Here is a barely (but increasingly) coherent draft diatribe about sustainability that seeks to slip below the surface platitudes and status quo propaganda. To get a better look at what a first iteration toward sustainability would entail requires an unflinching answer to the question, “What would a true “green economy” require?” If and how a person or institution addresses the real issues tells us a lot, and there is less and less time for equivocation. Most are trapped in the paradigm they claim to try to seek to transcend, supporting “greenwash” enterprises with nothing sustainable but surface that will accomplish little worthwhile but conventional profit (still their principal focus).
Here’s a slogan-revealing, cant-smashing, fluff-exposing look into the hard physical and social science of sustainability. When a person or institution talks about a “green economy,” one can either expose their shallowness or confirm their probity. The superficial and the phonies can’t even enter this conversation, because most have neither the physical nor moral courage to confront the myths and illusions of our time. We as Americans are disadvantaged for entering this conversation because political realism (realpolitic in the rest of the world) is almost unknown in our society since we are genetically biased against it and it’s not taught anywhere.
This diverse material may appear disjointed (it’s not; it’s iterative) and extreme; however, given all that we know about human nature — the history and science of our species, culture, and civilization, this synthesis is the best-fit hypothesis to explain the facts in evidence. It is not about advocacy; it is seeking to accurately describe “what is” so advocacy can be sane and effective.
In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
George Orwell (apocryphal)
A “green economy” must, by definition, be sustainable.
That means it cannot manifest a structural commitment to “growth.”
Economic growth has relied on population growth. That cannot continue. This is the most evident (and most disregarded) truth of all: there is not one single social, political, economic, or environmental “problem” that is not exacerbated by more people and alleviated (but not solved) by fewer. When all the problems are regarded together in a system of multiple parallel-and-converging threads, this truth becomes even more obvious. That population pressures are not a major focus for the few sane humans still involved tells us that ideology and denial have totally corrupted political discourse. More on this below...
Ever since the dawn of time, what we now call economic growth has relied on increasing energy use (from eating meat, from burning wood, from domesticated animals, from monoculture agriculture, from coal, from petroleum, from electricity, from…). With Peak Oil, that cannot continue (unless all that space-alien technology escapes from Area 51). Per capita energy use has been declining since 1979.
Growth has implied improving quality-of-life. That has not been happening for 50 years, not even for the elites.
“Peak Oil” is a lot easier to understand, and much more marketable, than the Tragedy of the Commons. Easiest of all, however, is “global warming.” If the IPCC had said, “Cut economic activity by 90%,” instead of “Cut Carbon Dioxide by 90%,” then at least the peak-oilers (if not the ruling Oligarchs) might have gotten a useful message. But what else could anyone expect in a world where politicians and academic economists would rather die than tell the truth? And that’s only partly because they would be assassinated if they did. It is totally contrary to established patterns of ruthlessness, short-sightedness, and self-serving for the established powers to ever pass laws to limit economic activity, thus there is no hope the ruling Oligarchs can maintain their own situation or preserve anyone else.
Oligarchy? A government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it.
Plato (428-347 B.C.), The Republic, Book VIII
It gets bad. Peak oil means peak food. The much-vaunted “green revolution” in global food production starting in the 1960s has been as much a black revolution as anything else, with its intensive reliance on petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, as well as petroleum-based fuels for farming, processing, and distribution. A resource-limited volumetric effect independent of market-force equilibrium will give us “stagflation” in foods, where no amount of new or old money (the medium for expressing demand) will be able to drive an increase in — or even maintain — food production (supply). There just won’t be enough energy to continue to produce and deliver the food we consume now. Entirely aside from supply manipulations such as the Iraq occupation, genuine supply limitations will drive prices up relentlessly, and any significant increase in energy production will require major reallocation of social resources and with it a major rebalancing of economic (and thus political) power.
There will be stagflation on oil and other commodities, as well, which will affect the entire economy with price increases, especially on those unable to increase production. This will be willfully mis-construed in a polity with a culture of denial fueled by “leadership” self-interest. In the general economy, stagflation will challenge the myths and ideology of growth. In the biosphere, stagflation is the new boundary condition.
It gets worse. Peak food means peak people. If you are going to grow more people, it will require more food. If you have less food, you will grow fewer people. If the rate of decrease in food production is faster than the natural death rate, people will begin to starve in large numbers. Population size goes negative, and not without a lot of graceless turmoil (that’s intended as dramatizing understatement). More on this below…
Even if a steady-state economy — an economy neither growing nor shrinking— is accomplished, it might not be sustainable if that state is too demanding of resources (including energy). It’s not just about growth; it’s about size, too. Efficiency of resource use (and re-use) and conservation of energy become of paramount importance on a finite spherical planet.
Two Growth Scenarios with Math
No intentionally sustainable population of animals (including Homo) has ever evolved, nor could one. Evolution doesn’t conserve “individuals,” it conserves “genes.” Here’s a thought scenario to demonstrate what kinds of behaviors will tend to evolve:
Assume that two fundamental "genetic sets" (strains of people) exist in a Pleistocene tribe. For starters, each group is represented by ten mating pairs, for a total of 40 people in the tribe. Further assume that each tribe loses 30% of its population every twenty years due to war, disease, and famine.
Members of Gene Set 1 are intelligent, honest, and forward-looking. The mating pairs in this set only have two children each and limit personal consumption because they know the tribe is over carrying-capacity (many die of starvation). After 20 years, this set has 20 original adults + 20 children = 40 members.
Members of Gene Set 2 are stupid, corrupt, chronic liars, and only care about the present. The mating pairs in this set consume ten times as many resources as the first group and have an average of ten children before the females die of overwork. After 20 years, this set has 10 original adults (the males) + 100 children = 110 members.
A famine kills 30% of the tribe. We assume it affects both Sets equally. Now, Set 1 has only 28 members, while Set 2 has 77 members. The tribe has grown: it now has a total of 105 members. The fraction of Gene Set 1 will continue to shrink through time until it dies out. What kind of people will be selected during this population growth? Obviously, it’s people who are stupid, corrupt, chronic liars, and only care about the present. The ancestors of everyone alive today were selected by a process something like this one (despite all the epi-genetic and environmental variations introduced into the system), with Alpha-clan dominance and resource-sequestration only exacerbating the trend.
Here’s some more math, of an engineering nature: it would take approximately 50% of the entire industrial capacity of our country exclusively focused for 20 years to build the wind-power infrastructure to replace the amount of energy we are deriving now from our principal high-density energy source — petroleum. Similar investments would be required for tapping solar, tide, and other ambient energy flows. What would become of the “growth” conversation under such a regime?
That means that it cannot maintain the extreme resource-use inefficiency of “the market”
A “market” may be efficient at the price mechanism (i.e., efficient in using money, of which, ironically, there is no shortage except in our conditioned habits of thought) were we ever in a market not distorted or manipulated by concentration of power in command-and-control Oligarchs. However, there are no Adam-Smith-type “free” markets anymore, given corporate consolidation and corporate-government convergence and engagement (also known as “fascism”). So “price efficiency” is a meaningless virtue. Thinking mankind will run out of “money” is like thinking we will run out of inches or feet.
The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism, ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any controlling private power.
Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, message to Congress, 29 April 1938
Existing markets are 50% to 90% inefficient in resource use. Financially, this “overhead” is the enormous edifice of banks, insurance companies, advertising agencies, and all other institutions associated with money, economic competition, and distribution of resources in terms of money. The most debilitating aspect of this is that the ‘financial sector” actively subtracts significant actual value from the general economy while diluting monetized value through terminal inflation. Physically, included in the overhead is all the “competitive” manufacturing duplication and decentralization of facilities for development and design and manufacture, the absurd losses from “planned obsolescence” and disposability of goods, and the extreme wastefulness and toxicity of industrial processes — made invisible and deniable by externalizing costs (and more on this below). The second-most debilitating corruption of the entire “market system” may be the secondary ideology of “consumerism” and its widespread crippling of social and personal values.
Worse, treating human resources as expendable commodities exemplifies how “market economics” replaces human values with market values (denominated in Dollars, Euros, etc.). Moreover, the act of someone buying a car, going to work, manufacturing or selling anything solely to “make a profit” (rather than serve a personal or social need) is the part of overhead and waste that is generated by vanity and ego. “Profit” is inherently inefficient, as one look at the American health-care system will show.
Profit is a penalty.
Joseph Schumpeter, an economist of the Austrian School
Military redundancy is another example of profitable inefficiency. Yet another is modern food production: the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food.
A green economy must abandon the conventional “market ideology,” and since that is simply politics by another name (and how Our Neo-feudal Lords and Masters manipulate us), to accomplish a “green economy” we must fundamentally change the operating basis of our polity, and evolve the cultural and personal values driving it.
That means that it cannot continue to hide its inefficiencies and distortions by shifting costs to unmonetarized “externalities” and hiding them outside an artificially closed financial system
The economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of nature. A green economy must internalize all closed-system costs and benefits, and expand the boundaries of that system to include the entire planet. “Natural Capital” must become as important (or more) than Capital.
Economists in particular, for the most part, have failed to come to grips with the ultimate consequences of the transition from the open to the closed earth.
Kenneth Boulding, 1966
It must also stop monetarizing social, personal, and spiritual values, and must give equal (or greater) priority to non-monetarizable human and ecological values. Not everything can be valued in currency, and currency-value cannot adequately reflect human priorities.
…untrammeled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values to all areas of life are endangering our open and democratic society.
George Soros, 1997
The cost of energy must be measured in terms of energy (ERoEI — “energy returned on energy invested”) instead of “money,” and applied in a right-sized steady-state “economy” in a new form of cooperative “systems” government — explicit political decisions not based on concentrating wealth, but actually dedicated to the common good (a good made more attainable through reducing population as one of many parallel threads).
Some of the ideas of the Imperial Chinese system look attractive (although not totally attractive) to advance the common good. Late Imperial Chinese government maintained a viable self-myth as a “meritocracy” and it was known as “examination hell.” Morals (Confucian, et al.) were taught to everyone — especially the political leadership, in a classic example of Alpha socialization-indoctrination. Principle-based leadership is a long-term survival strategy to stabilize an ecosystem of fractious factions of the Oligarchy. The English aristocracy of the 18th and 19th centuries is another example. This is not understood by the Proles, who don’t think dynastically, and whose minds are consumed with visions of their next wife or speedboat or fix.
The Chinese Imperial system was in principle almost the opposite of our “everything for sale” government and society. We, on the other hand, have gotten greedy, using petroleum to exploit the past, and monetization and debt to exploit the future.
That means that it cannot continue to use a debt-financed currency in a central-bank-controlled system
The global so-called “fiat” currency system is inherently unsustainable and unstable, requiring pyramid and Ponzi manipulation, endless dilution with “new” money levered off existing debt, and periodic re-initializing by the feudal elites (the “economic cycle”). It totally distorts all relationships between wealth, power, and value, concealing facts of political governance behind the religiosity of economic “science.” This debt system requires “growth” in the Dollar-value of assets to absorb the increase in the number of monetary units and conceal the structural inflation (which the government must under-report) that is necessary for the system to work for its owners, our neo-feudal Lords and Masters.
Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.
Mayer Amschel Rothschild, 1790 (apocryphal)
We need to dispel the notion that somehow Government is in control of money-making. The banks create money for the benefit of their owners, the already-rich Lords and Masters. They are not acting as a shill for Government; governments have completely ceded this power to them. We also need to dispel is the myth that there is any significant difference between major private banks and government doing the printing. The upshot is the same, very few people controlling the system, making new money from nothing, and not distributing it evenly (seigniorage, dilution, and “riding down the multiplier”). Money is “created” when a fractional-reserve bank makes a loan; in other words, our “money” is backed by debt — mortgage debt, consumer debt, “national” debt, corporate debt, currency debt, debt on debt, debt on debt on debt. There is no “money,” there is only debt.
If the American People ever allow the banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied. The issuing power of money should be taken from the bankers and restored to Congress and the people to whom it belongs. I sincerely believe the banking institutions having the issuing power of money are more dangerous to liberty than standing armies.
Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States (1743-1826)
(Letter to James Monroe, January 1, 1815)
Debt is “discharged” by rolling over into new debt (which defines “new” “money” as the interest accumulates), not paid or “redeemed” with representative value (labor-productivity, precious metals, commodities, etc.). This represents a limitless increase in claims against finite planetary resources. The tremendous volume of such debt cannot be redeemed.
The End-Game of Irredeemable Debt
Established economics ignores the effect of irredeemable debt (as opposed to redeemable currency) on productivity. It watches debt per GDP and is happy as long as this ratio stays below 100% by a fair amount. However, what should be watched is the ratio of additional debt to additional GDP.
The increase in GDP brought about by the addition of new debt to the economy is called the marginal productivity of debt. That ratio is the only one that matters in judging the quality of debt. After all, the purpose of contracting debt is to increase productivity. If debt volume rises faster than national productivity, big trouble is brewing, but only the marginal productivity of debt is capable of revealing it.
Before 1971, the introduction of one Dollar of new debt used to increase the GDP by as much as three Dollars or more. Since 1971, this ratio started its precipitous decline that has continued to this day without interruption. It went negative in 2006, forecasting the financial crisis that is breaking now. The reason for the decline is that irredeemable debt causes capital destruction. It adds nothing to the per-capita quota of capital invested in aid of production. Indeed, it may take away from it. As leveraged debt displaces real capital (which represents the deployment of more material and better tools), productivity declines. The laws of physics, unlike human beings, cannot be conned. Irredeemable debt can only create make-believe capital.
By confusing capital and credit, economics obliterates facts of nature. It conceals the cost of running the debt-breeding merry-go-round. It makes capital destruction invisible. The stock of accumulated capital supporting world production, large as it may be, is not inexhaustible on a finite planet. When it is exhausted, the music stops and the merry-go-round comes to a halt. It does not happen everywhere all at the same time, but it must happen everywhere sooner or later.
The marginal productivity of debt is an unimaginative taskmaster. It insists that new debt be justified by a minimum increase in the GDP. Otherwise capital destruction follows, a vicious process of deflation preceded by rampant inflation as more and more debt-based "money" is pumped into the system to shore it up (until it collapses).
At first, there are no signs of trouble. If anything, the picture looks rosier than ever. But the seeds of destruction inevitably, if invisibly, have sprouted and will at some point paralyze further growth and production. To deny this is tantamount to denying the most fundamental laws of our known universe — the law of conservation of energy and matter and its handmaiden, the second law of thermodynamics.
The minions of the Oligarchs who run the banking system can only temporarily deny and defy that natural law. In service of their Lords and Masters’ power, they are leading a blind crowd of mesmerized people to the brink where momentum may sweep most of them to their financial destruction. Yet not one university economics department in the world has issued a warning, and not one court of justice has allowed indictments to be heard from individuals and institutions charging that the issuance of irredeemable debt is a crude form of fraud, and calling for the punishment of those apparently responsible, whether in the government, in the central bank, or elsewhere. Although entirely predictable (economists are High Priests within the Oligarchic system, and judges are employed to regulate it), their behavior in this regard could not be more reprehensible and unsustainable. Rather than acting to protect a universal common good, they act as chattel servants of their Patrons to advance and conceal further power concentration by the already mighty.
The marginal productivity from additional debt is exactly analogous to Joseph Tainter's notion of "marginal productivity from increases in complexity" presented in The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge, 1988). As complexity advances linearly, the cost of maintaining it increases exponentially. The energy cost of additional complexity returns less and less productivity, which eventually goes negative (as does the marginal productivity of additional debt). Society begins to fall apart in both cases, and that accelerates. Having both at once contributes to a Perfect Storm of change that is intensified by global climate change and Peak Oil.
Growth and complexity have always been fueled by more and more matter and, more important, more and more energy (from meat, wood, slaves, domesticated animals, wind, monoculture agriculture, coal, petroleum, electricity, etc.). When existing complexity is no longer supported by energy sufficiency, and “money” growth can no longer maintain energy (and material) production, society collapses (as it has so many times in history), blind-sided, in our case, by an ideological commitment to "growth."
Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.
Kenneth Boulding, Economist
The inconspicuous beginnings of irredeemable debt have blossomed into a colossal edifice, a complex inverted pyramid of debt precariously balanced on a tiny and ever-shrinking foundation of real material value.
Increases or decreases in the level of money supply are thought to influence the level of production in the economy. However, this is true only if the ‘externals’ to the economy — i.e., sources of energy from outside of the money circle — are constant. When the availability of energy changes, the economy changes in ways not correctable by manipulations of the money supply.
H.T. Odum in A Survey of Ecological Economics, Krishnan, Harris, and Goodwin, editors, Island Press, 1995, page 205
This pyramid could remain stable as long as there was unlimited inexpensive energy (or, at least, the illusion or promise of such energy) and material to represent at least some value in all that debt. Complexity requires energy to maintain, much less expand. When the marginal energy cost of energy goes negative, there is no amount of "money" (whether as irredeemable debt or as gold-backed currency) that can produce it. The same applies to material goods.
So "money" (as the notion is used today) cannot be made "sustainable." Either:
Money is "limited" (pegged to gold or some other commodity) and ultimately in such short supply that it leads to war over resources and power (World War One, c.f., Karl Polyani).
Money is "unlimited" (a central-bank debt-based “fiat” currency) and ultimately in such oversupply that it causes hyperinflation and leads to war over resources and power (World War Two, c.f., Weimar Republic, Adolf Hitler, and now...).
Next is more war to eliminate excess population and prop the "money" system in place (and with it, its owners’ grip on power) as long as humanly possible.
The Straw Dogs are Paper Tigers
“War” is politics by another name. (von Clauswitz)
“Economics” is politics by another name. (Hazel Henderson)
“Sociology” is politics by another name. (Jay Hanson)
“Political Science” is politics by another name. (Alexander)
None of those is “science” at all; they are components of a neo-feudal confusion-and-control system. One must not call economics a creationalist cult, one must instead refer to it as Darwinian and scientific — survival of the “economically fittest.”
Economics is a “social construction.” Humans did not co-evolve with money or markets. There were no economists in the Pleistocene, nor “money.” There were “politics,” defined as “getting people to do things.” Since humans did not evolve with a “medium of exchange” (except, perhaps, meat for sex), no a priori reason exists for us to have a monetary system and all that it entails.
Economics was invented by rich and powerful Oligarchs to serve their own interests. Just look to see what institutions hire economists to see the truth of this. Economics professors and economists are professional dis-information agents who claim that “money” is just a “medium of exchange.” In a society where even the formal political system floats on a sea of money, this lie can’t even pass the “straight face” test.
If economics, money, and the monetary system were invented by our rich and powerful Lords and Masters, why did they do it? Obviously, for political purposes — to make the rest of the world do their bidding without the uncertainties of more literal forms of force. It also makes it easier for the competitive factions of the Oligarchy to cooperate when advantageous (i.e., when extracting and concentrating wealth from the productivity of the rest of us).
Money to gain Power; Power to protect Money.
Medici Family Motto (apocryphal)
Thus, economics, the financial system, and money became a “hidden political system” that pretends to be something else. It’s the perfect political system for the Oligarchs, who make political decisions that effect us all, are not held responsible for those decisions, and get others to pay for them with their earnings and their lives. Obviously, the Oligarchs do not want a one-person, one-vote political system (a “republic” or “democracy”) when they can have a one-dollar, one-vote political system (an “economy”).
It is natural that the country whose theories of government are the most unrealistic in the world should develop the greatest and most powerful sub rosa political machinery.
Thurman W. Arnold
Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation (1944) thought the “key step” was to overturn the belief that social life should be subordinated to the market mechanism. Once free of this “obsolete market mentality,” the path would be open to subordinate both national economies and the global economy to democratic politics based on “human values.”
Whole dimensions of what it means to be a human being and be treated as one are not incorporated into the economic calculus of capitalism.
Peter F. Drucker, Managing in the Next Society
Originally, corporate charters were not “to make a profit at any lawful purpose;” they were to accomplish some semi-governmental task (with political overtones for the ruling elite) like “pacify” colonial subjects, build public works that would require much capital and promised to generate revenues, and do things that could be “plausibly deniable.” General share ownership among the elites has distributed and diluted (if not outright concealed) responsibility and accountability.
Rather than quarrel about booty, owners could share even more wealth by concentration and collaboration outside a zero-sum game. “Economic change” may actually be “regime change” with attendant violence and blood (however artfully obscured) if driven to occur before it happens naturally from evolving culture-change. Since economics is just politics by other means, then a Steady State Economy must actually be†an expression of Steady State Politics (or some steady-state social equilibrium). What that would mean in practice in our post-modern world is a great mystery, but when there is true “green power,” there will be a “green economy.”
Red is the Opposite of Green
Our rich and powerful Lords and Masters are animated by, and indoctrinate us in, a form of religion whose god is the unencumbered self-regulating market. Economic historian Deborah Redman explains:
Because the order of nature is providential, the free market that reflects natural order also reflects the workings of providence. In this way the spheres of morality, theology, jurisprudence, and economics become hostages to nature, so to speak.
The Rise of Political Economy as a Science, Deborah Redman; MIT,
1997, page 237
Like all gods, this economic god is an abstraction; it doesn’t actually exist. Nevertheless, we evolved to fight and die for this economic god just like a suicide bomber fights and dies for his God. In essence, Western elites are missionaries with the biggest and best weapons.
Even though scientists and philosophers have been pointing out inherent flaws in our economic god for over a hundred years, we have been — and will remain — stuck in a tight loop that goes something like this:
First, Western elites demand a world organized around the god of self-regulating markets:
All over the globe, we have recently witnessed a return to religious fundamentalism. In my view, the return to the equilibrium price-auction model in economics represents a parallel development — a desire for psychological certainty in a world that is, in the last instance, uncertain. (page xix)
No discipline except economics attempts to make the world act as it thinks the world should act.†But of course what Homo sapiens does and what Homo economicus should do are often quite different.†That, however, does not make the basic model wrong, as it would in every other discipline.†It just means that actions must be taken to bend Homo sapiens into conformity with Homo economicus.†So, instead of adjusting theory to reality, reality is adjusted to theory. (page 21)
Lester C. Thurow, Dangerous Currents: The State of Economics, Random, 1983
When the failures of self-regulation of these markets become intolerable problems, elites blame outside “interference:”
There is at the core of the celebration of markets a relentless tautology. If we begin, by assumption, with the premise that nearly everything can be understood as a market and that markets optimize outcomes, then everything else leads back to the same conclusion — marketize! If, in the event, a particular market doesn’t optimize, there is only one possible inference: it must be insufficiently marketlike. This epistemological sleight of hand is an astonishing blend that blurs the descriptive with the normative. It is a no-fail system for guaranteeing that theory trumps evidence. Should some human activity not, in fact, behave like an efficient market, it must be the result of some interference that should be removed or a stubborn human refusal to appreciate markets. It cannot possibly be that the theory fails to specify accurately how human behavior works.
Everything for Sale, Robert Kuttner; Knopf, 1997, page 6
Our Lords and Masters then demand that governments and central banks mitigate these intolerable problems by cutting interest rates, providing bailouts, regulating every aspect of society, and if necessary, going to war to maintain the grip of fear of the “Other” and their own grip on power. This caused World Wars One and Two. Our “leaders” are now talking about World War Three. They are seeing red, and intend to have more wars, because they have developed a cultural and psychological “war technology” that advances their agenda and effectively deceives all but the Oligarchs.
Taxes are not raised to carry on wars, wars are raised to carry on taxes.
Thomas Paine (apocryphal)
With State-against-State wars now superceded by culture and economic wars (because the States themselves are chattel to the Oligarchy, with a few notable regional and cultural exceptions), the Wars on Poverty, Drugs, Cancer, Terror, ..., and ... are all systematically designed to perpetuate its “enemy,” and perpetuate the livelihood of the warriors engaged in an enforced stable equilibrium with that enemy, while providing grist for media manipulation as “public policy” is defined and re-defined to generate huge profits for the owners and controllers of the corporations involved. This is intensified by “privatization:”
Vietnam showed us that foreign wars don’t end when the invader can no longer fight, but when the invasion is no longer profitable.
After any one (or set of) these intolerable problems have been mitigated or equilibrated, we all go back to the first step and initiate a new subject-matter loop, whose subject is some enterprise the Oligarchs wish to strengthen their hold over — a new “War on Whatever.” One man’s conspiracy is another man’s business plan.
The War on “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”
Given the unsettled science and the clear energy-budgets, all the frenzy about reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is incremental window-dressing to advance one element in a strange pervasive emotional climate of fear-shock and denial-numbness, and to advance yet another layer of taxation (the “carbon tax,” for wealth re-allocation), manipulation (a marketing fad for more profits and maintenance of monopolies), and political control (from aligning hysteria), in addition to all the other successful such gambits. It is not substantive; it is pocket-media and customized hype.
This “global warming” hysteria is another triumph of pre-scientific Positivism: using mathematical models to predict outcomes we desire, independent of complexity-confusion and adequate data. As Milton Friedman wrote in 1953 in a different but analogous context (economics):
To be important, therefore, a hypothesis must be descriptively false in its assumptions.
In other words, to have any predictive value at all, a model of a complex non-linear open system (such as a national economy or a planetary climate) must be so oversimplified and constrained by its simplifying assumptions, arbitrary parameters, and artificial boundary conditions that it will no longer reflect reality. In the Fifties, “chaos math” had not yet been developed, and still hasn’t penetrated into the agenda-bound mainstream. It provides us a deeper insight than Friedman’s that such predictions are wish-fulfillment masquerading as science — “confirmation bias” made all the easier when an audience is habituated to believe in what it thinks “science” is, has no training or experience in rigorous critical thinking, or has some social advantage to gain thereby. Yes, we certainly can manifest confirmation bias in science, but we have been alerted to it and are not pretending it’s not a distraction (whence peer review…).
There is a very real benefit to the commons of this frenzy: a reduction in use of finite energy (and other) resources, largely through greater efficiency in conventional modes of use. The benefit to its orchestrators is greater concentration of wealth and more solidly entrenched political control through even greater control of essential resources.
The Hypocrisies of Desperation
There is actually something like a consensus among most of the modern “conservative” Statists that “Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive.” Note the passive voice: “...to be kept alive” (by someone else, that is, by the government, that is, to serve the interests of its owners, and yours). Hardly a self-responsible, self-empowered ethic.
That’s a very long way from “Give me liberty or give me death,” one of the mythological slogans of rebellious “democracy.” The “culture of life” as the theocons call it does not, alas, mean a deep respect for human life, from cradle to grave, with prudence as the guide to the grayest areas at the very beginning and very end of life. It has come to mean an absolutism with respect to maintaining life and survival — even to the point of absurdity, as in the Terri Schiavo case or opposition to RU486. And to the other wing of today’s conservatism — the authoritarian wing — it means sacrificing basic liberties (such as habeas corpus) and basic moral principles (such as the prohibition on torture). But it remains a staggering sign of how so-called conservatism has abandoned what were once its core principles, and shamelessly manipulates fear of terrorism and adherence to religious fundamentalism.
If the right to be kept alive by the government is the single most important civil liberty, then there are no other civil liberties. If the government’s primary job is keeping people alive, then anything which can be potentially perceived as dangerous to life can be prohibited and “warred-on:” “dangerous” speech, “dangerous” press coverage, the habeas corpus rights of “dangerous prisoners” held without trial, “dangerous” property rights like the right to buy or sell “dangerous” products (i.e., guns, drugs, cigarettes, McDonald’s, etc.). And this says nothing of the socialist implications of such an ethos, since the “right to be kept alive” by the government necessarily implies that the government must provide its chattels free proprietary healthcare, free proprietary education, free food, free water, and free anything that would tend to “improve” and preserve an individual’s life. Anything short of death, then, becomes a small price to pay to be maintained, in effect, as the property of the State. This harks back to royal families owning the State and its chattel subjects. This “ownership,” explicit or implicit, overt or covert, is an essential feature of both traditional and neo-feudalism. As one illustration, why, then, is suicide illegal?
Any general instinct to sustainability, then, becomes lost in an irresponsible ideology of immediate gain (“Bread and Circuses,” wives and boats and various fixes) and obsession with an ultimate “Rapture” that obviates all worldly considerations.
Human rights are more important than national security. After all, what is national security for, if not to secure human rights? The Constitution of the united States of America lists the rights that the nation was intended to preserve — against, incidentally, an assault from the same sort of government that would have us abandon human rights for “national security,” while in fact its main interest is in preserving the power and increasing the wealth of its owners. So it contrives a campaign of hype and fear, and shocks and indoctrinates its people to obey its dictates for the chimerical promise of security. Sadly, it believes its own lies, and implodes into manic self-delusion (except, perhaps, for a few ruthless architects at the helm) in direct proportion to its religiosity. One should never underestimate the power of genetically mediated inter-personal and tribal automatic behaviors (algorithms), both at the Alpha top and the servile bottom.
[Statist, Islamist, Christianist, Marketist... are all a metaphor for each other, and all are identities and beliefs that are manipulated by ruthless factions whose sole motivation is power at any cost.
The principal function of modern government is to keep people apart.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)]
Human values are more important than market values. “Economics” is the religion of the modern corporate State, and the new opiate of the masses — even for those already narcotized by other fundamentalisms. Statist Oligarchs rely on religiosity (the pretense of objectified external absolute authority — the automaton behind the curtain of Oz) whatever its form or content, and are not shy to layer it on. Ironically, religion originated out of authoritarian tribal power dynamics, so marketism and traditional religion are natural feudal bedfellows, especially in their Statist denominations. This is ironic because of the legitimate pretensions and aspirations of political philosophy and of spirituality. Add corporatist prelates of the marketist religion owning the government (“just another corporation”) and its chattel “citizens” (or, now, “consumers”), and one has a neo-feudal fascism committed to concentrating wealth and power in as few hands as possible, as ruthlessly as Alphas have ever propagated their own agenda in history, and with more serfs than ever convinced they are “free.”
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies.
They feed them on falsehoods ‘till wrong looks like right in their eyes.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Cartago Delenda Est
Cato the Elder was a patrician member of one of the Alpha clans of the hereditary Roman Senatorial class, and in a position to have private armies and navies at his command to take advantage of State-mandated “wars.” He was also in a position to drive those wars politically, by selling off pieces of the not-yet-vanquished “enemy” to other patrician Oligarchs acting collectively as “The State,” with the Equestrian and Proletarian taxpayers of Rome heavily subsidizing the patricians’ efforts to accomplish conquest and governorship as representatives of Rome, to loot the kingdom until they got replaced politically in the Senate (or, later, and similarly, at the imperial Court), militarily as part of a dynastic coup, or by assassination covert or overt.
Some Roman Oligarchs so fully filled their most wildly imagined coffers that they become conflicted and inclined to disengage the fray (if not outright inbred and decadent), making them even easier prey for the next, hungrier band of ever-more-ruthless brigands.
The same thing is happening now over the oil-rich Middle East, as one dynastic clan or multi-clan Oligarchic faction exploits a credulous “nation” of ignorant and naive people blocked emotionally and neurologically near a mean emotional developmental age of two-to-three years.
Grown men do not need leaders.
Edward Abbey, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto)
Diluting the Dollar to death is just setting up for the next regional “fiat” currency, the “Amero,” owned by the next ascendant faction of Oligarchs, positioning its own currency so they will have complete mastery of the polity. Not only have they evolved to define State policy and sequester State resources for their own purposes, but to negotiate a relatively bloodless transition from one top-Clan to another in decline.
Whosoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce ... and when you realise that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.
U.S. President James A. Garfield
Chinese Imperial policy docked noble families one level of rank per generation unless they maintained or advanced their rank by playing by the Emperor’s rules. This is the original meaning, the etymology, of the word “disparaged.” The first thing a faction or Clan does when it comes to power is block the pathway or loophole which they exploited to gain their power (so no-one else can come up their base, given that all the prior ruling Clans had each blocked their approaches). The last thing they do is loot the kingdom on the way out (unless they’ve been finessed or blocked). Gradually, every aspect the entire polity becomes locked down under control of one faction or another.
And this ritual goes way back to primate bands in the forest and savanna: in their natural settings, silverback gorillas and hoary chimpanzees have been seen running the same basic scam — hyping-up fear of a bordering band of “others,” and then defusing actual conflict through “safe” Alpha-culture conventions while appearing to their band to be “defeating” that “other” band (and exchanging genes through slavery, which also was the principal vector for cultural and technological diffusion). Competing Alpha Clans (“factions” of the Oligarchy) conspire together (“coopetition”) to maintain in “the people” the illusion of external “warfare” to maintain their primary position through fear and covert internal “class warfare” against everyone else (and each other when expedient). This is a significant evolutionary behavioral and cultural advance over the silverbacks who had to run solo with their flock of females and offspring.
Such archetypal primate-band patterned behavior is certainly poly-genetically mediated. It’s a great example of evolutionary psychology (or “behavioral genetics) at play — algorithms deeply embedded in our entire human reality.
This behavior-pattern is just as genetic-derived-impulse-driven now as then, with that impulse at least 800,000 years in evolutionary development (more likely a few million), with barely 4000 years of civilization’s re-conditioning unable to overcome the inbred power of both the aggressive Alphas’ impulses to command, and the impulse in a different population, the herd, the flock, the band, the Proles, to submit and obey. Or else. Breeding matters, and please note that is an Alpha-vocabulary word, not a proletarian one.
The only fundamental difference between this atavistic situation and modern society is that the serfs in a traditional feudal system knew they were serfs, while in our neo-feudal system the serfs believe they are free.
The collective mind of the serf class with its politically correct belief-structures has imploded itself with the self-delusion that they are “surrendering” of their own free will to be “kept alive” by the State, and so it’s not a loss of integrity or sovereignty and degrees of freedom. The cognitive mind cannot experience the difference between “submit” and “surrender,” although it can certainly spin symbological froth and frenzy ad infinitum.
The purpose behind any action is to feel something or to avoid feeling something. When a being is motivated by avoidance to feeling something, he acts out of fear. Fear will eventually move one into this intellectual level, where symbols have been substituted for feelings. Feelings are no longer safe. People who have the purpose to create feel; people who have the purpose to avoid feeling think.
The most creative people not only feel, but they can translate feelings into symbols that will arouse feelings in another. In answer, the one who is avoiding feeling often imagines the creative person is enforcing feeling on him, and he usually counters with some act of resistance. This causes suffering.
What is the meaning of life? Life is. Life doesn’t come with a meaning. You can study the symbols or you can go out and feel alive.
Harry Palmer, Avatar
So “Iran delenda est” is nothing new on the face of the Earth, nothing new at all. In fact, this entire story is thousands of years in developing. Its contemporary players are simply the most adept and the most obscure. Iran is “dÈj‡ vu all over again” of Iraq, which is a mirror of all the pretext-driven-and-fear-driving power grabs used by various United States administrations, various Israeli administrations, Nazi (and non-Nazi) Germany, the Roman Empire and Republic... the list is endless.
[Who are those players? The “richest” lists as a distraction...
Distinctions: Ownership versus control
Dynastic wealth and power versus new riches
Hidden-influence style versus open-status style
The CEO is just another hired hand.
The Alphas are becoming increasingly masterful at their covert rule, as they define the listening as well as the speaking; the myth-making as well as the myth fulfillment. Yes, the 20th Century was the century of technology, but far beyond the physical technologies like electronics, petroleum, and metallurgy, it was the century of the technologies of propaganda, socialization, education, and psychological and social conditioning. Combined, all these have given the Alpha elites mastery of communications and weaponry, and of the very thoughts and drives of their chattel serfs. They know what to say and how to be heard with no un-orchestrated noise, since no-one else is allowed to speak in the “main-stream media.” Our Lords and Masters offer the seductions of bounty and the illusion of power for the paper-tiger “loyal opposition,” and assassination if that doesn’t work. Pop Quiz: What two things do U.S. Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and Kennedy all have in common?
Assassination is a political tactic alive and well in our Twenty-first Century, perhaps more than ever. Anyone who is dancing in the highest circles of power is always at risk for his life. It has always been so. It’s structural: when one is newly and increasingly powerful, one must kowtow to the stronger. When one is powerful, others kowtow. If the struggle for power is too even and too intense, and if one knows and speaks more than one’s power can protect, it’s up or out, and out can be very definitive. There are so many deaths that fit a political-assassination profile (starting with a qui bono test) in the past 50 years (and more); what does it take for naÔve Americans to see that as a realistic possibility much less a routine actuality?
The only sustainability the dynastic Oligarchs are committed to is to sustain their power, even if it kills them. That it might kill anyone else, or even everyone else, appears unimportant (“We’ve bred our children to know what to do...” and “We have secrets you’ll never find out...” and “Trust us (or our proxies).”).
A Green Economy is Simply Not Possible in our Polity
The Founders of the USA, for excellent reasons, didn’t trust government, so they founded a government that was defined by, and controlled by the rich — the “minority” whose interests the Republic is designed to protect from the democratic mob. It’s based on three core assumptions:
1. The best way to solve social problems is through economic growth. Growth seems inevitable and eternal when one has a virgin continent at one’s feet.
2. Individuals know best how to improve their lives.
3. The best way to increase economic growth is to simply ask people who are good at it for
That’s why lobbyists are absolutely necessary to the function of our government. Without lobbyists, our corruptible-but-otherwise-unqualified elected officials and their appointed minions would have absolutely no idea what to do.
In other words, elected officials ask the factory owner what government can do to increase his profit so he will build more factories, provide more jobs, and then individuals can make themselves better off. Keep giving the rich a greater fraction of the economic pie and they will keep increasing the size of the pie. This is the fundamental assumption of so-called “supply-side” economics (now thoroughly discredited through bitter experience).
That’s how our Founders designed it, and that’s how “public” policy is made today:
The policy formation process begins in corporate boardrooms... where problems are identified as issues to be solved by new policies. It ends in government, where policies are enacted and implemented.
G. William Domhoff, UCSC
Our Founders saw the “common good” as the sum of “individual goods” which could be measured by spending — the more, the better. Today, spending is measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP).† It’s literally a measure of money (not materiel, not value) changing hands.†Our “Standard of Living” is simply a measure of how much money one spends. Obviously, now that we are entering a decades-long period of declining global economic activity (in the physical resource sense — not in the currency-denominated GDP sense), most of our Founders’ core assumptions have been shown to be incorrect.
Thermodynamic laws, evolution theory, and modern genetic sciences were unknown by our Founders. Today, these laws and sciences signal the end of our form of government. The first law of thermodynamics (conservation law) states that there can be no creation of matter and energy. This means that the economy is totally dependent upon natural resources for everything: it is a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of nature. The German physicist Helmholtz and the British physicist Lord Kelvin had explained this principle by the middle of the 19th century.
The second law of thermodynamics (entropy law) tells us that energy is wasted in all physical and economic activity. In 1824, the French physicist Sadi Carnot formulated the second law’s concepts while working on “heat engines.” The English Lord Kelvin and the German physicist Clausius eventually formalized Carnot’s concepts as the second law of thermodynamics. Part of the second-law overhead goes to maintain complexity, which consumes additional energy exponentially as it increases linearly.
Our government was designed to require more-and-more energy (endless economic growth) to solve social problems, but the thermodynamic laws described above limit the available energy. Energy “resources” must produce more energy than they consume, otherwise they are called “sinks” (this is known as the “net energy” principle). In other words, if it costs more-than-one-barrel-of-oil to “produce” one-barrel-of-oil, then that barrel will never be produced – the money price of oil is irrelevant. Thus, the net-energy principle places strict limits (in the physical sense) on our government’s ability to solve social problems. Although central bankers can print money, they can not print energy.
Biologists have found that our genes strongly predispose us to act in certain ways in certain circumstances. This explains why history repeats itself and why humans have engaged in war after war throughout history: from time-to-time an environment emerges when “inclusive fitness” is served by attacking your neighbor and stealing his resources. This social aggression is further rewarded by the same dopamine and other neurotransmitter pathways in the brain activated by sex, food, psychoactive drugs, and intense exercise.
Since our civilization and government were designed to require ever-growing energy resources, but energy resources are strictly limited by thermodynamic laws and a finite planet, sooner or later our civilization will collapse into another global spasm of resource wars. It’s just a matter of time.
Elections Don’t Matter — What Matters Are Lobbyists
A “genetic” algorithmic process called “reciprocal altruism” guarantees that elected officials and their cronies will nearly always come around to agree with the “suggestions” of lobbyists and each other. It’s a natural, automatic, and subconscious process. Only a sociopath is immune. Unfortunately, no lobbyists represent the common interest: they are mid-rank subjects of the feudal Oligarchs, bought and paid-for. Our Founders assumed that the common interest was the sum of individual interests. Our Founders based our system on the ideas of the French Physiocrats, which were formulated before the laws of thermodynamics were understood, and before the technologies of the corporation for concentrating wealth and power through social control were developed.
Local Government: No Public Advocate!
Local government policy begins in corporate boardrooms too, but additional structural aspects of our political system guarantee that local communities are powerless to stop the Oligarchs and the merely “rich” from converting local neighborhoods into cash.
Our present system of government is designed so elected and appointed officials serve as both public advocate and judge, a situation that makes it structurally impossible to advance the common good. On the one hand, we are expected to evaluate the impacts of complex economic proposals; on the other hand, we are supposed to be non-professionals — just plain folks.
The result is that, say, county commissioners can’t personally evaluate the proposals in front of them, nor do they get objective opinions or studies from a public advocate (the government’s professional planners are known to not represent the public interest, even though elected commissioners are supposed to act as a watchdog on government). Similarly, even though Supreme Court justices are intended as a watchdog on the rest of government, in this same regard they have upheld the power of eminent domain for giving private property to private, corporate parties, nominally for the “public good.”
Yes, commissioners do hear from a few citizens of unknown motivation and expertise who are able to take a day off work to testify. But since these individuals rarely bring “studies” (with explicitly-stated assumptions, etc.), it’s always unclear how much weight to give to their testimony. Moreover, commissioners are acutely aware of their impossible double role of judge and advocate, bend over backwards to give the appearance of objectivity, and thereby nearly-always give the benefit of the doubt to a “developer” or an advocate for the interests of the established powers. Some “reasonableness” can always be found to justify anything. “National security” is probably the best example.
A good analogy for our present “public policy” system is a court trial composed of a “defendant” (the public), a “prosecutor” (the developer), and a “judge” (elected officials or commissioners.) In this analogy, the public has no professional advocate and there is no jury. Moreover, the judge frequently accepts gifts from — and takes the advice of — the prosecutor (the developer’s lobbyists).
No one would argue that a defendant could ever get a fair trial with a legal system like this.
Our Founders assumed that since economic growth was always the best way to solve social problems, the public didn’t need a professional advocate to ever question special interests.
The point here is that since our government was specifically designed to rely on perpetual economic growth to solve social problems and maintain public order, the political system is self-reinforcing and literally out of human control. When economic growth becomes impossible — as thermodynamics tells us it must — then our present form of government becomes impossible too.
Wherever men hold unequal power in society, they will strive to maintain it. They will use whatever means are convenient to that end and will seek to justify them by the most plausible arguments they are able to devise.
Those after-the-fact arguments rationalize primary behaviors that are complex automatic algorithms derived from genetic imperatives.
The ACGT Man Behind the Curtain...
When most people look around the world today they see a lot of problems. If they are clever, they see sets of interacting problems. They see energy and technology problems; they see ecological and environmental problems; and they see economic problems. If they are somewhat deeper thinkers, they may see population problems. The simple truth is that they are all suffering from vision problems.
What most people see as technological or social problems are more correctly seen as a set of symptoms of a systematic underlying problem, symptoms that are manifesting themselves in the social and technological arena. In the same sense, what people are interpreting as “ecological problems” are the set of symptoms that are manifesting in the world’s ecology. And what people are interpreting as “economic problems” are merely the set of symptoms that are manifesting in the world’s economy.
The underlying problem is the same in all three cases. It is not merely that there are so many of us, it is that Homo sapiens is a hyper-aggressive species with no effective predators, the ability to manipulate its environment on a planetary scale, and the ideological perception that it is apart from, and superior to, that environment (a projection native to feudal Alpha identity). In all of nature, such instability leads to expansion-and-collapse cycles — Gaian precursors of the “economic cycle.”
The spreading perception that the core environmental problem is human population growth is useful, but woefully inadequate. Population growth is just another symptom of the problem stated above. One can demonstrate this with a simple thought experiment: imagine that we stabilized our population tomorrow, at our current seven-plus billion people. Would that fix the problems of resource depletion, ecological devastation and the economic instability caused by our insistence on continual material growth? It wouldn't, because those problems are still worsening where populations have already stabilized or are even in outright decline.
Addressing any one of the problems areas — energy/technological, ecological, economic, or population — would still leave us with problems in the other three. We can (and will) tinker around in each of these areas, because that's our Buddha-nature: human beings are innate tinkerers. We will do things to ease the situation in each of those symptom domains. But none of that tinkering addresses the fundamental problem, which is that humanity appears to have evolved without a crucial internal self-restraint mechanism (Our Buddha-nature doesn’t extend that far).
That entirely typical evolution happened because, as with every other species, those restraints were readily available within the environment — mainly resource scarcity, predation, disease, and, later, war. Because those external restraints were available, selection didn't endow us with internal restraints because they weren't needed. In fact, during our early time as a species, an internal self-restraint mechanism acting in addition to the external restraints would have been counter-productive, and would have been actively selected out of our makeup.
However, as we developed the physical, mental, and cultural abilities to circumvent those external restraints — through extinguishing all large predators, and developing agriculture, mining, medicine, and “social science” — we outfoxed ourselves, because in the absence of either internal or external restraints we are left with no effective way to reign in our genetic urge for unlimited expansion and the automatic algorithmic behaviors it generates. All that remains is our intellectual capacity to foresee outcomes and to regulate our behavior through “reason,” which is not strong enough to counterbalance our innate behavioral imperatives.
Alpha conditioning is very strong, as the selection pressures have been more concentrated and stringent than for the Proles. Since the intensity of the conditioning and genetic-behavior enforcement are stronger in the Alphas, their algorithmic behaviors have become narrower, more specialized, more rigid, more unstable, and less adaptive. Hence the continuous turnover as Alpha clans become “decadent” and cycle through factions, and the habit of Alphas to see the problems as being other Alphas rather than the system itself. And hence the obsessive expression of simplistic market values over more subtle and demanding human values, and of “inevitable” apocalyptic end-games over adult relationship with our selves and each other.
There may be no hope whatever that our tinkering will solve the real dilemma of humanity. We are behaving exactly as our evolution has defined us, and it’s unlikely that we will stop. Our challenge is to figure out ways in which our feeble minds can create the conditions for the continued survival of our species and perhaps some of our civilization, despite both our unconstrained, innate urge to grow and our glorious but tragic ability to “reason” after the fact. Collectively, we are barely able even to distinguish these countervailing aspects of our fundamental nature, much less change them. They are at the root of all our troubles, and we will need to be enormously cunning to outmaneuver them.
This gives new meaning to the notion “think outside the box,” and requires an integration of thinking and feeling that has not yet happened in our culture.
There are Viable Alternatives, but not Easy Ones
The late Dr. M. King Hubbert is probably the geophysicist best known to the world’s general public because of his startling prediction, first made publicly in 1949, that the fossil-fuel era would be of very short duration, and his remarkably accurate predictions in 1956 that US oil production would peak in about 1970 and decline thereafter and world Peak Oil would occur “sometime after 2000.”
His social thesis is that our civilization is seriously handicapped because its two most important intellectual underpinnings, the science of matter-energy and the historic system of finance, are incompatible. A reasonable co-existence is possible when both are growing at approximately the same rate. That, Hubbert said, has been happening since the start of the industrial revolution but it is soon going to end because the amount the matter-energy system can grow is limited while the growth of “money'” is not.
"I was in New York in the ‘30s. I had a box seat at the depression," Hubbert said. "I can assure you it was a very educational experience. We shut the country down because of monetary reasons. Back then the physical system was ready to roll. This time it's not."
The man known to many as a pessimist was, in this case, quite hopeful. In fact, he might be the ultimate utopian. We have, he said, the necessary technology, including making use of abundant low-cost energy available from the sun. “All” we have to do is completely overhaul our culture and find an alternative to money.
This means abandoning two fundamental axioms of our culture: the Puritanical work ethic used so effectively to herd the Proles, and the idea that growth is the normal and only healthy state of affairs. Hubbert challenged the latter mathematically and concludes the exponential population growth of the last two centuries is the opposite of the normal situation: "It is an aberration. For most of human history the population doubled only once every 32,000 years. Now it's down to 35 years. That is dangerous.
"During the last two centuries of unbroken industrial growth we have evolved what amounts to an exponential-growth culture. Our institutions, our legal system, our financial system, and our most cherished folkways and beliefs are all based upon the premise [and ideology] of continuing growth.
"Since the tenets of our exponential-growth culture (such as a non-zero interest rate) are incompatible with a state of non-growth, it is understandable that extraordinary efforts will be made to avoid a cessation of growth. Inexorably, however, physical and biological constraints must eventually prevail and appropriate cultural adjustments will have to be made."
Work is becoming increasingly unimportant: "Most employment now is merely pushing paper around. The actual work needed to keep a stable society running is a very small fraction of available manpower.
"Since the energy-cost of maintaining a human being exceeds by a large amount his ability to repay [in monetary terms], we can abandon the fiction that what one is to receive is in payment for what one has done, and recognize that what we are really doing is using the bounty that nature has provided us [not God, not Our Lords and Masters, and not our hard work]. Under these circumstances we recognize that we all are getting something for nothing, and the simplest way of effecting distribution is on a basis of equality, especially so since production can be set equal to the limit of our capacity to consume, consonant with adequate conservation of our physical resources.
“On this basis our distribution then becomes foolproof and incredibly simple. We distribute purchasing power in the form of energy certificates that bear the identification of the person to whom issued, and are non-negotiable. They resemble a bank check in that they bear no face denomination, this being entered at the time of spending. They are surrendered upon the purchase of goods or services at any center of distribution and are permanently canceled, becoming entries in a uniform accounting system. Being non-negotiable they cannot be lost, stolen, gambled, or given away because they are invalid in the hands of any person other than the one to whom issued. If lost, new ones may be had for the asking. Neither can they be saved because they become void at the termination of the two-year period for which they are issued. They can only be spent.
“Contrary to the rules of the Price System, the purchasing power of an individual would no longer be based upon the fallacious premise that a man is being paid in proportion to the so-called ‘value’ of his work (since it is a physical fact that what he receives is greatly in excess of his individual effort) but upon the equal pro rata division of the net energy degraded through the production of consumer goods and services. In this manner the income of an individual is not dependent upon the nature of his work, and we are then left free to reduce the working hours of our population to as low a level as technological advancement will allow, without in any manner jeopardizing the national or individual income, and without the slightest unemployment problem or poverty."
Hubbert went on to calculate that following a transition period, the work required of each individual need be no longer than about 4 hours per day, 164 days per year, from the ages of 25 to 45. Income will continue until death. "Insecurity of old age is abolished and both saving and insurance become unnecessary and impossible."
We then see that the proposals for Negative Population Growth should be implemented immediately (so that the steady-state equilibrates at a sustainable level), and that all attempts to reduce the deficit, balance the budget, or pay off the national debt are futile. The deficit and the “national debt” represent the subsidy the government has paid in its attempt to keep growth and unemployment at the level of social tolerance. No government has ever paid off such debt.
Wealth is not “Created”
One idea which underpins all Western social philosophy is that people can “create” wealth. This basic idea has been the focus of economists for as long as they have existed and philosophers for at least six thousand years. The vision that humans can “create wealth” results in an “ever-expanding pie” view of the world. As Simon said, the more creators, the more wealth. This kind of wealth is represented almost exclusively by “money.”
The opposite vision is that the bounty of nature including its “energy” resources is the ultimate source of wealth. Moreover, a vision of energy as wealth, when combined with an understanding of thermodynamics, results in an “ever-shrinking pie” view of the finite spherical planet and its human world. More people equals less wealth per capita.
Human beings can create money, and to an infinite extent. As long as we have access to sufficient natural resources (including energy) for that money to represent (together comprising usable wealth), we can build a polity with a purpose greater than acquiring “wealth.” When resource availability falls behind money availability, we have an infinitely corruptible system in which any social purpose becomes lost in money manipulations for political power and “inclusive fitness.” A healthy monetary system closely aligns money with resources, and aligns growth with success at accomplishment of social ends and improving all dimensions of the quality of life of human beings.
The steady-state economy into which we are being inexorably forced implies an interest rate of zero, which means the end of any monetary system configured for exponential growth. The only way of satisfying the desires of those with less (and securing more resources for the already privileged) is economic growth, which has “kept the peace” because people have believed that they were, or could be, increasing their “inclusive fitness.” Without economic growth, the competition for resources will be seen as a zero-sum game. When growth of actual wealth stops, people will become violent (as they have throughout all of history). They will no longer be conditionable into fighting over money when winning that fight no longer increases their well-being (as fighting over natural resources can). The “work-ethic” would no longer be an ideology to get some people to concentrate wealth for others. The dogma of “growth” would no longer be useful to placate the poor by tantalizing them with the “get rich” pie in the sky, thereby suppressing their natural tendencies towards violence.
We are being forced to completely rethink our cultural ideas about how to organize our economy and distribute purchasing and political power. Social conditioning would require a different basis, as would status. Applying the “opposite” vision would de-couple political and economic power and would leave the present elites with no basis for their control. They would have to generate another, and that population is probably the least suited for creative social engineering. Their first instinct will be to maintain control through the traditional means (largely fear-based) our species has evolved to apply — contrived wars against an arbitrary “other,” socio-religious manipulations, and central authority masked as necessary to deceive the complacent, the conditioned, and the naive.
[United States’ governance was] born with a bias against democracy... ‘Inverted totalitarianism’ lies in wielding total power without appearing to, without establishing concentration camps, or enforcing ideological uniformity, or forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual. [Such a form of political power makes the US] the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed.
Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated, 2008
Hubbert’s synthesis shows there are ways to re-organize the fundamental (and not-so-fundamental) bases of our polity. However, getting there from here is no simple matter, and some polities are potentially more amenable to such changes than others.
For example, Britain's type of government and different history might have fewer obstacles in finding a sane, potentially effective way such as rationing to respond to an energy or general resource shortage. If one is looking for a traditional term for a social system based on the state taking care of all its people, "socialism" is a probably the closest. England has a long history of aristocracy-led "socialism" derived from feudalism, but America does not.
Despite its secularist rhetoric and prattle about “democracy,” the American political system and its military are integrated with fundamentalist religion much like Islamist states such as Saudi Arabia. The British Parliamentary system of government allows minority views to be heard in government (e.g., "Greens") but our one-party-two-factions "Christianist/corporate" system does not. Thus the only voices readily heard in Washington, DC are corporate spokesmen with profit agendas or preachers with religious agendas.
At the level of appearances, the Oligarchs and their minions would actively hate rationing because it would demolish their self-myth and self-worth as it dismantled their status displays. Worse, they would hate it because they would lose their wealth-and-power-concentration advantage (their “inclusive fitness”). It would be extremely difficult even for England to change, because of our human nature. In our one-corporation-one-vote political system, it would require a majority of corporate board members and their minions to adopt a new world-view and then believe their social status will increase by giving up marketist Capitalism, and then an equal revolution to overcome the objections of a hundred thousand fundamentalist preachers and their minions.
Economics is nothing more than politics in disguise. It is the art of privatizing gains and socializing losses. It is the State Religion of the United States. Its god is lust for power; its idol is growth. When personal and clan power becomes less important than quality of life; when a critical mass of humanity wakes up and takes responsibility for its genuine needs over its Pleistocene emotions and its social-conditioned wants; when the love of money and power is no longer the root of evil; then we could have a green economy.
The human mind is a product of the Pleistocene age, shaped by wildness that has all but disappeared. If we complete the destruction of nature, we will have succeeded in cutting ourselves off from the source of sanity itself.
David Orr, environmental philosopher, in Adbusters, Sept/Oct 2002
There is an elaborate hierarchy of Oligarchs and their proxies who are the decision-makers on social-resource allocation. They have their own set of motivations, algorithmically expressing their “inclusive fitness” for clear and ruthless advantage. What counter-motivators are they even able to recognize and perhaps internalize, to expand their own sustainability advantage to include larger and larger domains, perhaps even a planetary one? As we enter deeper into this social conversation, we will become more and more able to distinguish those counter-motivators. What conscious choices they are even able to make is unclear.
The big picture is over seven billion people struggling to increase their social status by controlling and using natural resources. All organizations within a country work to support the genetic drive for more status by its leading members while suppressing dissenting opinions.
Because the “selfish genes” drive for status in the primate band and tribe has been so successful in providing a survival advantage, it is enormously powerful, with people willing to go so far as to kill themselves (e.g., hara-kiri) and family members (e.g., “honor” killings) to maintain and advance their own status and that of their families and clans (their “us”). Besides being one of the most powerful, the genetic drive for status can never be satisfied:
I put for the general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of
power after power, that ceaseth only in death.
All leading people within a social paradigm simply lie (mostly subconsciously) to further their drive to increase status. In effect, they are leading because they lie so well. Moreover, no one is willing to voluntarily lose social status ("lose face") by explicitly or even implicitly admitting they were fundamentally wrong all along.
When individuals and tribes are frustrated in their endless drive to increase “inclusive fitness,” they resort to violence. The only familiar alternative to public violence is the endless conversion of natural resources into ever-more-marvelous status displays. But the laws of thermodynamics and the rampant consumption of the past few hundred years show us that there are fewer natural resources available for conversion into these displays, and far fewer on a per capita basis. The genetic drive for more-and-more colliding with thermodynamic laws and physical limitations allowing less-and-less must lead to a new world war over natural resources, unless there are some very powerful interventions delivering compelling counter-motivators to Our Lords and Masters — such as withdrawal of a critical mass of our consent.
Anytime we can’t figure out how to find a win/win solution to a problem, it just means we haven’t really learned the rules of the game we are playing.
Dr. Eliayhu Goldratt, Avraham Goldratt Institute
The required criteria for success in the 21st century are ecological integrity, effective decision-making, and social cohesion. These are progressively replacing current commitments to maximum economic growth, compulsive consumption, and international competition.
Robert Theobald, Reworking Success
Assembled by Alexander Carpenter, 2007-2009 With thanks to Jay Hanson, Michael Rivero, Paul Chefurka, Phil Arreguin, Andrew Sullivan, Antal Feket, M. King Hubbert, Robert Hickerson, et al.
Compilation Copyright 2008-9
Oh, and one last thing: Gravity is matter’s urge to snuggle.
Quotations on the Theme…
Evolutionary psychology is not just one more school of psychology. It is a perspective on the whole of psychology that claims that we are human animals, and that our minds, no less than our bodies, are products of the forces of nature operating on a time frame of millions of years; human nature was forged from our ancestors’ struggle to survive and reproduce.
David Livingston Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
Ends are ape-chosen; only means are man’s.
...underlying all the other reasons for warfare is almost always this fundamental imbalance of resource stress and population growth.
Steven LeBlanc, Constant Battles, page 169
The raging monster upon the land is population growth. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile theoretical construct.†To say, as many do, that the difficulties of nations are not due to people but to poor ideology and land-use management is sophistic.
E.O. Wilson, The diversity of Life, 1992, pages 328-329
Even when grappling with the idea of economic disintegration, Americans attempt to cast it in terms of technological or economic progress: eco-villages, sustainable development, energy efficiency and so on. Under the circumstances, such compulsive techno-optimism seems maladaptive. ... Why do people seem incapable of doing the simplest things without making them into projects, preferably ones that involve some element of new technology?
Dimitry Orlov, Our Village
Scientists search for truth by forming statements that can be tested.†If a statement cannot be tested, then it is not “scientific.”†Testable statements are known as “hypotheses” and take the general form “If [I do this], then [this will occur].”†For example, the hypothesis “If I drop a rock, then it will fall to the ground” can be tested to see if it is “false.”
In 1934, Sir Karl Popper proposed a criterion of testability, or falsifiability, for scientific validity.† Scientific theories are hypotheses from which can be deduced statements testable by observation; if the appropriate experimental observations falsify these statements, the hypothesis is refuted.†If a hypothesis survives efforts to falsify it, it may be tentatively accepted.†No scientific theory, however, can be conclusively established.
Popper’s mode of thought — the habit of attempting to prove oneself wrong — is the only path to knowledge about the real world.
Evolutionary psychologists have found that humans evolved to naturally use a “falsification strategy” with respect to the social world, but use a “confirmation strategy” with respect to the physical world.†Our innate social-world “falsification strategy” causes us to instinctively reject social anomalies and attempt to “falsify” claims about the real world that might jeopardize social beliefs (e.g., the claim that global oil production will “peak” soon).
On the other hand, our innate physical-world “confirmation strategy” allows us to defend social constructions of reality (e.g., the “free market”) to the death, even if the ideals they represent are far from physical reality.
Consider first a phenomenon I call the deontic effect in human reasoning (Cummins, 1996b, 1996c). Deontic reasoning is reasoning about rights and obligations; that is, reasoning about what one is permitted, obligated, or forbidden to do (Hilpinen, 1981; Manktelow & Over, 1991).†Deontic reasoning contrasts with indicative reasoning, which is reasoning about what is true or false.†When reasoning about deontic rules (social norms), humans spontaneously adopt a violation-detection strategy: They look for cheaters or rule-breakers.†In contrast, when reasoning about the truth status of statements about the world, they spontaneously adopt a confirmation-seeking strategy.† This effect is apparent in the reasoning of children as young as three years of age (Cummins, 1996a; Harris & NuÒez, 1996) and has been observed in literally hundreds of experiments on adult reasoning over the course of nearly thirty years, making it one of the most reliable effects in the psychological literature (see Cummins, 1996b, 1996c, and Oaksford & Chapter, 1996 for reviews of this literature).
Denise D. Cummins & Colin Allen (Editors), The Evolution of Mind,
Oxford, 1998, pages 39, 40
...[R]emember that this out-of-control global financial system is a man-made artifact, a political regime devised over many years by interested parties to serve their ends. Nothing in nature or, for that matter, in economics requires the rest of us to accept a system that is so unjust and mindlessly destructive.
William Greider, in The Nation
Economic students are programmed (using modern “doublethink” techniques) to believe that there are no “limits to growth.”
Plenty of Gloom, The Economist, Editorial, 20 December 1997
Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. ... Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
Robert F. Kennedy, 18 March 1968
We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.
Abraham Lincoln, in a letter of 21 November 1864 to Colonel William F. Elkins
[With the development of modern physics] it became possible to see orthodox economic theory for what it really was: a bowdlerized imitation of nineteenth-century physics… It was not the methods of science that were appropriated by the early neoclassicals as it was the appearances of science, for the early neoclassicals possessed a singularly inept understanding of the physics they so admired…†[Neoclassical economists attempt] to reduce all social institutions such as money, property rights, and the market itself to epiphenomena of individual constrained optimization calculation.†All these attempts have failed, despite their supposed dependence upon mathematical rigor, because they always inadvertently assume what they aim to deduce…†Conservation principles are the key to the understanding of a mathematical formulation of any phenomenon, and it has been there that the neoclassicals have been woefully negligent.
Philip Mirowski, Against Mechanism: Protecting Economics from Science,
Rowman and Littlefield, 1988, pages 5-6
The mind is a squadron of simpletons. It is not unified, it is not rational, it is not well designed - or designed at all. It just happened, an accumulation of innovations of the organisms that lived before us. The mind evolved, through countless animals and through countless worlds.
Like the rest of biological evolution, the human mind is a collage of adaptations (the propensity to do the right thing) to different situations. Our thought is a pack of fixed routines - simpletons. We need them. It is vital to find the right food at the right time, to mate well, to generate children, to avoid marauders, to respond to emergency quickly. Mental routines to do so have evolved over millions of years and developed in different periods in our evolution, as Rumi noted.
We don't think of ourselves as of such humble origins. The triumphs that have occurred in the short time since the Industrial Revolution have completely distorted our view of ourselves. Hence, the celebrated triumph of humanity is its rationality: the ability to reason through events and act logically, to organize business. To plan for the future, to create science and technology. One influential philosopher, Daniel Dennet, wrote recently: "When a person falls short of perfect rationality...there is no coherent...description of the person's mental states."
Yet to characterize the mind as primarily rational is an injustice; it sells us short, it makes us misunderstand ourselves, it has perverted our understanding of our intelligence, our schooling, our physical and mental health. Holding up rationality, and its remorseless deliberation, as the model of the mind has, more important, set us along the wrong road to our future. Instead of the pinnacle, rationality is just one small ability in a compound of possibilities.
The mind evolved great breadth, but it is shallow, for it performs quick and dirty sketches of the world. This rough-and-ready perception of reality enabled our ancestors to survive better. The mind did not evolve to know the world or to know ourselves. Simply speaking, there has never been, nor will there ever be, enough time to be truly rational.
Rationality is one component of the mind, but it is used rarely, and in a very limited area. Rationality is impossible anyway. There isn't time for the mind to go through the luxurious exercises of examining alternatives. Consider the standard way of examining evidence, the truth table, a checklist of information about whether propositions are correct or not. To know whether Aristotle is a hamburger, you would look up "Aristotle" or "hamburger" in this table. Now think of the number of issues you immediately know well - what Yugoslavia is, whether skateboards are used at formal dinners, how chicken sandwiches should taste, what your spouse wore this morning - and you will see that your own truth table, if entered randomly, would have millions of entries just waiting! [pages 2-3]
A mind built up with countless specific adaptations can never be rational. We piece together the results of a small set of probes to judge the world, picking up a few signals and making quick assessments of what is outside, in the case of marauders, and inside, in the case of memories and dreams. Such a mind will never be rational; but it will always try to adapt. And it cannot always be correct either. If we consider a mind that has evolved to meet most situations adequately, say 95 percent of them, we may have a better idea of what being correct is. [page 221]
Since the mind evolved to select a few signals and then dream up a semblance, whatever enters our consciousness is overemphasized. It does not matter how the information enters, whether via a television program, a newspaper story, a friend's conversation, a strong emotional reaction, a memory - all is overemphasized. We ignore other, more compelling evidence, overemphasizing and overgeneralizing from the information close at hand to produce a rough-and-ready realty. [page 258]
The [mental] system we recruited had the primary aim of reacting quickly to immediate danger - those who did lived long enough to produce us. Those who acted more thoughtfully and with due deliberation of the proper course, who could avoid panic when confronted by mild threats - who acted rationally, that is - probably lived shorter, and thus less generative, lives. The survival argument against rationality in primeval conditions is that payoff is very lopsided: Fail to respond to a real danger, even if that danger would kill you only 1/10,000 as often, and you will be dead. A few years later, you will be deader in evolutionary terms, for fewer of your genes will be around. However, an overreaction to danger produces only a little hysteria, a little stress, and maybe a little embarrassment - probably little or no loss of reproductive ability. Maybe the excitement would even recruit a little more reproductive effort!
Running from every snake or tiger or loud noise probably doesn't disrupt life too much. Not running, while it might kill you only slightly more often, can eventually produce major changes in the population. The same numbers hold in this example as for the height difference cited earlier. If panic in response to a threat in all cases improved survival by even 1/10,000, those who panicked would be 484 million times more populous than those who did not. And so it was good to respond emotionally and quickly to the average dangers threatening most of our ancestors. Rationality is a great idea and ideal, but we never had the time for it; we don't have time for it now, and thus we don't have the mind for it. [page 262]
Robert Ornstein, The Evolution of Consciousness, Prentice Hall, 1991, ISBN 0-13-587569-2
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it†with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken