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You cannot fight ignorance with ignorance; ignorance is strength belongs to the other side.  Our side cannot run rallies like 10.2.10 and websites like Daily Kos successfully if we are angry at nameless, shapeless forces.  I've seen a spate of diaries that are angry with wealth inequality and that is great.  But you can't stop wealth inequality without understanding something about how our economy is broken.  Typically when educational diaries about our economy are written the response has partially been "Why do I need to know that?" and "Where's the action?".

There are two principles every attendee of 10.2.10 must understand if the rally is to accomplish anything.  One is that Adam Smith was dead wrong.  The other is that if we hit peak oil as Forbes is saying the world uses less oil for heating than most people think.  Understanding these principles makes the difference between an army of ignored proles and an educated electorate to be taken seriously.

We live our lives today from a social blue print first published in London in 1776, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.  The book is the consumerism manifesto and is the screed by which elites consciously rule our country.  Though like other such works of philosophy the author's detailed beliefs have been scrapped in favor of supposedly absolute and simple advice.

Smith explained that hording gold would not make a country rich

A rich country, in the same manner as a rich man, is supposed to be a country abounding in money; and to heap up gold and saver in any country is supposed to be the readiest way to enrich it.
that to attempt to increase the wealth of any country, either by introducing or by detaining in it an unnecessary quantity of gold and silver, is as absurd as it would be to attempt to increase the good cheer of private families by obliging them to keep an unnecessary number of kitchen utensils.

The true wealth of nations then is owning stuff that is in demand

Between whatever places foreign trade is carried on, they all of them derive two distinct benefits from it. It carries out that surplus part of the produce of their land and labour for which there is no demand among them, and brings back in return for it something else for which there is a demand.

So in accordance with this principle America imports a greater percentage of world wide stuff then Smith could have even conceived of and has a much prized enormous military and armaments - which Smith could conceive of

It is not always necessary to accumulate gold and silver in order to enable a country to carry on foreign wars, and to maintain fleets and armies in distant countries. Fleets and armies are maintained, not with gold and silver, but with consumable goods.

America has long since left the gold standard for the consumer standard - cars, houses, abundant food and clothing, military and electronics of all sorts.  Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is quite visible using the consumer standard - get people more stuff and you are a hero.  Where the consumer standard falls down is in dealing with scientific advancement, war, debt, poverty, the environment and resource constraints.

The perfect consumer always consumes more than he can pay for and so must go into debt.  A society built on the consumer standard will use greater and greater debt to pursue cheaper and cheaper labor and goods.  And if a service or good cannot be obtained through debt then it will by war.  At Daily Kos and 10.2.10 everyone must be aware that there is no compromise position possible with the consumer standard.  Nor can the religion inadvertently founded by Adam Smith be defeated by

It is the cumulative affect of the small changes that will be enacted which will get us to the goals of more liberal policy.

Furthermore as dangerous as the banksters, engorged on debt instruments, are, as frightening as the results of debt trade have been, as depressing as commodity wars continue to be, as deplorable as consumer standard results for the environment will be, there are even greater threats to consider.

Forbes: But a bind is clearly coming?

Maxwell: A bind is clearly coming. We think that the peak in production will actually occur in the period 2015 to 2020. And if I had to pick a particular year, I might use 2017 or 2018. That would suggest that around 2015, we will hit a near-plateau of production around the world, and we will hold it for maybe four or five years. On the other side of that plateau, production will begin slowly moving down. By 2020, we should be headed in a downward direction for oil output in the world each year instead of an upward direction, as we are today.

But even though acceptance of peak oil is becoming universal, acceptance of the consequences is not.

So we're going to have to make a switch from using oil to using more coal or more natural gas or more nuclear or other alternatives. But most alternative supplies (such as hydropower) can't be expanded quickly. Solar power is too small to be meaningful. Wind power, again, is too small, and most of the good places for wind have already been taken.

So it looks like alternative energies will plug only a very small part of the hole. And we'll have to rely more on coal. But we can't rely on coal because the emissions people will not allow us to burn coal and the various government agencies are not allowing the establishment of coal-burning plants.

People unless your car / truck / plane / tractor is electric you cannot run it on coal!  And as linked above the bump the world uses much less oil for heating then Maxwell thinks.  Sadly this idea that alternative energies solve peak oil is propaganda being pushed from the highest levels

I have no idea what new energy sources are going to be available, what technologies might drive down the price of renewable energies

Consumers just need to keep consuming and this whole thing will work itself out.  10.2.10 needs to educate people that it's not going to happen that way. Daily Kos needs to stop burying it's head in the sand in exchange for supposed electoral victories.  You can't fight ignorance with ignorance.  Ignorance is not strength.

Originally posted to Not Made By Nature on Thu Sep 16, 2010 at 09:01 AM PDT.


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Comment Preferences

  •  What are you trying to say? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That Adam Smith (ergo that free-market capitalism) is really okay, because it's misinterpreted by us ignorant wadicals? I appreciate the "Salon" article, I think it's hilarious; but it's nothing new; and if you bother to read Smith and read about Smith you'll find that these apparent contradictions of free-market capitalism as it's now understood are self-contradictions within Smith's overall argument itself. Smith had this cute habit of acknowledging that, yeah, we can't allow free trade with Ireland, they'd swamp us, but in any case they're just a bunch of savages, etc, etc. (Letter to the Earl of Carlisle, Nov. 8, 1779.)

    I would suggest reading Michael Perelman's "The Invention of Capitalism." It does a good job of uncovering the contradictions in Smith and others.

    •  I would suggest your reading my diary (0+ / 0-)

      What part of

      One is that Adam Smith was dead wrong.

      was not clear?  I thought the diary was obviously unequivocally opposed to Smith - where was the confusing part?

      •  Wrong about what? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You quote an article that suggests that Obama's economic policies are aligned with Smith's philosophy - duh. What you sidestep is the fact that those are asides of Smith. Kind of "Capitalism," but...

        So is Obama wrong to be a capitalist because his thought parallels Smith's which is tangential to the main thrust of Smith's free-market thought?

        Or - and this is the crux - is Smith "wrong" because he describes a reality that doesn't exist? In which case, are you suggesting that Obama's policies are doomed to failure like the rest of capitalist thought? And if so, why are the passages in Smith that you seemingly disapprove of (as quoted in Salon) more "wrong" than the usually quoted passages? Are you saying Smith was wrong because he wasn't Ayn Rand?

        •  I'm thinking of re-writing and re-posting this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Quill Mike

          So I could use the help.  I am trying to convey three points:

          1. Our rallies should call out and protest against this failed ideology, the consumer standard, that is gospel to our elite rulers.
          1. The consumer standard, judging the wealth of a nation by consumption, can never work; it is even more flawed than measuring a nation's wealth by gold reserves that Smith was disagreeing with in the first place.
          1. Of the failures of the consumer standard peak oil is one of the most dangerous because so many otherwise educated people think that switching to alternative energy alone will mitigate it.  Your car / truck / plane / tractor still runs on gas (though my Volt arrives in December but the roll out of electric vehicles is so slow) and less oil is used for heating then usually assumed.

          One mistake I made was bringing up Adam Smith to begin with - I don't really need to explain the origins of the consumer standard in order to show it's failure.  If you agree with the 3 points above I am happy to collaborate with you towards getting a rec list diary.

          •  You flatter me. (0+ / 0-)

            You might want to go over your thoughts with Goin South, who runs the anti-capitalist meetup; it meets Sundays on DK at 6:00 pm EDT. I would simply suggest (more as a general rule than as a criticism) that you start with a narrower focus, e.g. "consumerism," or "production vs. consumption in American history." There are some remarkable historians who've written about this, for instance William Appleman Williams, whom I mention because he had a great influence on the 'sixties generation. Joyce Appleby has written a lot about early American capitalism as well. She's still around.

  •  People underrate renewable energy, again. (0+ / 0-)

    Solar could trivially supply the world's entire current electricity usage, plus enough to replace its entire transportation usage.

    "Solar is too small" simply refers to the current investment in solar.  Saying "Oh, it can't be done because nobody has bothered to do it" is lazy and irresponsible.  The only reason there isn't a massive solar buildout is that coal remains cheaper.  :-P

    -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

    by neroden on Thu Sep 16, 2010 at 11:30:45 AM PDT

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