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Growth is Obsolete

Society needs to realize growth does not equal prosperity
Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 8:19 PM

The word that sticks in the craw of many who cogitate over economics is growth. The condition that the word refers to has proven disturbingly problematic in recent years, especially as world’s population continues to expand exponentially and the global ecology suffers in response. In fact, Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881) called economics “the dismal science” in direct reference to the work of the Rev. Thomas Malthus, because the Malthusian conclusions were so unappetizing — that sooner or later rising human populations would outstrip the world’s capacity to provide for them.

Now it happened that the Reverend Malthus’s notorious Essay on the Principle of Population was first published in 1798, which was about exactly the take-off moment for the industrial revolution. That extravagant melodrama was about marshaling mechanical invention with fossil fuel. The first act ran on coal and allowed populations to expand because it extended the extractive reach for resources by colonialist nations. The second act featured exploitation of oil, which was more powerful and versatile than coal. It also lent itself much more directly than coal to being converted into food for people. The use of oil powered farming machines, oil and gas (an oil byproduct) based herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers, and oil based long distance food transport, has allowed us to convert oil into food pretty directly. This has led to the “hockey-stick” swerve of population growth that took human numbers worldwide from under 2 billion in the year 1900 to more than 7 billion today.

We are in the third act of the industrial melodrama now where the dire sub-plot of peak oil has taken stage. Despite the wishful thinking and happy-talk propaganda lighting up the media-space, we have arrived at the problematic point of the story: the end of cheap oil. This is poorly understood by the public and, apparently, by leaders in business, politics, and the media, too. They misunderstand because they insist on thinking that peak oil was simply about running out of oil. It’s not. It’s about running out of the ability to extract it from the earth in a way that makes economic sense — that is, at a price we can afford in terms of available capital and energy invested (and also ecological destruction). That dynamic is now exerting a powerful influence on modern civilizations. We ignore it -- even at the highest levels of intellectual endeavor -- because we have made no alternate plans for running the complex operations of everyday life, and because the early manifestations of the dynamic present themselves in the realm of finance, which is dominated by academic viziers and money-grubbing opportunists who benefit from obfuscating reality.

The sad, stark fact is that oil is now too expensive to permit further expansion of economies and populations. Expensive oil upsets the cost structure of virtually every system we need to run modern life: transportation, commerce, food production, governance, to name a few. In particular expensive oil destroys the cost structures of banking and finance because not enough new wealth can be generated to repay previously accumulated debt, and new credit cannot be extended without a reasonable expectation that more new wealth will be generated to repay it. Through the industrial age, our money has become an increasingly abstract and complex product of debt creation. As Chris Martenson has put it so succinctly in The Crash Course, money is loaned into existence. Thus, the growth of debt (allowing the growth of money) has played a crucial role at the heart of our banking operations, and the very word “growth” has become shorthand for this process in the lingo of current economic discourse.

It is quite clear that the banking system has been thrown into great disarray as the price of oil levitated from $11-a-barrel in 1999 to the great spike of $140 in 2008, and then settled into a range between $75 and $110 since 2010. Most of this disarray is a result of attempts to offset the failure to create new real wealth with fake wealth generated by accounting fraud, "innovative" swindling, insider chicanery, high frequency front-running, naked shorting of securities, and the construction of a vast untested network of derivative counterparty wagers that give every sign of being booby-trapped. All this private monkey business has been abetted by public mischief in central bank interventions and market manipulations, fiscal irresponsibility, political payoffs for favorable legislation, statistical misreporting, and the failure to apply the rule of law in cases of blatant misconduct (e.g., the MF Global confiscation of segregated client accounts; the Goldman Sachs “Timberwolf” CDO scam… the list is very long).

In short, a society with deeply impaired capital formation has turned to crime, corruption, fakery, and subterfuge in order to pretend that “growth” — i.e. expansion of capital — is still happening. The consequences are many and profound. The chief one is that the manufacture of fake wealth is such an alluring activity that some of the smartest people in society have devoted their waking hours to making a profit off it. It absorbs all their energies and they are simply not available for other work, such as figuring out a sane and practical way to run civilization in the absence of cheap energy. Added to this is the administrative effort and the work-arounds needed to support all this corruption and dishonesty, which occupy the hours of another class of smart people who work in government, academia, public relations, and the media. The sustenance of these parasitical cohorts more and more continues at the expense of everybody else in society, who cannot find work, or cannot make enough money to pay their living expenses, and who have become deeply discouraged, disappointed, demoralized, and disengaged in their losing struggle to thrive. Hence there is little public vigor to even mount a discussion of these vexing problems and the final result is the greater wholesale failure to construct a coherent consensus about what is happening to us and what we might do about it.

Another consequence to these disorders of capital is the massive malinvestment directed into things with no future in themselves or, much worse, things that actively undermine the future of everything needed to support any civilized future. For instance, the "innovation" in securitizing and repackaging mortgages -- which continues to be a boon for the giant banks in concert with the thoroughly dishonest and technically bankrupt "government sponsored enterprises" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- expresses itself in the activity we call "housing starts." Economists overwhelmingly agree that a higher number of housing starts is a good thing for the economy and hence for society. But what do housing starts actually represent? These days they mostly take the form of new suburban housing subdivisions, which are inevitably joined by the kit of the strip mall, the big box store, and all the other furnishings of the highway strip. In short, all that glorious "innovation" by the banks produces more suburban sprawl and destruction of rural land, which is about the last thing this society needs when faced with the realities of peak cheap oil, since it is absolutely certain to make these things obsolete, and very soon. It is not any better, either, if the nominal capital -- nominal because it is sure to someday represent a loss for some bond-holder or stockholder -- gets invested in a 30-story high rise apartment because, contrary to a lot of current delusional thinking, skyscrapers also have no practical future for reasons I have explained in other essays here.

Similarly, the public investments going into "shovel-ready" highway projects, although the fiscal outlays are more transparently based on money that doesn't really exist. The public, as well as leaders all across society, serenely believe that the Happy Motoring matrix will find a way to go on forever, and that therefore we must make provision for it, not to mention the beneficial side of effect of "job creation" for all the additional workers. Yet the dynamic at work must be obvious: oil will never be cheap again; it will impair future capital formation; there will be far fewer car loans; there will dwindling public funds to maintain the roads; and there is no practical substitute for gasoline that scales to the existing system, nor any prospect of one within a time frame that makes sense -- not to mention the gigantic background problem of pouring evermore carbon into the sky.

If these things I mention -- highways, tract houses, condo towers, strip malls -- represent our current idea of "growth," and if they are self-evidently bad investments, then we can infer that our current concept of "growth" no longer applies to a reality-based model of our economic prospects. We ought to junk the term and what it implies about the daily business of mankind, and come up with a new way of understanding the place we're at.

In Part II: Getting To a Future That Has a Future, we take a hard look at the critical task facing humanity if we want to enjoy a future of any worth -- and that's managing contraction. We have to reorganize all the major systems of civilized daily life. We have to produce our food differently, we have to do commerce differently, and so on with any number of ongoing endeavors including transportation, manufacturing, governance, banking, education, health care, and more.

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).

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19 Comments

ferralhen's picture
ferralhen
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from james'

from james' summary:

 managing contraction and our goal should be to manage it in a way that minimizes the potential for hardship and suffering

  1. re-localizing
  2. downscaling, and
  3. de-complexifying.

i'm not so sure managing contraction is a valid concept if one thinks about it. contraction occurs when a society collapses, it has it's own momentum, it's own forces...it might be wishful thinking at best, to think a population not payin attention can manage, hence control contraction..when even a society paying attention can do little to slow contraction down once the avalanche has begun..which i think it has begun quite awhile back...we were talking about these things 40 years ago.

contraction by it's very nature causes hardship and suffering.no way around that. if we live now we must deal with contraction...massive contraction perhaps. but lets call it that.

i agree with what james is saying except that he is using old data, hindsight to support a theory, that is suppose to take us into a new way of living...it's like going into reverse is being touted as the new way to do things. it's still going into reverse with sugar on it.

have we hit limits....of course...quite a few decades ago. it's easier to see that we are closer to the cliff but the cliff was spotted years ago...do we have time to fix thngs. i don't think so.

we might have a short time ahead to be prepared to live with no or little gas, with no or little electicity. i built my house to code because i had to, but i've always thought it had to stand up and run without electricity and oil products..solar is just a stop gap...because who will make us batteries.?

the three categories james refers to are the default we will see as collapse continues.(read tainter).those who are wise have precious little time to be in place and operating under these conditions that will sure to be.

food storage is not food sustainability...help me out wendy! we first have to grow it .

we aregoing to be local based because we can not go far by foot . i now can walk 5 miles...that is my radius...a person with a horse is what? 20 miles?

downsizing...i built a house that is 1050 sq ft per each of  two floors...it looks huge and like a barn to me i have a 12 x 18 root cellar that looks more like a livng space to me...easy to heat and cool..

mechanical engineering is still the same...just use a different power source...wheels converted to a sawing back and forth motion are still the same.

the new cheap labor is us folks.

jonarmst's picture
jonarmst
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"Manage contraction"

Unlimited, eternal growth is the linchpin of the entire global financial system.   It's a juggernaut that is not going to be "managed" and I don't see how any thinking person could fool themselves into thinking otherwise.  (I think we all know this.)  What, are we to expect the Chinese and the Indians to suddenly voluntarily revert back to the West's 19th century standard of living just because a few of us smart-alecky upper-middle class white people (not to _stereotype_ Peak Prosperity's demographic -- I'm sure there are a _few_ Asians out there) all of a sudden realized that the last several hundred years wasn't necessarily all a good idea?

I get nervous whenever I see or read anyone talking about "managing" things.  Colorful a writer as he might be, I don't really relish the idea of James Howard Kunstler telling me what sort of car I can drive or what sort of food I can eat.  The whole notion of additional "planning" (keeping in mind that the "planners" _always_ consider themselves to be the Anointed Enlightened Ones) to create, what, LESS complexity is a complete oxymoron.  As Jacques Ellul pointed out many years ago, advanced industrial societies always tend towards MORE complexity -- e.g., more refined just-in-time logistics and delivery systems; more centralization, more planning, more red tape, and greater and greater complexity and specialization.  A couple of key quotes from _The Technological Society_ will suffice:

"The modern state could no more be a state without techniques than a businessman could be a businessman without the telephone or the automobile... not only does it need techniques, but techniques need it. It is not a matter of chance, nor a matter of conscious will; rather, it is an urgency...  "(p. 253-254)

"The state and technique - increasingly interrelated - are becoming the most important forces in the modern world; they buttress and reinforce each other in their aim to produce an apparently indestructible, total civilization." (p. 318)

Basically -- yeah, I took Proudhon and Kropotkin seriously one time too, but any "downsizing" is going to be an epiphenomenon of an involuntary crash -- whether it's a sudden Event, or a slow, drawn-out decades-long decline -- who knows -- but it ain't gonna happen due to some sort of collective epiphany resulting from some Thom Hartmann op-ed piece or anything like that.  This giant careening locomotive is going to just keep cruising along at 200 MPH until it causes the most spectacular trainwreck in world history and the transition to a solid-state economy from one predicated on "eternal growth" is going to be pure pain.  I suppose it would be heartless to publicly state as much in a polite, public forum, among nice, college-educated people that take NPR seriously and don't think bad thoughts... but realistically?  There's not even lottery odds of something like this occurring.

Jonathan Armstrong

ferralhen's picture
ferralhen
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good thoughts...you said it

good thoughts...you said it all well and with back up as this site likes....

but it stil comes down to us each doing some downgrade and respecting why we have to do it....i can suffer if i know it makes sense. we are going to have to downgrade, not just india and china or uk.....

this makes it sound like it's a privelidge to do so...that aside,,,i know i need to do so...so i do..not so i can post a so what post...i do it because it's how i'm going to be living as of a couple of years ago.

whether it hurts me is up to me...changing my body or my mindset

tomorrow i eat or i don't eat becauseof what i have done 3 months earlier..

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sand_puppy
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Voluntary simplicity

I do think that it is possible to move towards voluntary simplicity, at least some.  One great exercise (described by a pp couple we all know) is to rent a cabin in the woods without running water, electricity, internet or cell phone.  Even a week gives a feel for a much simpler life.  We find we are reading books, telling each other stories and jokes, sitting around a fire, and pulling out our musical instruments again.

And CHS's suggestion to live on half one's salary forming a foundation of voluntary poverty.  (This helps us get out of debt and lets us accumulate savings that can be used to found some business service and provide a  revenue stream.)

But, with great sadness, I share Jonathan's overall impression that, as a group, we are on a train moving at 200 mph towards a cement wall.  I would guess that our souls will be tried severely in the transition.

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Looks like the message is going viral.

Bankers Slave's picture
Bankers Slave
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Slightly off topic, but a truth article in a mainstream tabloid.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/gerald-warner-impact-of-politically-correct...

marky's picture
marky
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Contraction

I don't really think there will be a spectacular crash into the wall, some moment when we all step back and say "yup, there it is, all crashed out".  And there clearly won't be any big attempt to manage contraction on a societal basis either.  That's just never going to happen.  Individuals lived their lives in the context an expanding economy, doing what they did.  And individuals are doing the same thing now in the context of a contracting economy.  I know lots of people who are dealing with the reality of living with less, although most people aren't doing it the PP.com way (planfully and with some degree of conscious decision to use less).  Most are just sucking it up and getting on with having less because they...have less.  Some are doing it happily, some miserably and all points in between.  And of course some minority are getting even wealthier as the whole thing progresses and the cream flows to the top as it always does. 

So, it was all fairly chaotic and unplanned as it went up, and will be so as it goes down.  Just live your own life, one day at a time, do your best and be happy.  I read a Nate Hagens line a few weeks ago that summed it up well for me: try to consume a little less, produce a little more and be kind.  Works for me, day by day. Eventually, there will be enough people dealing with reality in this way that there can be some consensus on how to manage a few things more realistically at a societal level but that will happen neighborhood by neighborhood, town by town, county by county.  But that's still a ways out IMHO. 

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Reply to Jonarmst

Jonarmst writes: "... I don't really relish the idea of James Howard Kunstler telling me what sort of car I can drive or what sort of food I can eat."

     You seem to make a leap that I am proposing authoritarian government when I use the phrase "managing contraction." That is not so. For one thing, I've written many times that we should expect government to become increasingly incompetent and ineffectual, and to lose legitimacy.

     But individuals and communities will certainly have to make choices in the years ahead -- as opposed to doing absolutely nothing and letting history roll over them. So, what I am saying is that whatever decisions we make for ourselves had better be within the context of reality, which is contraction.

   I'm quite sure that my fellow citizens will keep driving cars until they can't, and then they won't -- but not because somebody is commanding them one way or the other.

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Jonarmst

So glad you quoted Ellul. I've been touting him for awhile on this site. His "Technological Society" forever changed the way I see civilization. I belong to the Ellul Society, and I also recommend Willem Vanderburg's "Our War on Ourselves," as it is in someways a follow up to Ellul's TS.

McGillchrist's "Master and His Emissary" helps put into context the working of the divided brain and how it fits into the process of increasing complexity and specialization. I find these books (and more like them) as linked to the entire picture (which none of us can grasp). I do think you misinterpreted JHK, and I'm glad he corrected you. He is pointing out the discrepancy between the reality of real limits and the attempt of the govt/corporate/military industial complex to continue down the road of ever increasing complexity. I think Ellul is correct that the road to "efficiency" will always appear to be the logical choice, and this concept is built into the process of creating more complexity, i.e. technique will continue to apply its force. It's the model from which the left brain can't make its break. JHK is correct that the reality of contraction will and is already setting in. That's why the government more and more will appear to be ineffectual...our models are breaking down...because they were designed within the context of exponential growth. Which will win out? Technique or humanity...stay tuned.

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BeingThere's picture
BeingThere
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Non-Recovery indeed

Thanks (Arthur Robey)  for posting this little beauty. I just call this moment of governance "Murder Inc."

The govt, banksters and transnationals are all in a syndicate working on backing up the truck to steal the spoils.The victims: All sovereign nation-states. Take the public holding paid for by the people, sell it for pennies on the dollar and then charge the little people. The powerful and well-placed individuals get the tax dollars, not the people who pay them. In the meantime, they get their armies that never sleep--lobbyists to make sure they don't pay taxes. Look how they use the money they keep! I don't see anything constructive, do you?

You don't like leeches on government--you have to provide good-paying jobs--SIMPLE. You can't use globalism to arbitrage the value of labor--or you'll eventually have massive death or socialism.

But those in power are the biggest leeches off the govt of all.

Last week Little Lord Blankfein was on GPS and said this is a winner takes all system and I guess doing "god's work" is to get involved in all areas of govt services known to some as fascism.

The Washington circuit and their pressitiutes on the media aren't really fooling anyone. Nothing they say makes sense when you put the strories together. And they keep wringing their  hands, what is this? Well if you can't utter the economic theory neo-liberalism out of the Chicago Sch. of business a la Milton Friedman and all the thing tanks like the Heritage Foundation that run the body politic, than I guess they think the people are lost in rumors--hence the tower of babel.--You have the freedom to imagine anything you want, but the truth--now we can't have that.

Things may be falling apart because the growth paradigm is a disaster, but becoming the most powerful criminals on earth with non-ending wars for the private contractor's gains will eventually backfire. It is a basic economic fact that you can't run a military without a large tax base. Economic determinism is a real fact of life and China's getting it.

In the moment when Obama squeaked through the TPP, (a most destructive trade deal for the nation-state) he was stuck in Washington for this little destructive act of the theater of cruelty and China filled in the gap...

YUP, both parties are involved with the globalist neoliberal model and while they party at the bars, I'm sure their "power" and influence attracted a few good looking ladies too.

rufus13's picture
rufus13
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surviving contraction crises

"...my fellow citizens will keep driving cars until they can't, and then they won't ..." -JHK

With all of the secondary effects, which will be unthinkable while jobs that pay 2-gal/hr exist (minimum wage at the end of a 45+ minute drive), but completely obvious after-the-fact.

People "love" their cars. They are brand loyal. They skip dental appointments for oil changes and miss mortgage payments to make the car payment. Personal identity is wrapped up in luxury models that have better seats/screens/sound/comm's than normal living rooms. When a person spends 20-30 hours a week in a booth, it had better be good! 

It starts with the downsizing of cars and adding crash-risk. We trade in the 1996 Caprice for a Prius. Sure, the Toyota gets a solid double on highway fuel economy and is ergonomically near-perfect, but at a huge price in crash-safety, high-speed stability, driver comfort, interior capacity, cargo and trailer ability. Would a better deal be to keep the paid-off Chevy and move to where it needs to be started once a week for a grocery run?  A car wreck with a moderate injury will dwarf the value of 5 years of fuel savings (but the 5x medical-cost fraud multiplier is another issue..). 

Avoiding gasoline taxes: buy little or no on-road fuel by needing little fuel. Starve the beast. 

The thing to do is not be swept along with the trend, but anticipate it with personal adjustments. If a person spends 40% of their income on car and car-transport related things which are ass-u-me-d to be the mandatory cost of "getting to work", wouldn't there be quite a bit of money freed-up on a monthly basis by moving to within bicycle/1-bus distance of a job? Is the commuter valuing the time spent behind the wheel adequately? I know that employers are not valuing the time/cost/stress of long commutes by employees accurately.  People complain about not "having time" to get things done or get enough rest, but they have time for ten hour-long high-stress commutes a week. 

Greatly reducing car use for merely transporting self to a work-site will save a bunch of money that can be used to decrease short-term dependence on "the grid" for life-support items/services. Time plus some money will allow skill-building and muscle-building, which will make you feel better and actually BE safer.

A little money can be found for a good counter-top and pack-portable water purifier. Muni-water will, at very least, taste better when filtered. The cupboards should be full of long expiration date foods that don't need fancy preparation (add water, wait, heat, at a maximum) sufficient for a month at least. Use the food and rotate. Tea-light 4-hour candles are cheap (I just bought 400 4-hour Made In Canada candles for $19.96 at a local variety store) and provide small heat-light. Add 24-packs of butane lighters and you have a desirable package according to urban collapse survivors.  Boots, gloves, outdoor clothing (not to and from warm house-SUV, LIVING OUTDOORS clothing), hand tools are all cheap and available now, but are so because of cheap fuel and good civilization/organization. Some folks are critical of food storage, but it gives options that people without will not have. 

Practice a "grid-down weekend". Breaker main off, lock with key. Assume gas and water still work (they will, for a while). This is very instructive to the sheeple.   No power means no gasoline stations can pump or sell, so be careful running vehicles. Determine if the exercise is a local or regional grid collapse. People are enough fun that you won't need zombies. 

How able is the typical cubicle-worker adult to put on a pack of 20% of their body weight, walk 5 miles without injury, be able to do some work at the end, and walk back? 25 year old men? Yeah. mostly, but what about "baby boomers" (youngest are 50 years old)? Walk or die? Among employed people 30% might die, and among non-working, more. You won't be able to do it unless you do it on a regular training basis, and work up to having capacity when you won't need to injure yourself to complete the walk. This takes a few hours a week, every week, starting with lighter weights and shorter distances, at slower pace. If you can do it, add distance, pick up the pace, add weight to 30% as you trade in fat for muscle. If you can't talk, you are going too hard. 

PT more. PT now. 

Cheers. 

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
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Sales Does Not Equal Profit

I found in my biz life a mindless Sales, Sales, Sales though I would show evidence based on Activity Based Costing that some 80% of the customer base was a loss.   No matter: Sales, Sales Sales.   Growth, Growth, Growth!!!

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Sliding into neo-feudalism

Being There, I'm not sure if you listened to this prior to posting, but many of the things you just mentioned pretty well reflect the ideas expressed by Michael Hudson on the most recent episode of The Extraenvironmentalist Podcast (http://www.extraenvironmentalist.com/2013/10/16/episode-67-bubble/).

Banks and financial firms are, by their very nature, engaged in the practice of seeking economic rents.  Basically, they're looking to get something from nothing.  Every bit of "profit" they get is achieved by skimming off the difference between price and value. 

As Hudson points out in this discussion, price value theory USED to be a central idea of economic thought, all the way from Adam Smith through John Stuart Mill and even Karl Marx.  However, since the neoliberals have purged all aspects of the history of economic thought from the university curriculum, this central concept has been lost, allowing rentiers (such as Little Lord Blankfein) to promote the mistaken idea that any price they charge is just what the market demands.

Hudson also surmises that we are well past the point of marginal change around the edges, but he doesn't see that happening as monopolists and rentiers of various stripes are tightening their grip on the political process.  Soon, he says we will reach the point at which the majority will be barely getting by due to the outrageous costs charged by monopolies for what were previously public services, with the profits generated from those charges being funneled back into maintaining an iron grip on the political and legal process in order to prevent ordinary people from having any recourse.

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This commentary earned Wall of Fame honors

We at Growth Bias Busted loved this piece so much we're celebrating and recommending it on our Wall of Fame today at http://www.growthbiasbusted.org/wall-of-fame/entry/growth-is-obsolete

Kudos to James Howard Kunstler for getting it, and to Chris Martenson for sharing it.

Dave Gardner
Director of the documentary
GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth

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neo-liberalism

yes, Christopher A. ...

I do listen to and read Michael Hudson but I did not hear that interview. My main source of information re: Milton Friedman is a must-read. Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine, the Rise of Disaster Capitalism". A true master-work.

Hudson professor at the Missouri School of business and an economic historian as well is one of the few who point out the fallacies of the free-market neo-liberalism and my analysis is that Milton Friedman read Trotsky's "Continuous Revolution" and turned the ideology on it's head: hence globalism. MF had Nixon take us off the gold standard so global financialization and monetarism would replace real production of value and destroy the supply and demand economics as well as distorting classical economics, misrepresenting Adam Smith.

We are heading toward the same system MF and the Chicago School of business set up in Chile, but in slow motion. Instead of a fast coup, they have systematically infiltrated all areas of the government and academia, think tanks and have created the illusion of wealth while trying to take down the public sector.

The people thought they could make money from the new wealth producing retirement accounts etc. that go through crashes as Jamie Dimon explained [to congress] every 5-8 years. In the meantime the banks who Hudson's colleague William K. Black  explains became the "client" of the US govt. during Clinton's restructuring of government has gotten so huge now that they are now buying up US assets. They are the ones who want the trust funds of social security and medicare.

As Blankfein who admits this is a winner take all economy--says, "The American people will have to learn to live without their entitlements". Who the hell is he? Doing the work of god? More like who shall live and who shall die, kind'a guy.

My point is that this is no capitalism. It is a risk-immune system for those of special position. As I said  during the last presidential election Mitt Romney was a plutocrat, Obama works for them.

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I'm reviving this thread as

I'm reviving this thread as it's theme is timely in light of the 19th UN Climate Change Summit currently in session in Warsaw and set to wind up tomorrow.  It is most notable not for its accomplishments, but for the dissent of numerous environmental groups and scientists that recognize that the previous 18 summits, and, indeed, this one, have done next to nothing to address climate change.

I also want to bring to everyone's attention an article written by Naomi Klein on Oct. 29, after the above article by JHK and comments, which discusses the work of two scientists, from the Tyndall Center, who are among those protesting the current summit, Dr. Kevin Anderson and Dr. Alice Bows:

http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/science-says-revolt

Ms. Klein quoted from a recent article in Nature Climate Change written by the two scientists:

Quote:
 . . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high-emitting (post-)industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

Ms. Klein also discussed a complex systems researcher named Brad Werner who presented at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union:

Quote:
In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

Quote:
Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

So, we have squandered a couple decades of doing nothing to get very close to the point of no return wrt climate change.  This is serious stuff folks.  Makes me think that maybe Guy McPherson isn't as detached from reality as I thought.

To pull back from the brink is going to take way more than developing personal resilience and localization.  It's going to take radical political action by masses of people and recognition that we, particularly in the rich nations (largely US, UK and the EU) that have emitted the lion's share of ghg's, are going to have to take the biggest hits to our way of life.  That won't be an end to growth, it will take negative growth with large reductions in our gdp over extended numbers of years, and we need to start soon if the growing scientific awareness is correct.

Doug

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