Very well written John.
Agree with all you say, and it goes much deeper.
There are many flaws in capitalism as a political theory.
Certainly we are all human individuals, and we all require freedom, and we require other things too – the essentials of life, clean air and water, food, shelter, communication, education, sanitation, and a healthy biosphere in which to live – these are every bit as essential as freedom.
At the same time as we are all individuals, we are all members of social groups. Human beings do not exist in isolation. We learn language and culture from others, and without them we are worse off than other animals, as we do not have enough instincts to survive without what we learn initially from culture.
It is pathological to focus on either the individual or the group to the exclusion of the other. It is pathological to ignore the biological reality of our origins and our need for a healthy ecology.
Our economic systems have developed a life of their own, and are now actively working against the interests of humanity as a whole.
It is time to step beyond economics, and into the realm of human values, and to distribute sufficient of the abundance that we have to every individual on the planet.
There is no way that any of the established energy corporations are going to allow their current centralised and easily controlled energy monopolies to be superseded by a distributed renewable energy system, without a fight at every imaginable level. It simply is not in their economic interests to do so, however much it may be in the interests of humanity as a whole.
If we are to survive and prosper, we have no option but to reframe our consideration of the options available to us into a context that is beyond the economic context of market valuation; into one that values abundance for all.
We have the technology to deliver abundance, we simply lack the incentive structure (or worse, we have an incentive structure that actively discourages any such abundance – we call it “the market economy”).
I completely agree, that when viewed from the interests of society as a whole, the pipeline is a nonsense. And when viewed from the economic interests of the energy sector, it makes perfect sense (even to those in government who benefit from the largess of the energy sector).
It can only change with a change of paradigm, a change of context.
In a sense, global warming is one of the least of the challenges facing us.
Making our systems resilient against large scale volcanism, global pandemic, comet or meteor strike, are much more challenging, and quite doable, if we are dealing with them from an abundance mindset, rather than from a scarcity (market) mindset.
I honour you, and congratulate you, for getting out there and being physically involved.
It isn’t easy to stand against the dominant paradigm.
When one looks closely at the systemic incentives within a market economy, they are fundamentally at variance with abundance.
Certainly, I agree with you, that markets have provide great benefit to humanity in the past, as they have allowed scarce resources to be directed to the most productive areas; and with the advent of computers, robotics, and automation, that is all changing.
Markets have always had problems dealing with abundance, in terms of things like natural resources, and economists have tried (unsuccessfully) to compensate with the introduction of concepts like “externalities”.
It is kind of like an analogy to saying that because steering oars had proved themselves over thousands of years of controlling vessels, we should incorporate them into the design of modern flying wing aircraft.
The difference between the state of humanity prior to self maintaining robotics and after self maintaining robotics is that deep.
At another level, that of systemic incentives, markets have an inbuilt incentive to produce and maintain an optimal level of scarcity (the greater the concentration of capital, the more asymmetrical that becomes, driving many ordinary citizens to the edge of survival and beyond).
I am incredibly privileged on the world scale. We have a freehold house, in a beautiful area, with some of the best views on the planet. We own a small farm freehold, and have a small business that brings in enough money to meet all our needs, and it typically takes less than 5 hours a week of my attention to keep it running; which gives me a great deal of freedom to use my time in whatever manner seems most appropriate to me, without bumping into survival concerns.
Most on the planet are not so fortunate.
Most people must find paid employment to survive, and the economic systems barely allow that.
I don’t know how people survive on the minimum wage, I would find it very difficult.
So, I do see a need to completely transition to a new system, and I also see a need to manage the transition between systems in a manner that does not cause system failure of necessary systems,
It will be a journey.
It does seem to me to make much more sense, and deliver far greater stability in the long term, if everyone if free to choose to do whatever they responsibly choose to do (within the constraints of respecting the lives,, freedom and property of others, and the ability of the ecosystems of nature to support themselves and us).
What exactly do you see as the benefits of the market economy?
Exactly who receives these benefits?
You and I certainly, and I suspect most of the other readers of this blog.
But what about the ordinary workers – people who are working 40 hours a week just to keep food on the table, and clothes on their family. For the most part the food they can afford is barely worth eating – it contains calories and little else. It is almost certainly better than having no calories, and it has been clearly shown to be the major cause of heart disease and most cancers.
It is a very complex set of issues here, and money has certainly been a major factor in taking us from stone age pre-money cultures to our current industrial age; and it seems to have just about gone full circle.
It seems now that when we can actually deliver an abundance of all of the necessities of life, via fully automated and self maintaining sets of machines, then we will all have the ability to devote ourselves to our own education and fulfilment, however we responsibly perceive that.
The incentive structures in such a system are very different from those of a market based monetary system.