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View Diary: The Tragedy of Private Ownership (84 comments)

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  •  great diary T&R! (5+ / 0-)

    This is exactly right.  The reason anarcho-capitalism fails is that capitalism won't naturally be restricted to small firms and individuals.  It is multinational and corporate.  

    A multinational corporation wouldn't be a good steward of a natural resource, it is simply not in their interest as it is narrowly defined by the market.  Sure, a family that owns some forest might be good stewards, if they are motivated by a desire to be prosperous in future generations, but a corporation has no such ties to any bit of land or even a nation.

    The only sustainable economic system is heavily regulated capitalism.  Everything else is masturbatory fantasy.  

    •  not quite so (9+ / 0-)

      would we call the feudal system in medieval Europe "capitalism"? property existed of course, but capitalism not yet. They developed it then, but that humanity had to get that far to develop it shows that capitalism - heavily regulated - is not at all the only sustainable system.

      in fact, looking at it, one should say that most human forms of living were sustainable, up to the point where they began to develop capitalism. Then it ceased to be sustainable.

      Don´t kid yourself into thinking that what we have is sustainable for any length of time.

      The Egyptians on the Nile had four thousand years of living in their thin strip of land behind them when Jesus was born. That I would call sustainable. how long does the US think it can go on the way it goes? another hundred years? maximum. Whatever you´ll have then, will be reverted to pre-fossil times - either in the medieval sense, or in some kind of actual sustainable postindustrial system that really is sustainable and that then can have no resemblance to the current system.

      the grandfathers of todays Americans were still breaking fresh ground were they not? where is the sustainability in that?

      Ici s´arrète la loi.

      by marsanges on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 01:55:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting comment. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, Dunvegan

        "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

        by James Allen on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 02:04:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You can't say pre-capitalism (5+ / 0-)

        is sustainable either.

        Throughout the middle ages people exteneded frontiers into undeveloped areas.  Also you can look at places like Easter Island to see that a pre-modern economy is not necessarily sustainable.

        The economic system that has come closest to being sustainable while providing a reasonable standard of living and social justice is heavily regulated capitalism.  I mean, look at the contemporary nordic countries or Germany.  

        •  I´m from there :) (12+ / 0-)

          therefore I know of what you speak ... and I actually agree that of all the capitalisms that one can think of, the most heavy regulated ones tend to be the best. yes I dont doubt that point.

          but even so, is my worry, that thats still not sustainable enough. Where "social justice" and sustainability are really not related. as in, the mentioned egyptians really showed how to live in confined circumstances for essentially unlimited time, but social justice they had not. I know that.

          Still; this diary was about sustainability: and we fail in that quite miserably. Germany too. They´re better than the US in sustainability but not good enough.

          At some point, regulation of capitalism makes it not be capitalism anymore. Capitalism and private property are not the same. Property is ageless (and never unlimited). Capitalism isnt. an example, early christian thinking had interest outlawed as immoral. Of course they had property, but what you could and could not do with property was strongly limited - they had property but they didnt have capitalism. They actually had to revise their religion substantially before capitalism really could take off. Similar in early Islam.

          I know that precapitalist societies could ruin their environments and cut off their own branch just as foolishly as we are doing now. the north german plain where I was born, was denuded of forests, devoided of its hydrologically critical meteoric bogs, and turned into a windswept sand plain approaching postglacial barren-ness by thousand years of subsistence farmer overexploitation.

          Still: we have to find a way of living (and that doesnt mean making money, but living without starving and without drainign the livability for later generations) and I agree that that will include property in some form but I dont agree it will include capitalism. What capitalism creates, and what sets it apart, are the boom and bust cycles - from the Tulip mania up to 2008 - but at the scale of material resource use that we have taken up now, these boom and bust cycles go beyond what Earth can bear. If we were able to limit ourselves to, say one billion people, then you would probably be right that heavily regulated capitalism is a sustainable way of living. Similar to fox-rabbit cycle living. Not necessarily pleasant but sustainable. But all the capitalism that we have, has not brought about a "supply-demand" regulation of population, and without that, it does not work. You could say that overexploitation with subsequent collapse represents a kind of "natural-capitalist" humanity cycle, but that isnt pretty either nad above all, in the boom phase, we degrade the Earth nowadays so strongly that we would have to give it replenishment times between booms that exceed the longevity of our societies.  We actually do something to the biosphere that has to carry us that diminshes it so strongly that we cannot just leave it to some people 10 generations after us to enjoy the next boom. The time necessary to recreate what we use up during our current boom is too long.

          So, if we want to live sustainably - and ideally also in some welfare, and with some social justice whatever that may be - we can not live in a system that is oriented on value "creation" and its "accumulation". I think it´s important to distinguish between the specific things (concepts) that drive capitalism as such, and things that it merely works with, such as property. One of the core things that we have to let loose is the idea that we create what we live off ultimately; because we don´t: we live off the biosphere and we can tend it and shape it, but we do not create it and we are basically extractors, top predators. We use the great geochemical separation factory of the earths crust to our advantage by extracting the metals where they are concentrated, but we did not concentrate them there in the first place: we did not create their value.

          Capitalism (as opposed to property) came to be only after people developed concepts that allowed them to change their way of living on this earth into one that is alien to the people that went before. Similarly, the challenge that we have now before us is that if we actually want to reach sustainability on some level on this planet, we´ll have to adapt our way of living on it - and therefore, our concepts and priorities - in a way that makes such sustainability possible. I would say that human history up to today doesnt show that capitalism is up to that standard. It is for sure an efficient machine, but it is not efficient in creating sustainability; it is efficient in creating "bang for the buck". If we regulate it so heavily that it is deformed into something compatible with sustainability then I would expect that it cant be called capitalism anymore (i. e. think of the early monotheistic outlawing of monetary interest. That would be some regulatory measure. But would you call that capitalism then?)

          Ici s´arrète la loi.

          by marsanges on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 03:22:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  the german economy is just as... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          exlrrp, marsanges

          exploitative as the rest. do you imagine they're all plugging their electric cars into the solar-powered grid and composting everything they don't recycle in germany? they have and gasoline-powered cars there, too. and there's the eastern part of germany that has a curious habit of being marginalized when folks talk about the german economic powerhouse.

          capitalism requires growth that makes this planet an unsustainable home for us. we need an economic system that does not incentivize growth. growth will kill us, because growth necessarily mean consumption of a vast amount of non-renewable resources - often found in places full of people who thought they owned those resources, not us.

          Until growth is somehow built to be a zero-emission economic vehicle, it is a bad idea. A deadly idea. Until then, we should stop exploiting people and resources. We shouldn't individually pay for health, food, education, transportation or housing. There shouldn't be a competitive market in any commodities needed to sustain human life.

          If you're hungry, you should be able to eat. If sick, you should have the opportunity to get better. If you want or need, you should be free to move about. You should have access to whatever knowledge you want, whether formalized or not. you should have a place of your own, wherever you go.

          Is it still capitalism once you've removed all those components from the private capital sphere? Is it still capitalism if you heavily regulate the use of private capital within that already-tiny sphere?

          You could call that a market-based system, but at some point you might start bartering (and since, given the legal barriers to large corporations, you're in a smaller economic community, it might work sometimes), and then you're not capitalist.

          All I'm saying is, there are plenty of other ways the system could work itself out if not for the strong arm of the state standing behind Capital.

          •  Ideally, this would work... (0+ / 0-)

            ...but I have a hard time seeing how you could get human beings to cooperate with this model without some kind of really strong external pressure.  High mortality rates, strict regulation, environmental collapse or maybe even alien invasion?  Unless our population is really challenged we aren't going to make these kinds of changes or sacrifies - we aren't that farsighted.  

      •  I'm not so sure... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that it's possible to differentiate a feudal society and a non-regulated free market.

        The parable of the vaccine shows that.

        What would you consider the defining characteristics that allow one to distinguish one from the other?  

        Go read section 3.10 from and explain to me how that's different than a feudal society?  It isn't.

        So, calling feudal society 'pre-capitalism' is really a bit of misnomer - in fact, feudal Europe is far closer to an entirely unregulated free market than what we have currently.

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