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Paul Krugman has a piece in the most recent NYT Magazine with the provocative title, "Earth to Bernanke."  It's a great title; but unfortunately, for Krugman it's only a metaphor.  He criticizes Fed Chairman Bernanke for having fallen away from what Professor Bernanke seemed to know before he was appointed to the Fed; Bernanke, he says, has been assimilated by the Fed Borg.  Fair enough.  But if the earth could speak to one of the world's most powerful economists, what would it say?  I think I know....

If he had actually imagined what the Earth might say to Ben Bernanke, Krugman would have been led beyond Keynesianism (which, in our current economic climate, amounts to a dissident view within the conventional wisdom) to the realm of Ecological Economics--a dramatic reconceptualizing of economic theory.

“Ben, Ben,” we can imagine the Earth saying. “The problem is that you’ve been asked to manage an infinite-planet financial system and it turns out I’m finite. You’ve got to bring economic theory into alignment with physical reality if you want to fix things.”

If Bernanke proved a willing audience, the Earth might go into detail. “Your system is seeing cost-push inflation driven by physical reality—the increasing energy cost of energy being the most obvious and easily quantifiable indicator of that. Treating this inflation as though it were demand-pull inflation makes the sum total of your policy deflationary, which keeps unemployment high."

Ultimately, the Earth would criticize the faith in infinite growth that is at the root of the 2008 crisis and all other crises and recessions of the Postwar era. “Your system fails to respect the basic idea that debt, whether public or private, is a claim on the future production of wealth. You let debt grow without limit, which makes sense only if wealth—the means of paying off that debt--can grow without limit. But it can’t, because wealth is physical—created with energy and materials that you wrest out of me. If your financial system lets debt grow faster than you can grow the means of paying it back, of course you get crises of debt repudiation—‘no duh,’ as your culture’s idiom has it. Inflation is a form of debt repudiation, and letting it rise a bit would help, but you’re not going to solve your economic problems until you start controlling the creation of debt, limiting its total amount to something like your ability to create wealth by using my resources sustainably.”

It really is time to transcend the old Keynesian-versus-mercantilist debate and get on with figuring out an ecologically sustainable economy suited to a finite planet.

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Comment Preferences

  •  No, it's time to realize (0+ / 0-)

    that the universe is, in fact, infinite, and it's the height of stupidity to voluntarily strand ourselves on this rock.

    We should've been colonizing other planets years ago- instead we are retrating from manned space exploration when we should be embracing and expanding it, and we are writing our own extinction epitah while doing so.

    "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

    by Whimsical on Tue May 01, 2012 at 01:29:23 PM PDT

    •  Where's the warp drive? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm sorry, but until you can deliver at least the blueprints for an achievable translight drive, colonizing other planets is just so much babble.  There isn't another one within reach of our primitive engines that is capable of supporting human life.  Even planting a Moon colony is not economically feasible, wasn't feasible twenty years ago with far better energy reserves and fewer mouths to feed, and certainly won't be feasible in any discernable future as the ratio of people to resources continues to rise.  The gravity well is a massively limiting factor and you can't wish it away.

      It's time to stop pretending we can just wish away the problems and get on with the hard work of population and consumption control.  Blasting away in our pretty metal birds isn't a workable option and it just drains energy from those that might be.

      •  yeah pretty much (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:


        we could build self sustaining space ships that would be able to travel our galaxy over many generations.  

        but you are right.  the fastest stuff emanating from earth, which we may never be able to travel that fast, has barely made it's way into the galaxy.  iirc the sphere is still in the arm of the spiral.  that's the kind of obstacle space travel is now.

        which is why i think aliens visiting earth is poppy cock. they can't barely escape their position in the universe either.  

        -You want to change the system, run for office.

        by Deep Texan on Tue May 01, 2012 at 02:28:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Chicken and egg scenario (0+ / 0-)

        As far as Im concerned once we start taking the colonization of other planets seriously and start giving it the funding levels and research it deserves, a warp drive will develop.

        I consider it the height of short sightedness to require one to already exist before we can give colonization of other planets serious consideration.

        "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

        by Whimsical on Tue May 01, 2012 at 03:15:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Exploration beyond our world is fine, but we (0+ / 0-)

      shouldn't fuck up this planet, thinking that we can just move elsewhere after this place is trashed.

      The only way we're "stranded" on this rock is if we make it uninhabitable.  It's a perfectly great place for us as long as we don't exceed its carrying capacity.

      •  What a weird thread (0+ / 0-)

        Okay, look.  All that space dreamy stuff is, to my mind, totally irrelevant.  Unless you've got an evacuation plan for 7 billion people, you're just talking about saving a few people, maybe a dozen, maybe even a hundred souls....for what?   Exporting a hundred people doesn't actually solve any problem down here on this planet.  

        •  I agree with you totally - hope my comment was (0+ / 0-)

          clear about that.

        •  And yet the technology developed in (0+ / 0-)

          the race to save those people has the very real possibility of solving problems down on this planet.

          That's my biggest complaint with the human race as a whole; nobody seems to think BIG anymore.

          "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

          by Whimsical on Tue May 01, 2012 at 03:19:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think we should fuck up this planet. (0+ / 0-)

        But at the same time, it drives me nuts when I hear people talk about how we are going to have to downgrade our lifestyles when there is a universe of riches we both can and should go and get.

        It's like we're in my living room having the following convesration:

        Me: This sandwich is great
        You: You know, I'm hungry- you're going to have to give me half your sandwich, and in fact, half of any sandwich you make in the future.  And you're going to half to make your sandwiches smaller, too.
        Me: What are you TALKING about? There's a whole fridge of food out in the garage.
        You: I don't want to go to the garage. I'm going to stay here forver and not make any movement whatsoever towards the garage.
        Me: Then you don't get any of my sandwich. I'll give up some of my sandwhich only to people who are at least attempting to go to the garage.

        Lastly, you need to look up the definition of the word "stranded". It has nothing to do with wether we make this planet unihabitable or not.

        One can be stranded in paradise just as easily at everywhere else.

        "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

        by Whimsical on Tue May 01, 2012 at 03:30:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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