods” are what dooms us, or that we have faith, we are programmed! I mean, we are just animals, and we adapt to our technology very well as it adapts to meet our needs.

              People who think the planet is in trouble — that I have to be 80 years old to die before the ultimate destruction of our species? I don’t think it’s all that bad that we have to shift our way of life to be more like hers, that’s what she’s saying. Keeping people alive by any means possible and allowing infertile people the “miracle” of breeding their own genes (and often in multiples) because it destroys more resources the more live is lengthened or created beyond natural means…. for someone who criticizes people for believing Star Trek to be true-ish, I’m sure she’s gotten sucked into some literature herself, those horrible stories that predict the future to be a very bleak place for humans, should have already happened, but they didn’t! And unless I’m already 80 years old, I’ll live to see this bleak future! N.U.T.S. She is as nuts as anyone who thinks Jesus is about to touch down any minute now.

            • Siberia

              Glad to know that, to Sue, I’d be better off dead – since that’s what the natives would have done to a crippled child like me.

            • Siberia

              Also, why do you even have electricity and money? Those should go as well.

            • Sue

              and my reply to Siberia got pulled?

            • Elemenope

              Probably not. The automated filter trips on some strange words, since it’s set up to catch spam and not to censor language. It’ll pop up soon.

            • Kodie

              Posts caught in the moderation filter should still appear to the person who posted them with a note on top about being caught in the moderation filter. They eventually show up unless they are actually spam the filter was designed to hold back from public view until examined by a human.

              Technology gods, oh my!

            • trj

              Maybe the technology gods are angry at Sue for blaspheming against them.

            • Sue

              OK I’l try again,

              Siberia, I have a step grandchild (I never had kids, imagine that) my grandchild has a genetic disorder but there are numerous (!) family members who will do whatever can be done to give her the best life possible, including me, (surprised?)

              I have electricity, money and internet access because I was fortunate enough to be born upper middle class in America. I was spawned by good, God fearing (because it was good for business) Republicans (now tea baggers) If they had thought of it when I was a teenager I probably would have gotten the Rosemary Kennedy treatment (lobotomy via Dr Freeman) I escaped at 17 never fit into the capitalist economy (imagine that)

              As far as thinking I’m N.U.T.S. or crazy. Well how about the people who are only surviving because of pharmaceuticals? The constant buying, doing, going non-stop “consuming” required to live in this country and keep our false “economy” going, is what is insane. Keep consuming, buy that Mcmansion, electric car, ipad. Stay on the treadmill that this system has created for you. Paid off your house or land? don’t forget you will pay taxes (which will continue to go up btw) and insurance just to protect yourself from your fellow humans forever. Don’t look or think beyond the blinkers capitalism has put on you and when you are feeling disconnected and confused just go see your Doctor.

              I’m crazy? my mind is free, I have no belief in Government, Gods or technology. I believe in the “brutal” honesty of Nature, I’m certain what I believe is meaningless, as is every other opinion voiced here, that is why I am so interested in what is happening at the moment. I do feel I have enough perspective on our species to confidently say, we are F*#ked and we did it to ourselves.

              In the meantime I have a nice glass of red wine waiting and a beautiful sunset to watch.

            • Siberia

              Babylove, I don’t give two shits about you or how you live. That’s your life. I don’t care. I care about this:

              keeps people who should be dead alive and consuming,

              I just think you’re a hypocrite. You’ve money, electricity and these things, yet you’re against technology. You live a more natural life? Good for you. Ironic, that you’re writing this on the internet. Hypocritical, that you’re helping a step-child even though you apparently think s/he should be dead, since, well, isn’t that the natural way?

              Well how about the people who are only surviving because of pharmaceuticals?

              I’m one of them. You’ve already said I should be dead.

              The constant buying, doing, going non-stop “consuming” required to live in this country and keep our false “economy” going, is what is insane.

              I utterly agree. You’re still a hypocrite.

              Keep consuming, buy that Mcmansion, electric car, ipad. Stay on the treadmill that this system has created for you. Paid off your house or land? don’t forget you will pay taxes (which will continue to go up btw) and insurance just to protect yourself from your fellow humans forever.

              I don’t have an insurance. I have paid for my house. I don’t have land, since, well, I can’t walk, and living in the natural life is not wheelchair-friendly. I’d give everything to be able to, but I cannot.

              Don’t look or think beyond the blinkers capitalism has put on you and when you are feeling disconnected and confused just go see your Doctor.

              Cute. I suppose we should just cry DOOM! and let the world go to hell, then, rather than, y’know, do something useful other than bitch on the Internet?

              By the way, I live in a third world country, so don’t pretend you know me. You don’t.

            • Elemenope

              Crazy? No. Myopic? Just a bit. You think your mind is “free”, but all you have done is traded one set of assumptions for another. And while your lifestyle is fine and dandy for you, it would be monstrous if imposed on those who did not choose it. Your view of the supposed anomia of the masses under capitalism is over-the-top *by far*. No system is perfect, for sure, but our system is by pretty much all conceivable metrics an improvement over the state of nature, and honestly any idea that has us choosing early death and anarchy in order to avoid anti-depressants and taxes is pretty difficult to defend on any ethical level.

            • Sue

              Why would it be monstrous for people to have to grow some of their own food? Live in a community and know and work with the people they live closest to, provide for themselves and contribute to their community? Care about the land, water and air that provides for to your survival?

              What, you’re going to miss your car, computers, mortgage payment, insurance payments, movie, favorite bar, cell phone cell phone bill? Instead you will have to listen to the birds or watch the weather change instead of check the weather channel? Or the possibility you’ll have to get up every morning and find food & water to get through a day like a good percentage of the rest of the world?

              I will disagree that my view of capitalism is “over the top” there is no way to *not* be connected to the present system that is in place, our lives are ruled by Corporations/Governments most refuse to question the insanity that is put out by these so called knowledgeable people. We have no wise elders who are listened to, they are out their but the system has drowned them out. Nothing that is going on makes sense.

              Everyone is now required to work “in the system” at the moment these systems are breaking down. What happens once they do crash? Believe me the Government will not help you, they are out for their own ass and couldn’t care less about “the people”.

              Civilizations have fallen all throughout history, it’s nothing new, but this time we are a planet with almost 8 billion people, most living only because of an oil infused system and just because we were fortunate enough to be born in this country or allowed to live here does not mean we are protected.

            • Kodie

              Yes, I like my food in packages that come in the store. I don’t desire to kill my food and churn things in order to eat. You live like that, fine. You think the rest of us are doomed and you are amused to watch us doom ourselves, whatever. I don’t think my view of capitalism is as extreme as you describe people who live the opposite of the way you do, I don’t like them too much either, but hey. I don’t think it’s as dour as you make it seem, I don’t think our only choices are to doom ourselves in the “system” or drop out like a hippie. You are really an extreme doomsayer, you really think the end of the world is just around the corner, that’s the part of you that’s crazy, not the living with the chickens and grinding your own coffee part, the part that thinks we should all live like that or live with the consequences of greed. Moderation and to always remember the futility; I don’t live like you think all capitalists live. I envy a career in the arts, that’s about it for your life. As an old dear friend of mine said “work sucks,” and “don’t sell your soul to feed your belly.” I believe that, but I don’t expect most others to. There’s that Protestant work ethic most people have, identify with their job title and feel lost without something productive to do all day. I don’t have that because I’m qualified to do mostly dead-end admin work. I would be exhausted to spend that time off the grid making my own food from my own labor. I like supermarkets and toilet paper that’s not scratchy and brown. Call me programmed, but that’s what I’ve grown accustomed to spending my time not doing.

            • Sue
            • Elemenope

              Why would it be monstrous for people to have to grow some of their own food? Live in a community and know and work with the people they live closest to, provide for themselves and contribute to their community? Care about the land, water and air that provides for to your survival?

              How idyllic sounding. Parts of it are not excluded by the capitalist model, and the other parts are ridiculous; elevating parochialism as a virtue is what led to many of the evils you now decry.

              What, you’re going to miss your car, computers, mortgage payment, insurance payments, movie, favorite bar, cell phone cell phone bill?

              My car allows me to reach places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. Computers allow me to communicate with people I wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to meet. I like movies; like books, music, games, and other art they are an invaluable mirror for human consciousness as well as enjoyable in their own right. I don’t drink often but when I do, I like to do so in a convivial atmosphere with friends and neighbors. I don’t own, nor have I ever needed, a cell phone.

              Instead you will have to listen to the birds or watch the weather change instead of check the weather channel?

              I do this when the mood strikes.

              Or the possibility you’ll have to get up every morning and find food & water to get through a day like a good percentage of the rest of the world?

              The idea that you find this to be a positive thing is utterly baffling.

              I will disagree that my view of capitalism is “over the top” there is no way to *not* be connected to the present system that is in place

              That has *always* been true, and given that, I infinitely prefer our modern capitalist-democratic-republic over feudal lords or tribal chiefs.

              our lives are ruled by Corporations/Governments most refuse to question the insanity that is put out by these so called knowledgeable people

              You use the word “ruled” far too lightly. Compare the “heavy foot of government” now to what it was when you had to ask the local lord permission to travel or marry, not to mention no freedom of conscience whatsoever. And don’t kid yourself that I and others here don’t question the wisdom of many features of the current system. I’m only reacting to the ludicrous idea that it is worse than pretty much anything that has come before.

              We have no wise elders who are listened to, they are out their but the system has drowned them out. Nothing that is going on makes sense.

              Trading wikipedia for “wise elders” seems to be trading down, somehow.
              ———————

              Once I was called cynical. They were mistaken. You are cynical, at a level I didn’t think sustainable.

            • Elemenope

              Final Irony: I had Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ album growing up.

              On CD.

              I won’t even get into how many layers of technological capitalist society made that possible.

            • Siberia

              Why would it be monstrous for people to have to grow some of their own food?

              Oh, it’s not monstrous, and it’s awesome for people who can actually do it… unlike me. In your perfect, idyllic view, I’d be confined to a room slowly wasting away and depending on other people’s goodwill to survive… if I wasn’t killed in infancy, that is.

              Forgive me for crying ‘bullsh¡t’.

            • http://theskippyreview.wordpress.com Skippy

              Sue, since you’re living the hippie dream, why, pray tell, are you using a computer–with internet access, no less? Simply saying that you happened to be born into a “middle class” family is not sufficient. You’ve been on here preaching the virtues of your lifestyle, but have not addressed the glaring incongruity of using a computer (did you know oil in some way assists in the production of computers?) and the Internet (certainly, the Internet must be part of this “technology god” against which you rail so ineloquently and myopically).

            • Sue
            • Elemenope

              Yeah, solving one problem may cause others that in turn need to be solved. That’s only the history of the entire human race. So far, we’ve made it work, and progressively better, too.

  • Frederick Douglass

    Isaac Asimov pointed out that, as the amount of human biomass on the planet increases, non-human biomass has to give way.

    How should we keep the population from increasing? War, disease, starvation, poverty, forced birth control? If we don’t pick something better, we’ll get something worse.

    • Siberia

      Education and better standards of life seems to work, if Europe’s anything to go by.

      • Ty

        The number one driver for decreased population growth is women in the workforce. Even in very first world areas with strong educational systems, most increases in unemployment are matched with a sudden increase in birth rate.

        When people don’t have any money, or anywhere else to be, they tend to stay home and make babies.

        • Siberia

          This.

  • Daniel Florien

    Okay let’s keep away from posting anti-capitalist stuff… since I’m a capitalist and all. :)

    • Custador

      Heretic. Wait there while I build a bonfire….

  • tim

    so full of sh7t if you do not like it get the h@ll out

    • coffeejedi

      Was this in response to anything in particular, or are you just a grammatically challenged idiot?

      And where exactly would like this gentleman to go? He’s postulating that the system is going to collapse, not that he doesn’t “like” it.

      Seriously, wtf?

    • LRA

      Wow. The insight in that comment was…. profound(ly stutpid!)

      Tim, are you a republican?

    • Sunny Day

      Get the Hall out?

      • http://sistermoon65.livejournal.com Lisa S.

        Since the @ is also shorthand for ‘at’ maybe he wants us to get the hat (size LL) out. Would that be the party hat or the dunce hat?

        • Sue

          Oh yes, lets not forget Nuclear!
          =P
          (this is why I want the species to die out…)

          • coffeejedi

            Why am I not surprised that you haven’t gotten a hang of the “reply” button either……

          • Sue

            A whopping big famine is a safe bet sometime in the first half of this century. That’s because we have a still-expanding human population (nearly seven billion of us now and counting) with growing appetites; but we’re eroding or salting our topsoil (losing 25 billion tons a year), we’re facing water scarcity (so much for increasing food production through irrigation), the amount of arable land available globally is starting to decline, we’re depleting world rock phosphate supplies (phosphorus is essential to modern industrial agriculture and there’s no substitute for it), bugs and weeds are becoming resistant to nearly all our pesticides and herbicides, and—to top it off—our entire food system is totally dependent on the use of depleting petroleum to fuel tractors and to transport farm inputs and outputs. Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that we’re over-fishing the oceans, so that by mid-century most wild commercial fish species will be depleted, endangered, or extinct. It’s a food system that’s virtually designed to fail!

            http://richardheinberg.com/219-you-can-be-a-billionaire-without-doing-anything

  • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Michael Caton

    To boil it down:

    a) Capitalism is not the only system in which economic growth is planned for and achieved. More centrally planned systems (socialist economies in Europe) also strive for and achieve growth. If you think economic growth is unsustainable, you’re going against not just Adam Smith but Karl Marx. (These guys are seen today as diametrically opposed but had in common that they were both Enlightenment thinkers who believed that humans could and should attempt to better their material lives here in this life, and could do it through reason – as opposed to doing whatever God told them through the monarch that had the most guns. For those evolutionarily inclined, you can think of Marx and Smith as competing phyla within the metazoans, and the previous arguments from authority are various species of prokaryotes.)

    b) If you think about it for two seconds: economic growth obviously cannot rely only on population growth alone. Otherwise, per capita income would remain the same throughout history. World average per capita income and standard of living today are much higher than the average standard of living 2 centuries ago. Some countries with shrinking populations still have positive economic growth.

    c) Economic growth also cannot rely on consumption growth. This is the point that the lecturer was making. Fortunately it doesn’t have to.

    d) In the end there’s no mystery. Economic growth represents the *creation of real wealth,* through new technologies and practices that allow us to use and combine things in ways that were not practical before. Think about how much more valuable meat and fish are now that we have refrigeration! There’s just one for you. The per capita income can be higher only because on average, we’re each producing more. If the creation of new wealth grinds to a halt – which in the twenty-first century, largely means if technical innovation ceases – THEN, yes, we’re in trouble. (And remind me who these people are that want to stifle science education at this point in history?)

    Lots of otherwise smart and well-educated people have a basic misunderstanding of the fact that yes, wealth really is created – it doesn’t just change hands to give the appearance of growth (that was essentially true at one point in history, i.e. for all species up until the Stone Age, but fortunately not any more.) This implicit belief leads to misplaced anxiety that economic growth is some kind of Bernie Madoff scheme that will eventually crash when it runs out of new victims. For some real “far horizon” thinking on the absolute physical limits to economic growth (as in, imposed by the computational limits of the cosmos itself) see Robin Hanson’s excellent blog at overcomingbias.com. But I don’t think that’s what we’re worrying about here.

    If you’re worried about energy, an alternative source you shouldn’t overlook is nuclear!

    • http://blog.notdot.net/ Nick Johnson

      Thanks for some sanity amongst all the absurd doomsaying.

      Why do you claim that ‘wealth creation’ slowing or stopping would be apocalyptic, though? I don’t see any reason you couldn’t have a closed economy with a fixed amount of resources working just fine, albeit less interestingly than one still innovating. In fact, there are several historical examples of stagnant but stable cultures.

      • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Michael Caton

        It wouldn’t necessarily be apocalpytic, but it wouldn’t be good. One of the effects of zero-growth economics is wealth stratification. When no new wealth is being produced, economics DOES just become a game of money moving around, and in those cases it tends to move around between people who are related or at least in the same social/ethnic groups. Not good for human happiness.

    • Elemenope

      I like your analogy of Capitalism/Socializm being two related phyla; people tend to focus on the differences these days (and I think Capitalism has the better solution to the economic calculation problem, when all is said and done) but they do come from similar intellectual fertilizer.

      Nuclear energy would be a good alternative if the fuel weren’t so scarce and expensive. Prices for fossil fuels would have to become much worse before nuclear becomes competitive, and I think other sources will beat it there.

      • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Michael Caton

        It would be awesome if non-polluting alternative fuel sources (esp. solar) improve to the point where they’re better than nuclear. The scary scenario is a) oil runs out this century, b) we don’t have enough nuclear power coming online (it’s a long start-up cycle when you’re building nuclear plants) c) solar still isn’t where it would need to be and d) we still have 3 centuries of coal left, which in terms of pollution makes oil look like wind energy, plus maybe the majority of coal is in China. Not good for the West’s energy and pollution future.

  • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Michael Caton

    BTW, you like my little joke? I began with “to boil it down” and then wrote the longest comment in the thread. You should see my long form comments.

    • Kodie

      Your long comment is not showing up, perhaps it is caught in the moderation filter due to curses, too many links, or the correct spelling of socializm. I’m only responding to you now because it’s funny how often I intend to write a little thought I had and end up posting a wall of text nobody reads or responds to because I just fall into the stream and go on writing. If there were a competition, even without seeing how long your short comment is, I am confident that I would win.

      • Sunny Day

        I got 20 on the chick with the fencing gear.

        • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Michael Caton

          My comment finally showed up but I’m not sure if that means the chick with the fencing gear helped you win your $20. I don’t have a cool picture like that which is why I don’t use a picture.

          • Custador

            It’s because you used a word which contains the string “c ialis” (without the space). Moderation filter blocks it.

            • blotonthelandscape

              BSc in Economics and Statistics, finished a couple months back. Always fun to talk about something you know a bit about :)

            • blotonthelandscape

              woops, this was meant to be a reply to the comment below. Could a moderator move it and delete this one?

  • Tabbie

    Wow, talk about some lively debate! Me likey! It would be interesting to know if any of the participants herein have a Ph.D. in Economics or in Demography and Population Studies.

    • trj

      Well, I have a master’s degree in economics, though not macro economics.

      • Elemenope

        Micro?

        “DEMAND KURV!”

        • trj

          Yeah, micro, with a touch of computer science as well.

          Udbud og efterspørgsel, as we say in Denmark.

  • Hughes

    Malthus has been mentioned an exponentially growing number of times in this thread I’m sure. My point is just that I’ve seen this many times. Physicists think they’ve made some profound breakthrough that will revolutionize economic discourse. In reality they’re just ignorami.

    Go read the classics.

  • http://www.sevenfivenine.com Loki

    For fuck’s sake, economics is not a zero sum game. Also, growth can occur without coming to an explosive end.

  • nazani14

    Things that can’t go on forever don’t.
    Following the record heat, the power outages in the D.C. area that left thousands of people without power for days, considering the fact that I haven’t seen an amphibian, honeybee or bat all summer, and several other gloomy portents, I feel that a number of the systems we depend upon, both natural and man-made, are near collapse. The structure of our democracy prevents us from reacting rapidly to some types of crisis. The Chinese, on the other hand, appear to be getting serious about green energy. Their government has no qualms about aborting that 2nd child or curtailing any other liberty that gets in the way of the master plan. That may just give them the edge.

    • Daniel Florien

      So why aren’t you out in Montana with a bomb shelter, stocked food, and tons of ammunition?

  • Baconsbud

    Capitalism is failing not because of population. It is failing because of extreme greed. When 25 people who actually contribute very little to society make as much as 678,000 that do contribute to society you know the system is failing. I can understand people making good money. Many people spend a lot getting their education but when your making of money ruins the economy you need to rethink your worth. I hope that one day people will find that money isn’t more important then the will being of mankind.

  • Tabbie

    Capitalism, like anything else, needs checks and balances. How to define and successfully implement those checks and balances are the million dollar questions. It seems that greed rules the day, at least for now. Whether or not common sense will prevail in the face of an all-out crisis remains to be seen.

  • Tee

    Capitalism is an awful system. I am a Marxist and at least Japan is close to this system with the “we” mindset.

  • Zotz

    Kunstler Bats Last.

    I know this is way late in thread, but as usual, JHK at Clusterfuck Nation nails it:

    “Skidding Toward Fall
    By James Howard Kunstler
    on August 2, 2010 8:50 AM

    This economy has a destination for sure, but it’s not in the direction where all eyes are trained in moist hopefulness: that glimmering horizon of longed-for growth. You will not get that kind of growth — the kind that increases the overall wealth of the organism in question. A few people will make more money than they did before, but overall we are in an epic contraction. More people and organizations will go broke than will thrive. It will seem very unfair.
    The true destination of the US economy is to get smaller and for two reasons mainly: 1.) Capital (“money”) is vanishing out of our system steadily and rapidly due to a massive collective failure to repay money owed on loans, mortgages, debts, and assorted obligations. 2.) Access to the primary resource we depend on for powering the economy (oil) is increasingly beyond our control — even worse, under the control of people who would like us to eat shit and die.
    We really have a choice between two ways of dealing with this. We can downsize and re-scale consciously and coherently, or we can continue to chase after the phantom of growth and allow the nation to fall into a shambles of desperation. ….”

    Here: http://kunstler.com/blog/2010/08/skidding-toward-fall.html

  • bigjohn756

    OK, Custador, I give up, what’s the solution to this awful problem?


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