A $20 trillion “externality” appears to present civilization with its BIG CHOICE: economic destruction or ecological destruction, both with chilling global security implications. Here’s why, along with a practical and more hopeful alternative to “Sophie’s Choice.”
If we are to survive and prosper, then we have got to stop thinking within the confines of an “economic box”.
I applaud the work of John and others to “broaden” the economic debate – but it has not yet gone broad enough for most to see a way out.
The question is asked above “Is there an alternative to the BIG CHOICE between ecological destruction and economic destruction?” – which is based on two sets of false assumptions; though to be fair, John does mention technological advance; but within an economic context.
I agree that money plays many complex roles in today’s society; and I find it really powerful to stand back a bit and consider some things.
If we look at the history of money, it started as something of value that could be traded for something else of value.
One of the roles of money is in the saving of surplus.
In an agricultural society, the surplus of one year could be traded, for the promise of future surpluses. Such a trade has value to both parties. The supplier gets new product in the future, and doesn’t have their product spoil to waste, and the buyer gets to consume now, and thus retain their productive capacity.
When interest is added into this debt, then it becomes unstable. Any physicist or ecologist will tell anyone that unlimited growth is impossible. All real systems have limits. Those limits must eventually be met. (In some domains we are getting close now, and technology has ways out – but not economic ways.)
So one context is that the idea of charging interest on debt is unstable, and must eventually crash.
Changing view completely – what humans require is an abundance of a few basic things – water, food, shelter, transport, energy, education and communication. Given those things, peace and diversity are possible.
Money does not value abundance.
Oxygen in the air is important to us, abundant, and has zero monetary value (supply vastly exceeds demand).
We have the technology to produce all the goods and service above in abundance, but there is no economic value in creating that abundance (they would become like oxygen, value-less).
No economic system will incentivise the production of systems that deliver that abundance.
We must do the work to produce them within the economic system, and in the full knowledge that there will be no direct economic return.
However, there can be significant indirect economic return.
No need for social welfare systems (capitalising that future cost alone would be enough to develop the systems).
We have abundant energy – from the sun. And so long as we have the massive profits that are currently being made from oil (measured in thousands not 10s of percents), then there is no incentive to create distributed and “free” alternatives (in fact there are massive disincentives to doing so).
The problem of green house gases is real enough in a sense, and unreal in another.
We have the capability to produce technologies to solve the problem, but we do not have incentive structures to promote the development of those technologies. http://www.solnx.org is one class of possibilities – and it cannot be made to have direct economic benefits; yet the indirect benefits are close to infinite – in the zero cost infrastructure classes it enables.
There is no need for sacrifice. We can all share in the benefits. It is just that those benefits may not come in terms of money.
Hard for many to conceive of – I know!