The advent of the viral pandemic added to the climate crisis and the critical devastation of the earth’s environment needs urgent change of direction. One problem rises from the excessive growth in population. I know that orthodox economists promote the fantasy of growth being a goal as a matter of ideology. This basic fact that must be recognised. The economists target of GDP has no good meaning for the welfare of people. Growth means that the necessary infrastructure always lags behind. Much endless investment is required to catch up. A human and satisfactory life can be had in a no-growth stabilised equilibrium status. There needs to be a policy of de-growth before a sustainable population can be reached.
When such a society at equilibrium with a balanced infrastructure is reached, there will be no need to be always falling behind. People will find that dying people will leave houses at the rate that will supply the needs of people wanting to set up a family home. New houses will not be needed. There will be no need to build new roads, water supply dams, filtration plants, sewage systems, prisons, stadiums, power plants, transmission lines, factories, hospitals, hospices, conference centres, museums, playgrounds, parks, swimming pools, performance theatres, warehouses, office blocks, hangars, airports, ports, community centres, or clear new land for cultivation. The requirements of a steady state population will be met by a constant infrastructure balanced to the needs of steady population. To get there we needs de-growth.
The banking and finance centres will become obsolete and their parasitic nature will stop the wealth feedback loop that enables the unequal distribution of wealth upwards which has so many harmful social consequences. What will remain important is to keep up with maintenance of the infrastructure which often gets forgotten in the need to cope with the growth. We could all then have a good work-life balance without having to work too hard in always having to catch up. It is the constant trying to catch up with infrastructure construction that requires the activities that produce most of the excessive harmful polluting externalities.
We need to think in terms of being in a lifeboat and use lifeboat rules. Occupying a lifeboat means that some rules are needed. The important paradigm is to have everyone on an equal footing no matter what the past hierarchy and wealth provided. No classes, but everyone must share any work such as rowing and bailing plus accepting the rationing of supplies such as food. The supplies in the lifeboat must be looked after and ensure that there is no unnecessary waste but there may be a necessity to get rid of weight that will have no future use. The overloading of a lifeboat has to be considered and there may be a point where no further people should be rescued. If anybody threatens the survival of the lifeboat then it may be appropriate to abandon them for the survival of the rest. The rules can be harsh but they are necessary.
The Covid-19 virus pandemic has shown the free market/globalised/neoliberal/capitalist system has proven its fragility and failure. Emergency actions are socialistic and elements of the command economy. Science (scientia= knowledge) is proven knowledge (proven=tested) that is supported by well established facts, replicated, tested by falsification attempts. Economics is proven to fail as a science. Even the most basic assumption (much used by economic dogma), the supply/demand criss-cross fails to be supported by actual data and replication. Economics has the features of a religion; required beliefs & rejected beliefs; dogma (equilibrium), cults and apostates.
What to fund for recovery? To protect NZ our borders will be basically closed. Money nowadays is just a form of accounting numbers and already numbers have been created to keep people functioning. Banks create money numbers for their benefit, the government (the people’s collective) should have the sole function of creating money accounting numbers. These should be shared equitably with no extremes of poverty or excess. To start functioning again, new numbers can be created but real physical resources will be needed, physical capital (machines tools, factories, plants, equipment) that are still usable. The share market numbers that have tanked are irrelevant, the physical capital remains. Energy is a very necessary factor of production that is ignored and misunderstood by economists. Fortunately we have a survivable supply system. We have land/soil resources that can supply our essential food (and wool for clothes). We have a supply of healthy people that can work these resources together to satisfy our essential needs. They form what can be done, not the accounting numbers.
The failures of the dominant capitalist system have been exposed. We are aware of the failure of the other extreme of a command economy (communism?) Which also produces an elite with excessive power and wealth. We know that too little and too much is bad for people (eg salt, water, alcohol, drugs, …) So we need a new system with just enough of such needs. But if we must have an equitable and ethical system that values human life, we will need to democratise workplace activities as the selfish dominating capitalist elite which has created an inequitable/failed result scientifically proving a theory/hypothesis failure requiring a new rather than a patched up/modified system.
I have had an interesting life, but now in 2020 everybody is living in interesting times. Fires, floods, storms, and droughts are becoming regular events but long term problems of environmental destruction, climate chaos are added to with a pandemic virus. Now that is interesting. Rich nations have found that all versions of their secretive globalised capitalist systems are fragile, lacking in resilience that have led to an exponential rise of fatalities. The countries that have responded well to the exponential growth of infections have immediately applied socialist solutions and adopted degrees of a command economy. Thinking that economics is a science, we must conclude that because there are failures of the neo-liberal theories of deregulation, privatisation, minimalist government,’free’ markets, and an importance of only shareholder control and profit returns, then the neo-liberal ideology has proven without doubt to be a failure. In science, a falsification negates a theory and enables a search for a real truth.
At one extreme rigid capitalism and the other extreme a rigid command economy have resulted in extremes of wealth and power. A blend of ethical capitalism, socialism and some command economics with regulated maximum and minimum incomes would seem to be the way of an ethical future. With no individuals having any superior status, we need to extend democracy into the workplace. It is clear that optimum economics will be found in an egalitarian state with no extremes of wealth and poverty. When we come to approaching death every person should be able to look back on worthwhile life full of satisfying work, good experiences, a number of friends and family, and an understanding of the whole cosmos.
Taking a distant view of the fast changing human situation it should be clear that the changes will be so great that there will be no way back. To avoid a continuing chaos an effort to reach a just and resilient way of living will all people of goodwill to work toward a better society.
“As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?” — Stephen King. Well that is Americans for you.
Our ancestors before they learnt how to make tools for catching animals for food worked co-operatively to catch those animals. Because we could sweat to get rid of heat from our exertions we could keep after animals until they were so exhausted we could catch then. We needed plenty of food because our big heads were high consumers of energy. We were naturally pack animals that could achieve common goals because of ability to work as a team. Our modern creations are the result of very large groups that do not know each other, work together to build them. Americans have adopted a philosophy of individualism that goes against our co-operative instincts. To day they are full of friction with each other, are impolite with each other, and seek faults in each other. They are consumed by the ‘other’ that they do not know and even fight wars to destroy them.
This is also seen in the American antagonism to the idea of taxes. They cannot see that taxes are the way to finance common goals and rather proclaim that taxation is theft. They do not see that high tax societies are the ones that are happiest and well adapted. Taxation is the way that we collect resources to create things to benefit the community as a whole. The most efficient use of resources is when everyone benefits equally.
People also combine their resources to benefit just themselves by a system of capitalism whereby the collection of assets is used to create goods or services to sell and enrich just themselves. Governments assist this process through a legal fiction of a limited liability company which can walk away from a business failure with consequences for those that do not benefit from the proceeds. The operation of such a company for the exclusive benefit of the shareholders encourage the business to exploit local conditions to withhold benefits from workers, suppliers, customers, and their local community. Harm that falls on the local community is called an externality cost which they like to ignore from their finances. The more these costs can be avoided, the greater the benefit to the shareholders. This attitude can extend to the practice of selling goods and services that are not in any way beneficial to the deluded consumer. When it comes to making a profit by commercial capitalism, any care or morality can be dispensed with.
Taking a scientific view of this system of capitalism which is only for the benefit of the capitalist, it can be seen not to provide benefits for everybody. The theory of a beneficial system of capitalism is falsified by many failures. The capitalists that continue to profit from selling harmful and addictive cigarette products are immoral because they know their goods are harmful.
The awareness of capitalism’s faults has led to many efforts to rehabilitate capitalism with books and language such as ‘compassionate capitalism’, ‘conscious capitalism’, ‘ethical capitalism’, ‘ecological capitalism’, ‘progressive capitalism’, etc. While capitalists say they love democracy, there is no promotion of democratic capitalism where everybody connected with the business has a democratic say in its management affairs such as determining where the profits will be distributed. That is the co-operative form of a business enterprise. It contains the essence of human instincts to co-operate for the benefit of all.
The extension of basic capitalism from the early days of the formation of limited liability into the ‘neo-liberal’ form of capitalism has accelerated the relative impoverishment of those who have been excluded from the rentier economy. The ideas of minimizing government activities, the deregulation of business activities, and the privatisation of government activities has been proven by multiple failures to scientifically falsify those theories.
If business is not democratised, then capitalism must go and its faults overcome by a new system of co-operatively achieving a more egalitarian and economically efficient way of satisfying human needs.
Science fiction aficionados and techno-freaks have deluded themselves into seeing a future in space travel for humans. Some see it as necessary for the survival of the human race. Disagreeing may seem to be a being a spoilsport but we should turn away from these unrealistic endeavours. We have to face the unpalatable fact that the Earth will become unlivable one day and our descendants will all die off. Each of us do die off even though we fantasize about living on somehow while our bodies fail to continue living. We will die. The earth will die too.
We have to recognise that we are consuming the resources of the earth at an unsustainable rate as if we occupy multiple worlds. The pollution of our atmosphere is seen as the most immediate threat because our polluting gases will lead to an unlivable climate and sea level rise will consume most of our capital infrastructure. If we are going to delay our demise we must stop the pollution of our atmosphere with gases that reduce the emissivity of our planet which leads to global unlivable climate change. The plans for rocketing people to the Moon to prepare a base, continuing to Mars, and one day voyaging out to find another habitable planet (not yet discovered) are grandiose and counter our immediate survival needs. There is a need to do the arithmetic on the engineering and victualing of such a plan. The idea of engineering Mars to suit us is refuted by those who would see the need to make the Earth habitable instead.
The scale of rocketry for these ideas requires an enormous collection of energy fuels for this plan. This requirement for energy must involve the production of an excessive amount of greenhouse gases. We need to quantify this to grasp the enormity of this mis-allocation of our depleting resources. The materials required for the rockets and the rocket fuels necessary imply such large enterprise must automatically mean too much consequential polluting byproducts.
Human physiology is not suited for space travel. We have an inbuilt need to learn about our cosmos but we now have the ability to use robots to do that work much more efficiently. There is no need to send scientists into space when robotic technology can do a much better and more efficient job.
The scientist, engineers, and technicians working on this space nonsense must be diverted to attack the problems facing us with the continuance of consumptive polluting activities. I have a thought that this would be a better path to our limited future.
Individual Americans met here in NZ are virtuous, but the country as a whole isn’t. They are voracious in the way they vastly consume and pollute beyond their share. They are violent; with any reflection vitiate all around them, they construct a war, war on poverty, cancer, drugs, terrorism, to no effect. They are vain, ventose, and vacuous in their belief that they are ‘special’ while revealing their stupidity and ignorance. Their business model is based on vice and corruption being vital for the rich because for them, money is all. They are vandals because they use bombs and violence before diplomacy. When countries are victorious over US invasions and domination they are vindictive, vengeful, and will pursue a vendetta for ever. In their way of communicating they are vulgar and vitriolic. Their use of torture is vile. They are venal in the way they do not keep promises and treaties. They would rather pay more for private business services than vindicate a public service available to all. We must avoid being a vassal and give them a valediction and go our own way with independent valour.
In the ideology of capitalism and the free market idea, it is seen as economically justified and efficient provided that external costs be absent or made an internalised cost on the enterprise. There must be no externalities. The externalised costs of the small tinkers, tailors, cobblers, etc were never great. A bit of local social pressure could take care of it. But nowadays the externalised costs on the public who are not benefitting from the industry can be enormous. This is so when we have such large and remote corporations having such a large influence on economics. We only have to think of the Bhopal disaster and the evasion of responsibility to recognise this. In obvious doubtful situations we are encouraged to take a precautionary approach. I see a need for the public that might be on the receiving end of significant externalities to have some influence in avoiding it. I conceive of an option a bit like legal injunctions but without the high legal cost. People should be able to put the business that is seen to avoid taking care of such externality on a formal notice that they are responsible for the foreseen problem. Then the managers will not be able to avoid being labeled as reckless and be individually responsible for damaging consequences. There should then be no escape for being responsible for the consequences.