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Albert Bartlett on Growth

Friday, December 19, 2008, 4:33 PM

Albert Barlett is a man I hold in very high esteem.

First, for his ability to speak in clear, concise language, which is the hallmark of someone who has mastered their material.

Second, because he sees the obvious and dares to point it out.  Let me reframe that:  He sees things that are incredibly obvious to others once he points them out.  But because these things are most often "hidden in plain view," they are actually noticed by very few.

His work on growth and population deserves the widest attention possible.

Recently, I had a nice email exchange with Dr. Bartlett, and he closed with this:

Dear Chris,

Thanks so much for your very kind letter. I am happy to send you some reprints, which are attachments.

I don't have time right now to write something for publication. I can hardly keep up with the daily work of reading and answering e-mails.

I will sent two or three messages with attachments.

Please feel free to post these if you wish.

With thanks and best wishes, I am,

Sincerely yours,

AL

With that permission, here's one of the articles he sent.  It's fantastic.  It really puts the lance to one of the most unquestioned assumptions of our day - that being "growth is good."  

Growth is neither good nor bad - it merely delivers more of what we already have, but in larger quantities, with higher risks, costs, and complexity. Given this, shouldn't it at least be questioned and challenged?

I'd love to center some of our discussions around this topic.

Enjoy,

Chris



January 29, 2008

WHAT PART OF ARITHMETIC DOES NOT HOLD IN BOULDER?

By Albert A. Bartlett
Printed in the Boulder Daily Camera, February 3, 2008.

It’s time to try again to correct the educationally credentialed but innumerate experts (innumeracy is the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy) who say that growth is inevitable. They fail to recognize that after maturity, continued growth is either obesity or cancer.

The arithmetic is clear. Steady growth produces impossibly large numbers in modest periods of time. SO GROWTH WILL STOP. Referring to Boulder, we have read the innumerate statement “So our choice is not whether we grow, but how we grow.” The authors of this statement would like us to believe that the battle against growth is lost, so our only role is to be the best possible losers. They write that we should give up the efforts to achieve a quiet stability for our community, and in defeat, we should “embrace the principles of Smart Growth.” We can understand this. That’s the game in which they are the big winners.

We must remember that “Smart Growth” and “Dumb Growth” both destroy the environment, but “Smart Growth” destroys the environment with good taste. Frosty Woolridge quotes a writer who points out the stark truth, “Growth is not the answer; it’s the problem.”

The central belief of the growth promotion community seems to be that there is an “…absolute need to create greater population density and more efficient land use within the City” by focusing on “on infill development within existing urban boundaries…”(Camera, Jan.20, 2008) When the promoters tried this tactic on the Washington School neighborhood all of Boulder fought back, saying that we’re not going to become losers in the City’s effort to cram more people into Boulder. The whole City is watching to see if the City Council will continue policies that reflect innumeracy and unsustainability.

The innumerate theme of the promoters is “The Front Range is going to grow whether we like it or not.” If this is true, it is because so many Front Range leaders are active and successful in promoting growth. The Legislature and all manner of public and private regional and local “civic groups” are promoting “economic development” which is the “politically correct” name for “growth.” Predictably, this will produce more well-to-do people, more homeless people, more employed people, more unemployed people, higher average salaries, more people living below the poverty line, more traffic congestion, higher parking fees, more school crowding, more crime, more unhappy neighborhoods, more expensive government, more tax revenue, higher taxes, more fiscal problems for state and local governments, more tax limitation measures, more air and water pollution, higher utility costs, less reliable utility service, less democracy, more congestion pricing on busy city streets and crowded highways, more unmanageable costs of maintaining public infrastructures, higher food costs and more destruction of the environment.

It’s not clear why the Legislature would think that the people would want all of these known consequences of growth. However, innumeracy reigns. The promoters have demonstrated great skill in getting around minor obstacles such as “the will of the people.”

In the meantime the innumerates act as though gasoline, natural gas and water will always be with us at low cost and in unlimited quantities. Crude oil prices have increased from about $20 a barrel in 2002 to $100 a barrel in 2008. This strongly suggests that the world production of conventional oil has peaked and is starting its inevitable decline, just as was predicted back in 1956. If this rate of increase continues we would look for oil to cost $500 a barrel in another six years. (2014). Natural gas production in North America has peaked, and this accounts for the rapid rise in the price of natural gas which is already creating hardships for some who like to have a warm home or a comfortable workplace in winter. Water shortages and talk of restrictions on water use are frequently in the news.

By their continued promotion of growth, the innumerates are speeding the arrival of painful but predictable shortages and consequent rationing of gasoline, natural gas and water in the Rocky Mountain area. These shortages and the accompanying high prices will remake the urban landscape in ways that are probably not included in current “long-range” planning efforts of the City, County and State.

These problems can’t be solved by a nickel’s worth of “Smart Growth” tacked onto to billions of dollars worth of urban sprawl.

The arithmetic of population, resources and growth is inexorable. The consequences of the arithmetic can’t be avoided by believing that “Wishing will make it so.” (Walt Disney’s First Law) Many years ago an innumerate graduate of the University of Colorado wrote to me, saying that he did not believe that this arithmetic holds in Boulder? What part of the arithmetic of growth is it that the innumerates don’t understand?

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144 Comments

cannotaffordit's picture
cannotaffordit
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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth
 Chris wrote:
 


"Albert Barlett is a man I hold in very high esteem.

First for his ability to speak in clear, concise language which are the hallmarks of someone who has mastered their material.

Second because he sees the obvious and dares to point it out.  Let me reframe that; he see things that are incredibly obvious once he points them out.  But because these things are most often "hidden in plain view", they are actually noticed by very few."

 
Well, Chris, as far as we're concerned, you just described yourself! 
Arthur Vibert's picture
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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

Unfortunately, growth is THE American sacred cow. We will not make progress towards resolving the many problems we face–individually or as a nation–until we have slain the cow and fed the flesh to ravenous dogs.

Up until now growth has been the way out of our problems - growing population increases tax revenues so there is always a powerful motivation for governments to encourage growth rather than do any of the hard work of trimming expenses to meet the current fiscal realities. Corporations must grow to satisfy stockholders and they need to demonstrate that they can continue growing every quarter, which has a tendency to eliminate any form of "long range thinking" in boardrooms. Government grows, in spite of endless promises that "drastic cuts will be made," like some horrific cancer that can't be removed for fear of killing the patient outright, condemming him to a slow, agonizing death instead.

Perhaps, though, in the same way that it is better to tell your child "no" than to acquiesce to yet another demand for more toys, TV time or sweets, it is time to say "no" to more unreasonable demands from the vast sea of unreasonable adults who feel entitled to "more" without having to do any of the heavy lifting themselves or bothering to understand what the consequences of "more" actually are.

I think the only growth we need right now is to "grow up."

Arthur

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Doug
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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

I live near Buffalo, NY, a city very unlike Boulder.  It has lost probably 4 to 500,000 population since the 60's when the steel industry and shipping began to die.  Partially this was because of the loss of industry and partially due to a series of unusually incompetent governments.  This is one instance in which we should praise incompetent government.  The area continues to lose people to sunnier climes although the employer base is relatively stable.  There are plenty of good colleges in the area and the city school system has a contrast of some of the best and worse schools in the country.

I've read a couple articles in the past couple years that put the local economic doldrums in perspective.  Both the water and highway systems were designed in the 50's with the expectation that population would continue to grow.  According to one of those articles, Buffalo has the best water pressure of any city in America, and I can attest that commuting is a breeze, except for those few days a year when we have lake effect snow, but that's another story.  They have been trying to promote some of the city's attractions, like a Frederick Law Olmstead city and park plan and several Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in addition to a lot of nice architecture, to draw tourists, without much success as far as I can tell.  But, apart from some of the problems that accompany poverty everywhere, the city is easy to live in, has a pretty good music scene and excellent museums.  Real estate prices have been pretty much unaffected by the boom and bust.  I'm pretty sure that Buffalo doesn't have many of the amenities that Boulder and other boom cities have, but, frankly, I don't miss them that much.

So, gang, let's just keep this between us.  I don't want a bunch of people moving here and screwing things up, OK?

 

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

 I don't know if anyone has already posted this but I'll go ahead anyway.  Albert A. Bartlett's The Most IMPORTANT Video You'll Ever See Part 1 of 8

Greg

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

Bartlett is concise and cogent as ever.

 This fundamentalist theology of infinite "growth" (or my preferred term, intensification) and exponential debt truly is insane . (They think that debt curve isn't going to inevitably topple them backward like a rickety boat trying to ride up a hundred-foot breaking wave.)

Like Bartlett always says, a big part of it is the simple ignorance of arithmetic, part of America's general anti-intellectualism. (There's other things like that - "growth" types always insist that water supplies are infinite as well, for example.)

One gets the distinct sense that none of them understands a damn thing about what's happening to the economy today. On the contrary, almost without exception every politician, economist, pundit and writer assumes this is a temporary glitch in the eternal parade (death march) of growth, which shall be restored shortly.

More and more, I see a stark divide, and divide everyone, into those who have Peak Oil consciousness and those who remain ante-Peak.

Certainly the growth-mongers are all terminal reactionaries, mired in an ideology as bankrupt as their economy.

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Albert Bartlett is a Quack

What is it with you people?

We're born with an instinctive desire to improve our well being. Growth is genetic. You can't stop it. The cancer in society are those who want to stop it or slow it down. They have this uncurious desire to control their perceived lessers.

Hey guys. Study up on market economics. Because of the price systrem, market societies are adaptive. Prices ration scarce supply with unimited demand. Prices act as a guide to buyers, investors, entrepeneurs and sellers on what appropiate action to take. It's a simple concept, yet amazingly, poorly understood and often disliked.

There is no telling how long current economic collapse will take to correct itself. That in itself will curtail growth for an indefinite time. Arguments pro and con for growth are ideological, a waste of time.

All I can say to you anti-growth people is: Get out of the way! If you try to thwart the economic activity of free individuals, you'll only make a bigger mess.

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack
Ray Hewitt wrote:

What is it with you people?

We're born with an instinctive desire to improve our well being. Growth is genetic. You can't stop it. The cancer in society are those who want to stop it or slow it down.

...

All I can say to you anti-growth people is: Get out of the way! If you try to thwart the economic activity of free individuals, you'll only make a bigger mess.

 

Ray,

I would like to question your goal(s) in posting this in this manner.

If your goal was, "to change how people think", then I would propose, humbly, that beginning with something other than "What is it with you people?" would be a good place to start.

Speaking only for myself, when someone asks me "What's wrong with you?!?", I pretty much close my mind off to whatever is coming next.  It's a defensive mechanism, much like flinching back when someone nearby cocks their arm. 

And when you say, "All I can say to you anti-growth people is: Get out of the way!" I cannot see a way to engage with that sentiment as it clearly states that you're not expecting, or open to, a response.  There's no room for dialog.  So if there's no room for dialog, then I wonder what the point is?  Is it really your expectation that a firmly worded directive will sway minds?  Does that work with you?

If, instead, your goal is merely to stir things up, then I would ask "Why?"

I think you've got an important view to share but your style leaves me precious little opportunity to wiggle in there and find out more.

While my reaction may not be anywhere close to what you intended, it's all I've got, it was probably counterproductive to your real intent,  and I invite you to ponder that conundrum.

 

 

 

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

Hello Ray:

A billionaire investor pointed me to Bartlett when I was discussing peak oil. Peak oil would not be an issue if the population wasn't 6.5 billion. Would it?

That is one of many peaks that is being stressed by our population.

Personally I would consider myself a "quack" for not knowing or realizing this on my own or sooner and or realizing the effect of exponential growth, I have a LOT of respect for what Bartlett thinks and writes.

I could give a rats a$$ if you called Paulson or Bernanke quacks, but I really am appalled at you calling this mathematician a quack and frankly I see no justification for doing so. None.

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN06/wn121506.html 


Quote:

1. TERRIFIC CHOICES: A CLEAR MESSAGE ON THE ENVIRONMENT.
Any concern that the economic crisis would soften the resolve of the Obama
administration to deal with the sad state of the environment was swept
away today by the choice of Harvard physicist John Holdren to be
presidential science advisor, and Oregon State marine biologist Jane
Lubchenco to head the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric
Administration. Both have battled industry opposition to climate
initiatives. Along with Steve Chu as Secretary of Energy they should form
a powerful block of scientists in the Obama administration. It will
almost certainly be the most influence science has had in the White House
since the Eisenhower administration. But we don’t have much time. Let me
tell you what no one else is saying publicly: every step we take to
improve the environment will soon be wiped out by population growth. The
fact is that we are already beyond a sustainable population. We can’t
keep talking in terms of reducing the rate of growth. That’s the second
derivative.

 

I'm not as euphoric as Bob Park, but its a step in the right direction.  At last, science will have a voice in the White House.

 

Ray

 

Quote:

Arguments pro and con for growth are ideological, a waste of time.

 

No they aren't, they are science and math.

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack
cmartenson wrote:
Ray Hewitt wrote:

What is it with you people?

We're born with an instinctive desire to improve our well being. Growth is genetic. You can't stop it. The cancer in society are those who want to stop it or slow it down.

...

All I can say to you anti-growth people is: Get out of the way! If you try to thwart the economic activity of free individuals, you'll only make a bigger mess.

 

Ray,

I would like to question your goal(s) in posting this in this manner.

If your goal was, "to change how people think", then I would propose, humbly, that beginning with something other than "What is it with you people?" would be a good place to start.

Speaking only for myself, when someone asks me "What's wrong with you?!?", I pretty much close my mind off to whatever is coming next.  It's a defensive mechanism, much like flinching back when someone nearby cocks their arm. 

And when you say, "All I can say to you anti-growth people is: Get out of the way!" I cannot see a way to engage with that sentiment as it clearly states that you're not expecting, or open to, a response.  There's no room for dialog.  So if there's no room for dialog, then I wonder what the point is?  Is it really your expectation that a firmly worded directive will sway minds?  Does that work with you?

If, instead, your goal is merely to stir things up, then I would ask "Why?"

I think you've got an important view to share but your style leaves me precious little opportunity to wiggle in there and find out more.

While my reaction may not be anywhere close to what you intended, it's all I've got, it was probably counterproductive to your real intent,  and I invite you to ponder that conundrum.

 Wow, nicely put, Chris.

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

I'm so glad you mentioned Albert Bartlett.  Not long after I discovered your crash course, I ran across Bartlett's "most important video you'll ever watch" on youtube and was just thinking how you should team up...

 He's incredibly well spoken and has excellent points.  Glad to see another thing pointinng people to his ideas.

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

The common thread to economics, as taught in virtually every school of virtually every economic discipline for most of the last century (at least), is that growth is the fundamental goal of economic activity.  In almost all cases, two other things are generally assumed as gospel.  First, energy and environmental resources, if considered at all, are assumed to be cheap (or free) and essentially limitless (any resource limits will be overcome through substitution or innovation at an appropriate price level).  Second, growth is generally defined in terms of production and consumption, always measured by money.

I really don't know how to address the first issue, since it is so obviously blatantly false that it's difficult to figure out how to talk to somebody who denies it.  It's kind of a world is not flat argument, but without the ability to sail around the world (or over the horizon and back).  Well, at least not without actually just continuing as usual and sailing over the cliff of peak oil, climate change, population collapse (pick your favorite resource limit/impact).  Somehow, being able to say "I told you so" is not going to make me feel better.  Still, any thoughts on how to get this point into  the mainstream (in addition to spreading the Crash Course like a virus ;-)  ?

The second assumption is, in a way, more interesting.  The problem, in some ways, is that traditional economics focuses on growth of the wrong things.  Or, perhaps more accurately, it does not focus on enough of the right things.  Instead of focusing on growth in consumption, production, money, and standards of living, perhaps economists (and society in general) should be focusing on growth in quality of life (which, as Douthwaite and others point out, is not the same as standard of living).  Instead of focusing on how much we have has "consumers" (frankly, a telling and somewhat insulting label), we should be focusing on how much better we can be as human beings.  If growth is measured not in terms of money (quantity), but in terms of the growth of the individuals, of societal happiness and satisfaction, of knowledge and art ....in short, in terms of quality of life ... perhaps then you might be able to actually create an society with sustainable "growth".  The economy would be based on stability with relation to consumption/production and our environment, but with growth in the knowledge, satisfaction, and happiness of the human beings in that society.

Not new ideas, I know, and certainly not original, but they seem pertinent to the conversation.

Brian

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Re: Albert Bartlett

No they aren't, they are science and math.

Oh please? Human activity can't be quantified with any degree of reliability. You wind up making the same mistakes establishmen economists make.  The same ones who thought they could manage the money supply for a world economy.

I said before that people adjust according to market forces. You can't control them and the idea of proselyting will get you nowhere. If you try command-and-control, then you would be resorting to oppression. That's failed everwhere it was tried. There are limits to what you can do with science and math. And this is one of them.

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

Ive just finished dr Bartletts "most important video you'll ever watch" series on youtube (thanks Greg) and one thing that struck me about the population side of his argument was that he is a mathmatician, I dont think he has any room in his models for chaos or how the talking monkeys tend to do things, they get emotional, sometimes they dont fit mathamatical models, for instance;

I come from a long line of Londoners, my grandparents im told, had an average of 15 brothers or sisters each! my parents each came from families of 7 kids, my parents kids so far - 3 of us, all over 40, have so far produced 1 child

Im not saying there isnt a population problem, clearly there is. What I am trying to say is that there is something here that doesnt fit into the maths. Im pretty sure that the record of births in my family is fairly common. It would seem that (and this is my guess) that as places become more crowded and hence more stressful, families break down, realationships get harder and people just change priorites, live on their own. None of the people I know in london want families. I think they would if they lived in the countryside though. There seems to be a natural system here that stops us multiplying a long long time before we are standing shoulder to shoulder.

Sure my home town is crowded, very crowded but i dont think its from the locals birthrates, there has been massive immigration which has pushed out the indigenous population as the levels grew. I doubt he population of London will grow much more even if we didnt have the 3 E's. I also dont think for a minute we limit our multiplication for sound reasoning, but we do it because things j(out emotions) ust dont really allow it, long before we are at anywhere near the levels in Dr B's movies. Only self replicating robots would reproduce to those crazy levels.

You cant argue with the logic in the energy part of the movie though, hes a smart guy for sure but sometimes academics can miss the crazy ways and emotions of the funny little talking monkeys. I hope Dr B has

thats my 1.34 UK pence anyway, im off to bed, g'night all Yell (tired)

barrt

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True but useless drivel!

What ever he says is all true but totally useless. Consider how Boulder was before the Europeans came and exploited it - when the native Indians controlled it. According to his argument, all these people should simply pack up and leave - including him, which he conveniently ignores!

His drivel about "maturity" is totally subjective. Ask any native Indian and he will tell you exactly what Al blathers - that all this is "excessive growth" and so on. If you want to control growth, go to China, the govt. tells you how many children to have and what parts of China you can inhabit as a "citizen". 

All of these so called experts conveniently forget how this all started - humans looting and thieving other races. For example you can see how gold was looted in South America by the Spanish who got looted by the Brits and who got looted by the Americans in WW2. You just have to realize that the whole "modern civilization" is one big looting operation - and accept it.

If you do not want to be a part of all this, become an ascetic and repent for your previous karma!

 

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack

Bartlett, Ray Hewitt, O.J. Simpson and Mark Fuhrman

I see a similarity in reasoning between 1) Bartlett's presentation (I just watched all 8 parts) and Ray Hewitt's statements, along with reactions to Hewitt's statements, and 2) O.J. Simpson's murder trial, Mark Fuhrman's testimony, and the defense attorney's claims that Mark Fuhrman was a racist.  TV pundits would talk about all the evidence against OJ, defence attorney's would scream that Fuhrman was a racist (therefore he probably planted evidence). 

I believe it was Anne Coulter (bombshell blonde, right-wing author and commentator, and woman of my dreams) who said the following:  Maybe both things are true.  Mark Fuhrman is a racist, and O.J. Simpson killed his wife.

I don't agree completely with Hewitt, and I don't believe Bartlett is a quack, but I do agree that market economics does stop, or at least delay, the bad things that happen.  Bartlett ALSO believes this, and he noted it at least two places in his lecture. 

As things become more scarce, prices increase, demand decreases, and an equilibrium price is met.  Always, except when the guh-ment (government) interferes.  Bartlett mentioned how the bell curve of peak oil moved to the right and said it was "probably due to the Arab oil embargo".  And as I write this, I can no longer recall the second comment he made.  But we can also see today that oil consumption has gone down this year due to increased prices.  And, those increased prices have brought worldwide production of other goods down as well.

None of this changes the fact that oil will run out.  But supply/demand economics DOES, and WILL slow down the growth of oil consumption and will also lead to a decrease in oil consumption as all of us find ways to adapt to using less of that which will continue to go up in price.  Oil consumption will then start to decrease as fewer can afford it, and the right side of the bell curve will be extended to the right many more standard deviations.

Bartlett's facts and figures all seem correct to me, but he doesn't talk about what will change, in terms of human behavior, after peak oil is reached.  The purpose of his lecture is to show the effects of compound growth of population and resource utilization.  He does not talk about the period following peak oil or peak coal, and if he did, I'm sure he would talk about how market forces would cause the prices of scarce resources to rise and rise, and that would lead to behavioral changes by people to consume less and less.  It will also lead to the discovery of other forms of energy, or at least improvements in efficiency of other forms (solar, wind, tidal, ground source, etc.).  No silver bullets here, but all of these things together (reduced consumption paired with new and improved forms of energy) will buy us more time. 

None of this thinking is in conflict with Martensen's Crash Course, either.  Correct me if I am wrong, Chris.  The whole point of Martensen, and Bartlett, is that we are at, or near, the peak standard of living.  That doesn't mean we're going to crash and burn.  It means that energy costs are going to rise and the cost of production and transport of everything will rise in the coming decades, so our standard of living will come down.  We will learn to make do with less.  God, I'm sounding like Jimmy Carter, and that makes me want to throw up, but that is the message of peak oil.

Yes, we will run out of oil and coal and copper and uranium.  And yes, market economics will come into play that will cause us to continue to reduce our use of those scarce resources and either find alternatives to them, or just use less of them as prices rise.  This does not change the fact that eventually they will be used up, but it does extend the amount of time greatly, and during that time, the world will come to understand the problem and the greatest minds will come together to try to find alternatives.  None of us here - none of us - can know when the last drop of oil will come out of the ground or whether solar technology will double or triple in efficiency in our lifetimes.  The only thing we can truly know from all the graphs and data are that the next couple of decades are going to be very much unlike the last two and we are going to need to learn how to adapt. 

As for me, I've done many things already in order to adapt.  First, I moved from the suburbs of a big city to the mountains of western Maryland where I have ten acres of land and multiple water sources.  Second, since I am an online retailer who sells mostly gas fireplaces and heaters, I have changed my product mix to favor heating sources that do not require electricity. Third, I have vastly increased the number of products I sell that cater to the preparedness community - primarily kerosene cookstoves, kerosene lanterns, water filters that remove bacteria (so you can use rain water or water from streams to drink), solar powered radios, etc.  This market segment doubled in 2007 and doubled again in 2008.  Fourth, I converted my home's heat from fuel oil to wood, using a high-efficiency wood boiler (85% efficient) that is environmentally friendly.  Fifth, we are starting a food storage program that will be sufficient to get us through short term interruptions in the food distribution channels.  Sixth, we are investing in silver and gold as a hedge against inflation and possibly as a bartering tool.

And seventh, I am carefully watching and reading and studying websites such as Chris's so I can try to keep a step ahead of the crowds. 

My best to all of you.  I haven't posted before, but I do read the website daily.

John Squires, Friendsville Maryland

 

  

 

 

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack

Chris

You are right about my strong words, but I got your attention.  Now let's discuss Bartlett and his followers such as you.

I maintain that if people have the freedom to adjust to their economic circumstances, they will adjust in a manner they deem positive to their self interests. This premise is not an ideal; it's fundamental to human nature. Yes, they'll make mistakes and some will be dishonest. "Get out of the way" means don't interfere. Our economy is in the state it is in because of an excess of intervention in the market.

I see a bad case of scientism on this site and it's inadequate for the tasks assigned to it when human nature is involved. The best minds on Wall Street used science and math, and I don't have to tell you how badly they screwed up.

Beyond keeping us informed about the economic collapse, what do you expect to accomplish in the energy and resource arena? In the scheme of a world economy, this prozelytizing amounts to nothing except play into the hands of statist scaremongers. As I see it, the imperative here should be personal economic survival, not saving mankind. Christians have been on that one for 2,000 years.

 

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Re: Albert Bartlett

Bartlet's first paragraph sets the tone. Let's examine the impact of his implications.

It’s time to try again to correct the educationally credentialed but
innumerate experts (innumeracy is the mathematical equivalent of
illiteracy) who say that growth is inevitable. They fail to recognize
that after maturity, continued growth is either obesity or cancer.

He shows no understanding of human nature. In fact he shows contempt for it. Economies grow because the masses are always trying to improve their lives; this is biological. He equates that with obesity and cancer. He implies we should not get educated, we should not create new technologies, we should not be creating new businesses, we should not be productive; we should not save and invest. Because if we do, those activitiies stimulate growth.

There is a close parallel in the Bible were Adam ate the forbidden fruit of knowledge. So God sentenced mankind to work for punishment. I submit that environmentalism as much as religion, are antisocial.

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack

Yes, Mr Hewitt, some of us also ascribe to the strength of market economics, but I think you are forgetting one little reality: that nasty concept of externalities.

Externalities abound in real world market economies of every type. You write as if our world markets are perfectly efficient, operating in a vacuum devoid of externalities. Well, guess what, reality "is what it is." Liberal democracy is all about applying externalties where the collective "good" is thought to be maximized. If you want the mathematics of this, then go to the revolutionary work of Nobel winner John Nash.

Now the interesting part that I'm confident Dr. Martensen would agree with. The Federal Reserve Banking System itself is a marvellous example of a market externality created to serve as a lender of last resort, which incidentally is a mathematical requirement of fractional reserve banking. JP Morgan served as this lender immediately prior to the Fed's inception. The concept of Central Banking spread as a collective good throughout the world quickly and has served its role for nearly a century. It has served as a manipulator of the true free market in money and credit. Because the Bankers make money by loaning money, the best way to grow earnings in to increase debt. This is done chiefly by creating the concept that inflation is the most desirable economic mode as long as inflation is kept in a 2%-4% per annum range. Inflation at a sustained low rate promotes debt: consumer, corporate, and governmental. 

In this way, they are in turn promoting a perpetually growing monetary base. TO INFINITY IF NEED BE. In this manner, Central Banking with set inflation indeed does create a situation where a monetary base has a mathemtically unlimited supply. The only instance where this is bad is if they mismatch the correct rate of growth and you get a credit bubble. But, this is not to say that supply and demand for money itself in this fiat system in any way is constrained by a finite supply in the same sense as other natural resources, such as what Dr. Bartlett was talking about.

I highlight this specific point to make a more general one: substantial external forces created and maintained by liberal political thought will forever skew "true" market economics. You cannot believe that market forces rule the day in these markets where external forces control it. I hope the monetary example proves this, at least for that market.

 "There is no telling how long current economic collapse will take to
correct itself. That in itself will curtail growth for an indefinite
time" you say.

I say that the Fed will view the 'solution' is to expand the monetary base to fill any holes created by capital bank losses. Growth in the monetary base will not be curtailed.

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack
Ray Hewitt wrote:

I see a bad case of scientism on this site

 Let's not get a few good facts get in the way of greed......

Ray Hewitt wrote:

The best minds on Wall Street used science and math, and I don't have to tell you how badly they screwed up.

They may use maths....  but they don't understand anything that they do with it.  They certainly do not understand the exponential function.... 

Ray Hewitt wrote:

Beyond keeping us informed about the economic collapse, what do you expect to accomplish in the energy and resource arena? In the scheme of a world economy, this prozelytizing amounts to nothing except play into the hands of statist scaremongers. As I see it, the imperative here should be personal economic survival, not saving mankind. Christians have been on that one for 2,000 years.

"personal economic survival"?  Is that all you care about?

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

I have been out of touch with this web site for a while, but I always enjoy reading what Chris has to say and the thoughtfull comments.  I am unclear on what Mr. Hewitt is referring to...... First, before I address his comments, I would like to say Chris nailed it as to what was the point of addressing your differences the way you did.  Good for you Chris.  The great thing about this website is you can voice different perspctives and have other people give a different perpsective in a reasonable discussion.  No reason to put someone down for a different perspective.  The purpose of this blog if for all of us to  help each other understand the times we live in.

The comments from Mr. Hewitt are perplexing.  He implies that we are really in a free market that has the ability for unlimited growth if we would just get out of the way.  Are we really in a free market?  Trillions of money taken from the public or borrowed  then  invested in various programs by the Government - Fed. Treasury?  What are we suppose to "get out of the way of"?  You state that growth is genetic that you can not stop it - do you think the Federal Reserve tries to start it or stop it? The Government intervention?  Do you really believe we can grow with no limits? I would really like to hear your point of view on why "we" are getting in the way?  How?  It sounds really interesting and I personally would like to hear your perspective with out the derogitory comments.  If I am in the way, I would be glad to get out of the way, but  that is not my take on it- I am very unclear on how we are in the way? 

 

 

 

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth
barrt wrote:

Sure my home town is crowded, very crowded but i dont think its from the locals birthrates, there has been massive immigration which has pushed out the indigenous population as the levels grew.

And those people weren't born?  Immigrants ARE people....  they just come from somewhere else.  If THEIR population explosion numbers are unsustainable, it doesn't matter where they come from they will still have an impact on YOU.

Immigration is a population problem.  Period. 

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Re: Albert Bartlett
Ray Hewitt wrote:

He shows no understanding of human nature. In fact he shows contempt for it. Economies grow because the masses are always trying to improve their lives; this is biological.

Just like cancer....... 

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

Ah, the power of magical thinking. Growth never needs to stop! We can keep building and making things forever and we can keep making people to make sure there's someone to consume them as well, world without end.

To hell with the environment! Who needs it?

Perhaps you haven't noticed, but the environment serves a useful purpose aside from being something to go and see, take a picture of and leave. Oxygen is useful, as is clean water. Oh, and things to eat - let's not forget them! Medicines, too.

Of course, it would probably be best to cover the whole lot in concrete and Astrofurf and call it a day. It's all so... messy!

These notions of infinte growth were conceived at a time when there were fewer than 1 billion people in the world. As you may have observed, things have changed a bit since then, and we are bumping up against some limits here and there. Reasonable people might want to examine some alternatives to all the 18th and 19th century economic models. It may simply be that the world as we know it is in for some changes that involve the localization of economies rather than vast ever-growing continental nation-state command and control economies.

But that's just me. Still, I'd put money on the infinite growth thing being over.

Arthur

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

The thesis that Bartlett touts is rather sterile academic even boring. However, his thesis "limit growth" becomes explosive when a rule is decreed from on high stating to a twenty something mother and father to be, {you will have one child and no more.}

Edit:  rest of this post removed by cmartenson on the basis of being too charged and off topic for this site and its purpose.

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack
Ray Hewitt wrote:

What is it with you people?

Classic Ray to open.

Quote:

We're born with an instinctive desire to improve our well being.

Well, you’ve answered your question right there. For a great many people the "desire to improve [their] well-being" is manifested in the analysis and study of our consumption patterns and growth as a species and a concern for where our current direction is taking us and the next few generations, especially how it might affect our standard of living.

Quote:

The cancer in society are those who want to stop it or slow it down.

Completely absurd but entertaining nonetheless.

Quote:

Hey guys. Study up on market economics. Because of the price systrem, market societies are adaptive. Prices ration scarce supply with unimited demand. Prices act as a guide to buyers, investors, entrepeneurs and sellers on what appropiate action to take. It's a simple concept, yet amazingly, poorly understood and often disliked.

This is the ultimate regurgitation of banal ideology, Ray.

As another poster mentioned, you talk about economics as if you’re in a vacuum or a village of 100 people – almost in a clinical sense. By not taking into account externalities and the human factor – essentially, reality – your assessment of things comes across as almost quaint. This idea of "the market" as an almost mythical force, conjured by industrious little humans sending price signals, which inherently balances and regulates and brings into equilibrium the whole of human activity is really just pseudo-science gibberish much of the time as well as being breathtakingly presumptuous. It’s certainly a compelling model, as it has many fairly fundamentalist adherents such as yourself, but it is just that, a model. And an imperfect one at that. The backdoor-man caveat of those who defend this as dogma is that this market must operate in freedom and liberty, unfettered or overseen by others. When criticisms are presented based upon real world scenarios it is immediately pulled from the quiver. It’s as if you’re saying, "It’s you stupid humans who are screwing up our nice little theory."

A non-fundamentalist will look at what you’ve proffered above and see that while its perspective may have some merits as a theoretical touchstone it has little chance of actually existing in its idealized and theoretically pure state that its adherents so frequently invoke. The reasons for this are many but two important ones are complexity and the inevitability of human corruption, which, perhaps, ironically, is a direct result (or unintended consequence) of "our instinctive desire to improve our well being."

Think about it. Earlier in your post you make a series of almost proclamations that I guess were some kind of logic bludgeon. You say, "We're born with an instinctive desire to improve our well being." Then: "Growth is genetic." And finally, "You can’t stop it." (You present this as if it’s some kind of "evidence" that disproves the topic of the thread.) But it could be that these inevitables you present are the very reasons why your vaunted and immaculate free market simply cannot be in our real world.

It’s okay not to hold a fundamentalist mind set on this and move to a more practical one. I won’t accuse you of being a socialist or worshiping at the feet of Marx, though I a may accuse you of being reasonable.

You’re analysis is also myopic because of its obsession with the economic model. There are other forces in life than economic ones, many of them more influential. Human activity cannot adequately be understood using only flawed economic models or in only economic terms, though useful they may often be.

Quote:

All I can say to you anti-growth people is: Get out of the way! If you try to thwart the economic activity of free individuals, you'll only make a bigger mess.

Get out of the way yourself! If you try to thwart the social activity of free individuals, you’ll only make a bigger mess.

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack

ray please deilineate human nature for me. you mention it a lot and you seem to think we all are in agreement on just what human nature is.

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Economic Growth <> Smart Growth

Hello Chris and all,

I have become a huge fan of the crash course and this site since finding it in August.  I do think Bartlett's letter is unfortunate though.  The issue of "growth" discussed here has been primarily about the misguided notion of endless economic growth.  That is a cogent and real critique.  

We must however contend with population growth.  We must bring it down globally as quickly as possible but the reality is that we will likely see 9 billion people on the planet.  Hopefully it will be less.  We must endeavor to make it less quickly and humanely but we are getting more people - that's a reality. 

So the challenge becomes how to best live within our means in the face of that challenge.  Good "smart growth" is simply about using land in a way that reflects our means (land-use planners long called this "New Urbanism" before "smart growth" came into vogue and maybe that language is better).  In the US, like in many areas discussed here, we have been extraordinarily wasteful in how we use our land.  Home sizes have grown from 900 sq ft ave to 2500 sq ft ave since WWII even as family sizes have shrunk and we place homes at great distances from work and needed amenities forcing people to drive long distances consuming fuel and time (a major reason why our gas consumption is so much higher than that of many other countries).

Good smart growth puts the principles of the crash course into action by encouraging walkable neighborhoods with transportation options near amenities and jobs - more livable communities which consume fewer resources.  And yes, that help us deal with population pressures even as we work to reduce them.

Unfortunately there is a thread of social thought that rejects smart growth - basically saying "I've got mine so tough for everyone else".  We'll never solve our global challenges that way. 

Chris, I encourage you to give this one a bit more thought.

-Rafael

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

I discovered Dr. Bartlett’s videos before I found this site and I consider this site to be one of the best on the internet, not just because of the “Crash Course” which, by itself is an exceptional learning experience, but also because of the many obviously well informed and knowledgeable people who contribute thoughtful and insightful information.

 

I have been trying to convince people around me for some time about the possibility of truth in some of the theories that are too often casually dismissed as mere conspiracies.  The Crash Course has allowed me to get through to several people who are now more aware of where humankind has been, where we are, and where we’re headed.  

 

The one line from Dr. Bartlett’s video that I’ll never forget is, “Zero population growth is a mathematical certainty.”  Some people might want to watch Chapter 5 again.  It is a common misconception that growth equals prosperity, but both depend on surplus so you must choose between the two and I think the wiser choice would be prosperity.  If you believe in free will, then you believe that people have the ability to make the most logical choice that at personal and societal level results in the greater good for the greater number.  I think the more humane way to accomplish zero population growth is through birth control of several different types or methods.  

 

I have several personal heroes; some living and some dead.  Dr. Bartlett and Chris are both on my list of personal heroes.  I have learned a lot since discovering this site; mostly the extent of my own ignorance, nevertheless, I can now better warn people close to me about the situation as I see it without seeming as doom and gloom or as paranoid as many people once thought me to be.  Just the ability to accomplish this makes me grateful to Chris and many of the people who share their ideas and thoughts at this site.

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Cancer, Personal Accountability, and the Future of Humanity

Human population is definitely the strongest element taxing the planet. I for one, 30 years old without children, have recently underwent a vasectomy and took some personal accountability. If I do decide I want children I think I can pay humanity a favour by adopting a child that truly needs a loving home that my girlfriend and I can provide.
As they say at the Humane Society, For every dog that is bought through a breeder, another dog in need of a family at a shelter will be put down.

Cancer by definition is an organism that keeps on growing until it eventually destroys it's host. I think that's a good comparison to human population.

In a sense I agree with Ray that this is just another glitch that will eventually correct itself. In fact that is exactly what it is doing... correcting itself!

Humour me for a moment and consider the worse case scenario...

  • The crash/collapse does happen
  • Peak oil is drastically slowed down and so does climate change (if caused by humans)
  • Society falls apart and human population gets corrected through famine, war, disease.

Once human population numbers are down and the economy starts to roll again, this is where we will have to decide on what we really want the rest of history to look like.

Do we go back to our old ways of consumption and a growth based economy only to put humanity and the planet through another and possibly intesified bubble we're going through now?

Or do we pause and look at the mess we've made and go forward with the lessons of history and do our best to live sustainably and ethically?

I personally think it's too late to correct this mess we've made as humans and there are too many to convince. I would prefer the collapse won't happen and we could all just get along and choose to live in harmony with the environment and eachother. But my feelings aside...

THE SYSTEM MUST FAIL. Things need to get worse before they get a chance to get better.

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Re: Albert Bartlett is a Quack

Ray,

 This is not the place for this behavior.  These are real events.  We do not have time for machismo or 'rooting for the home team.'  We are in this together, you and I.   

Comments like 'personal economic survival' and 'i got your attention' are not objective thought.  And as a man of science, the word 'scientism', well, it just does not make sense.  Beyond my objections, these things do not inspire us to broaden our thought.   They offer no solutions.  If you just want stock advice, there are forums for that.  If you want survival tips, there are places for that was well. 

But please not here.  Here, the Doctor has gone to great pains to deal in facts.  See Chapter 1, minute 00:01.  No, really.

I don't write here much, and I lurk often.  But I am writing now to preserve the tone and content of these forums.  I am a man of science, and this is one of the few places I have found respectful, meaningful and useful discourse in times like these.

I have also found that this forum welcomes a diversity of thought, Ray.  Please join us and share yours.

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

Here's a simple thought, from a simple mind (one that likes to get to the core of brilliant theories and discussions)  Mine!

I seem to remember that everything is pretty much dynamic, and everything seems to have a life cycle.  Animals do.  Vegetation does.  Products do.   So, if an economic theory in practice is dynamic, which our present one surely is.....why wouldn't we naturally expect that growth CANNOT continue indefinitely?  Isn't it sound judgement to think that this theory, in practice, will reach a peak and then start a decline, probably ending up dead.....at least in the form we've known it ? Realistically, any theory that demands eternal growth is doomed to eventual failure.

It just happens to be that most of us on this site are not among the real "controllers" of the economy, so we get our kicks trying to out guess the ones who do....as well as, of course, talking about it. But, I guess that's okay, if it makes us feel smarter. 

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth
Ray Hewitt wrote:

What is it with you people?

We're born with an instinctive desire to improve our well being. Growth is genetic. You can't stop it. The cancer in society are those who want to stop it or slow it down. They have this uncurious desire to control their perceived lessers.

You're making the common mistake of assuming growth = improve of well being. Growth is quantitative: more production, more cars but also more accidents, more weapons and crimes, more pollution and illness... Whereas improve of well being (development) is qualitative: better standard of living, better health, better social conditions, better education, better environment... In other words: more does not equal better. I would also suggest you to review Chris' Chapter 5: Growth vs. Prosperity.

I can't speak for Chris, but I do not advocate anti-growth. The growth dogma is as questionable as the anti-growth dogma. The point is: growth of what? Development and progress of what?

Some also question GDP as a measure of growth, because it does only measure the production and Gov. expenditures. It does not measure the well being, health, education, environment... Nor does it subtract decreases of well being: misery, accidents, crimes, pollution. Military expenditures, for one, increases GDP but does not improve well being. Some advocate Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) as an alternative measure of progress. Call this ideological if you like, I don't care.

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

Ron Fink

Quote:

The thesis that Bartlett touts is rather sterile academic even boring.
However, his thesis "limit growth" becomes explosive when a rule is
decreed from on high stating to a twenty something mother and father to
be, {you will have one child and no more.}

Edit: rest of this post removed by cmartenson on the basis of being too charged and off topic for this site and its purpose.

 

 

I would invite you to read Bartlett's "The Essential Exponential! for the future of our planet", a compilation of a number of his papers on the exponential and its application to energy and population.

He is a fine teacher and I reject Ray's irreverent characterisation. It is unfortunately the case that as the population grows our general level of civility decreases.

That which struck me (and I think would you) is Barlett's discussion of the exponential growth of bacteria (Chris has used the magic eye dropper and stadium to make the same point).  In particular his demonstration that 5 doubling times before "midnight" the "container" is only 3% full. How many market participants would see this as a cause for concern and the need for a change of direction? And those who did would be considered alarmist!

Bartlett is not making any recommendations on how we should "deal" with the impending overpopulation except to say that we are more likely to make more considered rational, humane decisions when our container is 3% or 6% full  than when it is 50% full.

We need to question the growth model in general. We will not get the required lead from our governments, their central banks and their propaganda machines. If unecessary pain is to be avoided this change in paradigm will need to come from the grass roots.

Stan 

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Re: Albert Bartlett

rtsmd

Well I kicked off a firestorm - again. Again, nobody is listening.

Yes, Mr Hewitt, some of us also ascribe to the strength of market
economics, but I think you are forgetting one little reality: that
nasty concept of externalities.

Market economics, Austrian Theory in particular, is a study on how people react to externalities.

Liberal democracy is all about applying externalties where the collective "good" is thought to be maximized.

Stripped of the euphemism, you're talking about collectivism. You know, statism, communism, fascism, socialism, that kind. Whatever the form, there is always a central authority directing the action of individuals through fraud and force. They're the central planners, the social engineers, the ones who collect data. They tell us what we can buy, who we can buy from, etc. Is that what you want?

You write as if our world markets are perfectly efficient, operating in
a vacuum devoid of externalities. Well, guess what, reality "is what it
is.

I highlight this specific point to make a more general one: substantial
external forces created and maintained by liberal political thought
will forever skew "true" market economics. You cannot believe that
market forces rule the day in these markets where external forces
control it. I hope the monetary example proves this, at least for that
market.

That specific point highlights my argument. Political thought can skew true market economics for only so long until they build up pressures they cannot hold back.  They got away with their Pyramid Scheme for almost a hundred years. Now it is all crashing down with avalanche force. Communists got away with it for 70 years until the people rebelled at the root of their poverty and misery.

I'm trying to get a handle on where this neo-Malthusianism is going. Am I wrong for assuming you think the solution is through government? Or is it through the actions of individuals in a free society?  Or do you think proselytizing will work? I look, but I don't see any of this thought out. Where is this going?

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Albert Bartlett

fujisan

You're making the common mistake of assuming growth = improve of well
being. Growth is quantitative: more production, more cars but also more
accidents, more weapons and crimes, more pollution and illness...
Whereas improve of well being (development) is qualitative: better
standard of living, better health, better social conditions, better
education, better environment...

On the contrary. A self-destructive society cannot grow. A self-destructive form of society would be any of the collectivist kind. Every one of that ilk rely on some means of fraud and force to effect the desires of its political leaders. A moral society grows automatically because it involves the voluntary transactions of indivuduals.

This is important, so I'll repeat: Growth is moral. It is the exercise of improving the human condition by respecting the life, liberty and property of others. Those ills that I see repeated on this site ad naseum are evidence of the negation of a moral society.

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Albert Bartlett

Bikemonkey

Comments like 'personal economic survival' and 'i got your attention'
are not objective thought.  And as a man of science, the word
'scientism', well, it just does not make sense. 

It was my first reaction to Bartlett's pompous drivel. Chris scolded me and I admitted he was right.

Encarta defines scientism as:

. reliance on science for answers: the belief that
science alone can explain phenomena, or the application of scientific methods to
fields unsuitable for it (disapproving) “We feel that the attitude that
predominates in science at present is arrogance, which has fostered dogmatism
and scientism.”Brian D. Josephson, Beverly A. RubikThe Challenge of
Consciousness Research
1992


 

Man needs two methods of thought to guide him: science and philosophy. One is no good without the other.

 

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Re: Albert Bartlett

Sorry... Double post

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Re: Albert Bartlett

You and I are not far from each other in thought.

I am fundamentally an Austrian in philosophy, when it comes to economics. However, I am a realist. The ENTIRE world has moved towards the political ideals of liberal democracy, with its externalities applied to many markets. Fundamentally, my question lies around the central premise of this entire discussion thread: monetary policy cannot possibly expand money forever.

you say...

I'm trying to get a handle on where this neo-Malthusianism is going. Am
I wrong for assuming you think the solution is through government?

I absolutely do not think that the solution is through government. But, regarding monetary policy, I wonder that they might succeed. Mathematically, it is possible to expand a fiat currency forever. The failures of fiat currency in the past have occurred only through international trade and currency arbitrage: because one country attempted to export its inflation and the others sold them short. What if ALL currencies are fiat based and ALL central banks coordinate slow inflation monetary policy. It is a self-stabilizing system. Indeed, it looks like what has been happening in the bailout so far has been our Federal reserve coordinating worldwide central bank stability.

In the crash course, Chris reviewed rather succintly how money is created through debt. And further, how fractional reserve banking expands the money supply. And further, how defaults in loans bring the whole game of musical chairs down. Defaults in loans, in turn, destroy money.

Now follow this bouncing ball very closely. Creating "new" debt by the Central Bank creates new money. Defaults on debts destroys money (effectively), so the key point to the central banker is to try to exactly match the defaults with the new debt. In essence, it nets out. This is exactly what Benranke and Paulson have been doing. This is why Citibank gets $330 billion, but GM gets squat.

Bernanke based his early career in analyzing the Great Depression as an academic and concluded that the destruction of money through debt defaults led to the deflationary collapse of the currency. They have all criticized Japan in the 1990s because of the same problem. Their central bank did create new money, but it did not keep pace with the losses, so they had a slow deflation for a "lost decade." They will not allow that here.

Now the circus act. The new debt that is created is expunged through slow inflation through time as the value of the debt decreases simply due to the inflation. So as long as your monetary supply (new debt) outpaces the current portion due, then mathematically you can do this to infinity...but it is a tightrope. Essentially, this is what a Friedman economy looks like. Are the Austrians correct in that exactly matching the new money with old is impossible...YES. That is what creates the booms and busts. However, the busts are lessened when you have a central bank attempting to EXACTLY match debt defaults with new debt (new money). This is why after August 1971 (closing of the gold window) through 1982 (the end of the hyperinflation, then Central Bank monetary policy is a matter of a matching game. They finally understand the rules of their game of charades.

Do I personally think that they can pull this off forever...NO. Am I paying attention to the likelihood that the house of cards can fall at any time with unbelievable speed...YES. Do I think it is possible that the game of charades can go on for a very long time, perhaps even longer than my lifetime...YES. Am I Malthusian...NO...I am fundamentally a realist and as such a bit of a cynic.

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

So Ron, which is worse, being aborted and not knowing anything about it, or a long slow death by starvation...?

I had a vasectomy after our twins were born......  better safe than sorry!  And frankly, knowing what we now know, my wife and I both agree I should have gone to the vet BEFORE they were born. 

Mike 

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Re: Albert Bartlett
Ray Hewitt wrote:

On the contrary. A self-destructive society cannot grow. A self-destructive form of society would be any of the collectivist kind. Every one of that ilk rely on some means of fraud and force to effect the desires of its political leaders. A moral society grows automatically because it involves the voluntary transactions of indivuduals.

This is important, so I'll repeat: Growth is moral. It is the exercise of improving the human condition by respecting the life, liberty and property of others. Those ills that I see repeated on this site ad naseum are evidence of the negation of a moral society.

Do you really believe that All growth is moral?  Consider the millions of people who continue to multiply despite their ability to afford to adequately care for the lives they bring into the world through their selfish and/or irresponsible action.  Here in the United States we compensate such utter disregard for the society as a whole by rewarding these users with welfare, and a host of other social services that have no positive redeeming effect on society.  Many people are essentially in the business of having children that they cannot afford.  I think it would be moral to sterilize such people after having just one such child.

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Re: Economic Growth <> Smart Growth
arjuna wrote:

So the challenge becomes how to best live within our means in the face of that challenge. Good "smart growth" is simply about using land in a way that reflects our means (land-use planners long called this "New Urbanism" before "smart growth" came into vogue and maybe that language is better). In the US, like in many areas discussed here, we have been extraordinarily wasteful in how we use our land. Home sizes have grown from 900 sq ft ave to 2500 sq ft ave since WWII even as family sizes have shrunk and we place homes at great distances from work and needed amenities forcing people to drive long distances consuming fuel and time (a major reason why our gas consumption is so much higher than that of many other countries).

Good smart growth puts the principles of the crash course into action by encouraging walkable neighborhoods with transportation options near amenities and jobs - more livable communities which consume fewer resources. And yes, that help us deal with population pressures even as we work to reduce them.

Unfortunately there is a thread of social thought that rejects smart growth - basically saying "I've got mine so tough for everyone else". We'll never solve our global challenges that way.

Chris, I encourage you to give this one a bit more thought.

-Rafael

Rafael, with all due respect, you are just as guilty as anyone else who doesn't understand the exponential function...  There is NO such thing as mart growth.  Growth uses up IRREPLACEABLE NATURAL RESOURCES just like stupid growth, just a bit slower.  Eventually the stadium WILL FILL UP.  No ifs, no buts, it will fill up....... 

Even if we all start using less stuff, but our numbers continue climbing, eventually we will still use up more stuff...  and the later things get, the FASTER stuff gets used up.  It's so simple a concept, I can't understand how anyone doesn't understand it....  Even at 0.01% growth, stuff doubles every 7000 years.  Sure its slow, but eventually double a big number is a whopping great number...  NO MATTER how you look at it.  The stadium fills up. 

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Population growth

Chris should do a study on population growth with special attention to where and why it is occuring.

The error of thought that I see here is in looking at aggregate numbers. One needs to parse the data to get meaningful information. What I see is population growth coming to a halt and even reversing in wealthier societies. Europe and the US, to name two, have been importing labor to keep population growth up. The politicians do this because they need more people entering their monetary Pyramid Scheme to keep it going.

Conversely, it is the poorer countries where population growth is rapid. This is because parents see children as an asset to support them in old age. The shorter the life expectancy, the more they have to reproduce. Parents in wealthier societies are reasonably assured they can support themselves without the need of a large family.

Without even trying, I found a study to make my point:

Over the past few decades, the world has experienced more rapid and more extensive
demographic change than in any other comparable period in history. The best known
example of this change is the rapid increase in human numbers. The world population
today stands at 6.5 billion, which is 4 billion more than in 1950, and growth will continue
for several more decades. There are also a number of other important demographic
trends. Around the world, women are having fewer children, people are living longer and
healthier lives, increasing numbers of migrants are moving from one country to another,
family and living arrangements are becoming increasingly diverse, urbanization is
proceeding at a very rapid pace, and populations are aging.
This note discusses several of these developments, in particular, the causes of population
growth, population aging and policy responses.
Population Trends
World population grew slowly from 1 billion in 1800 to 2.5 billion in 1950. Since then,
growth accelerated and today we stand at 6.5 billion and the UN expects this total to
grow to 9.1 billion in 2050. The absolute increments in world population size remain
large, about 75 million a year.
Population trends vary widely among regions. Virtually all future growth will occur in
the developing world, that is, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, while the developed world
is expected to see little change.
Asia is, by far, the largest region. It had a population of
about 1.3 billion in 1950. Today, it stands at about 3.7 billion—almost tripling—and it is
expected to add another 1.5 billion people in the next 50 years, primarily in already very
densely populated South Asia. Africa was one of the smallest world regions in 1950, but
it nearly quadrupled in size to three-quarters of a billion, and it is expected to double
again by 2050. This growth is projected to occur despite Africa’s large AIDS epidemic.
Latin America is smaller than the other two regions in the developing world, yet it has
experienced rapid growth in the past, which will continue for decades. In contrast, the
population of the developed world as a whole is expected to remain near its current size
in the future, with modest increases in the U.S. being offset by declines in Europe and
Japan. These differential growth rates among regions imply that the world will become
increasingly African, Asian, and Latin American, and the proportion of the world’s
population in Europe, North America, and Japan will decline.

Source: http://www.packard.org/assets/files/population/program%20review/pop_rev_bongaarts.pdf

The paradox here is that economic growth has a controlling effect on population growth.

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Re: Albert Bartlett
rtsmd wrote:

You and I are not far from each other in thought.

I am fundamentally an Austrian in philosophy, when it comes to economics. However, I am a realist. The ENTIRE world has moved towards the political ideals of liberal democracy, with its externalities applied to many markets. Fundamentally, my question lies around the central premise of this entire discussion thread: monetary policy cannot possibly expand money forever.

you say...

I'm trying to get a handle on where this neo-Malthusianism is going. Am
I wrong for assuming you think the solution is through government?

I absolutely do not think that the solution is through government.

Hear hear.....  in fact governments are TOAST, just like the economy.

The next 20 years will be nothing like the last 20.....  in fact the next 1000 years will be nothing like the last 1000.

I won't even try to predict what life on Earth will be like in the year 3000, but without oil and coal, bugger all soil, several degrees warmer - or colder, take your pick, this planet will be unrecognisable. 

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Re: Albert Bartlett

rtsmd says:

I am fundamentally an Austrian in philosophy, when it comes to economics. However, I am a realist. 

Isn't Austrian Theory a study of economic reality?

The ENTIRE world has moved towards the political ideals of liberal democracy, with its externalities applied to many markets.

When you say "liberal," I assume it's the socialist kind. Whatever your definition, it's crossed the Rubicon into fascism, the kind where government exercises strong control over the private economy.

Fundamentally, my question lies around the central premise of this
entire discussion thread: monetary policy cannot possibly expand money
forever. 

We agree there. I think the central planners won't stop until they suck as much life out of the private economy as humanly possible. Some think we will be entering a period of hyperinflation. Others think hyperdeflation. We'll have to wait and see. Either way the results are the same.

What if ALL currencies are fiat based and ALL central banks coordinate
slow inflation monetary policy. It is a self-stabilizing system.

No chance. Inflation has caused the destruction of real wealth in terms of tangible goods, and substituted money wealth to create an illusion of real wealth. They can inflate money, but they can't inflate population and consumption. Inflation is a form of embezzling from the price reducing effects of production.

Do I personally think that they can pull this off forever...NO. Am I
paying attention to the likelihood that the house of cards can fall at
any time with unbelievable speed...YES. Do I think it is possible that the game of charades can go on for a very long time, perhaps even longer than my lifetime...YES.

I  agree with one qualification. Once the collapse reaches bottom, there is no telling how long it will stay at bottom. It will be a question of how long governments can retain control before there is mass rebellion.

Am I Malthusian...NO...I am fundamentally a realist and as such a bit of a cynic. 

Welcome to my world.

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Albert Bartlett

Set

Do you really believe that All growth is moral? 

I think I answered your question in #13

 

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On mainecooncat

I can always expect the  usual hack job from mainecooncat. He practically inverts everything I say, then scolds me for what he says I said. There is no point in correcting him line by line, so I'll take three inversions.

It’s as if you’re saying, "It’s you stupid humans who are screwing up our nice little theory." 

I'm rolling on the floor. Theorists like me, Mish and Schiff saw this collapse coming decades ago. (I picked those two because they are known here)

Think about it. Earlier in your post you make a series of almost
proclamations that I guess were some kind of logic bludgeon. You say,
"We're born with an instinctive desire to improve our well being."
Then: "Growth is genetic." And finally, "You can’t stop it." (You
present this as if it’s some kind of "evidence" that disproves the
topic of the thread.) But it could be that these inevitables you
present are the very reasons why your vaunted and immaculate free market simply cannot be in our real world. 

Like gravity, you have to deal with it.

Get out of the way yourself! If you try to thwart the social activity of free individuals, you’ll only make a bigger mess.

That's laughable. You're lecturing someone with a strong libertarian philosophy that threads through the great thinkers. I have doubts if  you ever read a book of non-fiction after your formal schooling.

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth

Inappropriate and off topic language removed by cmartenson


Ron, this post completely failed my "dinner table" test and I hope you'll understand why I removed it.  


Graphic descriptions designed to shock are just not even remotely in line with the tone I am trying to set here.


Chris Martenson

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Re: Albert Bartlett on Growth
bsm20 wrote:

The common thread to economics, as taught in virtually every school of virtually every economic discipline for most of the last century (at least), is that growth is the fundamental goal of economic activity.  In almost all cases, two other things are generally assumed as gospel.  First, energy and environmental resources, if considered at all, are assumed to be cheap (or free) and essentially limitless (any resource limits will be overcome through substitution or innovation at an appropriate price level).  Second, growth is generally defined in terms of production and consumption, always measured by money.

The pseudoscience of economics is largely an exercise is telling those in power want they want to hear -- to justify their existence. Elites like Madoff need growth to keep their pyramid scheme going. An economy based on growth is a pyramid scheme, pure and simple. The study of economics is simply a smoke screen to mask that reality.Yes, most macroeconomic theories are just the Emperor's New Clothing. That's why macroeconomic theories keep changing, macro-economists are primarily politicians.

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The Paradox of Growth

There is an interesting article in Slate on the demise of newspapers. When one thinks of the resources consumed by newspaper publishing from paper to printing to delivery to the garbage dump, this is a positive. When I used to read newspapers, newsprint piled up faster than all my other garbage combined.

The article goes on to list many other items that have joined the buggy whip into extinction. Note that every one used more resources than what replaced them.

• Bank tellers
• Typewriters
• Typesetting
• Carburetors
• Vacuum tubes
• Slide rules
• Disc jockeys
• Stockbrokers
• Telephone operators
• Yellow pages
• Repair guys
• Bookbinders
• Pimps (displaced by the cell phone and the Web)
• Cassette and reel-to-reel recorders
• VCRs
• Turntables
• Video stores
• Record stores
• Bookstores
• Recording industry
• Courier/messenger services
• Travel agencies
• Print and cinematic porn
• Porn actors
• Stenographers
• Wired telcos
• Drummers
• Toll collectors (slayed by the E-ZPass)
• Book publishing (especially reference works)
• Conventional-watch makers
• "Browse" shopping
• U.S. Postal Service
• Printing-press makers
• Film cameras
• Kodak (and other film-stock make

Slate

I bring this up to show that growth is concomitant with conservation of resources. Market prices  compel us to do more with less. The evidence is there.

What also needs to be highlighted is that matter cannot be destroyed. Mineral resources were dug from  the ground, utilized in production and consumption, and then put back on top of the ground. The gargage dumps will be there when the economics justifies recycling.

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