Quora – Why is capitalism good for the environment?

Why is capitalism good for the environment?

[ 29/10/20 ]

Why would you think that it is?

Isn’t the evidence sufficiently clear that capitalism, left to its own internal set of incentive structures, is self terminating.

We are the most cooperative species on the planet, and we can compete when we are forced to.

We are at our best when cooperating, and when all have some reasonable share in the rewards.

We are all different.

We value our differences at least as much as we value our similarities.

We all need to be responsible for the ecological and social consequences of our actions, and some of us are better able to model the longer term consequences than others – so it gets really complex really quickly.

Liberty without responsibility is self terminating.

Complex tools enable leverage, enabling more complex tools with more leverage ….

We need systems that ensure that every individual has what they consider a reasonable minimum, without necessarily imposing any maximum. Our current economic systems are not incentivised to provide for such a reasonable minimum, yet we easily have the productive capacity to provide it.

Capitalism is broken.

We need a replacement.

None of the existing systems are any better than capitalism.

We need something that embodies more levels of complexity than our existing systems do, and actually values individual life and individual liberty, and accept that having such base value imposes responsibilities in ecological and social contexts, as we all require ecosystems and societies to be able to survive.

[followed by Dennis Sandberg replied – Capitalism ensures the efficient utilization of capital as opposed to central planning …. ]

The problem Dennis, is that the measure of efficiency is done in markets, and markets, by definition, value anything universally abundant at zero.

Consider the air we breath.

It is abundant.

It has zero value in a market.

There is zero market incentive to care about it.

Do you really think it is not important? Not valuable?

I used to free dive, and could consistently hold my breath for over 7 minutes. I know a little about the effects of oxygen deprivation. Air is essential for survival. Any system that cannot automatically incorporate that fact is a risk to survival.

We have the technology here, today, to feed every person on the planet with good nutritious healthy food, but about a third of the world’s population are to some degree clinically hungry and malnourished.

I’m in the top 1% of that distribution, eat well, live in a reasonable safe and secure place; but there is zero economic incentive in the current system to make that available to everyone.

Advanced automation is devaluing human labour, and thus destabilising the classical labour capital divide (in as much as it ever had any stability).

I am not an advocate of any sort of central control.

I am an advocate of cooperative systems between multiple levels of diverse agents with automated systems that deliver a reasonable standard of living to everyone. I have run a software company for over 30 years, so do have some practical knowledge and experience of this. It is complex. It is doable.

Competitive systems are not survivable in the long term. The incentives mean that eventually some sort of automated system will hit an unforeseen set of conditions that cause it to exterminate humanity (through some chain of events). That is an unavoidable outcome within a competitive context. Eventually, it must happen. In a competitive context, the winner always cuts corners if they think they can get away with it, and mostly they can, until they don’t. At some level, that necessarily self terminates.

If the fundamental systemic base is cooperative, if everyone has what they consider reasonable degrees of security and freedom, then those risks can be effectively mitigated, but not otherwise.

This is seriously complex multi level long term strategic probability spaces.

[followed by]

Hi Dennis,
The riots are about a system that is fundamentally broken at multiple levels.
AI can beat humans at any definable game space.

Trying to control competition with “Mutually Assured Destruction” guarantees that those involved in that game have to be mad enough to actually press the button, and sooner or later, someone will.

Global competition cannot be stabilised. It must self terminate – eventually.

Cooperation (not control) is the only game in town with any significant survival probabilities.

Some sort of universal income seems to be a necessary stage in the process of reform and transition.

It is seriously complex – no simple answers possible.

[followed by …”I’m not ready to give up on competition for cooperation but I’,m listening.”]

Hi Dennis,

Any real system is going to be complex and mixed mode.

What I am talking about is the systemic basis of the system.

You can have competitive aspects to a system, provided the systemic basis is cooperative.

Think about golf.

I can get fairly competitive on the golf course, but the basis is cooperative.

If I actually went all out competitive and took my driver to some other competitor’s head, then I would be banned from the game for life.

Our social and economic systems need to be like that in respect to life and liberty, within reasonable limits – and there will always be room for discussion about what reasonable is in any particular set of contexts.

Having clean water, food, shelter, access to education and healthcare – those are all basics that need to be universal. Some degree of access to toys and transport – those too are essential – we can argue about degree in context.

Build as many competitive systems as we like on top of that cooperative base.

All out competition between humans is not survivable, which is why we have laws against murder and theft. Why would it be any different in an economic context???

And when you get deep in the strategic geometries of evolving complex adaptive systems, it is very clear where survival probabilities actually exist, but not many people have much of an intuitive grasp of that deeply nested context.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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