Impossibleism

Uninterrupted, sustainable economic growth is impossible. Those who support it are “Impossibleists”. They practice, preach, and defend to the death at times, “Impossibleism”. It is a universal phenomenon, practiced across economic, political, cultural, and social spectrums around the globe. Impossibleism is an umbrella philosophy that captures the insanity of any system that is completely unsustainable and obviously so, but charges forward regardless. Systemic insanity, if you will.

We are all living at the thin sharp point of always more, always bigger, always better, always new, improved and disposable. That much should be obvious, even though it is not. We want our homes to be worth more today than yesterday, we demand it to be so. Prices must always fall, wages must always rise, and our wealth must always increase. We must have more than our parents and we must ensure more again for our children. Standing still is failure. Going backwards is unthinkable. This is simply impossible to sustain, we all know it, but we carry on regardless. Impossibleism.

It’s a math problem, or more correctly, it is our collective ignorance of natural forces, and the tyranny of arithmetic behind them. In our civilized hubris, certainty is something malleable, something which we can and will in time conquer. A war on 2+2=4. The inevitable as the enemy. Invisible, exponential terrorists whose design it is to take away our cherished free markets, destroy our twin towers of freedom and democracy, and bust us all back to the dark ages before cars, coke, and plasma TV’s. Absolutely nobody alive today wants that.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), world output “collapsed” by 1.1% in 2009. That data point the official manifestation of what everybody already knew — that our world was in trouble and we were living with less. The value (in US dollars) of everything produced on our small blue planet in 2009 was about 60 trillion dollars — give or take a fish in Indonesia or the occasional bribe in Saudi Arabia. The American GDP is about 14 trillion dollars, where a ham sandwich is about five bucks — for purposes of scale. A contraction in production was both cause and effect of a serious economic “meltdown”, one which has squeezed our societies and cultures in fundamental and dramatic ways. It was, and is, a catastrophe. 1.1 % it turns out, is a lot.

The IMF forecast for 2010 is much rosier, as they predict a “return to growth” of about 3.1%. The consensus is that this is a good thing of course, growth being the only acceptable state of affairs, and by any measure. Absolutely nobody wants contracting production of stuff, nor do they want piddling increments of same. No, we all alive today want increasing production of stuff and nothing less, Amen. The only caution the IMF reserves is that our recovery is weak, and we must all be on our guard lest it slip back or sideways. And again, Amen to that.

In fact, it won’t be long before we just simply assume, as we had before, that growth is the natural order of things and forget completely the lessons of the great economic collapse. We will expect that growth is constant, and pay no heed to the annual IMF reports, just so much wallpaper in their dull, never changing prognosticating. A constant line of 2% growth our just reward for taming the earth and making it our own. Sustainable growth as many economists say, sustainable in the “we can keep this sucker moving” kind of way, not in the antithetic “can we keep this up?” heretical kind of way.

So we have a 60 trillion dollar world and it isn’t good enough it appears. We want a bigger world, a better world, and 2% a year should give it to us. That’s 2% compounded of course — we want our 2 % added to our current amount of stuff, and we want this to happen every 365 times the earth rotates on its axis — per annum, once a year. In 2010, we will be expecting to produce about 1.8 trillion dollars worth of “wealth” above and beyond the 60 trillion we have now (my apologies to economists who normally demand footnotes and qualifiers for this kind of thing. You get the point regardless). Maybe another 1.2 trillion or so the year after. We couldn’t be happier when our world GDP grows to 63 trillion USD’s in just two years. Good, sustainable progress we all can believe in, the effects of which we intuitively know will make us all healthier, happier, and richer. A lot of us anyway, or at least those of us who matter.

What is a 63 trillion dollar world going to look like? More jobs, more cars, more I Pods and I Phones. More people perhaps, more food we would expect, more industries and factories and technology. More of everything: poverty, stress, and Hollywood plastic. Three trillion doesn’t seem much against sixty, and it seems manageable. Certainly compared to a 120 trillion dollar world, which would be twice the amount of productivity we are churning out today. It’s much harder to imagine that. Spend a day out in the workaday world we all inhabit, and we can see what 60 trillion dollars looks like. Spend the same day trying to picture a 120 trillion dollar world… and it confounds the senses.

Of course, it is easy to forget that our current world is powered by the resources of the planet, and once reminded it makes for perfect common sense. More cars, industry, and flip flops require more coal, iron, and oil. It is reasonable to consider that a 3 trillion dollar increase in production worldwide will require additional stuff dug, scraped, or pumped out of the ground. This is concerning to many, as there is common understanding that raping the earth is morally and ethically to be avoided. We do it anyway of course, depending on our children to figure out a way to fix the imbalance for us. But a 120 trillion dollar world? Twice the oil pumped at twice the rate, twice the fish killed at twice the rate, twice the consumption with twice the debt. What about a 240 trillion dollar world? Four times the wealth, based on four times the resources our current world is built upon. Four times the rate and amount of extraction and consumption of oil than today. 85 billion barrels of oil in 2008, 340 billion barrels of oil consumed every day in a 240 trillion dollar world. And rising by design.

Impossible.

Impossibleists want unrestrained sustainable growth in the face of its inevitable impossibility. It is a mystery how they think this way, knowing as they surely do that eventually the bill will come due, and the engine will run out of gas — literally. Think about it — growth that never stops, ever. Even with limitless resources, it is simple intuition that eventually, somewhere, sometime…. But of course we don’t have infinite resources, another intuitive understanding even though it seems to us every day that we do. We know we don’t. Impossibleists will not reconcile these two basic intuitions, that all growth must eventually end, and that all resources must eventually tap out.

Impossibleism is a form of insanity, a shared delusional neurosis. It’s a party game of trick or treat all humans are invited to, a game where treats are redeemed by us in the present, and tricks are reserved for the ghosts of future people we will not know, and of whom we do not care. Not our children, nor theirs. The legacy of Impossibleism is the certain destruction of the future, the hope of the Impossibleist that he will not have to face the damned.

Pop quiz. How long will it take, at 2% annual growth compounded, to turn our 60 trillion dollar world into a 120 trillion dollar world? 35 years. If we do exactly what we plan to do, and everything goes swimmingly, and we have sustainable growth of 2% a year, our children will have a 120 trillion dollar world to deal with, and most of us alive today will live to see it. Children today of ten years of age will be alive and drowning in a 240 trillion dollar world, which by deliberate and calculated design will arrive in a single lifetime of 70 years. It’s a tyrannical feature of unflinching math called “doubling time”, a feature of exponential growth hidden in plain view.

The future ghosts are not just real, they are alive today and are our very own children. We have met — and love, and cherish, and protect — the very people we are cashing in the chits on, on whom we are knocking out the jams. Think about it, we are nurturing the very people — people who carry our names, our genes, and paradoxically our dreams — who will watch and live in and deal with a world four times larger than our own. We ourselves will breathe our last on a small blue planet that has to produce twice as much as today’s planet.

Progress, as we all define it, is impossible to sustain. Why? Leave the dogmas, politics, and bullshit aside and do the math. That’s why.

Impossibleism.

Aetius Romulous writes and blogs from his frozen perch atop the earth in Canada, spending the useful capital of a life not finished making sandwiches and fomenting revolution. Read other articles by Aetius, or visit Aetius's website.

76 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 30th, 2009 at 10:32am #

    As my wise donkey says, Give or let me eat grass and i’ll make you garden bloom and we will both be happy.

    So, give me three meals a day, two pair of pants, a wise owl to look at and seek enlightenment from, but destroy every aircraft, gun, warship, artillery piece, car, lawn mower, lawn, walls/fences, palaces, mansions, unemployment/wellfare, private media/healthcare, spy agenices, etc.
    tnx

  2. Aetius Romulous said on October 30th, 2009 at 10:41am #

    Tried that with my cats…didn’t work out so well.

    Thanks for the comment, a nice idea for sure. But for my part, I’m not that big on the “destroy” bit. At the end of the day we have to work with what we’ve got, and accept that there are going to be folks who don’t agree. However, there should be some consensus around the facts and those who will not accept the facts….feed ‘em to your donkey I say LOL.

  3. Mike said on October 30th, 2009 at 12:04pm #

    Good post, keep it up. You are so right, it is not sustainable. Those with “eyes to see” are waking up to this realization, but the vast majority continue blindly on, ignoring the obvious. The first step to change is being made aware of the problem. Thank goodness there are those like you willing to state the facts plainly. God bless.

  4. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 30th, 2009 at 1:29pm #

    aetius,
    yes, u’r right. Not all cars or lawns need to be done away with. But if we did, i don’t think i wld miss them.
    And, of course, we need time to do away with so many harmful arms, information, schooling, etc.

    however, i am aware that i am doing some wishfull thinking. I am aware that people started making ‘better’ weapons even before sumer under its first king Urnanshe some 6 k yrs ago.

    Centuries or even millennia may pass and we still may have not destroyed weaponry but what’s 20 or so millennia in ‘infinity’ of time?

    Let us espy that rich people in rich countries don’t want to share these countries’ riches with all of their own people; still, less so with poor countries and its rich and poor people.

    That means that bombs, missiles, and even ‘better’ ones are here to stay for at least a century. As i said, it is just my idle wishfull thinking.
    tnx

  5. lichen said on October 30th, 2009 at 2:19pm #

    “Prices must always fall, wages must always rise, and our wealth must always increase. We must have more than our parents and we must ensure more again for our children.”

    In america, this isn’t actually the case; wages have gotten progressively –lower– over the past forty years, at the same time that things like a college education, housing, and many other things have gotten higher. So most people (except the super-rich) don’t have more than their parent’s did, and it was very reasonable that people would want their wages to have increased over the past forty years of wealth creation.

    Having said that, it is true that we are 100% tied to the earth and it’s natural resources; mining, factories, and fossil fools are destroying the entire planet; it needs to stop, and we need to progress toward an egalitarian, smaller, carbon/chemical-free human species. Growth is cancer.

  6. ajohnstone said on October 30th, 2009 at 7:12pm #

    Of course the term Impossiblism has a history of its own from the 19thCentury .The Possibilists regarded socialism as a progressive social process rather than an ‘all-at-once’ end. Those who regarded capitalism and socialism as mutually exclusive systems and refused to budge from the revolutionary position of what has become known as ‘the maximum programme’ were labelled as impossibilists.
    Full history of the usage of the word in these terms here:-
    http://mailstrom.blogspot.com/2009/10/impossiblism-by-steve-coleman.html

    Socialists are seeking ultimately to establish a “steady-state economy” or “zero-growth” society which corresponds to what Marx called “simple reproduction” – a situation where human needs were in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Such a society would already have decided, according to its own criteria and through its own decision-making processes, on the most appropriate way to allocate resources to meet the needs of its members. This having been done, it would only need to go on repeating this continuously from production period to production period. Production would not be ever-increasing but would be stabilized at the level required to satisfy needs. All that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods. The point about such a situation is that there will no longer be any imperative need to develop productivity, i.e. to cut costs in the sense of using less resources; nor will there be the blind pressure to do so that is exerted under capitalism through the market.

    It will also create a ecologically benign relationship with nature. In socialism we would not be bound to use the most labour efficient methods of production. We would be free to select our methods in accordance with a wide range of socially desirable criteria, in particular the vital need to protect the environment.What it means is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. This will be the opposite of to-dayus Capitalist system’s cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources.

    In a stable society such as socialism, needs would change relatively slowly. Hence it is reasonable to surmise that an efficient system of stock control, recording what individuals actually chose to take under conditions of free access from local distribution centres over a given period, would enable the local distribution committee to estimate what the need for food, drink, clothes and household goods would be over a similar future period. Some needs would be able to be met locally: local transport, restaurants, builders, repairs and some food are examples as well as services such as street-lighting, libraries and refuse collection. The local distribution committee would then communicate needs that could not be met locally to the bodies charged with coordinating supplies to local communities.

    We can set out a possible way of achieving an eventual zero growth steady state society operating in a stable and ecologically benign way. This could be achieved in three main phases.
    First, there would have to be emergency action to relieve the worst problems of food shortages, health care and housing which affect billions of people throughout the world.
    Secondly, longer term action to construct means of production and infrastructures such as transport systems for the supply of permanent housing and durable consumption goods. These could be designed in line with conservation principles, which means they would be made to last for a long time, using materials that where possible could be re-cycled and would require minimum maintenance.
    Thirdly, with these objectives achieved there could be an eventual fall in production, and society could move into a stable mode. This would achieve a rhythm of daily production in line with daily needs with no significant growth. On this basis, the world community could reconcile two great needs, the need to live in material well being whilst looking after the planet

  7. Don Hawkins said on October 31st, 2009 at 3:57am #

    Post-Katrina, for instance, public opinion in the US provided the best example of this phenomenon. It took just two years for Fox News and other right-wing shock-jocks to straighten out deviant US citizens who’d started to think that it really might be time for the US to get stuck in on climate change.

    But Australia provides an even more compelling story. Over the last few years, it’s had more than its fair share of traumatic shocks. Earlier this year, Melbourne broke its record February temperature by a full 3°C to hit 46.8°C. This was also the day of Australia’s worst ever bush fires, with 173 people killed and 2000 homes destroyed. The Murray-Darling Basin (Australia’s food bowl, with nearly 40% of Australia’s agricultural production based around its waters) has been in so-called ‘drought’ since 2002. Flow levels are now down to 5% of their long-term average. As a result, it’s now assumed that the globally significant wetlands and lake system at the river’s mouth will face ecological collapse over the next few years. Jonathon Porritt
    What will be our gravest dangers? “Not from climate change itself, but indirectly from starvation, competition for space and resources, and war.” (16)

    Warlords? Yes, of course. “Despite all our efforts to retreat sustainably, we may be unable to prevent a global decline into a chaotic world ruled by brutal war lords on a devastated Earth.” James Lovelock

    Yesterday on Fox the Glenn Beck Show he had on some guy name lord Monkton and John Bolton and the talk was about climate change. I guess the idea was to straighten out deviant US citizens. The good Lord said the heat is going into space and we will only get a one degree rise in temperatures in the next one hundred years, what. Oh and talk of one World government and redistribution of wealth came up as well. There must be something wrong with these people’s mind’s sorry I forgot fiction is fact now day’s well for the last 10k years fiction is fact. So only a one degree rise in temperatures over the next one hundred years strange as right now in the Arctic the temperatures are averaging 7 to 9 degrees above normal and that ice is melting fast. Glaciers Worldwide melting because of global cooling and did anybody see the weather in the middle of the States the last few day’s normal I think not. We only have about ten years before the shit really hit’s the fan and I guess the war lords we see on Fox will have time to make there plans for deviant US citizens and the other 6 billion citizens Worldwide. Again as the ice goes in the North and the temperature continues to rise the weather we just saw the last few day’s in the States will be like a walk in the park. This Lord Monkton person said he want’s a debate with Al Gore on climate change. A debate we don’t need but think of this as kind of a war one voice and it has started and easy it will not be. Of course global decline into a chaotic world ruled by brutal war lords on a devastated Earth will be anything but easy. Can’t happen well it has already started. These people like Fox and many policy makers and a few hundred people Worldwide know full well what is coming down the track and yet tell us we the people myth and illusion and why well the best I can figure is because they are nut’s selling your soul to the system has that effect. The time is now we probably will not get a second chance. Remember the best they can do so far is cap and trade here in the States a complex plan of illusion we could use the knowledge we have now and reason, work together to try and slow the biggest problem the human race has ever faced and so far it appears global decline into a chaotic world ruled by brutal war lords on a devastated Earth. Brutal war lords we already have in varying degrees and a devastated Earth well flow levels are now down to 5% of their long-term average. As a result, it’s now assumed that the globally significant wetlands and lake system at the river’s mouth will face ecological collapse over the next few years is only one example, a one degree rise in one hundred years and they get away with it.

    “Be well this is the people’s radio station. First reports this morning are saying more troops are massing on the Southern boarder of Russia. China has called for calm and trying to get food and water to the estimated 200 million people now on the Northern boarded. Reports out of India are hard to get and the best we know today July 2029 India is still under Marshall law. The fires in California have stopped for now and the central valley is almost uninhabitable and LA still under Marshall law gas in short supply and Long Range Acoustic Devices reported in many part’s of the city. Temperatures in Southern California are expected to reach records again today. The government is asking for calm in Texas and promising more water and food and gas as people move North. Flooding again in the Northeast and more new settlements on the border with Canada. The government and NASA again in talk’s to see if aerosol injection into Earth’s atmosphere can be used. All for now and temperature updates in one hour save energy be well”.

    The future ghosts are not just real, they are alive today and are our very own children. We have met — and love, and cherish, and protect — the very people we are cashing in the chits on, on whom we are knocking out the jams. Think about it, we are nurturing the very people — people who carry our names, our genes, and paradoxically our dreams — who will watch and live in and deal with a world four times larger than our own. We ourselves will breathe our last on a small blue planet that has to produce twice as much as today’s planet.

    Progress, as we all define it, is impossible to sustain. Why? Leave the dogmas, politics, and bullshit aside and do the math. That’s why.

    Impossibleism. Aetius Romulous

  8. Aetius Romulous said on October 31st, 2009 at 6:27am #

    Wow – so much great feedback. Just love the net, eh?

    ajohnstone – thanks for that great detail. Of course, it wasn’t my intention to rip off the work of others, although I’ll admit that article had a bunch of detail I wasn’t aware of. Again, love the net. So it appears I have inadvertently co opted the name, but at least I can take some credit for “updating” it? . As well, a great few links to some tremendous socialism links which I will spend some time exploring. Thanks.

    Don Hawkins – Really great example with Australia there, Spot on. I don’t own a TV, but I do get the jist of the thing via YouTube. That Glenn Beck guy really has created an industry there hasn’t he. Ain’t America great.

  9. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 10:26am #

    ajohnstone: “Socialists are seeking ultimately to establish a “steady-state economy” or “zero-growth” society which corresponds to what Marx called “simple reproduction” – a situation where human needs were in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them.”

    Perhaps this comes from your link, but the economists who call for steady-state are not Marx’s socialists. We can pick and choose and find similar takes on this “steady-state” from David Ricardo and Adam Smith. Classical economics has distinctions but writers like Ricardo and Smith were not ideologues, but philosophers and moralists first – as was Henry George, and yes Marx.

    Steady-state economics as articulated by Herman Daly, who is considered the founder of steady-state economics, is aligned with the thinking of Henry George (not Karl Marx). That some latter day Marxists would like to use the term shows the power of the ideas espoused by Daly (there are others such as Manfred Max-Neef and Paul Ekins). These are primarily economists centered around sustainability and the uneconomics of growth. I believe Aetius Romulous piece reflects that thinking and not Socialists. It is a very progressive and even radical given what it will take to change the trajectory of today’s dominate economics to what people like Daly espouse (and implied by Romulous).

    I always find it curious why Marx and Socialists seem to want to re-frame themselves as eco-economists. I, personally, welcome the support, but it seems more than disingenuous to call the line of think Socialist or having its roots in Marx.

  10. dan e said on October 31st, 2009 at 12:27pm #

    ajohnstone, thanks for your superb “comment”. Max, you sound like a broken record, always trying to insist that Henry George is other than a crackpot left over from a bygone era. He wasn’t really relevant then and is less so now.
    What is it about Capitalism that makes you cling to it so?

  11. Don Hawkins said on October 31st, 2009 at 1:10pm #

    Warlord;
    A military commander exercising civil power in a region, whether in nominal allegiance to the national government or in defiance of it.

    Hummm weather in nominal allegiance to the national government or in defiance of it. It seems some on the side of growth, drill baby drill, no new tax’s on the wealthy, health care companies are our friend, climate change is no big thing, Capitalism is the only way for human’s for the next 5k years, war is freedom, ignorance is strength are having a few problems with some of the policies of this administration and what we now see is defiance. Now the health care bill if watered down as it will be is not a human race ending event. Under Bush and company did we see nominal allegiance to the national government as we saw war, the DOW at 14,000 funny money, and as far as climate change goes well the Sun revolves around the Earth and climate change is a human race ending event. Do we still see a few people exercising civil power like here in the States the health care bill was kind of one example but just wait as with the climate change bill and Copenhagen let’s see how these warlords sort of handle the next few months. Sad as who will win, nobody what problems will be solved, none. Maybe in 2012 we will see the ignorance is strength side come back to power and then nominal allegiance to the national government will be sung on the airwaves and all will be well across the land well except for war and noise generators and the same people as now will be in control of the bank’s, policy, media our thoughts and all done in an out of control system. What’s wrong with this picture other than being quite literally, crazy. I don’t know none of that is probably true anyway what I just wrote maybe I just have an over active imagination is there a course you can buy on TV or a pill I can take for that? Isn’t America great.

  12. lichen said on October 31st, 2009 at 1:36pm #

    I, too, don’t buy people who try to ‘greenwash’ their marxism but actually sweep environmental issues under the rug, and act like any type of marxism/socialism will somehow automatically help the environment–it won’t, and black smoke/industrial marxists who deny things like climate change need to be shut down.

  13. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 1:45pm #

    dan e, sometimes you seem like a really open and sharp guy and then other times you just seem like a narrow minded idiot.

    (Did you know someone named Henry George who was a bully or something? Come on what I’ve said is such common and irrefutably knowledge it really is trite of you to need to post such bull shit!)

  14. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 1:46pm #

    lichen, I’m finding your posts ever more on target and insightful – you get it!!!

  15. ajohnstone said on October 31st, 2009 at 1:57pm #

    Marx was fond of quoting the 17th century writer Sir William Petty’s remark that labour is the father and nature the mother of wealth. He for one gave much credit to his predecessors and much was built on the foundations of Ricardo .

    For Max sake , what would a society have to be like to be environmentally sustainable? Basically, according to Jonathon Porritt, well-known Green this would be a society whose methods of providing for the needs of its members did not use up non-renewable resources quicker than renewable substitutes for them could be found; did not use up renewal resources quicker than nature could reproduce them; and did not release waste into nature quicker than the environment’s ability to absorb it. If these practices are abided by, then the relationship and interactions between human society and the rest of nature would be able to continue on a long-term basis – would be able to be “sustained” – without harming or degrading the natural environment on which humans depend.

    Socialists contend that these practices could be systematically applied only within the context of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources being the common heritage of all humanity under democratic control. In other words, we place ourselves unambiguously in the camp of those who argue that capitalism and a sustainable relationship with the rest of nature are not compatible. The excessive consumption of both renewal and non-renewable resources and the release of waste that nature can’t absorb that currently go on are not just accidental but an inevitable result of capitalism’s very nature. Endless “growth” (even if in fits and starts) – and the growing consumption of nature- given materials this involves – is built in to capitalism. However, this is not the growth of useful things as such but rather the growth of money-values .If, as a politically active environmentalist or campaigner for social justice, one’s answer to the question is that they are, indeed, mutually exclusive (that capitalism, in whichever manifestation, is in its very essence inherently unsustainable), then one’s only morally consistent response is to devote one’s political activities to the overthrow of capitalism.

    But the picture of capitalism is still not complete. Capitalist investors want to end up with more money than they started out with, but why? Is it just to live in luxury ? That would suggest that they aim of capitalist production was simply to produce luxuries for the rich. It is possible to envisage such an economy on paper. Marx called it “simple reproduction”, but only as a stage in the development of his argument. By “simple reproduction” he meant that the stock of means of production was simply reproduced from year to year at its previously existing level; all of the profits would be used to maintain a privileged, exploiting class in luxury . As a result the circle keep on repeating itself unchanged.
    This of course is not how capitalism operates. It is not a “steady state economy”. On the contrary, it is an ever-expanding economy of capital accumulation. In other words, most of the profits are capitalised, i.e. reinvested in production, so that production, the stock of means of production, and the amount of capital, all tend to increase over time (not in a smooth straight line, but only in fits and starts). The economic circuit is thus money-commodities-more money-more commodities, even more money . This is not the conscious choice of the owners of the means of production . It is something that is imposed on them as a condition for not losing their original investment. Competition with other capitalists forces them to reinvest as much of their profits as they can afford to in keeping their means and methods of production up to date. As a result there is continuous technological innovation. Defenders of capitalism see this as one of its merits and in the past it was insofar as this has led to the creation of the basis for a non-capitalist society in which the technologically-developed means of production can be now—and could have been any time in the last 100 years—consciously used to satisfy people’s wants and needs. Under capitalism this whole process of capital accumulation and technical innovation is a disorganised, impersonal process which causes all sorts of problems—particularly on a worldscale where it is leading to the destruction of the environment .

    Whether it is called “the market economy”, “economic liberalism”, “free enterprise” or any other euphemism, the social system under which we live is capitalism. Capitalism is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative. The result is waste, pollution, environmental degradation and unmet needs on a global scale. The ecologist’s dream of a sustainable ‘zero growth’ within capitalism will always remain just that, a dream.If human society is to be able to organize its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.Many Greens and ecologists have talked about “zero-growth” and a “steady-state” society and this is something we should be aiming at. What it means , as said earlier , is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. You achieve this “steady state” and you don’t go on expanding production. This would be the opposite of cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources. This is something that socialism could do. The problem for the Greens is that they want this, but they also want to retain the market system in which goods are distributed through sales at a profit and people’s access to goods depends upon their incomes. The market, however, can only function with a constant pressure to renew its capacity for sales; and if it fails to do this production breaks down, people are out of employment and suffer a reduced income. It is a fundamental flaw and an insoluble contradiction in the Greens argument that they want to retain the market system, which can only be sustained by
    continuous sales and continuous incomes, and at the same time they want a conservation society with reduced productive activity. These aims are totally incompatible with each other. Also what many Green thinkers advocate in their version of a “steady-state” market economy, is that the surplus would be used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment. It’s the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism, minus the controlled expansion of the means of production an earlier generation of reformists used to envisage.

    That is the roots within Marx which socialists direct attention towards.
    , Max.

  16. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 2:03pm #

    dan e, to your more sober question: “What is it about Capitalism that makes you cling to it so?”

    I can only say that I don’t cling to Capitalism. I am interested in understanding problems, human dilemmas, and seeing them for what they are filtered of ideological bromides. The latter is not easy, because nearly everything becomes an ideology, but if we can look square at a problem and say, “what is causing it” and go from there we have a much better picture of where we need to go without the obstuction of arcane ideologies.

    I don’t view Henry George as a Capitalist as it has come to be known in the 20th and now 21st Centuries. He believed in the socialization of land (meaning all natural resources) and keeping capital and labor in the hands of the market. That’s extremely different in its implications and outcomes than today’s capitalism or as lichen described: industrial Marxism.

    But I am not a devotee of Henry George in the sense that I would not call myself a Georgist, but politically I think I’m closely aligned with a Green distributed governance, and an economics of steady-state zero growth. None of these are Marxists or Socialists. I don’t believe we should pay taxes on what we earn or what we build. I do believe we should pay for what we use in terms of what the planet provides us. As such what we earn and make must always be in balance with what is sustainable.

    This creates a fair and equitable give/take and access to resourses for all. It ends the kind of neoliberal exploites that imbalances the world. It creates the kind of world that I see more and more in Latin America starting to take hold.

    Castro in a recent article on Counterpunch disclosed that he is all for a sustainable economics. This is not Castro the Marxists, this is Castro the eco-economists – something he learned the hardway during the Cuba’s Special Period.

  17. Don Hawkins said on October 31st, 2009 at 2:12pm #

    Oh there is zero growth coming and so far appears will happen in an out of control system and that is where a global decline into a chaotic world on a devastated Earth so far appears likely on this present path. To me it’s illusion of knowledge and just regular old stupidity and we get to see a lot of it the next 6 months or so. The time is now about 8 years for some major changes to the way we live or

  18. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 2:31pm #

    Greens argument that they want to retain the market system, which can only be sustained by continuous sales and continuous incomes, and at the same time they want a conservation society with reduced productive activity.

    I’m not sure what “Greens” you are talking about. I will say that I’ve heard Greens of every ilk, some I agree with and others not. The USGP has 10 basic value statements that seem to represent the spirit of the political party – whether its members or candidates espouse or demonstrate them or not is another issue.

    What is wrong with a market that is guided by the principles of sustainability? Milton Friedman’s “free market”? Is that what you mean when you talk about markets? Where on this planet are there no markets?

    If you look at the work of Max-Neef and Paul Ekins (the latter a UK Green) there is no talk of consumption and upward mobility growth (I’m paraphrasing you ajohnstone). And these are the fellows I’m talking about along with Herman Daly who defined steady-state economics and was most clear about the word sustainability.

    None of these fellows use Marx or Socialism as their economic model.

    On the other hand, you split the world into a simplistic dichotomy of Capitalism/Socialism. Outside of that age-old box lie the answers.

    If you use either Jonathon Porritt or Herman Daly as your starting point than there are no contradictions. There is a framework around which to build human/economic relationships that are compliant with nature.

    Why is this an either/or? It seems we get no where with that.

  19. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 2:35pm #

    By the way, I find many deep pathologies with our capitalistic economy of growth and consumption.

  20. dan e said on October 31st, 2009 at 2:53pm #

    Okay, Max, I’m waiting to see how you respond to the above “bullshit”:)

    Thanks, AJ — I’m impressed by how well you articulated so much so quickly. My own view takes most of what you’ve laid out as a starting point, but in trying to account for current phenomena I think you have to view Capital as fundamentally the power to command labor.

    “Accumulate, accumulate: that is Moses and the prophets”:) Of course, but to me the accumulation/concentration/centralization of Money Capital is less fundamental than the accumulation of Power.

    In any system based on competition, each competitor is compelled to constantly strengthen his/her own position at the expense of all other competitors. This is as true of Feudalism as it is of Capitalism, and is doubly true of today’s Militarist Imperialism with its Zionist twist.

    Thus we witness Bernanke et al create trillions with the stroke of a pen, as hordes of petty capitalists go bankrupt. Thus we see the US Congress more and more become the true Engine of Capitalism as it bestows pre-guaranteed profits on those investors with the best connections at the DOD. Thus we see the US State Apparatus which in theory is there to guarantee optimization of conditions for accumulation of money capital being directed instead to optimize conditions for the realization of the vision of Eretz Yisroel.
    I’d have to agree that the foregoing sentence is pretty clumsy, so I’ll stop oversimplifying right here and hope you, AJ, find these thoughts worthy of comment. ??

  21. dan e said on October 31st, 2009 at 3:13pm #

    Max, you keep erecting these strawmen. You seem to think there is some model of “socialism” which Marx advocated. You seem to equate “Marxism” with something somebody may have called “socialism” at one time or another.

    Let me clarify my own view: I am not advocating any particular set of laws or set of arrangements. What I am advocating is the elimination of the gang who are currently running the society, together with all the laws and ideologies which underpin their rule over the rest of us.

    This business about “The Market” is a crock of shit. The whole game is rigged from the jump. What I’m talking about is recognizing that politics IS in command, whether we like it or not. So whether or not mom & pop enterprises are allowed to make a profit is a political decision. But the whole edifice of capitalist ideology on which the current system rests has to be jettisoned, and this includes Henry George and the rest of your pro- “Market” crackpots.

  22. Don Hawkins said on October 31st, 2009 at 3:29pm #

    When thinking about an economic system what about this.

    “It won’t be very long before we have to start thinking of the Arctic as an open sea. Man has taken the lid off the northern end of his planet and we can’t put that lid back on again”. Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics and Head of the Polar Physics Group

    Wadhams is one of the best minds we have and I have watched his work for years now. He would not say that if he couldn’t back it up and now very easy to see with a little research on the web very easy now. That’s we can’t put that lid back on again to late. Will this fact effect the present economic system? I mean to keep using the same system how will that work out business as usually call call now?

  23. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 4:10pm #

    dan e no one is talking about the US and its economics not being rigged. It’s a sick system. No disagreement.

    I differ with the assumption that Marx had it all right because US and Western Capitalism (and we cannot ignore the fact that this is a special kind of economics that is conceded to be based on neo-classical economics) is pathological to the core. I don’t buy the inevitability or the predestination of Marx’s arguments within the context of a monolithic capitalistic system (such a system has never existed). I also think that we need to first look at human nature and determine WHY? Who has this perfect non-market based system. Show me!!

  24. Don Hawkins said on October 31st, 2009 at 4:38pm #

    It wasn’t always this way but now modern humans take the easy way out. Probably why we now face the biggest problem, problems we have ever faced. So far we see not only the easy way out from so called leaders at someone else’s expense so to speak but just stupid little games done with a very low level of thought and something called bullshit. How will it play out so far the easy way out. We have the knowledge but no focus, will.

  25. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 31st, 2009 at 4:40pm #

    Correct me if i am wrong in assuming that when posters talk ab. capitalism, they think of it as existing in isolation from govenance; i.e., a system of rule.
    or even that capitalism is an entity that exist apart from laboring, tilling, gardening, mining, borrowing-lending-paying back money at interest, fishing, judiciary, cia, fbi, armed services, schooling, marrying-having children, ‘religion’, ‘educators’, or people who own work or control money, warring, classes of people, ect.

    It seems to me that if one wld like to enlighten us about capitalism, and it being mere aspect of one realiy, one has to study it in conjunction with every aspect of one reality.

    The crucial point, and most vitiating to humans, is the fact that most people in US do not enjoy right to work nor own work place. I prefer to call such an interpersonal relationship “fascism” and on production/management level perhaps an “iniquity” or “capiatalism” .
    But never ever be able to exist unless all other factors work for it.
    Such an iniquity can exist only under just the right feudal lords’ laws, called euphemistically constitution. However, in fact, a feudal constitution like the one in US, being composed of thousand and one constitutions.
    Ot to make it even clearer, any of its utterances having an indefinate number of meanings.
    And just the right one being fished up for each prez and other branches of governance when waging wars, cutting taxes of the rich, or bailing out banksters, torturing people, imprisoning innocents, etc.
    More cld be said. tnx

  26. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 4:47pm #

    Human beings create these “systems” and it is humans (whether a powerful elite or consumers) who build and support the institutions that develop. Markets existed well before “capitalism”.

    Market is simply a word to describe the flow of goods and services transacted, in terms of supply and demand. Nothing more or less.

    That there are power centers, political and moneyed who leverage whatever system exists has nothing to do with markets. It has to do with the institutions that are created (allowed to flourish) that create a dominant/submissive relationship. Workers can own the fruits of their labor. Commoditization is a problem that is not eradicated by calling a system “socialism”.

    Commoditization is created by scale – primarily large, economies of scale models that drive standardization and supply/commodity chains. This is not “capitalism” per se. It’s just wrong headed to think that industrialization was purely the outcome of capitalism. Again, industrialization preceded capitalism, even if industrial capitalism spurred it on.

    But there are examples throughout the world and history that shows another way. It is not based on any ism but deals directly with the problem.

    Modern civilization has created the problem. It is not sustainable, whether it’s being executed in Europe, Asia or the US. Whether they call themselves Red/Communists or Free Market/Capitalists.

  27. Max Shields said on October 31st, 2009 at 5:10pm #

    bozh,

    Perhaps if we stuck to the topic at hand – the original article – issues about capitalism would be in their proper context.

    But while there are human systems which interact with one another such as economics, polity, culture and the like, there is the all encompassing system that too interacts but is not a human system, in fact all human systems must “exist” within it or ultimately perish – that is the EcoSystem. And it is the EcoSystem that brought us all to this article. Not Capitalism or Marx.

    But as one poster begins to drop bits and pieces of the old shit droppings we (including moi) just can’t help ourselves, thinking we can correct the direction of discourse only to become apart of it.

    But the subject proposed without ideology from the above author is worthy of consideration.

  28. Don Hawkins said on October 31st, 2009 at 5:42pm #

    “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler

    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Einstein

    The easy way out just drop a bomb, push a button and sent a missile, send more troops, drill baby drill, lie like dog’s, hide from the problem. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction. So far we don’t have to worry about a touch of genius from the shakers and movers and courage yes the courage to do nothing.

  29. Deadbeat said on October 31st, 2009 at 8:26pm #

    Human beings create these “systems” and it is humans (whether a powerful elite or consumers) who build and support the institutions that develop. Markets existed well before “capitalism”.

    To blame “human beings” for the Capitalist system is to ignore power and to blame the victims of the imbalances of POWER. Slavery was instrumental for the rise of Capitalism and it repugnant to excuse this system and blame “humans”. It ignores the HUMANS who were turned into commodities that fueled Capitalism. It ignores the HUMANS who resisted this system for example the genocide of the native Americans whose system of distribution was by no means market based and had to be exterminated in order for Capitalism to flourish. It ignores displacement and the destruction of culture and community.

    What Mr. Shields is doing by blaming “humans” is to give a pass to those small number of powerful humans who have used Capitalism to EXPLOIT the vast majority of humans.

  30. Deadbeat said on October 31st, 2009 at 8:54pm #

    ajohnstone thanks so much for your explanation and contributions to this discussion. Especially the flaws and pointing out the contradictory nature of the Greens philosophy. Should their be a real and viable anti-capitalist movement, the Green advocacy will be dredged up in order to “save” Capitalism. What you wrote bears repeating…

    Also what many Green thinkers advocate in their version of a “steady-state” market economy, is that the surplus would be used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment. It’s the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism, minus the controlled expansion of the means of production an earlier generation of reformists used to envisage.

    This is the danger and vigilance is needed in order to not fall for yet another form of “liberalism” that as we’ve seen only exacerbate the inevitable.

  31. Deadbeat said on October 31st, 2009 at 8:56pm #

    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Einstein

    And speaking of Einstein…

    Why Socialism?

  32. Deadbeat said on November 1st, 2009 at 12:40am #

    If you use either Jonathon Porritt or Herman Daly as your starting point than there are no contradictions. There is a framework around which to build human/economic relationships that are compliant with nature.

    I’ve read Herman Daly due to Max Shields insistence on how there is “no contradictions”. Like his advocacy of Henry George, Daly is FULL OF contradictions. For example just look at his analysis of the current Capitalist crisis he writes …

    What allowed symbolic financial assets to become so disconnected from underlying real assets? First, there is the fact that we have fiat money, not commodity money. For all its disadvantages, commodity money (gold) was at least tethered to reality by a real cost of production. Second, our fractional reserve banking system allows pyramiding of bank money (demand deposits) on top of the fiat government‐issued currency. Third, buying stocks and “derivatives” on margin allows a further pyramiding of financial assets on top the already multiplied money supply. In addition, credit card debt expands the supply of quasi‐money as do other financial “innovations” that were designed to circumvent the public‐interest regulation of commercial banks and the money supply. I would not advocate a return to commodity money, but would certainly advocate 100% reserve requirements for banks (approached gradually), as well as an end to the practice of buying stocks on the margin. All banks should be financial intermediaries that lend depositors’ money, not engines for creating money out of nothing and lending it at interest. If every dollar invested represented a dollar previously saved we would restore the classical economists’ balance between investment and abstinence. Fewer stupid or crooked investments would be tolerated if abstinence had to precede investment. Of course the growth economists will howl that this would slow the growth of GDP. So be it—growth has become uneconomic at the present margin as we currently measure it.

    There is NOTHING in Daly’s analysis of EXPLOITATION of the workers who actually create wealth. It is not fiat money that created disconnect but the increased levels of EXPLOITATION due to the falling rate of profits which ushered in neo-liberalism. The idea of backing the currency with gold is an illusion. What determines the value of a currency is the PRODUCTIVE capacity of an economy. In addition policy favoring the rich which put their excess money into speculative asset whereby they could garner higher returns than they could from the productive centers. In fact the dismantling of the productive center was a way in which to INCREASE EXPLOITATION. It weaken workers and enable capitalist to hold DOWN wages. Credit was extended to workers in order for workers to maintain consumption.

    Consumption is a loaded word here especially since the “Greens” blame “consumption” rather than Capitalism. As Elizabeth Warren research has shown the items of “consumption” that has risen in price the most has been HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, HEALTH CARE, CHILD CARE, and TAXES (which has been made increasing regressive since 1978).

    The fact that Daly IGNORES the factors of EXPLOITATION is the obvious contradiction of his analysis and why Mr. Shields has a tendency to blame “HUMANS” rather than the rich rulers.

  33. Don Hawkins said on November 1st, 2009 at 3:52am #

    Marc wrote Representative democracy is killing us. It appears so so far. So far we see not only the easy way out from so called leaders at someone else’s expense so to speak but just stupid little games done with a very low level of thought and something called bullshit. In the next 6 months or so the tried and true method of fiction is fact and illusion of knowledge will be taken to a new level in the first part of the twenty first century. If you like watching pure unadulterated stupidity the next few months will provide that. Of course it will be made to seem like something was done and in the real World still here there is such a thing just illusion very low level of thought. It will all seem so official and so far just that seem. What do you think ignorance is strength back in power in 2012 maybe Huckabee. Well if Obama would allow a noise generator to be used in one of the cities what might the ignorance is strength people allow? Remember one thing these people know they are ass holes yes they do and so far it doesn’t matter to them because they get away with it. They know what they say and do is illusion and bullshit they know oh yes they know. The time is now calm at peace one voice and get some ear plugs.

  34. ajohnstone said on November 1st, 2009 at 4:42am #

    Grrrr, sorry for the mis-post .

    What i was going to say was , can i recommend the book “Eco-Socialism” by David Pepper.

    Socialists, he says, start from a concern for the suffering of humans and look for a solution to this. This makes them “anthropocentric” as opposed to the “ecocentrism” – Nature first – of many ecologists and Greens. The plunder and destruction of Nature is rejected as not being in the interests of the human species, not because the interests of Nature come first.Nor is it true that humans as such are a pollutant says Pepper. It is in identifying the causes of pollution and environmental degradation that Greens can in his view learn most from Marx.
    Marx’s materialist conception of history makes the way humans are organised to meet their material needs the basis of any society. Humans meet their material needs by transforming parts of the rest of nature into things that are useful to them; this in fact is what production is. So the basis of any society is its mode of production which, again, is the same thing as its relationship to the rest of nature. Humans survive by interfering in the rest of nature to change it for their own benefit.
    Greens are wrong to see this interference as inherently destructive of nature. It might do this , but there is no reason why it has to. That humans have to interfere in nature is a fact of human existence. How humans interfere in nature, on the other hand, depends on the kind of society they live in. Present-day society, capitalism, which exists all over the globe is a class-divided society where the means of production are owned and controlled by a tiny minority of the population only.
    Capitalism differs from previous class societies in that under it production is not for direct use, not even of the ruling class, but for sale on a market. To repeat once more , competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly.

    Max , i find very few Greens who reject capitalism .Most Greens i have encountered are in favour of some form of capitalism, generally small-scale capitalism involving small firms serving local markets and if they desire to be seen as progressive they call for “co-operatives”. An underlying philosophy that “small is beautiful”and a philosophy that leads to mistakenly blaming large-scale industry and modern technology as such for causing pollution and not the capitalist system per se.

    Also to be a recommended read and i am sure most are aware of him and that is Murray Bookchin who has also exposed the “anti-humanism” of Greens and ecologists. He argues that human beings are both a part and a product of nature and humans have a unique significance in nature since they are the only life-form capable of reflective thought and so of conscious intervention to change the environment. It is absurd to regard human intervention in nature as some outside disturbing force, since humans are precisely that part of nature which has evolved that consciously intervenes in the rest of nature; it is our nature to do so. True , that at the present time, the form human intervention in the rest of Nature takes is upsetting natural balances and cycles, but the point is that humans, unlike other life-forms, are capable of changing their behaviour.In this sense the human species is the brain and voice of Nature ie. Nature become self-conscious. But to fulfil this role humans must change the social system which mediates their intervention in nature. A change from capitalism to a community where each contributes to the whole to the best of his or her ability and takes from the common fund of produce what he or she needs. Bookchin too is critical of those with the highly misleading notion that society can live with a market economy that is ‘green’, ‘ecological’, or ‘moral’, under conditions of wage labour, exchange, competition and the like.

    The framework within which humans can regulate their relationship with the rest of nature in an ecologically acceptable way has to be a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources, freed from the tyranny of the economic laws that operate wherever there is production for sale on a market

    For a more specific article on sustainability and capitalism see
    http://www.worldsocialism.org/articles/deforestation.php

  35. Don Hawkins said on November 1st, 2009 at 4:43am #

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/01/forty-days-climate-deal-copenhagen

    Global warming has brought hard times to Hebei, the dry northern province of China that envelops Beijing. Rising temperatures and unpredictable rain patterns have forced farmers and nomads to flee the land and move to cities. Lakes are drying, crops are withering, deserts are spreading and food production is declining: all reminders to the Chinese government that it cannot afford to ignore the danger of climate change.

  36. Don Hawkins said on November 1st, 2009 at 5:39am #

    Get ready people as the ignorance is strength people and that would be on both sides here in the States are about to show us who they are with just a little reading between the lines. The Republicans are going to walk out of the Senate chamber as the climate bill is written. Cap and trade is complex and in many way’s a joke on the human race.

    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Einstein

    Will a few stay silent no they sure will not but as we know the ignorance is strength people who still control media, bank’s, policy and our thoughts or try to are going into high gear. Like Northern China now here in the States in just a few years same and take-out will take on a whole new meaning. If the greatest nation on Earth does what it appears will happen will there be any reason why China or India the rest of the World should listen to anything we say, I think not. For those of us who were born here and know I guess we get more strangeness. Will we be told to listen to our leaders have trust and hope as we and the rest of the World all go down the drain in not such slow motion, yes I am sure we will.

  37. Max Shields said on November 1st, 2009 at 6:29am #

    ajohnstone, “nature first”? this is a strawman!!

    You’re arguments are between two (or more) writers who have nothing to do with the “conversation” I’ve been having here. You’re talking about something that is even on the table; and trying to make a case for eco-socialism and socialism being kinder and gentler.

    It certainly isn’t about nature first or second. It is about interdependency first, second….last. When you find a way for human-centric eco-socialism to live without need of the planet earth call me….

    Marx is not a teach of what we know today about the eco-system – but if someone finds something in one of his texts that shed some light on something all well and good…but that doesn’t make socialism the prognosticator of all things eco!!!

    Look if you want to be an ideologue about this ajohnstone because you’ve bitten off the Marx apple and he said it all (don’t ya know) fine. But if you want to debate an issue debate it on the merits of what I’ve posted instead of someone talking about someone, blah blah blah.

    The true believers are dan e and deadbeat. They’ll eat up everything you say about Marx and particularly if it’s a debate with moi. It’s become a habit (not an argument…).

    And for the moment, lastly, human needs are NOT all material. The “needs” of a consumer society are all fabricated – I’m sure your Marx will agree, and so don’t those who see this mindless endless system of growth a pathological doom.

  38. Don Hawkins said on November 1st, 2009 at 6:33am #

    One unresolved issue is an agreement on emission reduction targets for key industrialized countries — notably the United States, the No. 2 emitter behind China.

    “The United States’ negotiators will be unable to put a firm proposal on the table in Copenhagen. Without a firm and binding pledge in domestic law from the United States, the other countries — India, China, Brazil, Mexico, Russia — will not deliver binding targets of their own,” Broder says.

    http://www.rferl.org/content/Uncertainty_Prevails_On_Climate_Treaty_Ahead_Of_Copenhagen_Summit/1866364.html

    That was from radio free Europe and here in the States in a few years a blink of an eye in human terms.

    “Be well this is the people’s radio station. First reports this morning are saying more troops are massing on the Southern boarder of Russia. China has called for calm and trying to get food and water to the estimated 200 million people now on the Northern boarded. Reports out of India are hard to get and the best we know today July 2029 India is still under Marshall law. The fires in California have stopped for now and the central valley is almost uninhabitable and LA still under Marshall law gas in short supply and Long Range Acoustic Devices reported in many part’s of the city. Temperatures in Southern California are expected to reach records again today. The government is asking for calm in Texas and promising more water and food and gas as people move North. Flooding again in the Northeast and more new settlements on the border with Canada. The government and NASA again in talk’s to see if aerosol injection into Earth’s atmosphere can be used. All for now and temperature updates in one hour save energy be well”.

  39. Aetius Romulous said on November 1st, 2009 at 7:32am #

    I have kids, and so was out of commission for the Halloween experience. This has become one hell of a thread. Really interesting reading. I feel an obligation to contribute.

    It may be human nature, however often these discussions morph into semantics in as much as the labels become more contentious than the underlying issue. We often handicap our thinking by trying to fit it into pre existing dogma. It is extremely hard to discuss an issue it seems, without first attaching a luggage burdened camel to it.

    I would posit that our ultimate problem is that the sum total of all historical thought has amounted to squat, which should have been predictable simply because all of it is based on common premise that may have been fundamentally wrong at the get go. It takes real mental gymnastics to bust it all back to fundamentals when all we really know is our own experience and the experience of others, all of which is biased in some way.

    So that is a long way of saying that the challenge is to frame the issue outside of current labels and dogma. Our problems are very real and speeding towards us exponentially. Eventually there will be a point where the unraveling is critical enough that the truth will be laid bare and obvious where it never was before…at which point it will be too late. We call that hindsight I guess.

    What I would love to do is get there before its hindsight and too late. Foresight?

    Eco Socialist Marxist Capitalist Democratic Anarchy….too much time is spent on competing differences. I would ask, What are the similarities? Lets start there.

  40. Max Shields said on November 1st, 2009 at 7:49am #

    Aetius Romulous , “So that is a long way of saying that the challenge is to frame the issue outside of current labels and dogma. Our problems are very real and speeding towards us exponentially.”

    Here here!
    Max

  41. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on November 1st, 2009 at 8:34am #

    max,
    if i understood u correctly, you are saying that “capitalism” [whatever that may mean to each person?] does not belong to the study aetius undertook?

    If that is what you meant, then u wld have been confirming my guess that people think-talk behave as if “capiatalism” exist in total isolation from every utterance made by aetius and aetius’ piece also existing in total isolation from all there is.
    Sorry, to see such an attitude. There are thinkers who connect everything that happens; with each phenomenon influencing every other phenomenon and in turn is being influennced by ever other happening.

    It is known as “leave no stone unturned in search for a solution”.
    Such an attitude is exhibited by numerous ad hoc orgs; including greens. They think that they can bring on saving-the-biota change while governed by one party system laboring under an interpretative constitution while using resources-moneys to wage wars, spew more pollution, etcetc. tnx
    It’s no surprise US governance even welcomes all these ad hoc groups as long as they stay away from dealing with all of it!
    WE NEED TO DEAL ALL OF IT! tnx

  42. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on November 1st, 2009 at 8:44am #

    Corporate media also confirms the fallacy of viewing phenomana as separate entities. MSM usually urges to stay with the topic. The topic they chose being the only important topic and all other topics not connected to their or a pol’s WELL CHOSEN TOPIC[S].

    It is like asking a pol LOOKING DWN ON YA ONE AND ONLY ONE QUESTION and pol proceeds to spout out a preprepared ONE AND ONLY non]answer! TNX

  43. Max Shields said on November 1st, 2009 at 8:51am #

    bazh,

    Not exactly. Here’s what I’m saying. There are two types of systems in the world – human made and natural. The human ones we fabricate, alter and institutionalize.

    The natural system (EcoSystem) is something our human systems can either accommodate, adapt to or act as if human systems are predominant. Human-centricity has ruled in Western civilizations as these have evolved as if we can conquer the EcoSystem with our technology and science and impose it through our political and economic systems wants and needs (these too being fabricated to feed the human economic system).

    This is an unsustainable predicament – instead we need to harmonize our human systems (economic, political, and cultural) with the EcoSystem. This requires not a nature-centric view, but one of understanding the interdependency of the human and all other living forces.

    Capitalism is just a label that shifts and changes to suite whatever frameworks of political power shifts and drifts emerge. Socialism is a catchall for a similar hodgepodge of ideology. Neither offers a fresh look at the core and dangerous problem we face. They lock us into a solution chasing a problem rather than the other way around.

  44. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on November 1st, 2009 at 9:41am #

    Fur thermore, i suggest we do not criticise even what people say; instead, posit your own facts, conclusions, or suggestions ab. what we shld do.
    A person’s syntax, spelling, punctuation do not have to be without faults; especially, if meanings are accurately-adequately transfered.
    If one does not get the meaning, one does not need to get rude-demeaning [as pols and editors do], one can ask for a parphrase.

    For if we are to educate people, we need to persistenly expose how
    sacerdotal-politico-educational people talk to us, the unwashed.
    Much of their talk to us is insulting-demeaning. Sorry to say, most people don’t espy the insults.
    Perhaps, once the insults wld be clearly exposed, people might see them as such and wld boycott all pols’ and other miseducators’ ‘talks’ who persits in being demeaning, flattering, praising, self-laudatory; in short full of hot air!
    Recall please that even verbal brilliancies are but insults.
    I don’t use them to explain life to my wife and i am not gonna use them here on DV.
    Let us recall that probably 300mn americans have no clue what most of those latin, french, german, and greek words mean. What is detente, codicil, configuration, epistomology, etiology, paradigm, leverage, toxic assets, ontology, federal reserve, pursuit of happiness, equality under the law, etc. mean to most canadians and americans?

    Most probably wld say, I wish i had gone to shool to understand all that. But wld not espy that english was just like german today a mere one+ k yrs ago.
    And german today is much a germanic tongue as once english and every idea can be expressed in any germanic or slavic tongue and possibly sans a single foreign word.
    tnx

  45. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on November 1st, 2009 at 10:20am #

    max,
    Your latest explanation appears satisfactory. But i do suggest that the two systems: human made and natural appear to have been posited as not connected and not as the only two aspects of one reality.

    Yes, and you are saying it also, that we humans are part of the nature or one reality. Thus, also infinitely valued just like nature.
    However, innately we also want to survive and have an innate quality to be curious; seek knowledge, justice, fairness, peacefulness, etc.

    We have behaved much like that, methinks, but before rise of shamans, clergy, war- and feudal lords, ‘educators’, et al.
    I am hopefull we can regain those freedoms, securities, sharing, caring, etc.
    But not ever as long US is ruled by war- and feudal lords.
    Until we do we will be like Syssipus who wld role the stone up the hill only to see it crash dwn every time.
    And indeed, ?all movements and orgs, religions, cults [perhaps 10k of them] made matters even worse ?everywhere.
    WE NEED A UNIFIED THEORY! tnx

  46. Max Shields said on November 1st, 2009 at 10:42am #

    Bozh,

    I’m not diminishing, and have no desire to do so, human existence and emergence on the planet. But we have, in the West and elsewhere, taken our position to extremes. We are conscious beings and therefore had an accute ability to establish moral underpinnings to our actions. However we frequently do not act in accordance withe those moralities, which seem quite universal.

    Understanding the human condition and setting it square in the mix of the natural milieu is central. Humans, through religion, institutions, traditions, have managed to push away from all other living beings in the pursuit of dominance.

    We see many indigenous peoples have opted for a more harmonize view of life – both human, and non-human and inanimate.

    The needs humans have, I would submit, are rarely touched in a society built on GNP, materialism, productivity, and consumption. And so deep down we ache but like all pathologically induced people we simply can’t abandon the deadend trajectory we’re on.

    Unity, yes. Theory, no.

  47. Don Hawkins said on November 1st, 2009 at 12:17pm #

    It appears that in doing the easy thing the easy way out the low road we will find a way and man it will be anything but easy. Billions will not make it and how much of the knowledge will be saved is a good question. We get to see illusion of knowledge taken to new highs very soon as have we seen just one hard choice in say the last two years I think not. It takes courage to go the other way and so far courage and knowledge the truth have we seen much of that? One question why is it the wealthy the few don’t want to see health care reform or more spending by the government. The real reason. The climate bill is totally out of the question for them why the real reason because it will hurt future generation’s, again I think not.

  48. ajohnstone said on November 1st, 2009 at 12:20pm #

    Hmmm???….Max , i thought you were the first person to refer us all to the such as Daly and Henry George for insights , so i felt i could include others on your reading list and , of course , one of those writers i suggested does not consider himself a Marxist ( in fact, he is quite a critic of Marxists ) and he has developed a school of thought , what he calls “social ecology”
    http://www.social-ecology.org/
    But i am sure you are aware of him .

    I have to the best of my abilities identified the fundamental reasons why a sustainable zero-growth society is inherently not possible under capitalism [ again we can call the interpretation as " impossibleism" ] and have argued for the creation and establishment of a different type of society which will permit a steady- state , ecologically sound world to flourish. I have presented a critique of current accepted Green alternatives which i say are doomed to failure because of the nature of capitalism . If you disagree , then defend capitalism as a social system that can be successfully reformed.

    “Capitalism can no more be ‘persuaded’ to limit growth than a human being can be ‘persuaded’ to stop breathing. Attempts to ‘green’ capitalism, to make it ‘ecological’, are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth. ” –Murray Bookchin

    Max you said i should debate on the merits of what you posted and i believed i did but in general terms , but if you want a specific then you have said “..I’m closely aligned with a Green distributed governance, and an economics of steady-state zero growth…” and praised Porrit for offering solutions without contradictions.

    One of the ways in which Porritt suggests that governments could achieve a “a market-based model of sustainable capitalism” would be to force the competing enterprises to treat natural resources as if they were capital, subject to depreciation which had to be accounted for in monetary terms. He talks of “natural capital”, treating Nature as an economic category with a price-tag .
    Porritt complains that “we show nothing but contempt for the contribution from nature, valuing it at zero as some kind of free gift or subsidy” and that, as a result, “today’s dominant paradigm of capitalism” leads to the plundering of non-renewable resources (such as oil and minerals) and the over-harvesting of renewable ones (such as fish and forests).

    This is true but his proposed solution – to take into account the non-renewed consumption of natural material as a negative amount when calculating GDP, as an incentive to cut back on it as a way of avoiding a reduction in GDP leaves the real world unchanged.

    In the real world, which GDP attempts to measure, the competing enterprises would still only take into account as a cost what they had to pay for. As it costs no labour to produce natural materials (only to extract or harvest them, not to create them), whether or not they are renewed doesn’t enter into the calculation. If enterprises were forced to artificially take into account using up non-renewed natural resources in their business accounts, that would distort the calculation of the rate of profit which is the key economic indicator for capitalism. There is no way round this under capitalism, which simply cannot be remodelled or reformed on this point.

    Porritt does concede that he could be wrong about capitalism and environmental sustainability and how bad it would be “to be committed to a reform agenda if the system one sought to reform was inherently incapable of accommodating the necessary changes in the first place”. This is precisely the case I have been trying to present and if being so his own conclusion must stand :

    “If, as a politically active environmentalist or campaigner for social justice, one’s answer to the question is that they are, indeed, mutually exclusive (that capitalism, in whichever manifestation, is in its very essence inherently unsustainable), then one’s only morally consistent response is to devote one’s political activities to the overthrow of capitalism”.
    [quotes from Porritt's Capitalism As if the World Matters]

  49. Max Shields said on November 1st, 2009 at 12:51pm #

    I’ve made no case whatsoever for capitalism. That’s why I think your arguments addressing mine are stawmen.

    I start from the problem, and move from them. I would suggest not attempting simply fix capitalism, thought Peter Barnes’ Capitalism 3.0 is interesting as he looks to take on the pathologies of capitalism with public trusts.

    All change is extremely difficult, particularly intentional change. Most real systemic change comes from trauma and the outcome is unpredictable. So public trusts, as he positions them, could correct the pathologies but how to implement?

    Even if we all agreed that Capitalism is dead. I think we need to understand what that means. Does it mean there are no markets? Or does it mean we have a more strident form of the worst of what we think Capitalism is a harsh fascism? Is Socialism a real alternative or it like the two party system, just one side of the same coin?

    I prefer to stick with the problem, separate it from ideology and see who the species can survive in a creative and healthy environment.

  50. dan e said on November 1st, 2009 at 5:37pm #

    Bozh, a note on terminology, just for clarity: Capitalism and Fascism are not synonymous although it often seems that way. The Capitalist mode of production/distribution/appropriation of the surplus ( beyond what is consumed by the producers or in the process of production) normally operates in the context of what Marx termed “bourgeois democracy”, that is to say it operates with the consent of the general public, with only an occasional need to resort to overt violence against members of the Labor Force.
    Fascism is the term used to describe the modified state system the capitalist power elite, aka The Ruling Class turns to when dissatisfaction with the existing political arrangements becomes too widespread to be easily contained and the capitalists decide to employ State Terrorism not just occasionally or not just to suppress particular groups, but to employ it fulltime.
    Certain “rapper” types have described the difference as one between Rule by Technology, i.e. weaponry,and Rule by Tricknology.
    This leaves us with a need for a term that describes the situation in which the general public in a country happily supports a government which rules another or several other countries by naked violence.

  51. dan e said on November 1st, 2009 at 6:11pm #

    See Max:) See Max squirm:)

    First he tells us to ignore the wealth of understanding bequeathed to us by the single greatest critic of capitalism who ever shit between two shoes, and urges us to read all kinds of bs from the pens of Henry George and other apologists for “free enterprise” and “free markets”.
    Then he does a 180 and claims not to be a supporter of capitalism:)

    What a crock. You can’t have it both ways Max. Either you are in favor of abolishing the Statutes of the Status Quo, or you aren’t.

    Capitalism is founded on a certain conception, the notion of Private Property. If you want to change how things operate, the first thing you have to do is change the property laws.
    No, nobody is talking about taking away your bicycle, not even your modest suburban home or your SUV. When Proudhon said “Property Is Theft”, he knew his readers would understand that he meant Productive Property, mainly agricultural real estate at that time. But nowadays Property in the Means of Production exists in many other forms.
    Property used in the process of production, which is carried on socially, must not be the property of particular individuals/families.

    The fundamental problem is that Production is carried on socially but the Product is appropriated individually.

    All “theorizing” which fails to address this fundamental contradiction, which fails to call first and foremost for the Expropriation of the Expropriators, is not only vacuous, it is positively noxious because it confuses and distracts people, and thus serves the perpetuation of the status quo.
    So later with all this jive bullshit. Don’t care whether you call it “green” or “libertarian” or Krypto-Republican, it’s all a bunch of fog and smoke thrown up to keep the victims of this vicious capitalist system from figuring out what’s going on.
    So if you find yourself enjoying life in America as one of the “Intermediate Strata”, as a small scale entrepeneur or a “Salaried Professional”, or something similar (cf Nikos Poulantzas, Eric Olin Wright:) you may not like being cast in the role of Warmonger by a government/State Apparatus you have no control over, so you’d like to see some changes as long as they dont Go Too Far. In such a case you may be attracted to one of these “third way” ideologies, Greenism, Libertarianism, Henrygeorgism etc etc.
    But if you find yourself somewhere near the bottom of the socio-economic scale, you need to first acquaint yourself with the works of Karl Marx and Fred. Engels, and then engage in a critical study of their many “disciples” and interpreters. Forget Henry George, that kind of crap is for people who “own” Real Estate:)

  52. Aetius Romulous said on November 1st, 2009 at 6:58pm #

    The single failure of the Eco movement is that it is western based and does not account for the socioeconomic realities of the balance of the earth. None of the agenda that I can see addresses the wrenching inequality of the planet, and the pressure that the eco agenda puts on emerging societies. It’s a non starter in its present form, and can be dangerous as a potential western hegemon.

    I like Henry George because he is well representative of the golden age of economics, a time when the study was philosophical and sought answers. He spoke in common language and expressed issues simply for common people. They wrote for folks, and not for peers then. George wouldn’t know “econometrics” if it hit him in the groin. Didn’t need to.

    George got it right I think, as he walked back the system of his day eloquently and deductively. I accept his “labour first” analysis, and the philosophy that flows from that. That is the beauty of George, that classic deductive logic that is soooo missing from economics today. Of course, he did himself no favors using the same logic to find a place for god. That’s always a buzzer for me.

    Regardless, as I say, I’m a believer to an extent. The land tax thing is iffy at best, and I believe contemporary Georgists would do themselves a favour by dropping this silly notion and focusing on the philosophy. The value in George is not that he solves the case, but immensely adds to the value of the discussion. The solution, I believe, will have a strong Georgist influence.

    What George needs more than anything is to be more widely read and accepted as a contributing voice. He – and the Georgists – really need more critical review in order to update Georgism under fire. The growing Georgist movement is extremely valuable in this regard.

  53. Max Shields said on November 1st, 2009 at 7:43pm #

    If you think the land tax is iffy than what makes it so? First, I don’t think the word tax is really the right word – rent is more appropriate (but today we talk in terms of property tax).

    Most classical economists were philosopher/moralists. The “simple” part is that they did not use arcane models as has become the academic trend of the neo-classical economists.

    I suppose dan e your screeches and screams will be heard by your shadow – deadbeat and he’ll heap on more mindless spouting; foolishly thinking that two thoughtless arguments wins over any kind of learned reasoning.

  54. Aetius Romulous said on November 1st, 2009 at 7:57pm #

    Max, I believe it high time for a return to economic philosophy. Economists today are simply errand boys for their ideologies.

    As regards George, I can’t accept that a single “tax” as the Georgists propose will in any way provide for a modern, complex world – as sweet as it would be if it could. But mainly I suppose…its a fix that just ain’t gonna happen, for obvious reasons. And a fix that can’t happen is not a fix. So move on.

  55. Max Shields said on November 1st, 2009 at 8:05pm #

    Many have called Henry George a Socialist, others consider him a clear example of a Capitalist.

    It’s been said that Marx thought George’s ideas about land were foolish. And then, with time, he completely changed his mind and began writing along the same lines.

    When you, dan e, are prepared to look more soberly at Henry George instead of googling tidbits and concluding like a 30 second soundbite on a man’s writing that most renowned thinkers thought of as a genius. George Bernard Shaw (a socialist, Tolstoy, certainly no capitalist, Einstein, and many many more).

    But again, I’m no apologist for George, and I don’t claim to be a “Georgist”, but the merit in his works deserves serious consideration. It’s not just a theory. It’s been put to use in nearly a thousand cities, and some entire nations. It doesn’t create a comprehensive economic system, but provides the basis for an equitable distribution of natural resources and thus the ability to distribute wealth.

  56. ajohnstone said on November 1st, 2009 at 8:14pm #

    “Is Socialism a real alternative or it like the two party system…”

    Socialism is a money-less society in which use values would be produced from other use values. Socialism is a decentralised or polycentric society that is self regulating , self adjusting and self correcting , from below and not from the top . It is not a command economy but a responsive one .

    Planning in socialism is essentially a question of industrial organisation, of organising productive units into a productive system functioning smoothly to supply the useful things which people had indicated they needed, both for their individual and for their collective consumption. What socialism would establish would be a rationalised network of planned links between users and suppliers; between final users and their immediate suppliers, between these latter and their suppliers, and so on down the line to those who extract the raw materials from nature. The responsibility of these industries would be to ensure the supply of a particular kind of product either, in the case of consumer goods, to distribution centres or, in the case of goods used to produce other goods, to productive units or other industries. Planning is indeed central to the idea of socialism, but socialism is the planned (i mean consciously coordinated and do not want this to be confused with the central planning concept ) production of useful things to satisfy human needs precisely instead of the production, planned or otherwise, of wealth as exchange value, commodities and capital. In socialism wealth would have simply a specific use value

    Production and distribution in socialism would be a question of organising a coordinated and more or less self-regulating system of linkages between users and suppliers, enabling resources and materials to flow smoothly from one productive unit to another, and ultimately to the final user, in response to information flowing in the opposite direction originating from final users. The productive system would thus be set in motion from the consumer end, as individuals and communities took steps to satisfy their self-defined needs. Socialist production is self-regulating production for use.

    Simply put , in socialism there would be no barter economy or monetary system. It would be a economy based on need. Therefore, a consumer would have a need, and there would be a communication system set in place that relays that need to the producer. The producer create the product, and then send the product back to the consumer, and the need would be satisfied.

    Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society. In a society such as capitalism, people’s needs are not met and reasonable people feel insecure. People tend to acquire and hoard goods because possession provides some security. People have a tendency to distrust others because the world is organized in such a dog-eat-dog manner. If people didn’t work society would obviously fall apart. To establish socialism the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in socialist society. If people want too much? In a socialist society “too much” can only mean “more than is sustainably produced.” For socialism to be established the productive potential of society must have been developed to the point where, generally speaking, we can produce enough for all. This is not now a problem as we have long since reached this point. However, this does require that we appreciate what is meant by “enough” and that we do not project on to socialism the insatiable consumerism of capitalism.
    If people decide that they (individually and as a society) need to over-consume then socialism cannot possibly work. Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising. There is also in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. The prevailing ideas of society are those of its ruling class so then we can understand why, when the wealth of that class so preoccupies the minds of its members, such a notion of status should be so deep-rooted. It is this which helps to underpin the myth of infinite demand. It does not matter how modest one’s real needs may be or how easily they may be met; capitalism’s “consumer culture” leads one to want more than one may materially need since what the individual desires is to enhance his or her status within this hierarchal culture of consumerism and this is dependent upon acquiring more than others have got. But since others desire the same thing, the economic inequality inherent in a system of competitive capitalism must inevitably generate a pervasive sense of relative deprivation. What this amounts to is a kind of institutionalised envy and that will be unsustainable as more peoples are drawn into alienated capitalism .
    In socialism, status based upon the material wealth at one’s command, would be a meaningless concept. The notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth would be devoid of meaning because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to the resultant goods and services . Why take more than you need when you can freely take what you need? In socialism the only way in which individuals can command the esteem of others is through their contribution to society, and the stronger the movement for socialism grows the more will it subvert the prevailing capitalist ethos, in general, and its anachronistic notion of status, in particular.

    All wealth would be produced on a strictly voluntary basis. Work in socialist society could only be voluntary since there would be no group or organ in a position to force people to work against their will. Free access to goods and services denies to any group or individuals the political leverage with which to dominate others (a feature intrinsic to all private-property or class based systems through control and rationing of the means of life ) . This will work to ensure that a socialist society is run on the basis of democratic consensus. Goods and services would be provided directly for self determined needs and not for sale on a market; they would be made freely available for individuals to take without requiring these individuals to offer something in direct exchange. The sense of mutual obligations and the realisation of universal interdependency arising from this would profoundly colour people’s perceptions and influence their behaviour in such a society. We may thus characterise such a society as being built around a moral economy and a system of generalised reciprocity.

    You ask , Max , Does it mean there are no markets? Apologies for having to define our terms .

    Capitalism is not just an exchange economy but an exchange economy where the aim of production is to make a profit .Profit is the monetary expression of the difference between the exchange value of a product and the exchange value of the materials , energy and labour-power used to produce it , or what Marx called “surplus value” .
    Defenders of capitalism like yourself , Max , never seem to ask yourselves the practical question about what the critical factor determining a production initiative in a market system.
    The answer is obvious from everyday experience . The factor that critically decides the production of commodities is the judgement that enterprises make about whether they can be sold in the market .Obviously , consumers buy in the market that they perceive as being for their needs . But whether or not the transaction takes place is not decided by needs but by ability to pay . So the realisation of profit in the market determines both the production of goods and also the distribution of goods by various enterprises . In the market system the motive of production , the organisation of production , and the distribution of goods are inseparable parts of the same economic process : the realisation of profit and the accumulation of capital. The economic pressure on capital is that of accumulation , the alternative is bankruptcy . The production and distribution of goods is entirely subordinate to the pressure on capital to accumulate . The economic signals of the market are not signals to produce useful things . They signal the prospects of profit and capital accumulation , If there is a profit to be made then production will take place ; if there is no prospect of profit , then production will not take place . Profit not need is the deciding factor . Under capitalism what appear to be production decisions are in fact decisions to go for profit in the market .
    The function of cost/pricing is to enable a business enterprise to calculate its costs, to fix its profit expectations within a structure of prices, to regulate income against expenditure and, ultimately, to regulate the exploitation of its workers. Unfortunately , prices can only reflect the wants of those who can afford to actually buy what economists call “effective demand” . – and not real demand for something from those without the wherewithal – the purchasing power – to buy the product (or even to express a preference for one product over another . I may want a sirloin steak but i can only afford a hamburger ) .

    Socialist determination of needs begins with consumer needs and then flows throughout distribution and on to each required part of the structure of production. Socialism will make economically-unencumbered production decisions as a direct response to needs . With production for use , the starting point will be needs .
    By the replacement of exchange economy by common ownership basically what would happen is that wealth would cease to take the form of exchange value, so that all the expressions of this social relationship peculiar to an exchange economy, such as money and prices, would automatically disappear. In other words, goods would cease to have an economic value and would become simply physical objects which human beings could use to satisfy some want or other. (One reason why socialism holds a decisive productive advantage over capitalism is by eliminating the need to tie up vast quantities of resources and labour implicated in a system of monetary/pricing accounting.)

    Yes , Max , socialism is a real alternative .

    I haven’t employed the word “pathologies” as you and some orthers have done on this thread but we can only “cure the planet” by establishing a society without private productive property or profit where humans will be freed from the uncontrollable economic laws of the pursuit of profit and the accumulation of capital. Only a world socialist society, based on the common ownership and democratic control of natural resources, is compatible with production that respects the natural environment.

    Humans are capable of integrating themselves into a stable ecosystem. and there is nothing whatsoever that prevents this being possible today on the basis of industrial technology and methods of production, all the more so , that renewable energies exist (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and whatever ) but, for the capitalists, these are a “cost” which penalises them in face of international competition.No agreement to limit the activities of the multinationals in their relentless quest for profits is possible. Measures in favour of the environment come up against the interests of enterprises and their shareholders because by increasing costs they decrease profits. No State is going to implement legislation which would penalise the competitiveness of its national enterprises in the face of foreign competition. States only take into account environmental questions if they can find an agreement at international level which will disadvantage none of them. But that’s the sproblem , isn’t it ? Competition for the appropriation of world profits is one of the bases of the present system. So it is not “Humans” but the capitalist economic system itself which is responsible for ecological problems and the capitalist class and their representatives , they themselves are subject to the laws of profit and competition.

  57. Max Shields said on November 1st, 2009 at 8:36pm #

    Aetius Romulous to say it “can’t happen” is to say that nothing will happen that is not happening.

    Yours sounds like Stiglitz’s argument (who does support a land tax), but thinks that there are limits to its implementation, but he does not discount it as a significant alternative and that it could take care of much.

    The problem with Stiglitz’s argument is that it is not based on a steady-state economy. He has not moved away from growth.

    In growth-based economy with its multi-trillion dollar investment in war and occupation, of course a rent on land will not do. But since we are a debtor nation, some would say bankrupt but afloat by the tentrils of the global economy and the dollar as the basis exchange, it is hard to argue that the means of revenue generation we have today to keep the bloated empire are adequate.

    Again, George offers a solution. If you know of a more sound way to assure a fair and equitable means of ensuring the common good, I’d be interested.

  58. Melissa said on November 1st, 2009 at 8:55pm #

    Hey all above my post . . . thanks for the great arguments, opinions and references. Good reading here.

    Max. Damn. Good. Stuff.

    Peace,
    Melissa

  59. Christophe said on November 1st, 2009 at 9:06pm #

    At the risk of sounding deflationary if not sycophantic, your piece is incisive and bludgeoning at once! I had to read through it twice, but, that bit on this notion of bigger and always better was most disturbing and close to home.

  60. Christophe said on November 1st, 2009 at 9:25pm #

    I just wanted to add that I am presently reading Faith in Freedom, by Dr. Thomas Szasz, Coincidentally, Dr. Szasz uses the analogy of economics, having turned to mathematics, in order to better prognosticate human behavior, has actually resulted in greater misery. Well, that is arguable, however, your weltanshauung is rather cynical, but you understand at what price.

  61. Deadbeat said on November 2nd, 2009 at 4:35am #

    It’s been said that Marx thought George’s ideas about land were foolish. And then, with time, he completely changed his mind and began writing along the same lines.

    Max this is bogus and I posted on DV both Marx and Engles critiques of Henry George as well and Daniel De Leon’s critique. Engles was perhaps the most generous in that he acknowledges George’s contribution to getting the working class in motion and hoped the George’s supporters in motion would take his ideas further. You tend to repeat the same bromides even when you have been show to be incorrect or your arguments are shown to be fallacious. You hope by repeating the same crap that you’ll win converts which makes you a very dangerous person since I believe your agenda is “Chomskyesque” — so confusion in order to maintain the status quo.

    Also Aetius Romulous is correct. The land tax will not work today. In fact Marx, Engles and DeLeon argued that it would not work even in the 19th and early 20th Century. Clearly today you can run a boiler room operation in a 1000 sq ft office and rake in billions. The land tax would do nothing to reclaim wealth generated from no real production. So right there the land tax fails. I’ve posed this argument to you for months now and you have never even offered a rebuttal because that one argument blows away the whole notion of the point of a “land tax”. In fact Max you’ve argued against any redistribution of wealth which means that you accept the current level of INEQUALITY. Again I find the lack of any discussion of inequality by Daly, a former World Bank rep, to be specious.

    It is clear Max that you are advocating a form of Liberalism, Dan E pretty much sums you up.

    So later with all this jive bullshit. Don’t care whether you call it “green” or “libertarian” or Krypto-Republican, it’s all a bunch of fog and smoke thrown up to keep the victims of this vicious capitalist system from figuring out what’s going on.

  62. Max Shields said on November 2nd, 2009 at 6:48am #

    Aetius Romulous just one more thing on the updating of Henry George. Where the LVT has been applied it is called a split tax with property tax shifting from improvements to land over time, usually starting as revenue neutral to stabilize the local economy. It is not 100% land, but proportionately more land than improvement.

    The primary concept George provided was first and foremost a moral obligation. He saw wretched poverty and along side it progress and the concentration of wealth (he was actually in extreme poverty during much of his middle years). He simply asked: why? Why does such progress (and he was very clear about defining his terms) create such poverty in its wake? Is there a connection?

    Deadbeat, it is not bogus. It is true that George did not know Marx, but Marx knew of George. Marx may have been threatened by the fact that someone from the States was taking Europe by a storm and so made is negative remark. A remark he later retracted. Read what the revolutionist Sun Yat-sen had to say about George. Or George Bernard Shaw.

    To understand Marx vis-a-vis George you need to understand German economic leanings at the time. But Marx definitely later introduced the importance of land to his overall thesis.

    Again, Marx, like George were part of a classical economics which is foreign to Universities today. You can get some Marx, but no George and what the Universities produce are neo-classical economists by the droves. Neo-classicalists made land invisible. That is it is subsumed under capital and treated as an input. Classical economists (Ricardo – primarily, Smith, Marx and George) all worked from this equation: Land + Labor + Capital = Wealth. By taking Land out of the equation, neoclassical economists paved the way for the Fed (monetary system), neoliberalist trade, World Bank, WTO and basically the kind of capitalism we see today.

    Nevertheless many leading economists agree that land as a rent, and primary means of government revenue is the most equitable form of taxation there is. It addresses distribution, it is the most progressive (it’s non-elastic and therefore you can’t hide it in Swiss Banks), and it lays the way for a citizen a dividend. The latter would be a guaranteed income for all based on the value the community places on the land (remembering that land is all of nature).

    DB and dan e you can argue with this, but at least stop it with the dumb crap about how George was a nasty old capitalist and that somehow whatever Marx thought at any point in time was gospel. That’s weak thinking. Start to think for yourselves. George’s offering is not perfect, and it is not a system of economics. What it does is pierce the veil of what makes people poor and how can that be corrected. It is fundamental, and I would say necessary, but perhaps not sufficient to achieve a harmonious economics that is sustainable.

  63. Max Shields said on November 2nd, 2009 at 6:49am #

    P.S. Thank you Melissa.

    Max

  64. bozh said on November 2nd, 2009 at 7:47am #

    dan e,
    Capitalism, i’ll leave it undefined, and also deem it undefinable/unexplainable, cannot exist without people.
    So, people’s doings, all of those doings in our enviroment; call it what one may: fascism, capitalism, communism, socialism, mohammedanism, feudalism, and namecalling is just that.

    I.e., namecalling does not bring us enlightenment. However, each human can, to his/her satisfaction, define any ism, but not me.
    Or, as i say to me, leave the damn undefinables alone.

    However, enumeration of traits of any ism, includes americanism, brings us as-of-necessary-truth-for-the-moment a cristal clear elucidation.
    Fortunately for us, we can see at least some societal traits in US and elsewhere.

    So, the natuaral way of evaluation starts with enumeration and description of events-traits, followed by conclusions/suggestions what can be done, and only thereafter we call it a name.
    And only so as to not ad infinitum list the seeable characteristics/events/structure.

    One of the traits [one cld enumerate dozens of just salient ones] in almost all countries is the fact that a worker does not share in owning a work place.
    And work is part of life. And if a person is not in charge of work-workplace-sale of his/her poduct-produce, that person is not free.
    That person does not control his/her life to the degree that that person is entitled too or desires.
    Such a person may be called a dependency, serf, etc.
    As s’meone had said, “structure is the only content of knowledge”. Components of which we can see. We can see how a society is structured.
    Society in US as also elsewhere is multilayered and with each layer having varying politico-educational-military-executive powers.

    We cld conclude, to end this post, that the top layer has much more econo-military-educational power than any layer.
    And, guaranteed, iniquities arise!

  65. Max Shields said on November 2nd, 2009 at 8:20am #

    DB and dan e, it seems you need to cram everything into the same shoe size. You’re both missing the whole point.

    For those that think that an economics that accomodates ecological sustainability is too “white” than I’d say you just haven’t been talking to progressive African Americans and Latinos who understand to its core what is meant by Environmental Justice.

    On the other hand, I don’t think the notion of “green jobs” is going to lay a glove on the problem. The point is it’s not a racial issue and if there happen to be more caucasions who have joined this “movement” then so be it. The problem exists regardless and playing dumb and following Obama is not going to change the fact that there is a freight training heading right for us.

    Most indigenous people live sustainably. It’s the White/Western modernism that created the imbalance and it’s not corrected by using that method of living to correct matters. It’s not LIBERAL and it’s really ashame that there is this narrow mindset that can’t seem to get their minds around a problem and see it for what it is without tossing out ideological hocus pocus.

  66. bozh said on November 2nd, 2009 at 12:03pm #

    max,
    before so-called progress of the 1800′s, called euphemistically [and much coveted-praised] “industrialiazation”, all but few people have lived quite sustainably.
    Exception had always been the sybaritic class of life. But they were few and there was no chemicals or pollutants in those days for their overconsumption to affect air quality negatively or endanger biota.

    As u have pointed out, even today many people live sustainably. But what is happening [and i had been once naive] now in US and canada, is just so wastefull and unnecessary.

    I am so saddened by what we do that i say quite firmly that we all are criminals if we do not demand at least that ?all cars be put out of commission once we install public transport.

    Perhaps the ruling class had also hijacked also “green jobs”, “going green”, etc., in order to quiet us dwn or to feign concern. I think u said that the green jobs are not going to save us.
    As implemented by top layers of society, i’d say yes! Obviously the top layers in canada and US don’t intend to do all that much about public transit, aircraft, cruise ships [it wld be best to take a rowboat to hawaii or cuba] warships, tanks, leafblowers, power lawn mowers, electric this and that, etcetc.
    Seek simplicity: as long as we are ruled by feudal- and warlords as we have been for millennia, we can expect more of the same! tnx
    But when hadn’t the ruling class duped us? So, what’s one more time and many times more! tnx

  67. Max Shields said on November 2nd, 2009 at 12:15pm #

    bozh, the reason why I said green jobs won’t lay a glove on the problem is because the problem is enormous.

    I agree with your statement about autos. They are the bane of ours and the planet’s existence. It has done more to destroy both the ecological well-being of all as it has been one of the main forces behind community collapse – when it comes to poverty the US is one of the poorest nation on the planet when it comes to community.

  68. dan e said on November 2nd, 2009 at 5:53pm #

    How can you have a “land tax” unless the land to be taxed is somebody’s Private Property? “Commoditization”, indeed: only with the capitalist legal assumptions in place can portions of our Mother Earth become commodities to be bought and sold on “the free market”.

    Answer: there ain’t no such animal as a “free market”. All exchange of commodities, items produced with the intent to sell them, takes place according to the rules and conditions established and enforced by the Political Power reigning over the particular place and time.

    At certain times and places the dominant political Power Configuration will adopt rhetoric encouraging members of the public to believe they are enjoying “freedom”, “free enterprise”, “free trade”, “free markets”, but in actuality people in general are free only as long as their activities accord with the desires of the Power Elite. It’s just like Main Street: all these “owners” of small businesses are so proud of their independence, but in reality they stay in business only as long as they keep the bankers happy.

  69. ajohnstone said on November 2nd, 2009 at 6:38pm #

    Max- “Marx thought George’s ideas about land were foolish. And then, with time, he completely changed his mind and began writing along the same lines.”

    Deadbeat- ” Max this is bogus ”

    Max- “Deadbeat, it is not bogus…Marx definitely later introduced the importance of land to his overall thesis.” –

    Max , you can simply settle the matter by providing the citations for your claim [ and ,of course, Marx always did recognise the importance of land , no one disputes that , but can you provide your sources for implying that he or Engels recognised this importance in a similar way as Henry George did. ]

    Be very much appreciated

  70. Max Shields said on November 2nd, 2009 at 8:55pm #

    ajohnstone I’m not trying to settle any matter.

  71. Deadbeat said on November 2nd, 2009 at 9:33pm #

    Max Shields writes …

    ajohnstone I’m not trying to settle any matter.

    That is the truthful remark you’ve ever made on DV. Your “Chomskyesque” agenda is to sow confusion.

  72. Max Shields said on November 3rd, 2009 at 5:48am #

    The reason is that the “matter” is not even worthy of discussion beyond the passing point I made.

    The crux of the issue I’ve discussed small minds look for small things to disagree on and miss the bigger picture.

    What a pitty we have a few flies like that flying around DV.

  73. Max Shields said on November 3rd, 2009 at 7:07am #

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/3487397

  74. ajohnstone said on November 3rd, 2009 at 9:33pm #

    Thanks for the link to Silagi but i’m afraid i could only read the intro , not having the subscription to access the full article . It would appear that Silagi , one of the authors , is sympathetic to Henry George and is a proponent of Geonomy ,a land tax reform movement . But how reliable he is as an authority on Marx , i am not able to judge . But as it was you who made the claim that Marx came to accept and include ideas in his “overall thesis” that were shared by Henry George i would still appreciate those sources from the writings of Marx and Engels . Perhaps those are in the article you refer us to ,so in that case , simply cut and paste the references used and pass them on .

    I did find a relevant article athttp://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0254/is_5_62/ai_112083012/?tag=content;col1 by Fred Harrison which is making interesting reading but any comment by myself will have to wait although i was struck by the fact that he too mostly depends on speculation
    “Since Marx and Engels never met or corresponded with George, the opportunity for a sustained colloquy between them never arose. Nevertheless, we do have access to a reasonable second-best: the record of an exchange of views between George and his one-time London host, Henry M. Hyndman, who was for a while a confidant of Marx. ” and the article has many a quote that are from Marx criticism of Proudhon ie 1840s and not as you infer a development that took place in Marx’s later years .But i need to sit and read it fully to give its rightful appreciation.

  75. Aetius Romulous said on November 4th, 2009 at 6:36am #

    This has been a great thread with lots to consider. You guys know your stuff.

    For my part, I try and steer clear of most of these types of discussion – not because they don’t have value, but rather because I don’t do ideology or politics. I prefer to pick and choose bits and pieces where they advance understanding.

    It too often happens that we adopt a hero from the past, accept willingly the label attached, then spend our time defending that individual and his complete thought against all comers. This is the trap of ideology, that while all other arts are advanced through synthesis and progressive understanding, ideology – by its very nature – refuses change.

    So much of our politics, philosophy, and economics are mired in this way in ages long past, and have deliberately resisted the force of modern reality. We spend waaaay too much time attempting to fit our contemporary situation into iron clad design advanced by old guys from another era. In truth, they all contribute like their scientific contemporaries for instance, but, as I say, unlike their fellow thinkers in other fields of their era, they have become condemned to stasis by the very people who champion their cause. We are fortunate we treat other fields of inquiry with open minds we deny these unfortunate social ideologues of ages past.

    Our contemporary world and its problems have long outrun the individual contributions of Marx, Smith, George, et al. The challenge is for us to synthesize the best of each and have the courage to debunk the rest and move forward. None of these great old war horses solved anything independently, just as Copernicus was certainly not the “end of history” in his field. There are no “Copernicans”, and there is no “Copernicanism”, rather, all of science accepts him and his thought as a single, great, contribution to the whole of science – sans the silly bits.

    So that is my schtick – use the minds of great thinkers past as a grab bag of ideas on which to build new ones, assiduously avoiding the ideology trap where ever possible. Advance some ideas of socialism without using the term socialism, Capitalism without the word capitalism, and freely ripping off the best of the old thinkers with as little accreditation as possible. In other words, let the thought stand on its own without the impossible to reconcile baggage each usually attracts.

    It kind of fun actually.

    If anyone wants to pass on an email address I would love to pick your brains further, and continue the conversation. Thanks for all of this.

  76. Max Shields said on November 4th, 2009 at 9:15am #

    Aetius Romulous, I think we are saying the same thing. The difference is the confrontation from those who are regulars here and so the discussion begins to trend in a direction not always intended, certainly not the way I intended.

    I have said repeatedly that I’m not a Georgist. I’ve indicated that HG did not propose an economic system in the way other classical economists have. His was a singular mission that is summed in Progress and Poverty. I also think after much more than reading, that the split rate property tax has significant merit for localities, particularly urban centers.

    But ignorance should be confronted and sometimes that confrontation begins to look like I’m a single-minded proponent of Henry George. I think he is an incredibly overlooked (due to circumstances of the US economic/academic powers) and with a brilliant capacity to observe and synthesize and with a deep moral commitment to solve the problem of poverty to its root.

    It’s now the 21st Century. The world is different, but fundamentally we are challenged by many of the same issues, in some cases made much much worse by the trajectory we’ve been on since the beginning of the 20th Century. What was once plentiful (back in the time of Marx and George) is arguably far less so which intensifies our situation. We need a new paradigm. George made an eloquent case for the importance of land in ways that were embraced by thoughtful minds throughout the world who were wrestling with the issue of Poverty.

    ajohnstone, Fred Harrison is a Georgist. For some he would be a good source and for those who see only a cynical ploy he would be marginalized. But Harrison did not become a Georgist for no reason. He came to that conclusion after much research and practical consideration. I’m not an apologist for Harrison who I think pushes it too far (he wrote the book “Sliver Bullet”).

    Again, I think Aetius Romulous speaks more to what I’m after than a single person’s thesis.