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View Diary: What's a Human Being "Worth"? The Moral and Economic Crisis of the 21st Century (192 comments)

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  •  Perhaps climate change will cull the population (7+ / 0-)

    before the end of the century...

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:13:22 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Already Underway. First Estimates of a Million (18+ / 0-)

      were out last year or the year before.

      With the NSA declaring climate change activism its enemy, ownership is determined to push for global mass dieoff.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:18:14 PM PST

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      •  Somewhere, Malthus smiles (7+ / 0-)

        He clearly has his followers.  It's becoming increasingly hard to argue that the moral arc of universe bends towards justice these days.

        Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

        by RFK Lives on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:26:58 AM PST

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        •  Increasingly indeed. I'm beginning to believe (9+ / 0-)

          that "the moral arc of the universe bending towards justice" was a brief 100-120 years or so after open ("free") lands and fossil fuels brought about increased economic prosperity which the wealthy could "afford" to share at all levels.

          That lent the perception of "bending towards justice," but there is simply no guarantee of that continuing.  The problem with perceptions is that a person is enveloped in cultural, economic, social and political views of the time.

          Witnessing wealth spread via "free land" (thank you American Indians), large markets, copious supplies of energy and raw materials while living in a democratic republic might lead one to have the perception of "bending towards justice."

          But we live in quite different times.  Raw materials are increasingly in short supply and environmental devastation is vast in order to obtain them.  Energy supplies are increasingly expensive to recover (deep sea oil, for example, although natural gas fracking is relatively cheap as long as everyone agrees to forget about the externalities). Land is no longer free to every settler who wants some. Jobs themselves are vanishing.

          We differ in vast ways from the days when it seemed "the arc of the universe bends towards justice." It's become a trite slogan to plaster in the White House while its occupant is engaged in bending the other direction.

          In the 1970s, there were many books and speeches about the population boom, coming shortages of raw materials, energy and food. Republicans liked to laugh at those ideas through the 1980s and 1990s, even into the 2000s.  But here we are.  

          The earth is a finite resource. A system like capitalism, which depends on perpetual growth, is unsustainable. Economic theory and faulty accounting will eventually run into the rock hard wall of reality. And when it does, the weather is apt to be fairly stifling.

          All this condensed down to a few words: If robots have all the jobs, who can buy whatever 1%-owned robots produce?

          Guillotine! makes an appearance at that stage. And perhaps before. Seven billion people won't vanish without horrific battles.

          The arc of the universe, forever it seems to me, has bent toward chaos.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:07:40 AM PST

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    •  Maybe, at least in the poorer parts of the world. (7+ / 0-)

      But in the wealthier parts of the world, I think we could survive a lot longer with the benefit of technology (at least temporarily, while the rest of the world burns). I'm no expert on the subject though, so it's just a guess.

      In any case, I agree that climate change is another major moral issue of our century.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 04:22:30 PM PST

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      •  The presumption that the wealthy will do better (8+ / 0-)

        because of technology and money is making a crucial presumption that food itself will always be in supply.

        Climate change does not guarantee that. In fact, disruptions in food chains are growing all around us now. Honeybees are vanishing. Monarch butterflies are down to 1/300th of what they were. Fish stocks are depleting and coral reefs are dying.

        Money might buy you a month's worth of the remaining food, but all the money in the world won't restock the oceans after they are too acidic for sea life. It won't push planting zones to prime soil. Technology won't create food from thin air. We depend on the natural cycles of our earth for our very survival, rich and poor alike.

        I think that is an enormous miscalculation that the wealthy are making today:  they think their money will protect them.  Well, they can't eat their money.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:12:14 AM PST

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        •  If the ecosystem collapses to that degree (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          YucatanMan, chimene, bluehammer

          then yes, we're all in big trouble -- except perhaps the richest of the rich, who will still survive under just about any conditions (e.g. if there are widespread crop failures and the price of food goes up to 100x what it is now, the very rich will still be able to afford it, but nobody else will).

          The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

          by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:49:44 AM PST

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          •  The food still has to get to them. They won't (4+ / 0-)

            be out in the fields harvesting it themselves. It would be a short game.  The wealthy holding out, keeping it all for only the wealthy only lasts as long as the masses allow themselves to be starved.

            The "Arab Spring" was caused to a great extent by increasing food prices. Those in power did not remain in power. And those were fairly mild price increases compared to widespread ecosystem collapses.

            "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

            by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:37:12 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Won't robots be harvesting and transporting food? (0+ / 0-)

              Robotic crop pickers. Robotic, self-driving trucks. Robotic guards to prevent poor people from accessing the fields to steal the crops. And so forth. Why would a single human worker be necessary for the owner of a farm to eat well, in the age of intelligent robotics?

              The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

              by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:26:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Lots of land. Plus... hmmm.... where do the raw (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                IowaBiologist

                materials come from to build and operate robots, fuel their operation, etc?

                Other robots, right? Somewhere in the chain, there's a weak link.  

                Honestly, if ever such a scenario does come to pass, I think there will probably be mass rebellion by the masses before the robotic regime is totally in place.  

                Or the rich will have to provide the masses with a lot of bread and circuses.  We've seen how that worked out before.

                "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

                by YucatanMan on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:09:20 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  The most likely scenario (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  chimene

                  is probably the emergence of a somewhat more socialistic economic system, voted into power by the people who are losing their jobs or at risk of losing their jobs (i.e. eventually the majority of people), once they wake up to what's happening.

                  I suppose some would say that's just a modern version of "bread and circuses." Maybe so. Maybe the new version will be "a free 5x10' room and board and a virtual reality helmet so that you can escape from the boredom of life without a functional role in the economy." Maybe this is what the rich will eventually give everyone else to keep them quiet and out of sight.

                  I hope the future will be something better than this. Hard to know what will happen.

                  The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

                  by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:23:15 PM PST

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                  •  Life without a "functional role in the economy" (3+ / 0-)

                    isn't boring. Living off the land, relying on your skill and wits, is very exciting. The eight to five is what's boring. Take it from someone who has experienced both.

                    •  Yeah, I suppose so. I've thought about (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      ypochris

                      trying to live off the land and so forth. It certainly has its appealing aspects.

                      One thing, though, is that good arable land is getting more and more expensive, so most people wouldn't necessarily be able to afford it anymore. But those who can should definitely buy some while they still can, because eventually going back to the land might be the best option in economic hard times.

                      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

                      by Eric Stetson on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:30:50 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Rereading your earlier comment, (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Eric Stetson

                        I realize you were imagining a hypothetical city person, displaced by automation, living with their basic food and shelter needs provided (presumably) by the government, and therefor having nothing "meaningful" to do.

                        While I naturally think of my old life as the alternative, this vision would be more likely for many. Still, inquiring intellects will always find a way to keep themselves occupied, such as creating art and literature. Or just social interaction - perhaps the never ending party, since there is nothing else they have to do. Each will find what pleases them, what they consider a meaningful way to spend their time - but doubtless, yes, some will be bored, just as they are today.

                •  umm, panem et cirences? or however you spell it (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  YucatanMan

                  is already in operation!

                  What are "circuses" but video games and reality TV?

                  What is "bread" but the debased, chemicalized pap of "manufactured" foods that the masses have been trained to consider edible and healthful?

                  "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

                  by chimene on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:12:06 PM PST

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              •  As the robots grow more intelligent... (0+ / 0-)

                Will they continue to harvest food or would they see the humans as cattle?

        •  And then - of course ... (0+ / 0-)

          All those who will not simply "die off" - without a fight.

          A period of "law of the jungle" - in which these very types are ill equipped to handle.

          No one will win.

          “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ... Voltaire

          by RUNDOWN on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 08:27:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  High tech makes you more vulnerable (4+ / 0-)

        Not less.

        If the world implodes, subsistence farmers in Africa will just going on doing what they've always done.

        Meanwhile, in the First World, there's no gas to be had for love or money.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:25:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The middle class is the most vulnerable. (0+ / 0-)

          The very rich will probably find a way to use their money and technology to insulate themselves from much of the hardship from climate change, peak oil, etc. For example, if the price of gasoline goes up to $20/gallon, the rich will buy it anyway; the middle class, however, won't be able to. If the price of wheat goes up 10x what it is now, the rich can still afford all the bread they need; the middle class won't be able to. And so forth.

          The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

          by Eric Stetson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:47:34 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're forgetting one thing (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chimene, WheninRome

            Even Machiavelli saw it:

            Even princes bleed and die.  The very rich would probably be wiped out in the first wave of chaos.  They would cease to exist.  People get nasty when hungry.  They look for someone to blame, and they tend to blame the people who aren't hungry.

            In a nation of 300 million guns and 20-odd million with military experience, the rich would be the first to die in any sort of fatal economic collapse that left the majority so poor that they couldn't eat regularly.

            They tell me I'm pretty amusing from time to time working with 140 characters or less.

            by CharlieHipHop on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 05:59:07 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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