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The next individual to step forward to promote postcapitalism is an economic historian, Richard Smith.  His piece in Wednesday's Truthout is called "Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?"  The question for Smith is a simple one: how is the world economy to avoid creating the conditions for catastrophic global warming?  The answer is also a simple one: capitalism won't do the trick because it's dependent upon economic growth, so we need to try something else.  Smith suggests, in his conclusion:

Jonathon Porrit says that "like it or not" we have to try to find sustainability within a "capitalist framework" and forget about alternatives. But if the engine of capitalist growth and consumption can't be stopped, or even throttled back, and if the logic of capitalist efficiency and capitalist rationality is killing us, what choice to we have but to rethink the theory? Like it or not Jonathon, it's time to abandon the fantasy of a steady-state capitalism, go back to the drawing boards and come up with a real "new macro-economic model," a practical, workable post-capitalist ecological economy, an economy by the people, for the people that is geared to production for need, not for profit.
Now, here I would argue that, if anything, Smith's argument is understated.  His main vehicle for this argument is to criticize Herman Daly's assumption that we can have capitalism without destructive economic growth.  (This is, in the literature, called the "steady-state economy.")  Let's take a look at one of the previous arguments of his conclusion:
(The steady-state capitalists -- Daly and others) call for an environmentally rational economy that conserves nature and resources for the benefit of our children and theirs instead of consuming the whole planet right now. And they call for a redistribution of wealth to those in need and for the construction of a society that is not centered on possessive individualism but is based on a decent material sufficiency for everyone on the planet together with a moral and spiritual transformation of our values away from materialism. These are admirable goals. But we can't do any of those things under capitalism, because under capitalism, we're all just rats racing in Paul Krugman's cages.  We can't stop consuming more and more, because if we stop racing, we're all out of work.
Now, I find Smith's attacks on the throw-away society of capitalism to be quite admirable.  But I think his whole point can be fortified greatly if we consider that it isn't the consumers who are in control of capitalism's wasteful properties.  Consumers aren't driving economic growth.  Rather, capital (embodied as the corporate representatives of production) is in control, and it has to ignore nature-as-nature if it is to continue doing what it does -- making nature (both human and extra-human) into something for sale.  As Jason W. Moore points out in an essay called "Ecology, Capital, and the Origins of Our Times":
The logic of capital compels it to ignore nature as historically variant webs of life; the history of the capitalist era reveals the dynamism and degradations inscribed in this logic as it reorganizes human- and extra human nature, liberating and limiting accumulation in successive eras.  Capital's dynamism turns on the exhaustion of the webs of life necessary to sustain accumulation; the history of capitalism has been one of recurrent frontier movements to overcome that exhaustion, through the appropriation of nature's free gifts hitherto beyond capital's reach.
Capital, the raison d'etre of the capitalist system, grows because it continually uses up nature.   That's what it does.  If after two centuries of capitalist history we're at a point where those of us who are awake are saying "omigod ecological crisis," well that's why.  Such a way of looking at capital, and at capitalism, should give you an idea of why "green capitalism" is not going to happen.  Oh, sure, it's not going to happen under a Soviet-style command economy, either -- but if we outfitted the state to be a commodity-producing corporation like what they did in Russia, in competition with the capitalist world, we'd get the same result as we otherwise got with corporate domination here in the US.

Simply put, the capitalists are not going to turn a portion of the world into a pristine nature preserve, so a few of us can live like Bambi while they grow at cancerous rates through their capital accumulation business.  Nature will not turn out peachy if the capitalists say, "oh, never mind us as we profit off of the hard work of working people elsewhere, while they strip-mine the planet or spray it with Round-Up or whatever it is they're doing on any particular day for an inadequate wage. Just go about your business as cute cuddly marginal green entrepreneurs in Santa Cruz or Vermont."  Turning the world's nice stuff into an assortment of commodities for sale is the Godzilla-like business of capitalists, or at least the big ones.  This video should give you a symbolic notion of what's happening in the world:

So it's as Richard Smith says in a key point of his essay, blockquoted below.  Corporations have a primary responsibility, and that is to be capital, consume nature, and produce profit.  They will embrace environmental reform as a hobby only insofar as, and as long as, it's profitable.  But generally, they follow the logic given in Thucydides' Melian dialogue: "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."  This maxim has been updated to wit: "the strong profit and the weak are natural resources."

I contend that both these strategies were misguided and doomed from the start because, as Milton Friedman used to say, "Corporations are in business to make money, not to save the world." Saving the world would require that corporations subordinate profit maximizing to ecological concerns. But how can they do this? Companies can embrace environmental reforms (recycling, green products and the like) so long as this saves or makes them money. But they can't sacrifice earnings, let alone put themselves out of business, just to save the humans, because they're not responsible to the humans, to society. They're responsible to their shareholders.
Sometimes we are told that we can both make a profit and save the Earth.  What this usually means is that we will become artisans of some sort or other, making a small-time living while the real investor class contributes to accelerating carbon emissions.  (As the son of artisans, I have some sympathy with this perspective).  We can, however, pursue our artisan careers with humility, knowing full well that we are not saving the Earth.  Everyone, after all, has to earn a living under capitalism.

In short, "green businesses" do indeed exist.  But, because capital exists to appropriate nature and labor, "green businesses" are marginal to the aggregate enterprise of the capitalist system as a whole.  "Green consumers" do indeed exist as well -- but the point of "green consumerism" is really to consume as little as possible, and that doesn't help the capitalist system.  Moreover, we can say with certainty (as do Foster, Clark, and York in their book The Metabolic Rift) that even the damage to the environment done by "un-green consumers" is dwarfed by the damage done to the environment by capitalist production.

To summarize: what needs to be put to an end is capitalist production if anything serious is to be done about global warming/ climate change/ climate chaos.  This, then, is why Smith advocates "a practical, workable post-capitalist ecological economy, an economy by the people, for the people that is geared to production for need, not for profit."

Smith and I, then, agree: nothing else will save you, so we must move away from the profits system and bring the whole of the working class and the planet with us.  Green consumer consciousness won't save you.  Mainstream environmentalism won't save you.  Your solar power business won't save you.  Don't count on meditation, yoga, or therapy to bring a halt to global warming.  It's got to be postcapitalism.

Originally posted to Postcapitalism on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 09:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nicely done. (12+ / 0-)

    Excellent essay.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 10:11:19 AM PST

  •  Thanks Cass, this is really (12+ / 0-)

    excellent and bears a second reading.  

  •  Smith's is the best article I have seen on this (23+ / 0-)

    It is reasoned and level-headed; to me, the conclusions are inescapable.  I struggle with economics, but this article is basic and accessible.  Which means it is also very disturbing.  I agree with the premises and I agree with the conclusions.  I put the chances of implementation of anything approaching what Smith says we must do to survive as as species at well below 1%.  It is very difficult to face reality squarely in these times, and doing so means being branded a hopelessly negative person.  But what if the prospects for the human race are indeed bleak?  Isn't there a lot of pride around here about being reality based?  Nothing in Smith's analysis is far-fetched in the least.  We are discussing the survival of the species, yet t is very unlikely that the tone of discussion in this excellent diary will reflect the extreme seriousness of the topic, and that's just for starters here on this little website.  Try bringing this discussion to the mainstream and see how many words will be tolerated.

    Just as one contribution to the discussion, one thing I have been noticing recently is the cognitive dissonance around the notion of corporations existing purely to make profit.  It seems that, on the one hand, this notion is proudly insisted upon, while on the other, the same people who crow about capitalism act as though corporations can be good citizens, can be committed to improving society.  In fact, almost every corporate-sponsored ad is based on a lie that corporations care about something other than maximizing profit.  Given the determinant impact of corporate behavior on the likely future of our species, living in a dreamworld in which corporations are like people, including enjoying freedom of speech, is suicidal:  corporations have been intentionally stripped of the human instincts for altruisim, for compassion, and even for survival.  Yes, this behavior is literally suicidal on the level of the human species.

    Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

    by geomoo on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 10:33:49 AM PST

    •  Another point to address what is needed (14+ / 0-)

      Habit and evolved human instinct are not our friends, which is why the prospects for success seem so dim to me.  What would it look like if humans suddenly learned to be content with enough, to produce what we need rather than what we are compulsively driven to produce?  Why does it seem unthinkable for Americans to live with an average house size of less than 1,000 sq. ft, as it was in the 1950's?  Because it is a fact that happiness is relative, that doing better than one's neighbors is an instinct, that wanting to move constantly "forward" is a product of natural brain function.  Yes, humans have developed technologies for addressing these challenges to survival, notably the practice of meditation, but these technologies are hardly taken as serious, much less essential to survival of the species.  Is it possible for humans to realize that we can use our advanced capabilities in manipulating the world in order to have more free time to improve the quality of our lives and those of others in our community?   Is it possible that we would choose to provide a reasonable living standard for all so that much motivation for crime and violence drop away?  It is possible, but it is very, very, very unlikely.

      Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

      by geomoo on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 10:51:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  How about the habit of treating one single number, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes

      … the Dow Jones Industrial Average, as if it were any kind of indicator of well-being?

      It's just a single dimensionless number! Everything else has been stripped away!

      Just shows how one-dimensional our society's thinking about itself can get!

      The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

      by lotlizard on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 06:46:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wish I could rec the comment. nt (0+ / 0-)

      Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

      by k9disc on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 05:54:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Agreed (13+ / 0-)

    I've been arguing for years that capitalism requires endless growth which is not possible in a closed system.
    Capitalism is therefor not sustainable, and by definition will not last.
    Eventually another system will come about, because it has to. The challenge is to create a new system and put it in place without waiting for the current one to collapse utterly.
    That will only happen if the new system is obviously an improvement for the vast majority of people.
    So far I have not seen anyone lay out a workable system as well as a practical way to transition to it, but I must also claim massive ignorance about the issue generally.
    Have you seen any encouraging suggestions?

    •  Start with relationships. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SpecialKinFlag, JesseCW

      What's unique about capitalism is that economic actors are all dependent upon the market.  What are the alternatives to market dependency as far as "making a living" is concerned?

      "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

      by Cassiodorus on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 10:55:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A good question (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hmi

        and I have never heard a decent answer.

        You can modify incentives to account for spillovers and address the tragedy of the commons.  You can redistribute wealth - though I think this massively avoids a central question.  People don't want a better safetly net - they want a job that means they don't half to rely on the safety net.  

        THe best book on all of this is predistribution by Jacob Hacker.  It argues that we need policies that generate more equal wages - and that this should be the focus.

        I read essays like this one and they always stay way too geenral for me.  Socialism - state ownership of the means of production has mostly been a nightmare. If there is a nother model I would love to hear about - but most strike me as completely unrealistic.

        •  Socialism is PUBLIC ownership of the means (0+ / 0-)

          of production.  The Soviet Union was never the public.

          Capitalist business destroying planetary ecosystems is not a "general" phenomenon.  There are very specific things going on -- I'm sure you can name them.

          "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

          by Cassiodorus on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 09:08:32 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Erratum (0+ / 0-)

            "The Soviet Union was never the public."  The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was never the Soviet public.

            And I might add it's great to see people out there telling everyone that Cuba's systems of agriculture, education, medicine and emergency preparation are a "disaster" when compared with those of capitalist nations of equal stature, since it's not true.

            "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

            by Cassiodorus on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 09:15:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Starting with the basics--a sobering discussion (9+ / 0-)

      Years ago, right here on this website, I made the trivial point that the human population cannot continue to grow indefinitely, much less geometrically, forever.  I received relentless pushback, even condemnation, from ordinarily reasonable site members.  My contention was associated with barbarity, with blaming the poor for their own condition.  During the discussion, which I found to be stunning, I asked the direct question, "Is one person per square meter of earth's surface too many?  Ten people per square meter?"  The reply was continued denial that infinite growth is impossible in a finite system.  It is a mistake to assume that the truth of this simple equation is self-evident--that the majority of people will acknowledge that infinite growth in a finite system is impossible.  I believe this to be a product of ingrained patterns of thought.

      Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

      by geomoo on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 11:14:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        geomoo

        Do you mean here?

        You seem to be recalling the thread as a lot more heated than it actually was.

        "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

        by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 01:39:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I didn't mean to say or imply "heated" (6+ / 0-)

          I only remember one thing, and that was not being able to get some intelligent people to acknowledge that infinite growth in a finite environment is unsustainable.  I did learn something of the history, which was interesting, but that history remains peripheral to me to the importance of humans accepting that there are limits to growth.  It is stunning to me that so many brilliant people accept the notion that economic growth can go on into the indefinite future.  This absurdity is assumed fact in many of the finest institutions of higher learning.  To me, it needs to be possible to discuss this without being confused with Malthus or whoever it was.

          Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

          by geomoo on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 04:19:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Just glancing through that interesting discussion (4+ / 0-)

          No, that is not the one I had in mind, which was earlier and involved more than one person, both referencing Malthus but without the good discussion.  As I mentioned, it reached the point that I tried, and failed, to reach an acknowledgement that some population density must surely be too high for sustainability.

          The other thing that comes up in that discussion I was anticipating here as well--the magic bullet of technological advances, the delusion of permanent progress.  It makes me think of the widely embraced common wisdom that the stock market will always go up, because it "always" has gone up.  If we want to believe that the past is a predictor of the future, then let's take in more of the past than just since the industrial age.  Look far enough back and we may be reminded of the quote the beautiful earth is "a charnel house of species."

          Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

          by geomoo on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 04:30:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Innumeracy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        orlbucfan, isabelle hayes
        Years ago, right here on this website, I made the trivial point that the human population cannot continue to grow indefinitely, much less geometrically, forever.  I received relentless pushback, even condemnation, from ordinarily reasonable site members.
        MATH!  It's just MATH! And not Calculus, Analytic Geometry, or even Algebra! We're talking good, old-fashioned "A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream" (ARITHMETIC) here!

        In other words, I find it NO coincidence that the kind of trouble you encounter (and I have as well) with this sort of issue seems to correspond very well to the deterioration of mathematical instruction in so many places.

        During the discussion, which I found to be stunning, I asked the direct question, "Is one person per square meter of earth's surface too many?  Ten people per square meter?"  The reply was continued denial that infinite growth is impossible in a finite system.
        GROAN. If there's one thing I utterly loathe, it's cherished ignorance -- or willful stupidity, as it should be known.
        It is a mistake to assume that the truth of this simple equation is self-evident--that the majority of people will acknowledge that infinite growth in a finite system is impossible.  I believe this to be a product of ingrained patterns of thought.
        It's a product of utter ignorance of the most basic applications of the simplest forms of MATH. In other words, innumeracy. If we insisted that everyone learn real math as part of the cost of becoming an adult, we'd have a lot less of this crapola. But teaching some of these folks the fact that math matters -- and it's entirely independent of one's attitudes or cherished beLIEfs -- is harder than pushing a blob of mercury up Mount Everest from sea level without a bottle.

        Again, GROAN!!

        Keep your Powder Dry and your Data Local!

        by thanatokephaloides on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:53:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Birth rates in industrial countries (0+ / 0-)

        is already below the number needed to maintain the current population.  This also true in China and some other places in the developing world (though China is brutal about it).

        This problem alone does not look so dautning as id did.

        •  And yet we're still on track... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          k9disc

          ...to have 9 billion starving people on the planet by 2050 or so regardless.

          (-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 Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 04:41:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  All of the issues describes by this diary... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hmi, geomoo

        ...are population issues, not "capitalism" issues.

        With a massive and growing global population there is simply no way to construct the kind of society the authors want with capitalism or any other kind of economic system.

        (-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 Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 04:39:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yea, the deforestation of the Amazon is a (0+ / 0-)

          population issue, not a capitalism issue.

          The deforestation of the Amazon is caused because everyone needs more. It's more or else companies die.

          Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

          by k9disc on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 06:07:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I would say it's both, and they are connected (0+ / 0-)

            As long as the human population is growing, I say that humans will want their economic system to provide growth.  Another way of putting this is that everyone wants to eat and be warm and will try to hard to get these things.  At some point, population growth must stop, or else we'll endure periodic catastrophic population loss.  I say we're past that point.  And the kind of discipline required to stop both population growth and economic growth is similar, involving presence and engagement with reality from a non-consuming perspective, from a place not fearful of scarcity.  I see little reason for differentiating them.  Solutions for one are generally solutions for the other as well.  Or am I wrong?  Am I missing something?

            Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

            by geomoo on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 07:42:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well I think you're missing the implied blame on (0+ / 0-)

              humanity and not the system.

              "The system is fine, it's the number of people it services is the real problem."

              They are extremely intertwined, as you and Sparhawk, IIRC, mention, but I just found it interesting that the Sparhawk was not willing to grant your exponential function to the economic system we are pushing, which you so easily do as they are so deeply connected.

              There's no reason that there can't be economic change with the current number of humans on the planet that would have significant impact on our collective future.

              Blaming population alone is to make it, at root, a human based problem not a systemic problem, because as you well know we have the best of all possible worlds.

              Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

              by k9disc on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 01:12:50 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Re (0+ / 0-)

                All humans consume a certain amount of oil, electricity, metals, health care resources, water, etc regardless of the economic system you're in. It's just a law of physics. If you want people to have access to a high living standard, they are simply going to consume those things. You have to ignore "money" because it isn't a real thing: goods and services predicated on a natural resource base are.

                A thought experiment I often run is "under a new economic system, how will distribution of these resources be different/better?"

                Is some socialist system going to stop economic growth or what? Capitalism isn't the cause of environmental degradation. Under a socialist or whatever system people will still be exploiting resources the same as they are now. They mathematically must, or living standards will fall and people will complain about the new economic system even more than the old one.

                There's no reason that there can't be economic change with the current number of humans on the planet that would have significant impact on our collective future.
                This is just a blanket assertion. You have to run the scenarios to see.

                (-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 Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 07:03:57 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Your assumption is teleological. (0+ / 0-)

                  There is no reason for most of the accoutrements of our high standard of living other than buying and selling of said accoutrements, and there certainly is nothing that says that we have to buy immediately degradable and cheap ass plastic that won't last a season's worth of use.

                  But capitalism says we must.

                  Who says a better standard of living means having more things? Capitalists, that's who.

                  Who says having a higher standard of living says we will use more dirty fossil fuel or dangerous nuclear energy? Capitalists, that's who.

                  Who says we can't spare the tens of billions of dollars to feed the planet? Capitalists, that's who.

                  I'm not saying moving to a sustainable economy it's easy, I'm saying it's possible.

                  Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

                  by k9disc on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 08:43:36 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Re (0+ / 0-)

                    Capitalism doesn't "say" anything. It's not a person.

                    Who says a better standard of living means having more things? Capitalists, that's who.
                    Everybody says that, and bear it out in their personal choices of how to live their lives. Besides, what "things" are you claiming we don't need? Pots? Pipe organs? Shoes? iPads?

                    The things you blame "capitalism" for are just ordinary human nature.

                    (-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 Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 11:26:56 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Capitalism as it now exists encourages consumption (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Cassiodorus, triv33

                  I'm not sure whether advertising is a necessary aspect of capitalism, but as it exists today, capitalism and manipulation of desire are very closely entwined.  I have frequently wondered how much money has been spent in the advertising industry learning how to make people consume.  In any case, advertising, and by expansion much of the entertainment industry, trains habits of mind which are the opposite of what would be needed for humans to live less compulsively, more realistically, less greedily.  Artificial needs are created, so that resources go into plastic surgery, unnecessary exercise tools sitting in the attic, an automobile 5 times larger than is necessary.  How much people consume is determined in large part by the culture in which they live, and the culture that capitalism spawns turns out to be a culture of conspicuous consumption.  The historical and geographical variability in per capita consumption is enough to demonstrate that the laws of physics alone do not determine how much each individual consumes.

                  Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

                  by geomoo on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 11:29:53 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Ah (0+ / 0-)

                    The "everyone except me is brainwashed" objection to capitalism.

                    A "culture" is just the sum of all individual preferences. Under less restrictive economic systems, people are allowed to express their free preferences in a market. Under more restrictive systems such as those presumably being proposed here, the government substitutes it's own preferences.

                    (-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 Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 11:58:22 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I'm sorry to see bullshit creep into the discussio (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      triv33
                      The "everyone except me is brainwashed" objection to capitalism.
                      I have little interest in continuing if this is just another "I'm so  right and you're so wrong" exercise.  If capitalism is the best humans can do, then we probably deserve to perish.  In any case, I made some points which deserved more serious response than twisting of my words to make it about me.

                      Your more restrictive/less restrictive smoke and mirrors makes me think of the Indonesian gangsters in the great documentary The Act of Killing.  They were most interesting when talking about what the word "freedom" meant to them.  To them, it was all about being able to do whatever they felt like doing, including in their cases, brutal murder of millions, the kind of idea of freedom that toddlers enjoy before the realities of the world beat it out of them, just as mother nature will soon kick our asses.  It's a false dichotomy, the more restrictive/less restrictive definition.  There are always restrictions imposed by reality, Mr. It's Just Physics--the question faced is who is restricted and by how much relative to who else.

                      In any case, enjoy your infinite growth.  I wish there were a sideline for me to watch you take yourself down, but sadly, my children and I will be along for the ride as well.

                      Bye.

                      Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

                      by geomoo on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 03:35:45 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I don't think there will or can be infinite growth (0+ / 0-)

                        I just don't buy that capitalism is somehow incompatible with a steady state economy with zero growth. In fact, capitalism is probably better suited to that state of affairs than any strong(er) government control economy. When economic actors are free to make their own decisions (within reason) better outcomes are achieved (I think).

                        I have little interest in continuing if this is just another "I'm so  right and you're so wrong" exercise.  If capitalism is the best humans can do, then we probably deserve to perish.  In any case, I made some points which deserved more serious response than twisting of my words to make it about me.
                        It's not about you, it's about the point that you made that suggests that Americans are "compulsive" and "greedy" based on blandishments of advertising by the capitalist agenda. This implies that you believe that all Americans exist under some massive propaganda cloud and are brainwashed by it.

                        If this isn't what you think, please clarify, but it sure sounds that way to me...

                        (-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 Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 04:12:51 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  What does a majority of economic actors ... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          geomoo

                          ... being free to make their own decisions have to do with capitalism? Modern capitalism is about putting those decisions in the hands of privately elected governments.

                          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                          by BruceMcF on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 04:52:15 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  Okay (0+ / 0-)

                          When you ascribe my views to necessarily meaning that I feel superior, then that makes it about me.  Not that it matters, but I am well aware of the effects of advertising because I experience them myself, just like everybody else.  That's why I watch very little television.  I hope I don't have to apologize for noticing things.

                          You speak of economic actors being free to make their own decisions.  Do you think this is the situation in America today, that economic actors are free to make their own decisions?  How are the small stores on main street doing in your town?  Do you think a group of us, even with plenty of capital, would find ourselves free to enter the health insurance market and compete on a level playing field with the established players?

                          I'll leave it to Cassiodorus to discuss what happens in late stage capitalism, but we are seeing the results in the decline of open competition, in regulatory capture, etc.  All too often, freedom of action for one entity means lack of such freedom for their competitors.  Are the banks "free" to collapse as a result of their reckless behavior?  In short, I think this notion of freedom is largely unexamined, based on a childish understanding of what freedom is, and most importantly, does not exist for the vast majority of actors in the system.  I would like to see those who love freedom so much embrace an open discussion about which economic system works better rather than deploying armies, torturers and death squads to prevent countries from trying the systems of their choice.

                          As to society being merely a collection of individuals, that is simply wrong.

                          Thanks for explaining yourself and responding with substance.  I'm letting this go now.  I'll read whatever you write.

                          Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

                          by geomoo on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 04:54:20 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Thanks for good conversation (0+ / 0-)

                            I have some pretty significant work stuff happening now so it is unlikely I can continue to give this conversation the attention it deserves. Maybe another time :)

                            (-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 Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 02:33:17 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  Because everyone knows advertising doesn't work. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      triv33, geomoo

                      The advertisers are spending about $495 billion each year on advertising, globally, and it's all for nothing, because "the market" is determined by "free choice" and not by advertiser persuasion.

                      Right?

                      "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

                      by Cassiodorus on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 03:46:23 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

        •  No, they're capitalism issues. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          k9disc, geomoo

          "Population" is a symptom.  Capitalism is a cause.  People don't have babies heedlessly, as do many smaller mammals -- they have babies, like everything they do, in a social context.

          "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

          by Cassiodorus on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 09:00:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting that you mention smaller mammals (0+ / 0-)

            This conversation had made me think of your "humans are adaptable" diary.  In a way, the basic divide is between those who think humans are just animals following blind instinct in completely predictable ways and those who think we enjoy a measure of choice over how we live.  The fundamental notion of capitalism, I have been thinking, rests on the assumption that humans are blindly self-centered and respond to the world like robots, so the best we can do is base an economic system on the unavoidable greed which fuels all human interaction.  If this tenet is true, then really there is not so much to regret over the perishing of yet another stupid, selfish species.  I disagree with that view.

            In this view, also, we find the belief expressed by Sparhawk, echoing Margaret Thatcher, that there is no such thing as society, just individuals and families, a notion thoroughly at odds with mountains of evidence.

            Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

            by geomoo on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 03:44:55 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  The discussion of "surplus value" (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    geomoo, SpecialKinFlag, JesseCW, Egalitare, Chi

    will no doubt come up at some point -- the question of how for-profit corporations profit off of exploiting labor and selling products will have to be answered.  Doing it here would make this diary too long, though perhaps in the discussion section...?

    "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

    by Cassiodorus on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 10:42:28 AM PST

  •  Love it. (7+ / 0-)

    Great diary.  Punchy, well-written, culls the source article insightfully while encouraging its full reading.  Well done, thank you for writing it.

    A far-right friend of mine once said something I think he later much regretted:  Corporations are essentially sociopathic.  Their reason for being is to create and increase profit.  All other considerations - all - are marginalized.

    He didn't like me reminding him of that quote later, with examples to back it up.  But he was - and is - right.

    I hate being a pessimist, and feeling pessimistic, but I do, about a lot of things, for a lot of reasons.  I even feel bad that I probably won't live into the era when things actually start happening to address the consequences of our reckless abuse of this planet.  I'll probably see some of the crash, but I doubt I'll be alive long enough to help with the healing.  I guess I'm optimist enough in that I believe our species will survive, hopefully thoroughly chastened, to aid that healing rather than simply cause more damage.  Might be kidding myself, though.

    Again, great diary, thanks.

  •  Most on point diary I've read this year... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    for that matter include last year. Doesn't the President have a Council of Economic Advisers? Yeah I know they're all Goldman Sachs shills, but couldn't we get some new input to that group? If this planet is to be saved, it will be the economists like Richard Smith who will need their voices heard. Personally I cede hope to the young. I think we're toast.

    To the hungry, God is a loaf of bread. - Gandhi

    by bisleybum on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 02:53:59 PM PST

  •  Define "earnings" as a formula (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes

    that combines societal yearnings with the individual profit motive. Make that reportable by all public companies and tie executive compensation to it. Voila!

    (easy to say, enormously difficult to implement)

    Shall we go? Yes, let's go.

    by whenwego on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 02:57:15 PM PST

  •  Money quote (so to speak...) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, NinetyWt, lunachickie

    "it's time to abandon the fantasy of a steady-state capitalism, go back to the drawing boards and come up with a real "new macro-economic model," a practical, workable post-capitalist ecological economy, an economy by the people, for the people that is geared to production for need, not for profit."

    Damn Right.

    "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

    by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 02:57:16 PM PST

  •  The go-to argument for mainstrean economists ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, bluehammer

    ... when addressing a limits to growth argument is to point out that economic growth is not necessarily materially expansive.

    Being in the game of making hypothetical angels dancing on the head of a pin type arguments rationalizing what the wealthy want rationalized, they then often sit back, as if their argument has been made.

    But that counter-argument does not stand. The fact is that in the real world, the kind of pure technological progress that the "not necessarily" rests upon comes in waves. And the corporate capitalist system as we have constructed it simply cannot stand to have waves of some years of economic growth, at whatever pace allowed by pure technological progress, then years of little or no economic growth, and then back again ... it requires relentless, incessant, unceasing economic growth. And that is not, in the real world, able to be delivered without materially expansive growth.

    Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

    by BruceMcF on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 04:17:39 PM PST

  •  This has been tried (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, isabelle hayes
    they call for a redistribution of wealth to those in need and for the construction of a society that is not centered on possessive individualism but is based on a decent material sufficiency for everyone on the planet together with a moral and spiritual transformation of our values away from materialism.
    That was kind of the idea in the Soviet Union and their version of Communism.  In between the Holodomor and Stalin's purges on one end, and the cronyism of the Brezhnev era on the other, there was a short window when they tried to construct a society that had material sufficiency for all citizens.  Many people there still live in their 50s era Soviet issue apartment block, which while adequate, is far below the level of most people's wants.  They almost got there, making more progress than any capitalist run society, but they suffered the death of a thousand cuts and in the end, it fell apart. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a tiny fraction of 1% got fabulously wealthy, and the vast majority saw their sufficiency fall away.

    However, just to note what successes there were in the Eastern Bloc is to mark yourself a subversive kook who should be shunned.  Smith's plea will fall not on deaf ears, but on people with both hands over their ears parroting "la-la-la, I can't hear you".

  •  Capitalism is death (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    YucatanMan, NoMoreLies, bluehammer

    Greed is death.

    The worship of Mammon / Satan is death.

    Our entire civilization has become a death cult.

    Time to get off the train, or be taken to hell with the rest.

    But the train has cool toys, so, whatever...


    The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

    by No one gets out alive on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 04:56:17 PM PST

  •  I put on the table two things,... (0+ / 0-)

    ... Progressive Capitalism and Ethos.

    It is possible for capitalism to evolve and when consumers are empowered to make purchase decisions based on environmental and social justice footprints of products, the world will change.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 05:43:43 PM PST

    •  Some points: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MrJayTee, Shockwave, orlbucfan, Egalitare

      1) "Innovation and risk-taking" are things borne by the working class, not the owning class.  The owning class does not innovate -- it moves money around while workers innovate for it, and while workers risk their livelihoods for the sake of a wage without job security.  The only risk taken by the owning class is the risk that it might lose money, money it did not earn by working for a living.  Entrepreneurs, therefore, do not deserve credit for "innovation and risk-taking."  Managers, perhaps, inventors perhaps, but not entrepreneurs.  The idea that "getting rich has never been my main motivation" is something you tell yourself because it feels good.  The meta-issue is that entrepreneurs in a system of competitive capitalism must turn a profit or go out of business.  If you were an entrepreneur who did not turn a profit, you would not be an entrepreneur for long (unless you were some sort of hobby-entrepreneur with a vast sum of old money with which to gamble).

      2) The current form of capitalism is not any more "greedy" or "sociopathic" than any previous form of capitalism.  Neoliberal capitalism, the innovation in capitalism from 1973 onward, is the result of a felt need among the elites that the profit rate needed to be kept high even though the actual global economic growth rate has been in decline for four decades straight and counting.  As a result, and as a byproduct of the economic crisis of the 1970s, the investor class has increasingly leaned on government largesse and financial instruments in Ponzi schemes involving asset inflation.  From William K. Tabb:

      Real global growth averaged 4.9 percent a year during the Golden Age of national Keynesianism (1950-1973). It was 3.4 percent between 1974 and 1979; 3.3 percent in the 1980s; and only 2.3 percent in the 1990s, the decade with the slowest growth since World War II (Maddison 2001). The slowing of the real economy led investors to seek higher returns in financial speculation and the inventiveness of the financial sector in developing new products to meet the needs of those wishing to protect against the risks inherent in a globalized economy in which foreign exchange and interest rate risk had increased, permitted and encouraged by the greater capacity and lower information costs computerization and new technologies provided, allowed for an unbundling of risk and the ability to find willing buyers for different sorts of risk instruments of the sort discussed earlier. The increased liquidity and lower costs of borrowing encouraged in turn further expansion of finance. The coincident trends of growing inequality and insecurity on the one hand and the spreading power of rapid financialization do not suggest a smooth continued expansion path for a society based on increased debt and growing leverage.
      3) The only "bottom line" in the "triple bottom line" that really matters is the profit bottom line.  As Norman and McDonald point out, "The concept of a Triple Bottom Line in fact turns out to be a “Good old-fashioned Single Bottom Line plus 3s to Social and Environmental Concerns” (p. 13).  And the idea of "natural capital" is an attempt to graft the idea of "capital" onto extra-human nature, whereas in reality capital is money intended to make money.  Please see the point I made using Jason W. Moore's quote in this diary.  Capital must ignore nature-as-nature if it is to make a profit.

      4) I have no idea why shareholders would want to invest in a company that did not put profit first.  Are they okay with losses?

      "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

      by Cassiodorus on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:45:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  One last point. (4+ / 0-)

      Everything that you think makes capitalism necessary is possible under socialism.

      "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

      by Cassiodorus on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:47:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  excellent comment. diary, too :) tip'd & rec'd e/m (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MrJayTee, Cassiodorus

        The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. ~ J.K. Galbraith

        by bluezen on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:04:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  There is a broad spectrum of socialisms (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus, Sura 109, Sparhawk

        I would have to understand the sort of socialism you propose.

        All decisions at all levels by government?

        No privately owned businesses at all levels?

        Not all capitalists are greedy and only concerned with maximizing profits.

        Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

        by Shockwave on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:21:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  What is "government"? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          thirty three and a third

          I prefer socialism that fits the dictionary's definition: PUBLIC control of the means of production.  Capitalism is PRIVATE control of the means of production in the hands of a tiny oligarchy.

          "Government" under socialism is you and me.  We decide, democratically.

          What's wrong with allowing those who actually do the work to enjoy the full fruits of their labor?  Under capitalism the whole of the working class must perform alienated labor, and the owning class gets most of the surplus.

          Not all capitalists are greedy and only concerned with maximizing profits.
          Of course not -- capitalists are people too.  They're only concerned with maximizing profits to the extent to which they are efficient capitalists.

          "If you sing a song a day, you will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

          by Cassiodorus on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 08:35:00 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Sounds like this is working toward distributism (3+ / 0-)

    ideology. At least a smidgen of it around the edges.

    Christian corporatism aka traditionalists' retreat.

    China has 16 solar cities.

    How many do we have?

    China and the EU have high speed rail.

    What do we have?

    Why can't Wall Street... AND Main Street... make money from solar? And restructuring our grid and infrastructures?

    A moron pretentious cowboy ginned up a $6.7 Trillion illegal war. For whose benefit?

    Yet, the McConnell's and Boehner's and baggers tell us that we can't afford to restructure the future to save us.

    What we need more than anything is to face down the hyper-religious traditionalists looking in the mirror and the self-centered know-nothings. They've driven us over the cliff.


    One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. --Carl Jung

    by bronte17 on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:41:16 PM PST

  •  I'm not clear... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes

    on the need for high speed rail when the planet is frying.

    Maybe loooow speed rail powered by solar is what we should care about?  Trucks and highways might be on their way out.

    The use of the words "capitalism" and "socialism" is fine for the sake of discussion but we need to keep in mind that all "isms" are hopeful.  Any of them would work fine if people would act right.  People won't act right so they all fail.

    Most of the discussion so far depends on the mistaken idea that there is no alternative to work for wages.  Fix that problem and talk less of "isms"

    "Our problem is not that the glass is half empty or half full, but that the 1% claims that it is their glass." ---Stolen from a post on Daily Kos

    by jestbill on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 08:07:00 PM PST

    •  High Speed Rail (0+ / 0-)

      Is much more energy efficient than most other forms of speed transport, as well as producing much less emissions. Rate of travel is not the issue; the means of fueling the travel is the issue. Most high speed rail is electric.

  •  Interesting diary and comment thread. (0+ / 0-)

    Still, we have got a bad over-population problem. How do we solve it? If we don't figure it out soon, natural law will.

    Through thoughts, words and actions, we live the truth we know. -- L. Spencer

    by orlbucfan on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 08:49:17 PM PST

  •  A cogent stating of the problem. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    Excellent essay.

  •  If you want to hasten the arrival of post- (0+ / 0-)

    capitalism or simply kill capitalism outright, all you need do is live below your means and not take on debt.  I realize this is hard if not impossible for many people because they are too far in - between the house, the car, and (especially) the kids, there isn't much 'below' there.  But if you are young and just starting out, if you get a job, delay the house and have room-mates for 2 or 3 years (or even after you have the house).  Shop the estate sales.  Quit buying all the expensive crap to impress your neighbors, a $10 meal is as filling as a $50 meal, and they both end post-digested up in the toilet anyway.

    And we love to wear a badge, a uniform / And we love to fly a flag But I won't...let others live in hell / As we divide against each other And we fight amongst ourselves

    by ban48 on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 12:29:12 PM PST

  •  Is this attributable to you: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus
    the strong profit and the weak are natural resources
    Excellent work. I want your ebook of diaries. Please create one and sell it.

    And WTF, KOS!? Where are our ebooks for sale by our uid?

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 05:51:01 PM PST

  •  How does post-captialism reduce demand (0+ / 0-)

    for goods and service that use resources?

    Communism, for instance, as practiced in Europe for 50 years or more, was disastrous to the environment (much worse than the rape by the capitalist West).

    This so-called post-capitalist society limits demand how?  By not producing?  By controlling production to the point where availability is not as free as today's society?

    How exactly does it prevent us from "killing ourselves"?

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