I Dream of GINI - Wealth (In)equality after Resource Depletion

Increasingly, I think social limits to growth are occurring before strict resource limits will ever be realized (though the beginning of the latter had an influence on the former). As better data comes to light it is becoming apparent that we've been squeezing extra resources from the system via extended use of and confidence in, abstract financial instruments, thus further decoupling our situation from longer term physical reality. Cheap energy has subsidized many things in human society; technology, leisure, peace, art, food, lifespans, spatial distribution, etc. But not often mentioned is its impact on social equality. I plan to write a more empirical, evidence based post in the future on this topic - tonight's Campfire questions will revolve around whether the future will bring more equality between and among human groups, or less.

The GINI coefficient is one measure of inequality, typically relating to income, applied to a particular spatial population. A GINI coefficient of zero implies that everyone in the sample earns the same amount - there is no inequality. A GINI of 1, means that 1 person earns all the income -the population therefore has extreme inequality. There are all sorts of GINI sub-indices for counties, states, countries, etc. It is not a perfect science, as it leaves out debt, purchasing power, saved wealth, etc. It also completely ignores real capital measures of wealth and focuses on financial income. Still, GINI is not a bad proxy for social inequality.

Let's first look at the USA.

(SourceUS Census Bureau)

Pure green shows a Gini coefficient of 0.40.
Pure yellow shows a Gini coefficient of 0.45.
Pure red shows a Gini coefficient of 0.50.

The higher the coefficient, the greater the income inequality. Some states (New York) have much higher inequality than others (Vermont). (though much of this is probably explained by different cities/counties within each state)

Here is a graphic showing the GINI of 133 countries, plotted against external (public and private) debt per capita. The red line shows the median GINI coefficient in the sample of .39 (66 countries above, 66 countries below). Those countries to the left of the red line have more equality, at least in income, than those to the right. (Click on 'source' to see original data)


(Y-Axis - External debt per capita, X-Axis, GINI coefficient (0=total equality, 1=total inequality)

Here is the same graph showing flags as opposed to population circles. Many of the European/Scandinavian countries are in the upper left area on the graph. (The website, nationmaster.com has really great tools to play around with various indices/relationships)

(Source: Nationmaster.com)

(Y-Axis - External debt per capita, X-Axis, GINI coefficient (0=total equality, 1=total inequality)

According to these stats which in aggregate are 2 years old, it is interesting to note that 18 of the top 20, and 27 of the top 30 indebted nations globally, are countries that have below median disparities in income. (the 3 out of 30 on right side are the very small countries Burundi, Guyana and Gambia). One might hypothesize that if cheap energy powered the expansion of global growth, that cheap/available debt allowed positional conspicuous consumption to continue without the inequality that would naturally arise in a free market system. The above graph is one small piece of the puzzle, but one has to question what impact debt, credit and cheap energy have had on social equality within and between countries. (I wonder what these GINI numbers look like in 2009, midway through quant easing...)

Why is this relevant?

Many long time readers here know I received my early exposure to the broader concepts of resource depletion from reading Jay Hanson at dieoff.org, (which has now morphed into www.warsocialism.com). One of the longer standing contentions between Jay and I was where human behaviour would likely fall on the spectrum between competition/violence, and cooperation/sharing in the face of Peak Oil. The resurgence of multi-level selection in the biological literature suggests that many organisms, including humans, likely evolved in manners not completely reducible to the level of the gene. And especially in humans, not everything can neatly be parsed between 'genes' and 'environment', due to the potential of culture to change our behavior in emergent, unpredictable ways. Humans evolved with many different social adaptations, recently summarized by D.S and E.O. Wilson as "Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary". The main thrust of this and other recent work on gene/culture co-evolution is that culture can be a tremendous force towards positive behavioral change. But what is often left unsaid by those in the 'culture can trump genes' camp, is that there exists another side of the cultural coin. Using the same instinctual mechanisms we experience when cooperating, culture has an ability to exert negative influences on aggregate behaviour, as the combination of resource shortages with defined 'out-groups' was actually a primary driver of cooperation in our ancestral environment - we cooperated in order to vanquish other tribes. We usually presume that a move away from a culture based on conspicuous consumption will be a societal improvement. It is an open question whether the awareness (and ultimate reality) of wide boundary energy and resource limits will engender cultural 'improvements' and whether and at what spatial scales, conflict and/or cooperation occur.


There are many complex issues surrounding the global peaking of cheap resources. Energy, environmental, social, health, and psychological related questions will all be necessary to address. But increasingly relevant will be the question of equality (and its cousin, population). The recent broad social reaction to banker bonuses and government concentration of taxpayer bailout money in the financial sector may be a prelude to wider demands for more equality. I think on average, those that are well above the median wealth/income will naturally resist sharing their wealth, and, just as naturally, those below the median will be vocal about the necessity to narrow our equity gap. These types of questions have been asked for millenia. Plato suggested humankind would be most fulfilled in a society where the maximum wealth disparity between highest and lowest was 4:1. Aristotle suggested 5:1.

My former-and-decreasing-in-number wall st. friends are still of the opinion that money will save them from resource depletion. My sense is they are forgetting the social equity piece of the puzzle. What good are solar panels if someone not invited to the party throws rocks at them? What fun is heli-skiing if your car gets pelted with rocks en route to the ski hill, etc.? Gated communities and guards is not my idea of successfully navigating resource depletion. We evolved to compete and cooperate, context and resource dependent. How to find the sweetspot on this spectrum is a question of increasing importance.

With that backdrop, here are some questions for tonight's discussion:
1. What sort of social equity disparity fits us best, and for how many?

2. Would we be happier with everyone roughly at equivalent wealth levels, or a very few having most of the wealth, so long as basic social and physical needs are met for the masses?

3. Will all this sort itself out naturally, or by war(s), or be 'chosen' democratically?

4. If a paradigm shift arrives, and those previously in the 'have-not' category displace the previous 'haves', will this just reset the social timer on when such an inflection will happen again, in reverse?

5. What happens to US politics/economic system when middle class can no longer act as buffer between rich and poor?

6. Bonus question: If we find reasonable answers to the above, how would they apply, if at all, to inter-generational equity or inter-species equity?

When all work is done by manual labor, every person tends to have value, based on the manual labor he or she can perform. The person tends to feel a sense of accomplishment for having "made" something as well.

Once most of the physical work is done by fossil fueled machines, manual labor has much less value. The world is sorted into different classes of people--the few who design the machines; the few who finance the machines; the few who plan and organize what the machines do. The many people who would have done manual jobs in the past are no longer really needed, except for minimum wage jobs. Everyone who participates in the system sees so little of the total, that they feel little sense of accomplishment, when they have completed their piece of the total. The Gini coefficient becomes quite high.

Over time, I think we are going to substitute time and labor for energy/money. Part of this will be due to resource constraints, but I think we have reached level in aggregate (at least in US), where substituting time will actually be healthy for us - we are too cognitively overloaded and habituated to immediate larger reward that comes from optimizing dollar return on time - it is making people restless and anxious...

I'm a bit worried that the expectations of the masses based on the promises of an economic recovery will be unfulfilled, leading necessarily to civil unrest and much worse.

I spent a rather depressing afternoon at a local "Green Fair" today. I talked with a lot of overly (in my view)optimistic people who seemed sure that the great economic recovery is just around the corner. Interestingly enough not one of the vendors of so called green products had ever heard of the concept of peak oil and had not the slightest idea how it might affect their lives.

Kleptocracies with little public support run the risk of being overthrown, either by downtrodden commoners or by upstart would-be replacement kleptocrats seeking public support by promising a higher ratio of services rendered to fruits stolen.

Jared Diamond Guns, Germs and Steele in the chapter "From Egalitarianism to Kleptocracy"

It will be interesting to see what happens when the current crop of kleptocrats in the Obama administration fail to deliver on their promise of a higher ratio of services rendered to fruits stolen because of their simple inability to do so. I strongly suspect that the downtrodden commoners will be most decidedly unegalitarian in their anger.

I'm a bit worried that the expectations of the masses based on the promises of an economic recovery will be unfulfilled, leading necessarily to civil unrest and much worse.

It depends, perhaps, on just what those expectations are. From what I see, the evidence is that people do not generally expect the level of wages and income and employment to be back where they were in 2007; most people I talk with realize that money will be tighter and the good times will be somewhat muted.

As for civil unrest, this is highly unlikely to come from the unemployed. It is far more likely to come from groups of people with bizarre and twisted "issues" (like the so-called birthers or tea-baggers). While it is true that there is a lot of violence in the society, most people just want peace and a sense of security--and leave the protests to fringe groups. And if society collapses, as some expect, and particularly the energy and food distribution systems, people will be far more likely to spend their time finding food and energy than in protesting or venting their anger.

I'm sure the sheep will go peacefully to the slaughter,as they always have.

Epochal change has never been achieved by a consensus among the sheep.Wolves are necessary for this task.

The current hierarchy are not wolves - more like rats.Like rats they will survive,in greater or lesser numbers,but their place is in their holes.Part of our present problems is that the rats have climbed to higher ground.A positional reset is in the offing.

>Epochal change has never been achieved by a consensus among the sheep.Wolves are >necessary for this task.

Hmm...what about the French/Russian/American revolutions? Humans aren't sheep and have a breaking point, even the downtrodden ones among us.

Ah, the 'counterexamples'. All organised by people just outside, or constrained to the lower levels of, the existing elites -- with a few key players already inside those elites. Of course, the revolutionaries enlisted the support of the 'downtrodden'.

It depends, perhaps, on just what those expectations are.

Precisely! However I still believe that the problem is that unrest will follow because the masses are still being sold a basket of unfulfillable promises. They are being led to believe that their happiness depends on "THINGS", which they unfortunately will no longer be able to have. I hope that you are right that people only want a sense of security and peace, however it is the massive inequality of the few that have, compared to the majority that already do not, that has tipped the balance towards unrest historically.

I grew up in a simpler poorer society myself and agree with Nedge's perspective in Gail's most recent post up top "Life After the Crash: Lessons from Kenya". The reason they are happier is they do not have false expectations, we on the other hand are living in delusion and can't by definition be happy under these circumstances.

Unfortunately what you say about protest being left to fringe groups does not jive with the tremendous increase in the average Joe's going out and purchasing all the guns and ammunition they can find right now. Go talk to some gun dealers, business is booming (no pun intended), like never before. They can't keep guns and ammo in stock. I'm sure they think it will bring them peace and security and lot's of happiness. Me I'm just a little worried but I still refuse to have a gun of my own... well except for my spear gun for fishing.

Dear Nate

Were Plato and Aristotle considering slaves and women in their populations? Having read abit of the classics, I suspect not. I greatly fear that we see a recurrence of widespread slavery and a deterioration of women's rights as people attempt to shift some of the tedious, dirty and dangerous jobs that machines powered by fossil fuels do onto other people.

Good question. I hadn't thought of that and don't know the answer.

Plato and Aristotle came out of the conservative part of greek thought, after 5th Century Athens, which essentially defined the world we live in today, emerged. They are important because of Christian influence, especially Aristotle, as he was incorporated into church dogma.
They were part of the "Reagan Revolution" of Greece, after its creative downfall.
They were undemocratic elites, who advocated slavery and suppression of women.
Aristotle got just about everything wrong, although Plato's image of the Cave was brilliant.

Gail -

This sort of stuff has its origins at least as far back as Babylonian times, when it became apparent that the scribe who recorded the product of the laborers for the king had a much sweeter deal than the guy actually grunting it out. It soon became recognized that the closer you are to the money, the more likely you are to get some of it. Next came abstract money, then banking, and thence the mess we have today. This whole thing could almost be neatly wrapped up in a two-minute South Park episode.

By the way, I think it should be obvious that the reason that New York state has such a high disparity is solely because of New York City, a place that represents one of the world's greatest concentrations of wealth. An upstate dairy farmer has as much in common with an affluent New Yorker as I do a Martian.

Again, this gets back to my contention that political boundaries are totally artificially and arbitrary demarcations that have no basis in the reality of what actually transpires. One could get totally different results merely by drawing a whole different set of line on a map. Data accumulated on a state-by-state basis generates all sorts of artifacts.

The many people who would have done manual jobs in the past are no longer really needed, except for minimum wage jobs.

I'm not certain that I understand your point, but it doesn't seem entirely right.

I look at the numerous manual jobs that are done now by people around me: (1) people who mow lawns and trim trees--these are certainly needed and are not necessarily minimum wage; (2) people who use the large machines are certainly in a sense doing manual labor; (3) plumbers work with their arms and hands--and given their wages, are both needed and definitely not minimum wage; (4) animal control officers and police, who often must run and chase offenders; (5) construction people certainly do manual labor, and not for minimum wage and are definitely needed--try paving roads sometime; (6) there are many, many people who work in the office by day, then labor in their gardens or tool sheds by night, doing manual labor for pleasure.

There are numerous manual work jobs that are both needed and high-wage--and many people actively delight in manual labor.

It is somewhat true that we regard brute force manual laborers as somehow "lower" than skilled workers, who are also often paid more. But there are numerous jobs that require both manual work and skills (try climbing up 100 or more steps to maintain a 3 MW wind turbine).

A few years ago I heard about illegal immigrants who would hang drywall. They were paid $40/day for 10 hours of work which was less than minimum wage. I consider hanging drywall to be construction work.

Perhaps I am not understanding the concept here.

If we are speaking post powerdown then with most communications lost then whose is to know who is where on the economic rung?

Right now let me make an observation that may tend to show what the future might hold.

I recently went to two guns shows. I also in the last week visited two sporting goods stores where one dealt solely with firearms.

What I saw was astounding and has happened just within a few months.

The gun shows first. One before Jan 2009. Moderate supplies of all items. Moderately full of purchasers and browsers .Trade was brisk with quite a few new firearms and quite a bit of ammunition. Prices were a bit above normal. This was around Nov 2008.

The next gun show was two weeks ago. The difference was amazing. First it was so crowded you had to stand behind someone to get to a table. There were over 500 tables/setups by those selling. The crowd was enormous and you had to shuffle slowly down the aisles.
There was few new firearms. Most all was used and rather used at that. Ammunition was almost non-existant and was very expensive. I saw really few firearms of real value. This was mostly older stuff that was used and dealers were making a killing at high prices.

I might add that the attendees were not your run of the mill gunowning types. Yes some collectors but what I saw was families. Women with their husbands and children. Buying,buying and buying. Walking out with lots and lots of purchases. The parking lot was overcrowded.

Then the two dealers. One used to have many shelves full of powder,bullets, brass and all the rest. Now all his shelves had been taken down and he had mere handfuls of ammo. Some very oxidized meaning very old. Nothing at all is the most desired calibers. He had zero reloading equipment. No restocking in a couple months and no more inventory on the way , he said. Shocking to me. I always stop by when in the neighborhood.

The next was just a firearms dealer. He had NOTHING. Maybe a rack of older used shotguns and a few rifles and almost no handguns. His shelves were totally bare. He said "Can't sell what I can't get."

I don't see how he was going to stay in business.

So it seems to me that firearms and defense is going to be a huge part of the 'equality' issues. Surely everyone is stocking for a couple reasons.

One. They finally have realized we are sinking fast. They are now on board and most will by weapons vs land and gardening. What they have they value I believe they are intent on defending.

Two. Obamas mutterings and House Bills that are out and out threats to make very big changes in the laws governing firearms. They see it as an assult on their freedoms to defend themselves and their property.

This to me is where the equality or lack of it wlll manifest itself.

Money might become meaningless to many shortly. We are seeing extreme weather changes. That storm that blew thru Arkansas and Tennessee came up here. I heard it roaring like 100 locomotives as it passed just to the north of me by 2 miles. Hail and hard hard rain.

So yesterday I saw the damage. A 75 ft radio tower toppled. A barn in the path totalled. A huge grain bin with an big kink in its side. Some hi tension twin leg power lines thrown on the ground like tinker toys. It was very localized. Only a mile wide and no circular movements. Just one very very strong wind. Never heard wind blow like that in all my years and I have been in several nearby tornadoes.

The times are achanging. We really can't see to what except it won't be BAU.

Airdale-perhaps OT but I wanted to make these observations. Folks are arming up rapidly and fully. If someone comes to take their weapons? Then hell will start immediately.

well a somewhat on-topic rebuttal. Would you rather have one person in your community have the only gun, or everyone have one?


From what I have seen as per the above comments?
I think that it will be very few that will not have some type of firearm for defense.

Those people I saw did not appear to be hunters or sportsman.

There has been , I hear , a huge buying spree.

I brought a walking stick and a bush hat. I went with another guy and tagged along just to see what was going on. I did need a few bits of camping gear but there was none there.

Airdale-One guy or all? It will be everyone. Everyone here mostly has had plenty of firearms for a long long time. A lot of hunting done here. Plus in Ky you have the right to self defense and Concealed Carry Permits. We are faily light on gun laws here. The cities? A question mark for me but I would NOT want to be a city dude trying to grab something out in the outback when all restraints are off.

Well said,Airdale.

IMO, we need some kind of [wheelbarrow & bicycle sales] versus [guns & machete' sales] metric to measure the expected degree of postPeak social cooperation. Perhaps plummeting sales of golf equipment would also be an indicator of hopeful change.

For example, IF full-on Peak Everything Outreach had started years ago:

1.Most families would now have Victory Gardens and composting pits.

2. ZPG would be the expected goal.

3. Neighbors would be attuned to helping each other instead of the last man standing mindset.

4. People would reach for their wheelbarrow or other exosomatic hand tools instead of going for their gun.

We would also need to replace our National Anthem, "..bombs bursting in air.." with Harry Chapin's "Remember when the Music.."


Our animals and habitats would be our highest priority [the real assets]:

Wildfire by Michael Murphy [4:52]
The only horsepower that will matter at some future point.

These guns are not for self defense. If you believe having a concealed weapon will protect you then answer why having a visible gun did not stop the killing of those four police officers in Oakland? Guns are bought due to racial prejudice. These middle class fearful folks believe that the black man in the White House will take away their property and give it to black people.

Not sure if answering you will change your mantra. You seem to have your needle stuck on one track and in a groove.

But I will try.

Your walking down a dark street in a bad area of town. Ohhh say a few blocks past the Capital in DC.

You hear footsteps approaching behind you.

The guy pulls a gun and robs you but spares your life.

Now move your Google Earth pointer to say Louisville,Ky. Where you can carry concealed. You are in another bad neighborhood. Like on Broadway next to the old L&N building. You hear footsteps but nothing happens because the guy who might rob you or worse is not sure that you are NOT carrying a concealed weapon and will shot to kill if his life is threatened. A right that you might exercise and the law allows this.

A crime has been prevented.

I worked in that neighborhood in L'ville back in the run up to Y2K.
I saw drug deals going down right beside my car at a stop sign. I saw a cop car just a little ways off and they could have cared less.
It was a bad neighborhood but I had to sometimes go to work late at night.

You see the bad guys don't like to get shot committing a crime.

Now I know you will say "well statistics show that yada yada and more people are killed yada yada...."

Statistics do show that where the right to carry concealed that crime drops. If you can show otherwise be my guest.

When I have to put my life on the line in bad places I intend to be prepared. About you? I don't care. Do as you wish.

Your statements about 'guns brought due to racial prejudice' is laughable. You are pretty much off track and I notice most of your posts are the same.

Are you a black man? Where do you get this trash anyway?


Mexico says US fuels gun crime

Mexico's ambassador to the US has urged America to stop the flow of guns and cash that pass into his country, fuelling the country's drug wars.

Arturo Sarukhan said US money and weapons provided the drug cartels with the means to "corrupt, bribe and kill".

President Barack Obama is due to visit Mexico later this week.

More than 6,000 people died last year in Mexico in drug-related violence and Mexico believes 90% of the weapons used by drug cartels come from the US.

US gun lobby groups dispute the figure.

Assault weapon call

In an interview with CBS's Face The Nation programme, Mr Sarukhan said the lifting of a US ban on military-style assault weapons in 2004 had been a crucial factor.

Mexico says the lifting of a US assault rifle ban in 2004 fuelled the gun trade

"There is a direct correlation between the expiration of the assault weapons ban and our seizures of assault weapons," he said.

"We cannot determine how Congress and the administration will move on this.

"What we will say is that... reinstating the ban... could have a profound impact on the number and the calibre of the weapons going down to Mexico."

But any move to reinstate that ban would be fiercely fought by gun lobby groups in the United States.

One in four Americans legally own some type of gun and gun ownership is deeply rooted in American culture.

I am very much a white man who listened to my black neighbors. It is racism that created the apathy of the police officers you saw in Louisville. Black on black crime is ignored in order to create the self fulfilling prophecy that blacks are more dangerous than white people. They have the crime statistics to back them up.
You didn't answer the question about how a concealed weapon prevents a crime when having visible weapons hasn't prevented the murder of many police officers.

People assess unseen risks at a higher risk level than seen risks. Also incentive, some people have reasons to be shooting at cops in particular that do not apply to Joe on the street, and will have already factored the visible sidearm into their risk assessment.

Thus, the known possibility that a civilian may be packing a hidden gun can be more of a deterrent than a policeman's visible sidearm.

Yes, A very good reply. I was going to reply but thought....well what the heck, if he can't figure that out then my reply would be meaningless.



Here in the Reno area it is about the same as Airdale describes. My son-in-law wanted some .22 LR for target practice and he had to go to three stores. He found 3 cartons and bought all of them.

I don't believe it is time for retorical questions ... what if ... etc. It is time just to state facts and let the readers decide what to do. Though many do like what Obama is doing according to the media (I don't personally know any that are real pleased), there is another large percentage that is ready to fight. I have never seen such pent up anger ... even during Vietnam war.

Three of the five old guys I have coffee with every morning got consealed weapons permits three weeks ago. The class and the permit costs were substantial so this is not just a fad. They all have fine weapons and lots of ammo and damn ready to use them if necessary. At 75 - 85 years old they are not looking for a fire fight but I wouldn't press any one of them too hard.

Somehow I'm not surprised and a little bit shocked at the same time. Ofcourse, intellectually I know that the US has this gun culture but I lack the emotional feeling for it, I guess.

I'm from the Netherlands and gun ownership isn't really an issue here. Nobody I know owns a gun, there are no gun-commercials, no gun-shows and only a few gun clubs. Most people have never touched a gun in their life, including me. Ofcourse criminals do have guns and there have been liquidations in the underworld. But ordinary people usually don't get in contact with guns. Sure, there are surprise shootings every now and then, but they are really rare. A few times per years perhaps. Usually it is just fists and knifes.

I guess gun ownership might be one of the big differences between the US and Europe for the transitional period to a post-oil world. Somehow I don't think gun ownership will be a major issue when we are really post-oil.

I have noticed how the Norsemen have taken their alter ego.
Once you were human predators.
(Please read "The Saga of Igor Skalagrimson").
Now they are ever so meek and mild.
What mystery lies under this rock?

500 years of warfare will wear anyone down.

I'm surrounded by Norsemen out here on the wind swept prairie (read My Antonia). In fact, the neighboring farmer just gave me a bottle of homemade vinegar which included a Norwegian flag sticker on the bottle -- although I can't imagine the link between the vinegar and the flag. We eat lutefisk and gjetost and make lefse in the hundreds-- and the men don't use verbal communication. True old school Scandnavian out of Babbette's Feast. These guys are stuck in the 1890's.

And I just got up from the computer to count the rifles sitting 15 feet away. 9 of them. They came with the house-- along with a few bottles of DDT and enough buckets of ordinance to require a call to the Sheriff.

Mild Norsemen indeed.

Here in Switz. everyone has guns. Last week a 17 yr old turned up in my house with an automatic rifle on his back. (Sorry I can't give the make model etc.) Completely legal. He props it up against the fridge. The bullets, he tells me, he can only have if signing in for them. With his mentor at the gun range, whom he has known for 5 years...

90% of murders in Switz. are white crimes, that is with a shining blade like a butcher's knife; or strangulation, drowning, pushing off a mountain, or beating ppl to death. Poisoning, afaik, is out of fashion.

Poisoning, afaik, is out of fashion.

Poisoning is ALWAYS in fashion - so long as you make a buck. Oh, and you are a large corporation doing the poisoning.

Remember - toxic sludge is good for you. (and if you doubt it, when the subject of using fission for power comes up around these parts you'll eventually see people posting how radiation is good for ya.)

The gun culture here is Europe's fault.

For 100 years and change, ending with the Seven Years (French and Indian) War in 1763. Europe fought a series of dynastic wars. Thoughout them, England, (UK after 1709) switched sides routinely to prevent a hegemonic power in Europe. (The Netherlands did the same. The houses of Orange and Stuart were in similar positions relative to Hapsburg and Bourbon.)

The policy of all the European powers was to get their North American colonies into trouble and then tell them they were on their own. (Nieuw Nederland was traded for a flyspeck island south of India. If anyone doesn't know, it's called New York today.) By the end, the situation in the British colonies was that each household was required to have a gun and ammunition. (Kind of like Switzerland except I think Switzerland buys the gun).

Then German George's American subjects came to the same opinion of him that his British subjects already had. The Americans had guns, the Brits didn't.

America has a gun culture. (NB. I don't own one, have no desire to do so.)

Yep, we Dutch were in it for the profit and at that time the New Amsterdam colony didn't make any money, so we traded it for Surinam. Much more profitable at that time. But to blame the Columbine shooting on me goes to far I think :-). We used to have lots of guns here as well. Mostly hunting rifles. But the gun laws were tightened and of course during the German occupation possesion of guns was illegal and very dangerous. Ofcourse, in less densely populated areas in Europe gun ownership is more widespread than in urbanised countries like Holland.

"I don't own one, have no desire to do so."

Ohhh but I thought the Brits required you to have one?

Where is this make believe history written down?

The European powers said we were on our own?
Ohh no revolutionary war then?

Am I really missing something here? An alternate universe?

Airdale-did you forget to turn the /sacronal flag on? Brits had no guns? Those guys in the redcoats were using mhhh broomsticks then?

Check your meds.

BTW these gun shows were not in Ky.

And I might add that one dealer who only does shows told me that in one weekend he could hit 6 different shows in driving distance if he wished.


How about a third reason? Offensive.

I have to say that I have never been to a gun show, so my knowledge is limited, but my impression is some of the traffic is of an agressive nature versus a defensive nature. There are those out there ready for a new world order and I don't think they are thinking in a defensive manner.

Are these folks the have nots. Who are the haves and the have nots?
Developed World/Undeveloped World

We are seeing extreme weather changes.

Oh, come on. Aren't we overdoing the exaggeration a bit here?

Weather is always changing. Depending on many variables. Climate change is not so obvious, but it too changes.

Some places will experience "bad" weather they didn't years before, while others will change in the opposite direction. You're using the weather of one locality to generalize to the entire country (maybe world).

As for the guns, well one has to wonder if there re rational bases or irrational ones in the rise in gun purchases. If instead of coming to take away your guns the government came and asked these people to join a law-enforcement militia so as to strengthen depleted law enforcement, would they join? No one is going to even try to disarm a country of 200 million guns. It's ludicrous to even suggest such a thing, though I suppose lemmings will use the suggestion as a basis for spending more of their hard-earned cash on something they may never use. I have been in the midst of violence in 3rd world countries and I felt far safer without a weapon than I would have with one.

First I am not a member of the NRA. Long ago was briefly.

That said, you didn't see the news about Eric Holder speaking of reissuing the Assault Rifle ban? He was apparently told to 'hush up'.

There was also a decree issued to the outfit that is responsible for fired military brass(empty cartridges) and it stated that no more would be sold to other companies for reuse but all would be totally destroyed.

That order was immediately rescinded when three Senators faxed the department responsible.

The point is that it is a lightening rod. A flash fire so to speak.

The gun owners and hunters never forgot that previous ban. It banned way way more than just assault firearms. Then there is the Brady Bill.

So when I see everyone stocking up? I think they are now fully aware of the potential for this country to self-destruct. They finally 'get the message'.

Since this is rather OT to the topic I am not going to pursue it further even though I did start it.It was just an observation about trends that I noticed by the popoulace.

To the guy from the Netherlands. Our history here is filled with accounts of the early Militia , which were ordinary citizens, who fought for our freedoms in this nation. The Battle of Kings Mountain is just such an instance when frontiersman and pioneer backwoods families had their men go to battle to save this country.

This country was birthed fighting what we consider those who would be our masters and deny us our 'freedom' and (what this post is about) EQUALITY.

Without those sharpshooters and mountain men, my GGGrandfather being one as well as other kinfolks who were in the Continental Army, we would not have this nation.

So the possession of firearms runs deep and wide in this country. It always has. The settling of the west was another saga that stays with us to day in our entertainment and books.

Right now our 'Equality' has been seriously damaged, perhaps for good , by shysters , miscreants and outright scum of the universe who call themselves bankers and executives of such financial areas. The systematically stole what was rightfully ours. Our futures even. Our nest eggs. Our savings. Our pensions.

May this filth rot in the dungeons of prison but we know they will skate. They will walk and live to steal again. No one is doing nothing except continuing to take our tax money and give it to them!!!!

I am going to attend a TEA(Taxed Enough Already) Party the 15th of this month. To protest civilly against these people and institutions.

In yesterdays DB someone suggested that SS may be eliminated. I suggest that when this starts to happen or happens then this country will fall into total anarchy and chaos on a scale un-imaginable.

The governments ponzi scheme which it foisted on workers without their choice and took part of their wages. Now to intimate that this very government will default on their own ponzi scheme , what they set up? No way.

I have my pension and SS. That is all. I paid for it by years of labor. Its mine. Its not to feed the scum banksters.


There is a very important point in there, though: All those armed citizens were'nt just hunkered down on their property, defending their own - they organized themselves into militias. Collective self-defense will beat individual self-defense any day.

They were rarely ad hoc, DIY militias either. The local government authorized, organized, and controlled them. Those people may have been lawless from the British point of view, but not from the point of view of their local communities.

I don't have any problem with people stocking up with guns and ammo. I am greatly disturbed, however, by the total lack of effort to organize people within each community, however loosely and tentatively. IMHO, most local police forces tend to underestimate what they could be facing (and tend to be blind to the possibility of "black swan" events), and to overestimate their ability to deal with it by themselves without any help from the community at large. That is likely to become a formula for disaster. By the time things get out of hand and the police realize that they need the help of the armed citizenry, it will likely be too late to get anything effective organized. What we really need is for the police force in each community to be starting to organize, and maybe even train, their armed citizenry NOW. If they are uncomfortable with there being such a thing as a "militia" in their community, then don't call it that - call it a "police auxiliary" instead. Even the loosest and most informal of organization now will be enough to build upon when TSHTF. Unfortunately, it appears that what we are actually planning for right now is indeed going to be every person for themselves.


If you read the details about the Battle of Kings Mountain then I believe you will understand differently as to the milita. The men who gathered at Rendezvous Mtn were not strickly militia. They came from many areas including Ky under Col Shelby in one case. They were rather loosely organized as well.

And they were surrounded by Tories.

They were mountain people who were going to be hunted down by Capt. Ferguson on orders of Cornwallis who had sailed into Charleston harbor with the intent of destroying the 'rebels'.

This is the way I read the history of it.

Then when the battle was over they simply left and went back to their homes. There was no real 'callup' , just word of mouth. Those who came did so of their own free will and not due to organization. As I read it.

What I am saying is that Nobody issued them arms. They had to use their own. Some used their own horses and others walked.

Washington was at the time hunkered down up north with a weary and almost defeated army(Continental) and was licking his wounds.


Yes, I know all that, but local militias were the norm throughout the colonies, especially near the frontier where there was always the threat of raids from the native american tribes. Even communities along the coast were only a couple of generations removed from having been on the frontier themselves. Furthermore, remember that the French & Indian War had been fought only a couple of decades previously; many of the older men had fought in that, and the younger men remembered their elders having fought in it. People were used to the idea that all the able-bodied menfolk kept their own firearm at hand and were expected to join in and fight alongside their neighbors if need be. There didn't really need to be much formal organization by that time, because it had become a normal part of American society.

We've lost all that, it is long gone with the wind. Which is why we DO need some formal organization, at least to start with, just to get the ball rolling and to get people used to the idea of coming to their neighbor's aid and fighting alongside of each other.

Yes but what was different regarding the 'crown' and conflicts was that many were 'Tories' and was some of their neighbors.

In fact Captain Ferguson was commanding a body comprised soley of Tories.
So there were disagreements. Those for the King and those opposed.

Supposedly Cornwallis gave Ferguson orders to 'hang those rebels'.
After the battle Issac Shelby and other Colonels on their way back to the mountains would hold an impromptu court and thence hang many Tories as they passed thru communities. Or so I read.

In fact I believe the majority was with the Tories.

So you had disputes even within a small insular community in the mountains.

I do believe that the definition of militia was any ablebodied male of a certain age. Whether they were forced to join a campaign or not is murky , at least to my thinking. Divided loyalties and whatnot.

Yet those who had 'gone over the mountains' had apparently done so to escape the rule of the crown. Hence were willing to give their lives in combating them. I don't think that at least in this instance there was much 'governed' organization. The colonels who led the men did so by their intergrity and values and were judged by such.

Shelby became the first governor of Ky after that battle. Many highways and towns adopted the names of these officers. They helped form governments. They are still remembered by some.

I do agree with the ideal of some organization in communities but I think by and large it has to be voluntary. If the men are good and true they will fight for their way of life and alongside their neighbors.


Which is why we DO need some formal organization, at least to start with, just to get the ball rolling and to get people used to the idea of coming to their neighbor's aid and fighting alongside of each other.

There is. It's called the National Guard. I should say, there supposedly is. Under BuCheney the NG got subsumed under the Executive. That is not the purpose of the NG. The governors of the various states are, and should be, the C-in-C of those forces. They should never be available to the federal military without the explicit approval of the governor, and then only if the people would approve.

The Fed. Gov. is obviously preparing for possible problems given the destruction of Posse Comitatus (sp?), but I really, really hope things never go that way. That said, it might be time to lobby our governors on just how they should use the NG.


The National Guard has only been nominally a representation of the militia since the 70's, and during the Clinton and Bush administrations was converted into just another branch of the US Army Reserves. It's easier to draft people into federal service who've already "volunteered".

A very large portion of the MN National guard is over in the middle east right now instead of home, and these are by and large people who have (or at least had in many cases) productive jobs to do here.

"Oh, come on. Aren't we overdoing the exaggeration a bit here?"

You might want to notice that there is a heavy mist about you.
You might want to go beyond that vale and into the sun and look about you.

In the last two years this area I live in has been subjected to more climate events than I have seen in all the previous 70 years of my life.

I look out upon a woodsland that is decimated. No leaves to speak of on the trees. Two months have passed an huge trucks with nucklebooms are still rolling over this area picking up the fallen limbs and trees. Still.

I won't mention all the rest. The flooding, extreme winds, hail, droughts and so on.

If one lives on concrete and asphalt and sees nothing but buildings then that person may not get a clue as to what is really happening out here in what we term the 'flyover'.

Right now Oklahoma is burning once more. It was also back in 05 when I went to a stockholders meeting in Tulsa. Their water table (acquifer) is shot. They can't seriously garden where my old friend and navy buddy lives, just north of Tulsa. They can't really do much of anything anymore. Pasture is shot. Water scarce.

And you say "aren't we overdoing it"...no.
Like I say..'come out of the mist'.


A few weeks ago, a breeze blew through the canyon I live in. I staked down my wheel line (used for watering my hay field) last fall so the winter wind wouldn't move it around. The line is about 300 feet long, and constructed of aluminum piping with 6 foot wheels every 30 feet or so. I had tacked it down with four 6 foot "T Posts", made of steel, and driven into the ground 18 inches. After the ground freezes, they're quite impossible to remove until springtime when the ground thaws. So, the wheel line was quite secure under normal conditions. Well, the little breeze that came through picked up the entire wheel line, blowing it across my field and depositing one end in some trees 20 feet above the ground. The other end of the line wrapped around my horse corral. I witnessed the event from my kitchen window. I couldn't imagine how my "T Post" anchors had been defeated. It turned out the wind had sheared the steel of the posts. I guess we're talking serious wind here. Maybe a gust in excess of 150 mph? The point being, and it's anecdotal I know, I've lived in the outdoors for almost all of my 65 year life and I've never seen weather events such as I've seen the past 15 years or so. We're presently in a severe drought that you hear little of, but drought it is. Our winter was unusually warm, on the heels of two previous winters that were bitterly cold. Our hay crops didn't grow last year as they usually do and as a consequence hay is selling for $150 a ton instead of the usual $65-$85 per ton. I will tell you, the weather is changing, and not for the good for us human beings. As Airdale points out, if you live outside, you notice, if your world is glass and concrete, you won't.

The gun thing. Can't buy bullets here in the county. They're all gone. I special ordered some the other day; I don't have them yet. I did find a "brick" of .22 longs for $29.95. Last fall they were $11.00. All of us around here generally carry a pistol or a saddle carbine when we're out on the mountain or in the desert hunting cattle. If you've ever had to cut your horses throat with your pocket knife after he steps in a hole and breaks his leg, you'll carry a pistol afterward. I carry one for that reason, plus, if I get thrown and break my leg or break something else, I figure I can let whoever comes looking for me after a couple days know where I am by firing periodic shots in the air. Believe it or not, cell phones don't work out here.

With regard to equality. I've noticed this weekend lots of folks from the big city, 250 miles north of here, coming through for the Easter Weekend. ATV's all over the place, and lots of camp trailers. All of us folks here are content to stay home. We happen to like it here and we enjoy our community without all of the stuff the folks from the city seem to need. I'm headed to my neighbors for a big lunch this afternoon. There will be 20 or so and afterward, we'll likely make some music into the afternoon. Some here have more money than others. We have our share of the well to do; they've built family ranches that have considerable assets in land and cattle. But, here's the difference, they live just like the rest of us do. Little houses that can generally be heated with coal or wood, a good pickup truck, some solid horses in the corral, and well, that's about it. So, even though there is financial inequality, as anywhere else, it isn't at all "in your face" or even evident. I was out digging up an irrigation valve with my wealthy cowman neighbor the other day. He had the same kind of shovel I had. At the end of the day we were both equally covered with mud and both as tired. Best from the Fremont

After the tornados finished with Arkansas and Tennessee the remains came thru here a mile away and ripped hell out of what was in its path. That path was very narrow.

It took my friends 75 ft radio tower and smashed it into his house. Across the field two enormous double legged high tension line poles were snapped like popsickle sticks.

A bit before that the same wind sheared a barn down and put a huge crease in a very large grain bin. Still shaking heads over that.
A nearby very large grain auger was tossed about like paper and ended up trashed. For something with a very small footprint.

I heard it in the middle of the night between bouts of hail. It was like the screams of banshees. A sound that spelled death for anyone outside in its path. I have never heard wind blow like that. Never.

Likely around that 150 mph you speak of. What happpened at the other ends I have no idea. Just what happened within a few miles of my place and a path we could see. Straight line wind.


Perhaps we are overdoing it. Here in the watershed of the Great Red River of North we have had our second 500 year flood event in 10 years. And guess what! We might actually have TWO 500 year flood events in one year! We topped the all time flood stage record set in 1887 (or was is 1897) this year.

A few weeks ago I experienced a 110 degree change in outdoor ambient air temperatures. It went from -37 to +70 in a few days time. That, however, was simply cause for celebration on the front porch with a beer.

Oh, come on. Aren't we overdoing the exaggeration a bit here?

Your point is generally true, but is also incorrect. That is, Anthropogenically-driven Climate Change *is* already changing the climate, thus the weather. **Proving** causation for any given event is difficult as yet, but the trend is clear: more wild weather is happening. This chaotic pattern is expected. So, yes, we can say that a pattern of chaotic weather indicates increasing effects of ACC.

Again, proving it is another matter. Denying it isn't very bright, though, either.

ACC deniers like to pretend ACC science is based primarily on model. It isn't. The function of models is promarily to confirm what they see and try to hypothesize - not predict - what might happen in the future. That is, it all starts with observations.

IMNSHO, a big grant to go around and gather data from farmers and such would do a lot to help us understand how far behind the 8-ball we are. Something like this:



I am thankful that there aren't many bullets. Maybe people will run out quickly, and that will be the end of the usefulness of the guns.


You are joking right?? If there are some 100 million guns in the US you can be assured that there are probably a hundred Billion rounds of ammo. There have to be at least a few hundred rounds of ammo in existence per firearm.

I would bet that there is more small arms ammunition in private hands than there is in the military. They are using their's up all the time and the civilians are adding to the pile as fast as they can.

BTW: As far as I have seen there is no shortage of 30-06 ammo, just the calibers that are modern military weapon compatible. Switch back to an M1 or your standard bolt action and you are good to go.


I once had a friend with a bullet making shop in his basement. Amazingly simple and low tech to make a bullet- if you have the ingredients.

Your map of gini coefficients looks kind of like a map of diversity versus homogeneity. There is more sharing in areas where there is more racial homogeneity, less where less.

Not sure about that - I tried to find a way to graph it but could not.
I did find GINI vs % that go to church.

The same secular countries (Scandinavian) keep coming up with the best stats,
Here is another study on might find interesting:

Jeez - figures 1, 2 and 8 are eyeopeners. Thanks trekker. I hadn't seen that. Living in America potentially blinds us (me) to these differences...

Yes, an interesting link.
I'm replying rather late for the discussion, but it seems worth emphasizing what an outlier the USA is among 25 wealthiest nations.
Equally wealthy Canada has very different social profile (reference again to those Figures you refer to). Also, Morris Berman, 2006, in 'Dark Ages America', page 288, refers to a survey of attitudes in a Canada/USA in 2000, quoting from Jeremy Rifkin's 2004 book 'The European Dream': answers to the survey questions:-
1) whether "a little violence is okay if you are frustrated", 31% Americans said yes, as compared with 14% Canadians.
2)"Is it acceptable to use violence to get what you want?" 24% Americans said yes compared with 12% Canadians.
I have no idea of the validity of the above results but they seem to be borne out by the very high homicide rates in the USA compared with other wealthy countries.
A recent book authored in the UK discusses effects of inequality by comparing across countries ('The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better', by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett) reviewed here.
The relative position of the USA is startling.

Nate -

I contend that regardless of whatever political system one is operating in, there will always be a natural tendency for the more ambitious, more ruthless, and more sociopathic individuals to rise to the top. It has always been thus, and I think always will. I also contend that this process is naturally self-reinforcing: the rich tend to get richer. Wealth and political power are joined at the hip, and one goes with the other. The laws favoring inherited wealth are a clear manifestation of this process.

Whether it is a Wall Street hedge fund operator, or a Russian oligarch, or an Afghan warlord, a certain type of individual will naturally gain advantage and power over his/her peers. Attempts to devise social systems to stymy this natural tendency are doomed to failure, as the same such people will soon seek out and successfully occupy the positions of power that control who gets what. All we can hope for is to try to level things out as best we can.

Projecting into a post-peak world, I can only envision this situation becoming more extreme for the US. More isolated wealth, more conflating of militarism with police, more repressive measure in an ever-growing surveillance state. In other words, a grim totalitarian regime.

This current financial crisis does actually have a silver lining , of sorts: for it clearly reveals who actually calls the shots in this country, and it's neither the President nor Congress.

In short, Machiavell and the "Art of War".

From "The Art of War"
"The purpose of War is peace".

I contend that regardless of whatever political system one is operating in, there will always be a natural tendency for the more ambitious, more ruthless, and more sociopathic individuals to rise to the top. It has always been thus, and I think always will.

Just needs repeating is all.


regardless of whatever political system one is operating in, there will always be a natural tendency for the more ambitious, more ruthless, and more sociopathic individuals to rise to the top. It has always been thus, and I think always will.

That's one of those compelling myths of folk soc sci. There is of course a lot of truth in it, indeed I myself coined the term "inverted meritocracy" for this tendency for the scum to rise to the top: http://www.lulu.com/content/140930 . But the notion of always was and always will be is a parochial perception.

If thuggish baddies always (on balance) triumphed over peaceful goodies, one might reasonably wonder why the human race has not very very long ago become entirely devoid of decent, honest, non-violent, cooperative people.

Consider the early history of the most powerful movement in history (and the longest-existing organisation, the Catholic Church). J Christ was (by some accounts) killed, and thereafter his apostles were killed and thereafter the Christians were persecuted and indeed massacred for the next 300 years. And yet this ideology survived, indeed was the only ideology to survive the terrible Dark Ages (in remote monasteries such as Iona). The point is that even if J Christ himself did not really come back to life, nevertheless there is a profound truth that for every good person that gets killed another good person eventually arises via natural selection of the personally advantageous qualities of being a useful, cooperative worthy member of one's community. So there really is a resurrection in this more important sense.

Back in 1996 I gave a causal explanation of why in certain circumstances bad drives out good but in other circumstances good drives out bad: http://www.zazz.fsnet.co.uk/urbna.htm . In common with my three other published theories not the slightest challenge of evidence or reasoning has emerged. From that article you can see the following conclusion. The collapse of globalisation into localisation will obviously turn the advantage towards the good, cooperative, creative persons and to the downfall of the parasitic bureaurats and authoritarian climbers who have been briefly prospering and proliferating in the last few decades.

I would daresay that scores and scores, in fact most all of the public at this point do NOT know or have read or have been taught in the least about the very long massacre and killings and trials of the early Christians.

It seems that to teach history is rather to distort it by not mentioning such due to Political Correctedness and perhaps maybe slighting some other group....such as the Islamics or Catholics or even todays Americans who really could care less.

The Catholic Church having been founded by the Roman Empire..as in Holy Roman Empire and the Emperor who declared himself Pope. Backed then by the legions of Rome, they dictated what would or would not be declared as the Truth and be allowed. To disagree might mean death as a heretic.



I don't have all the answers, but I do have a modest proposal. Plato and Aristotle assumed a society much like their own when they proposed the multiple of 4-5. Our society is much larger and more complicated.

But the idea that there should be a limit seems to be one that would provide an answer to inequality. So we need a structure that scales from the smallest business/society to the largest.

So my proposal is this: For every new level of management the increase in pay shall be no more than 25-30%. The average team size for each manager will be no lower than 3 with a median of around 7 (we can figure out the ideal numbers later - let's just talk about ideas right now).

The highest level of management can flout this restriction and increase their own pay by inserting extra layers of management, but this would make their organisation unwieldy, expensive and uncompetitive, so the system should be somewhat self-regulating.

The ratio of highest pay to lowest pay can easily get higher than Plato's and Aristotle's suggested figures, but cannot reach the hundreds or even 1000x (or higher) that we currently see.


I would propose instead:

the highest pay of any person in a particular organisation may not exceed ten times the lowest pay of any person in that organisation, or the full-time minimum wage, whichever is the lower

In this way, high wages would be kept in check, and we'd find that leaders of government and industry would suddenly be very keen on raising the wages of the lowest paid workers.

I would of course apply it to unearned income, too - from rents, buying and selling of currencies, etc. If ten times minimum wage isn't enough for you, then perhaps the minimum wage isn't enough, either - and perhaps you should spend some of your wage on an accountant to help you budget and control your profligate spending.

But the idea that there should be a limit seems to be one that would provide an answer to inequality

This was originally the idea of the progressive income tax - the more you earn, the more you pay, and the money is used to help the lowest or unpaid people. The progressive income tax was actually a very radical idea when it first came out in the 19th century, as was the idea of using the money to help the poor.

What it comes down to is that as a person in commerce or industry, you can either
- pay your workers a decent wage so they can afford the goods and services they need, or
- pay taxes and then the government supplies the goods and services instead

Because government spending is bureaucratic and inefficient, the first is cheaper for the businessperson; but they're usually too stupid and shortsighted to see that, demanding the government lower their taxes and the minimum wage, etc.

It's stupid and shortsighted because as someone upthread noted Jared Diamond saying, if you deprive the people of what they need, eventually they just come and take it. What's often forgotten is that the modern welfare state began with the conservative Bismarck in Prussia - he observed that it is better to give a starving man half a loaf of bread than have him steal a full loaf from you.

Every generation or two the elites forget this, pile up their wealth and then knock it over, scattering the homes of the poor in the mess, and wonder why everyone is upset with them.

Every businessman wants the other guys' employees to be paid as much as possible while his own employees are paid as little as possible.

Hey hey Thomas,

"there is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wage possible." -Henery Ford

With the collapse of globalisation into localisation there will be an end to heirarchies of management anyway. The farm boss will be about as high as it gets. Inequalities will therefore become much less, as it is only the temporary situation of economies of mega-scale (thanks to longdistance transport) that enable them.

A humanistic society (and I'm using that term instead of socialism or capitalism or whatever) would be altruistic for all basic needs and selfish for all wants.

By this I mean that a humanistic society would have everyone have available food, water, air, shelter, clothing, energy, and basic transportation--and everyone would be equal in this regard. Inequality could arise from people wishing to try to invent and manufacture and sell something and could then gain more money than others.

Such a humanistic society would not be possible for a population larger than Plato's 5,000 or so. For any larger aggregation, the likelihood is for masses of poor and a few rich as we have here in the US or in Haiti, for example. If US society breaks down, which is not really likely, but let's suppose, the smaller towns would probably devolve into a humanistic society, while the larger cities would have a few with the guns and gold ruling over the many with the guns but no gold.

For the past I don't know how many years I have lived my life according to the old axiom

Ignorance; is simply not knowing.
Stupidity; is opening ones mouth and proving it.

This is why I seldom post in the comment section. I'm going to set that aside for a moment, and see if I can add something to the discussion.

Yesterday "mish" had an interesting link to bartering;
(wish I knew how to do that "tiny url" thing)

Because of my ignorance I got about half way through your post, and through in the towel, I was hopelessly lost, I had no comprehension of what GINI meant. (I clicked on the link provided, no help there)

At any rate, I suspect that in the very near future, we, or I should say, the bulk of the population (I'll be long gone by that time) will turn to some sort of bartering, with the service industry using a time is money arrangement.

GINI is just an academic statistic for measuring how much variability there is among how much people earn. High GINI means a small number of people make all the money and most people don't make anything. A low GINI means the majority of people make about the same amount of salary. It is important because once the energy or environmental subsidy recedes, people in highly inequitable societies might suddenly become aware that their situation was not as equitable as once believed.

We'll have something less obtuse next week...;-)

Nate, A note on New York.

Having grown up in the middle of the state(Near Syracuse), we ALL pretty much hated/hate the fact that NYC was part of the state. It skewed EVERYTHING. We wanted it to be it's own city/state. We subsidized it in our mind. Every stupid law that we had to live with was on count of NYC. (like a teenager not having a BB Gun etc).

The fact that it's red in your graph makes us from Upstate NY even madder.

We didn't get any benefit in our mind from it being a part of our state. Look at the people who run and win offices. NYC influences. Never giving a damn about upstate. Clinton a good example.

Interesting post Nate. We often feel that society has evolved from human brainpower alone. However, sources of energy have defined and enabled our civilisation. Human society, to a certain extent, simply went along for the ride. Source

Uranium is natural next step, but our current society pulls in many non-energy resources that mightn't scale even if we solved the thorium/uranium problem.

We eventually will have to live on solar interest again. Whether we choose to do this before we are forced to is an open question. Who and how many the 'we' is another question worthy of discussion. The main point of this post is not whether we are past peak oil, but how social equity will hold up during the second half of oil, and what implications widening wealth disparity will have...

The last time society lived solely on solar energy and human manual labor we didn't behave too well. I wonder why we would behave any differently this time.

well, there are cultures living off solar flows right now that are reasonable happy (!Kung in Botswana to name one). I don't subscribe to the noble savage myth, but I do question how much better off we are with all this stuff. The answer lies (roughly) along the lines of having basic needs met (look at Denmark and other Nordic countries with wide social safety nets - they believe govt will care for them in old age - unlike here), and competing via lower footprint lifestyles.

I wonder just how broke the middle class is right now, outside of non-liquid assets. Such data is hard to come by - Ed Wolff at NYU has some data but I don't think it's updated through credit crisis.

I wonder why we would behave any differently this time.

Because we've read Oil 101?

True that we could cook our food and light our nights for decades on the dense paper. And if Steven Chu's DOE gets its alchemy right we could even convert the cellulose paper to liquid fuels.

Did Chu address:
a)the cost of said ethanol?
b)what % of society could afford it?
c) the non-energy inputs required to scale it?

I understand the placebo impact of perfect substitutes and it is true, that at least on surface we have managed so far to push the red sands into the distance and come up with ostensible answers to limiters - but I increasingly fear this has been purchased on faith - the debt (since society runs on dollars) was not widely recognized as an abstraction separate from actual resources until late in the game. People should not ask what technology will work, but what technology will be affordable to everyone. Otherwise we have whole new playing field and # mbpd in 2030 pretty much irrelevant...

(The be clear, I was being sarcastic when mentioning the promise of cellulosic ethanol in my prior comment above.]

Answers to a), B) and c) = No.

One of the things I've noticed is the lack of realistic solutions to energy issues. Many proposed solutions appear to be simply vested interests lining their pockets at the expense of gullible government officials. Spending taxpayers money on something (no matter how unrealistic) at least gives the appearance of leadership and progress.

I am all about simplicity and pragmatism. A simple test which every energy solution should pass:

1. No new technological discoveries are required.
2. Government subsidies are not required.
3. Solution is scalable without distorting other markets.
4. The solution is politically acceptable.

This is not to say that we should not invest in new technology, provide occasional subsidies or encourage small scale alternatives. However, if a solution does not pass these four tests then it should be treated as a concept solution and discounted far more severely compared with realistic solutions. Apologies if it seems like I am stating the obvious, but I get the feeling that many energy "solutions", no matter how theoretical, are often treated as if they have an equal chance of success.

Cellulosic ethanol fails several of the tests and yet is often discussed (for example, at the EIA conference) as if it is a realistic solution rather than a concept.

I agree with your simple test but does #4 not preclude #s 1,2 and 3?

There are solutions which pass all four tests.

An example of a solution which meets all four is incentivising everyone to drive more efficient vehicles. 1. No new technology is required (smaller vehicles rather than SUVs); 2. Government subsidies are not required (taxes on inefficient cars can be used directly to reduce cost of efficient cars - thus net no government subsidy is required); 3. Solution is scalable; 4. The solution is politically acceptable (paying car buyers money to buy efficient cars with money raised directly from inefficient car sales has a politically acceptable sense of fairness and justice). This is the Vehicle Efficiency Market.

A great solution. Though still #4 is the barrier. Unfortunately, logical and rational are not synonymous with politically acceptable, yet.

I have to disagree with the last three items on your checklist for pragmatic solutions:

2. Government subsidies are not required.
3. Solution is scalable without distorting other markets.
4. The solution is politically acceptable.

Actions satisfying these requirements are indeed 'pragmatic' in the sense that they can be implemented in the short term, but they are merely delaying actions rather than solutions of our long term problems.

To give a concrete illustration (I have used it before) suppose that we live on an island with a large reservoir of a high quality liquid fuel which we use as the primary energy source for our economy. We realize that within a decade the flow rates from this reservoir are going to drop substantially. The only practical alternative fuel we can come up with is palm oil, but we realize that the sustainable energy flow rate from palm oil cannot match the historical flow rate from our reservoir. The only practical action is to down size our economy to match the flow rate from our new energy source. If we want to manage the transition with a minimal amount of suffering then capital markets, which will resist contraction every step of the way, are not the right tool. We need cooperative social action in which we collapse industries that we can do without in the future and use the saved resources to build the required new infrastructure. That is to say that we should start building up the palm oil industry even before it is strictly necessary from a short term economic point of view. If we need to downsize our homes and make them more energy efficient we should do so while our energy flow rate is high, even if it means sacrificing toys and luxuries which we are going to have to give up eventually anyway. Such actions cannot take place without social interference in capital markets.

I have used the words 'cooperative social action' since 'government action' on economic matters seems to represent the ultimate evil to many people. If, as is often claimed, human nature does not allow cooperation in groups larger than a few hundred or a few thousand people then industrial civilization is going to go down hard, and all of the 'pragmatic' , capital market based actions in the world are not going to save us from a nasty violent transition.

If, as is often claimed, human nature does not allow cooperation in groups larger than a few hundred or a few thousand people

Three million of the Nazi's soldiers cooperated in invading Russia. They were however organised into much smaller subgroups.
It is self-organising community that depends on the small numbers.

Darwin's physicist grandson Charles Galton Darwin has been mentioned previously on TOD but some posters may be unaware that during the mid 20'th Century he became interested in population, resources and speculation about the future. His book THE NEXT MILLION YEARS is available as a free pdf.


-- I am in favor of equal opportunity for all but given the diversity of human size, health, motivation and other characteristics as well as luck - I cannot believe that there has ever been equality or that it can be expected in the future.

i have worked with low income folks for 30+ yrs. i evolved from concern of a racial based conflict/war to a belief that we ever had serious conflict it would be based on wealth disparity.

certainly i think some areas of the US would have racial/ethnic based conflicts, notably the deep south & i would guess the southwest border areas, as well as sections of cities.

re the questions; for 1.What sort of social equity disparity fits us best, and for how many?

i think something like dunbar's number 150 or less is max with a high degree of wealth distribution built in. scares me how we might get there, but eventually this is the best 'human' solution for ecology[tragedy of the commons], communication, and wealth sharing.

our time as agrarian is miniscule compared to hunter-gather lifestyle. our primary adaptions genetically are set up within this mode & it fits the ecology of our earth. heaven help us getting there.

however we can & have evolved; but we do this by building on our past which i mean here we have to accept our primary genetic heritage; build in 'kind' restraints to our tendencies for excesses, and live within our ecological niche.

it usually take trauma/breakdown to do some rewiring of ourselves, individually & socially. i think that is what TOD provides as u say nate , basically thinking thru the possible solutions for after the breakdown.

here is a good example of how staying small meets human needs better than 'mega' whatever re size in social organizations.

In Global Revival Of Religion, 'God Is Back'

Authors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.

in this npr interview the authors stated that the chinese government are allowing 'house churches that can not exceed 25 attendees- thinking this limits the power of their movement.

the authors believe there may now be more house church attendees that there are 'active?' communist party members.

it can be argued this is due to the sweeping religious movement there & elsewhere. i believe it is that setting this 'artificial' limit curbs excesses that naturally occur for most humans & our organizing & they are actually strengthening the movement with this limit as it is meeting social needs and perhaps even to a minor extent wealth disparity- providing a safety net for example for attendees.

actually 25 in this situation may be a little big, but it's in the right ballpark to keep hierarchy limited to volunteer roles, etc.

jeff vail's rhyzones are similiar.

In regard to question #2 the answer would have to be either depending on the wealthy. It comes down to Machiavellianism. If leaders insist on making gains on the backs of the masses then we will be happier with equivalent wealth levels so that this can not happen. Creates group cohesiveness with nothing to compete for. However, if there is no equivalent wealth level or that the masses except the leader are equals it is possible that the people will be happier with a wealthier leader. The leader would need to lead with respect, consideration and the understanding that the pedestal that they stand on is only held up by the people. It is a symbotic relationship that when respected ensures that the masses needs are met as best as they can be and the masses respecting and supporting the leader. Provided that this leadership exists people would be happier than with being equal to all individuals. Excuse the example but it is like a sled dog team. All the dogs want to be the lead dog but few have the skill, strength or wish to have the responsibility. Most are horrible lead dogs and are much happier having a strong leader at their helm. Humans really aren't much different from this. So the answer is without a strong and true leader equality is near to happiness but greater happiness occurs with a true leader. So how come we have so few true leaders historically or now when we truly need them?

Question #3. There will be no one answer. Some areas will sort is out naturally while others will insist on wars and others will find democratic ways to achieve the ends. Like the effect of a post peak world, it will depend on the area, its culture and her resources. All three will help sort out the mess the same as has happened down through history.

Question #4. Will the 'have-not' replace the 'haves' and reset the social timer. That is a given. History is full of examples of this. As the saying goes, history repeats itself.

Twas asked:

1. What sort of social equity disparity fits us best, and for how many?

none. The BEST is equanimity (not equality), i.e., where it is within a very close range defined by clothing, or access to good cuts of meat.

2. Would we be happier with everyone roughly at equivalent wealth levels, or a very few having most of the wealth, so long as basic social and physical needs are met for the masses?

Happiness has nothing to do with any of that. To equate happiness with property is to assume the Adams/Jeffersonian paradigm of life, liberty, and property. Very parochial, very 18th century.

3. Will all this sort itself out naturally, or by war(s), or be 'chosen' democratically?

All of the above.

4. If a paradigm shift arrives, and those previously in the 'have-not' category displace the previous 'haves', will this just reset the social timer on when such an inflection will happen again, in reverse?

No. See Pareto and his theory of the cycling elites.

5. Bonus question: If we find reasonable answers to the above, how would they apply, if at all, to inter-generational equity or inter-species equity?

Intergenerational equity will be this: the baby boomers (1946-56), the punk rockers (1956-64), and Gen X (1965-1972) sacrificing their retirement to pay for the debt they're dumping on their grandchildren.

Interspecies equity is not possible. We've driven so many into extinction,the only equitable thing is our own extinction, post haste. Since that is likely to be resisted and certainly not possible en masse voluntaire, you can forget about interspecies equity.

We WILL be able to talk about interspecies equity in the 2100s and 2200s, after we will have gone through our own die off and now understand our position in the greater scheme of things.

1. What sort of social equity disparity fits us best, and for how many?

Ideally, all basic needs in Maslow's hierarchy would be shared equally: food, water, land, transportation, energy, shelter, clothing; and all other needs could be met according to individual desire. If the 80:20 rule holds, most likely 80 percent of the population will be satisfied with the basic needs, while 20 percent will have wants they wish fulfilled.

2. Would we be happier with everyone roughly at equivalent wealth levels, or a very few having most of the wealth, so long as basic social and physical needs are met for the masses?

A person with wealth isn't automatically something to make another unhappy. It's not the wealth, but the attitude. A wealthy person who does not consider him/herself better than I am will not make me envious or resentful, while a nouveau-riche with an uppity attitude will.

3. Will all this sort itself out naturally, or by war(s), or be 'chosen' democratically?

The only difference I can see between democracy and dictatorship is that in a democracy you get to vote for the jerks who will dictate. No one is going to vote for an equalitarian or inequalitarian society. All a vote does really is sanctify the status quo, so whatever works out will work out and we'll vote afterward to legitimate the arrangement.

4. If a paradigm shift arrives, and those previously in the 'have-not' category displace the previous 'haves', will this just reset the social timer on when such an inflection will happen again, in reverse?

Well, what do you think? Look at the situation in the US (or any other country for that matter). Those "in power" despise those not in power and vice versa. As soon as one party takes over from the losers, they do the same things the losers did and that they said they wouldn't do. No, if the have-nots take over from the haves, they'll behave pretty much the same as the haves before them did--and it'll just go back and forth like this, probably forever--unless there is a moral regeneration in humanity, a reorganization of the genetic makeup to make for a more "collective" social experience, something that is about as likely as discovering intelligent life on Earth.

5. What happens to US politics/economic system when middle class can no longer act as buffer between rich and poor?

Then we look more like Haiti or Zimbabwe or any other country where there is a vast population of poor and a few with the gold and the guns--and the will to keep it that way.

6. Bonus question: If we find reasonable answers to the above, how would they apply, if at all, to inter-generational equity or inter-species equity?


Thanks. Now I know about gini. I lke ah-ha's.

Umm. You left climate change out of the picture.
"It's all going to plan. Someone else's plan."

We are in population overshoot. So I guess that these things will sort themselves out naturally. Things will be out of our control.

We have to emulate a surfer on a wave.

Hierarchy is organic and will naturally emerge in social organisation post peak oil whatever the context. Thus there will be a form of inequality. The question is will the higher serve the lower or like it is now, the lower and poor serving the higher?

In some South Pacific cultures there is no individual identity income or wealth. The culture has survived by evolving a collective identity, shared income, shared wealth and shared equity. The equity is held, owned and celebrated collectively.

In the North of England during the early days of the industrial revolution a similar culture evolved. Income and wealth was advanced through collective effort rather than individual effort. Everyone was considered equal. Co-operatives covered every aspect of social and economic life.

Consider the situation of the Lifeboat. Once in the lifeboat individual weath becomes irrelevant. The only chance of survival is choosing a leader who knows how to handle the boat and nagivate and sharing the water and survival rations equally.



'Consider the situation of the Lifeboat. Once in the lifeboat individual weath becomes irrelevant. The only chance of survival is choosing a leader who knows how to handle the boat and nagivate and sharing the water and survival rations equally.'

on the mark!

unfortunately it'll take joblessness/broke for most to realize this.

I have a problem with people driving with their eyes firmly fixed on the rear view mirror.

allan's post hardly seems to be rear view focused as it includes our upcoming lifeboat period; not something most in our current ways of life have awareness about.

Class society developed with agriculture and surplus beyond that needed to feed just the producers. Prior to agriculture you did not have class society. In the 20th century the remnant hunter-gather societies that did not have a class structure.

We will not revert to hunter-gathering, or if we do, it will mean a vast diminution in our numbers, and it will be vast retreat even from what hunter-gathering was 12000 years ago, i.e. before the advent of agriculture. We've wiped out the animals that supported that way of life, and much else.

We have to return to the soil, but we cannot return to agriculture as it was practiced by the Egyptians or Romans or even the medieval serfs. Nor can we continue with modern industrial agriculture which is depleting the soil and aquifers and much else. It is going to have be a lot more labor intense, but also scientific and skilled, otherwise it won't work.

There's not going to be the opportunity for huge surpluses to accumulate. Attempts to appropriate them will be tantamount to restoring serfdom, but serfs will not be able to make the new agriculture work -- the soil is far more depleted.

For that reason I believe inequality, almost no matter how you define it, will be radically reduced if not eliminated. I don't think the large material surpluses needed to support a class of parasites will be avialable.

But the parasites are still on top and will do a lot of damage before we get there. I saw a poll recently that said only 53% of Americans still support capitalism. I doubt that any two of us in the 47% agree on what the alternative might be. But apparently many more people are starting to think about it than I would have imagined.

What's for sure is that communism won't come as Marx envisioned it, based on a high level of material production bequeathed us by capitalism. But I hope that we can retain large parts of what science learned in the industrial era and the ages leading up to it, and redirect it to learning how to adapt to living within our new budget of above groud resources.

On returning to agriculture.

Back sometime around the very late seventies and into the eighties there was a rather large movement and lots of literature espousing something termed 'sustainable farming' and this was played out largely in farming and agriculture magazines back then.

I used to get those magazines in the mail as I had a farm even back then as well as the one I have now or obtained just a bit later.

There was also a great deal made about proper and correct farming techniques by the USDA , the extension agents and the soil offices,now part of what is termed FSA. The books are still to be had. They spoke a lot of orgainic matter. How to best use the land and so forth.

But sometime in the latter 80s and very much in the 90s something big changed. Changed rapidly too. I can remember it all very clearly.

It was like something on high put out the word. Change it. To hell with the soil. Rip out the trees. Take down the fences. Fill it all with chemical fertilizer, spray it with chemicals. To hell with nature. 'Conservation Trees' pamphlets and such seemed to disappear.

Big government coupled with big business remade the face of agriculture. It was an echo of Butz "Get Big Or Get Out". It came down with a vengeance on the land. Hard.

Now farmers don't really give a shit about setting aside fence rows for the wildlife. Keep old ponds for habitat. Leaving the trees to keep the soil from blowing away. Tear down the fences and get rid of the cattle. Bring in multiple HUGE confinement sheds and treat animals like vermin by giving them an ugly short life before slaughtering them. No justice. No mercy. No regard.

Kill the land. Take what you can get and give nothing back. Like a Buccaneer Movie staring Johnny Depp.

Its now still escalating. The smoke of dozer pushup piles has diminished lately but will return with summer. Now FEMA is paying for the roadside trees to be cut down and hauled away. Paying farmers to push back the woods after Ikes fury. They farmers are glad to see trees go since they claim the roots steal fertilizer and water from the crops and shade the ground too much.

I look daily at the scalping of our country here. Everyone appears to now want vast areas of yards to endlessly mow and help showcase their McMansions just like their city folk cousins.

With each tree gone something of value is gone. Something not seen anymore. Something that takes a looooonng time to come back and maybe never. Not limbs there for the birds. Or squirrels or acorns to live on. Seed to eat. Gone.Gone.

What little is left is taken by the paper/pulp mills or to make charcoal for suburbanites bbq fires. Or to get the logs to send to China. Cut and kill. Take and destroy. Uproot and burn.

Airdale-my take on modern ag. Part of the same bankster/gangster game with just a different set of actors. Big Ag, Big Chem, Big Biz, Big Banks, Big Gov.........little tiny man....

But sometime in the latter 80s and very much in the 90s something big changed. Changed rapidly too. I can remember it all very clearly.

This is the debt.

Money is debt, as the debt grows everything must "grow" to service it. Even the furniture must be sold to pay it. 5% per year is 50% more in 10 years.

Exactly! The 1980s is about the time we got all the MBAs who decided "growth" based on "leverage" was the most important thing to move businesses and the stock market forward. Who cared about leaving the land in tact for future generations? Technology would fix any problem that might come along.

It will probably take a new dustbowl to correct that little mistake. Give or take a few degees' AGW, we should start seeing it in the next decade some time I guess.

A lot of the 'sustainable' practices you mention were promoted in the wake of the 1930s dustbowl. Contour plowing, tree lines to slow the wind, etc. etc.

No I am talking far more current. Like 'set asides' to take some land out of crops. Leaving areas for wildlife. Creating 'grassy strips' to fight erosion. The list is lengthy. Mostly about preserving the soil and other topics but....

the ag profs and extension agents seemed to have been given New Scripts and it all changed.

Contour plowing was way way back. There is hardly anyone using moldboard plows. Chisel plows and vanes came about a long time ago.
Rolling harrows as well. Lots more.

One can go All Out for the money and destroy the land or one can understand that when its depleted then its not easy to bring it back.
The Ag Profs were not fools. At least not until the marching orders or whatever were issued.

Yes they did introduce Asian Lady Bugs and that was a fools folly. Now many of us eat them in our food. Find them crawling all over us. Biting and living in huge masses in crevices and elsewhere in our homes. Real stupid and that came about recently like about 8 years or so ago...maybe a bit earlier..along with this new regime of Plant or Die.



(whispering... Airdale... the Ag Profs BELIEVE that we don't need fenceposts (what's a fence post?). That we don't even really need farmers. We don't need living soil. Hell, we don't even need to know how to breed plants. They've turned into gene jockies and they are working in the Monsanto building under confidentiality agreements with patents pending. We've destroyed the intellectual infrastructure to even do basic, applied crop research. Maybe a few of the old timers- but they're retiring and there's not even a whispered hope of replacing them.) shhhh

Since people are inherently different from one another they have different desires which will "fulfill" them appropriately. So Gini coefficient is as useful as IQ. Gini says something about economic happiness like IQ about intellectual test acheivement. Beyond that both say little. Of course both money and test scores mean a lot in our society.

Culture changes could retrain people as to what "counts". The serotonin release should not be for competitive accomplishments defined in terms of money, possessions, test scores. Happiness acheived by the individual means a high internal GINI coefficient. In a European social welfare state a much lower income is needed to acheive said "Gini Happiness" coefficient than in USA. Mental health, sense of physical and social security in the face of recession or PO or climate change due to a less individualistic approach to governing and sharing allows less adrenalin, panic attack mentality. The purposeful destruction of union structures, etc. since 1970s to disturb the social order by the cpaitalists, banksters, what have you is antisocial. The capitalist own happiness has been reduced due to lower sense of security in life, more competitive society. Not to mention those down the totem pole.

So I would say that a low GINI coefficient means that soicety has recognized that "Money isn't everything" and that inequality creates insecurity and stress for all participants. Unhappiness(lower mental and physical health) for all is created by inequality.

The question of generations and cultures seems appropriate. Older cultures tend to stability. Younger ones(new world) are more dynamic and changing (higher GINI coefficient). Intergenerational equity is a big deal. Generations think differently and propel much of this inequity by generational typical beahviour. After crisis wars the dominating theme is equity to avoid similar suffering in future. After stabilization the crisis recedes in popular consciousness and the post crisis birth cohorts ("boomers/Xers") accept inequality. By the time they realize the consequences of their actions the system has broken down again. However when one considers that postwar birth cohorts might be bored with maintaining a disciplined equality, particularly in a dynamic culture like USA, then one might consider the marketplace competition for status to be the primary motivator in life of an otherwise bored primate, barred from violence in terms of murderous warfare of their fathers. Now that the postwar system has broken down violence must take place in terms of war, systemic change(alt energy replacing FFS, USD based finance/military hegemony replaced).

So we must relearn contentment with having little but our children or grandchildren will repeat our stupid mistakes most certainly.

except IQ refers to individuals and GINI refers to groups.

However when one considers that postwar birth cohorts might be bored with maintaining a disciplined equality, particularly in a dynamic culture like USA, then one might consider the marketplace competition for status to be the primary motivator in life of an otherwise bored primate, barred from violence in terms of murderous warfare of their fathers.

Interesting. So some of us became habituated to the pace of peace and equality and were jonesin for an outlet?

Income is like an IQ test for competence in our society, much as IQ or test scores in schools fulfill the same role. There is generally speaking a close connection betwen the two(parental income, status and child test scores/adult IQ).

How the generation that fought in the war directly and those that were children during the war react to resource distribution, perceived fairness in social environment in terms of unionization, etc. differs markedly from the attitudes of those born postwar. Everyone has to learn for themselves through concrete emotional experience, poverty, loss, kill or be killed. So the old people have a memory of devastation, extreme suffering and save every penny, build to last, take out long term mortgages, are skeptical about con artists. See results of Cuban Missile Crisis, a standdown, as direct result of bad war memories holding back male machismo fantasized in Dr. Strangelove.

The younger generations start high up on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, never having seen "True Suffering". Their "wants" know no bounds. The average male has the hunter instinct. The rules of the game are the limits on his field of play. He must win the game to become Alpha Male. the female wants the male with the top status. The birth cohorts with unlimited wants play the game to the limits and then some, bending every rule, gaming the rules until the system, the resources the structures themselves are broken down. We see this all playing out on a global theater with advancing technology and playing with rules of military and trade and financial engagement all to get advantage for those with the most wants. Bush admin. and Wall street cohorts from Goldman Sachs was the classic example. Now Obama admin is forced to play it in the other direction, cooperative society, conciliatory but not yet truly converted. It seems to be superficial.

This is similar to the parable of the sower. Some fell on rocky ground and sprouted quickly and then withered as it was not deeply rooted. As long as the economic plans of the admin and the people are not based on deep suffering, a spiritual transformation, all the wrong decisions will be made for the wrong reasons. Back to BAU. Feed the banks.

Hippies were acting out and quickyl went back to "normal" behaviour as yuppies. I experienced religion as a child but it struck no deeper roots till adulthood. If our society is to take change seriously it will only be because we have no choice, no crutch of FFs left. A man who hits bottom will find deep inside himself the will to live. Otherwise it is just gaming the system and peacock feathers for the hottest chicks.

Game has tilted, Titanic has run into iceberg. Are the lifeboats only for the privileged few as way back when?

The interspecies equity is an interesting question. Similar to the poorer parts of the population and poorer generations, the rich alpha animals, who take maximum power by hoarding the goodies like the peacock's feathers, just for show(lots of animal trophies, etc.) eventually kills more animals, eliminates more plants, wildlife than is sustainable, leaving a wasteland behind. So it is cyclical like the human generational thing and the inequities always end in war or revolution. In the ecological case extinction or die off is the inevitable result.

So blow back is coming hard.
Karma takes time to unfold but is ruthless.
Revenge of Gaia will be sweet.

Economic disparity. What works.

Here is something I paraphrased from a book I read sometime back.

Second quarter nineteenth century.
White settlers begin to move into parts of the southern highlands and a little beyond. Parts of now Tennessee,Georgia and the Carolinas and W. Virginia. Mostly English,Scotch-Irish,German and a very distinctive Appalachian culture grew. Once established they became community interdependent and had all the control over their future and what they did and how they lived. All with different skills and relying on each other for their needs and wants. They were somewhat cutoff due to locale and terrain. Life worked. Things work fine. They were happy.

Suddendly after a depression,not affecting them much, government programs were introduced. Industries moved in that were not locally owned. Corporations. The people there provided the labor but did not share in the profits or anything else. It all became now a 'cash' economy where before it was not. Families became dependent on the jobs. Hospitals came,roads paved,and local politicians seemed to think heaven had descended.

Unions were not allowed. "If you unionize we will shut it down!"
Thus the corporations executives became the powers in these towns and communities. They ruled de facto. Where life once centered around the family farms it now changed markedly. This was all the school gradutes had to do. Work there or move on.

For some time it worked. Prices were low. Families still owned some land. Times seemed good.

But in time prices started to rise. Wages in the urban areas way off skyrocketed and enticed their young folk away. Then came the toursits and cheap motels and bad food restaurants. But rural wages remained very low and around the minimum wage levels.
Junk came disguised as authentic 'mountain crafts'. Summer vacation homes proliferated taking much good land. Certain areas once pristine became havens for toursism and became a curse on the land and people.
Local ownership of land decreased tremendously. Land developers drove prices thru the ceiling.

The now poor families had to see their birthrights to the land gone. Their inheritances. Nothing now to pass on to their children. State government continued to push for the tourist dollars.
The young feel helpless as well as their parents. They can't afford housing on what was once their own lands.

They begin to be looked down upon by the city people and suburbanites as poor white trash. They have lost control over their futures.They have bad teeth now as well as bad health.

Its all a sham now. The rich business man comes to deliver an address to the graduating high school class. "You are the future of this country and soon we will pass the torches on to you."

Its all bullshit. They go to the nearest cocktail lounge for martinis and a good laugh. There will be no torches.

Some,very few, of these people still live on a small piece of highup land in the most inaccessbile parts of mountains. They are almost all gone now. They remember how it once was.

Does anyone shed a tear for what was once shining and good? No.

The mountains they loved and lived on are now having their tops sheared off for a seam of coal to keep the other folks who came as tourist happy and spending wildly. They can do little about it. They are the forgotten ones. They took their memories and skills with them as they died and went into the cold ground.

Airdale-economic disparity then? Who makes these economic rules then? Who pays the dear dear price? Who built this country and who now owns it?

We residents of the developed countries are the wealthiest people in history, despite income inequality. Practically no one is hungry, too many are obese, and we do so little physical work we are not physically fit. We also have more leisure time than any previous generation, working 40 hour weeks compared to 60-70 hour weeks 150 years ago. And most importantly, there is no slavery.

We receive free (government paid education). We are relatively free of infectious diseases like smallpox, black death, yellow fever, polio, etc. We all have possessions no one even dreamed of two centuries ago.

However, we are not prepared for peak oil and peak other resources. This is because we lack political will and because of public ignorance. Our system is bankrupt because we tried to have everything: cheap energy, large houses (as opposed to low maintenance and energy efficient), Medicare, Social Security, etc.

Personally I am prepared. I moved to a small town that has good agricultural soil. I can bicycle to all the places I regularly need to go, however, I am so close that I could easily use an electric golf cart or plug in electric vehicle. I can grow my own food if necessary. I also designed and built my own 21st Century home, 200 tons of aerated concrete with a 100 year roof, so I have no maintenance and super low electricity and gas costs.

Gated communities and guards is not my idea of successfully navigating resource depletion. We evolved to compete and cooperate, context and resource dependent. How to find the sweetspot on this spectrum is a question of increasing importance.

To address this concern it seems to me we need to start by acknowledging that a globe of "gated communities" is what we have now, not only within states, but also between them.

Is there really a "sweetspot" waiting just around the bend for us, be it on some ski hill, or perhaps a permaculture eco-cottage, while a days travel away others starve or die for want of a few $ worth of medicine? Just where did the rare earths in that PV panel come from anyway?

1. What sort of social equity disparity fits us best, and for how many?

2. Would we be happier with everyone roughly at equivalent wealth levels, or a very few having most of the wealth, so long as basic social and physical needs are met for the masses?

What would she say?

3. Will all this sort itself out naturally [...]

Not quite sure what you mean by this


Happy Easter

Tough situation. Tough questions. Don't shoot the messenger. I'm just trying to accelerate the conversation, though I don't have the answers..

I always enjoy Nate’s post because I often disagree with the Anglo type stress on competition, with its dichotomous partner on the other end of the pole, cooperation, being downgraded to a kind of milquetoast essential that is little discussed.

Human beings are deeply social, exist and thrive only in situations of mutually satisfactory social interaction. They cooperate, naturally, that is how tasks are accomplished.

However, the basic mechanisms are, in my order:

First, imitation, emulation, mirroring, and joining in by replicating; adopting behaviors, improving them, recycling them endlessly, thus refining them; thereby providing feed-back and feed-in, not to mention gratification or even joy. (Besides the joy part there are some interesting studies and discussions dealing with AI or robots.) Imitation may even be mindless until it somehow becomes mindful, that is integrated and thus subject to analysis and revision.

Second, complimentarity - one person pushes up, the other down, say; one runs, the other stays back; two different complimentary actions fit into a functional (or even emotional) process. These behaviors rest on the perception of some super-ordinate goal, desired end point, or the contrariness of some of the participants, etc. Anyone can think of examples. It balances imitation, which would be devastating if it was not tempered.

Third, cultural transmission or at the individual level, direct teaching. Those who know, have learnt, have experience, transmit, thru various means, stored knowledge, or the use of tools constructed over time (eg. writing, math) and technology (car, building a bridge.) These moves go beyond simple spontaneous imitation because they are planned efforts - taking many forms.

All of these actions, including imitation, the most basic, are fitted into a particular culture with its norms. Altruism, giving and taking care with no direct expectations of return is a fundamental part of this social matrix. The words altruism and cooperation don’t even describe it properly, as they point to behaviors that are exceptional. (Jane is generous or altruistic; Joe is a good team player; Mr. Rothenrot believes in cooperation, etc.)

Competition plays a role. It is always framed, curbed, socially circumscribed. A leader who kills another to take his place can be accepted. Sometimes. Opposing ideas or plans serve moving forward, etc. Only so much competition, varied in different societies, is tolerated. In times of plenty (oil age) it can get out of hand, because the riches of the few don’t impact the lives of the many. That time is now coming to an end.

Nate wrote: we cooperated in order to vanquish other tribes. Yes...and that is the danger. Recognised since forever, but in Int’l law, in our times, since post ww2.

GINI, resource depletion, hierarchy, growth

Those are all tied together. We try to finess inequality by increasing growth, so everyone gets a little bit more. That's more or less the root definition of "political liberalism". All our political and economic institutions are founded on that principle: give the masses more bread and circus to keep them quiet. Liberal economics carries through to liberal "values", liberal "(mis)education" and so forth. Our society,culture and technology are all founded on MORE.

When that fails, the masses will get uppitty. They will not be able to down another martini.

I go back to what Daly writes about: scale, distribution and allocation. The market - allocation - DOES NOT address scale and distribution. In a world without limits, that is OK because there is always "Head west, young man". The US Constitution - a liberal document - destroys community; that was the explicit purpose - union. But now that we've hit limits, solutions that do not address scale and distribution make no sense - eg the stimulus package, eg our soon to be $4T deficit.

The stimulus and the deficit - just to take them as examples - are what Monbiot means when he talks about cats in a sack; we are fighting each other for what we can get.

Scale, distribution and allocation - the economic system that is coming must address all of those because it will not otherwise have any legitimacy or sustainability. Liberalism - growth - is dead and we are passing through a transition into something else. Maybe fuedalism, maybe something better if we can strengthen our communities against the authoritarians and militarists. Go to your local state legislature - virtually every bill here in Maine is about carving up markets and defining haves and have-nots. The piranhas (Naomi Klein) are hard at work preserving their interests and as a result delegitimizing the entire political and economic structure. So there will likely be a transition through classical fascism, where the state merges with business interests - eg bail out and give bonuses to the bankers and bust the unions. Bertram Gross wrote "Friendly Fascism" in 1980. I have to reread it, but it strikes me the Obama administration fits the description perfectly.

cfm in Gray, ME

Social inequity and high GINI coefficients are in part a function of high heat dispersal from excess resource use. We're at the top of a hot blow-off top social storm. If you doubt it, just look at the media in the US and Britain. Bread and circuses.


So in answer to number 1, I would propose that Plato's/Aristotle's 4:1 5:1 maximum disparity ratio were based on energetics of an earlier time based on wealth not powered by fossil fuels. I've heard a 20:1 ratio proposed as a tenable disparity in our current civilization. I would expect that ratio to diminish as we descend and lose cheap fossil fuels.

2. Would we be happier with everyone roughly at equivalent wealth levels? Happiness is in part based on basic needs, but then there are many other non-wealth indicators that reflect a functional civilization that would impact happiness. Money is a form of information about production and consumption within the economy. Contrary to what economists will tell you, not everything is about money.

3. Will all this sort itself out naturally, or by war(s), or be 'chosen' democratically? We're so far into overshoot that there is no way to avoid the wars to reduce us by about 80% of our population unless the other three Horsemen come a'calling. My guess is that most of the 4 Horsemen will arrive together.

4. If a paradigm shift arrives, and those previously in the 'have-not' category displace the previous 'haves', will this just reset the social timer on when such an inflection will happen again, in reverse? Social inequity is a function of resource imabalance, which is a function of overshoot, in part. Once we reduce the population and blow off the cheap fossil fuels, the inequities decline, IMO. You could even look at the cyclical nature of political systems (socialism vs. capitalism, etc.) in terms of relative energetic inputs and social structure to find some correlations.

5. What happens to US politics/economic system when middle class can no longer act as buffer between rich and poor? To quote Mt. Redoubt, "Boom."

At some point, the maximum power principle suggests that we respond to the decrease in energetic inputs with a more cooperative civilization. I just hope to live through the interim.

Well stated.

I was encouraged to see Prof Eric Zencey's OpEd in todays NYTimes on Mr. Soddy's Ecological Economy.

And I agree re Maximum Power Principle. It is the foundation for just about everything - at least on this planet.

What happens to US politics/economic system when middle class can no longer act as buffer between rich and poor?

Obama says the middle-class is everyone who makes less that $250k per year. Not someone with a net worth of that, but someone who makes that income per year. That definition makes a mockery of the middle class functioning as a sort of buffer between rich and poor.

cfm in Gray, ME

At some point, the maximum power principle suggests that we respond to the decrease in energetic inputs with a more cooperative civilization.

Why does cooperation promote maximum energy extraction at low energy flow rates but not a high energy flow rates?

1. I'm not sure. As the owner of a computer, I'm probably way above the world median. I wouldn't want to do without my intertubes. But then there are those who rake in astronomically more than I, apparently as a result of being born to a privileged class. Naturally, I think they should have less.

2. Due to overpopulation, I think that equivalent wealth levels would leave us all pretty close to destitution if not starvation.

3. I doubt that people will 'choose' to limit themselves. It hasn't worked so far, so I'll say it will sort itself out naturally. Note that war(s) are as 'natural' as the other Horsemen of Calypso.

4. I think the "Mad Max" phase of this paradigm shift could well be bloodier than the French Revolution. Not sure if it will happen that way, but there's a potential for it. I believe the Mad Max phase will be short lived, however. It's unsustainable after the 'have-not-so-much' run out of ammunition.

We do have the technology in place for a much longer lasting "1984" phase of surveillance/police state society, which is self-limiting in its own way, but could go on for decades or maybe a century. Note that the Egyptians managed to maintain "stability" for three or four thousand years.

5. It will cease to exist. The reversion to a deindustrial state will not be linear, however. I'm not sure "democracy" will be able to survive the transition.

6. Earth's ecosystems will right themselves, but the process will take quite a long time. It might be instructive to look at the Permian/Triassic boundary for an estimate of how quickly such a recovery takes place. As for the inter-generational thing, we've already effed our grandchildren, unfortunately. I don't think my G-G-Generation would recognize the world in which any great grandchildren will live, if I am lucky enough to leave any.

We do have the technology in place for a much longer lasting "1984" phase of surveillance/police state society, which is self-limiting in its own way, but could go on for decades or maybe a century. Note that the Egyptians managed to maintain "stability" for three or four thousand years.

I very much doubt this. The Egyptian stability appears to have been in the geographical context of low requirements for heating and cooling, and fairly automatic irrigation/fertilisation from the regular Nile floods. Thus no energy/environment crisis to crash the system.

The situation now is very different. The "1984" system depends on maintenance of the precarious globalised/commercialised/fossilfuelised juggling trick in a context of its oppressively shrinking several percent per year. It could easily come to an end within a year, almost certainly within five.

Mad Max (2) seems fundamentally misconceived. Instead of desperately searching for more auto fuel, people will be desperately searching for food, at least until such time as the population reduces to less than the number of squirrels, partridges, buffalo, or whatever. Within a year or less of a system collapse I forsee there'll be just a minority of survivors, who will find themselves seeking one anothers' help rather than demise.

When it is perceived that all are sharing the pain then society will have peace no matter what happens to resources depletion. About the worst thing a person could do during WW II was to be a food hoarder. People were willing put off buying a new car and other goods because they perceived it was for the good of everyone. They willingly gave away resources in the form of things like aluminum pots and pans and the grease from frying pans. It all comes down to what people perceive. Right now we perceive what Madison Ave tells us to perceive. Madison Ave tells us we will be unhappy if we don't have what didn't even exist 20 years ago. What is really so bad about being in a cell phone dead zone?

These types of questions have been asked for millenia. Plato suggested humankind would be most fulfilled in a society where the maximum wealth disparity between highest and lowest was 4:1. Aristotle suggested 5:1.

Interesting to note that when a society is considered in aggregate, these are close to the results of Vilfredo Pareto in the early 1900s. He found that across a wide range of times, places, and social structures, in stable societies 20% of the population held 80% of the wealth or income. The same ratio held across various subsets of the population: within the richest group, 20% of that group held 80% of the group's wealth.

I have always suspected that this type of power distribution represents a "compromise" that gets the best results for the society overall. Some concentration of wealth is necessary to provide capital for investment in the technology of the day. But excessive concentration leads to social instability.

We must share knowledge.
Learning skills make people more independent.
Try to be a model for others.

Here are my off-the-cuff answers --

1. What sort of social equity disparity fits us best, and for how many?

I don't know exactly. However, it would be much, much less than the current GINI level in the U. S. Ballpark, maybe 10:1 or so. Plato and Aristotle weren't completely off base.

2. Would we be happier with everyone roughly at equivalent wealth levels, or a very few having most of the wealth, so long as basic social and physical needs are met for the masses?

Roughly equivalent wealth levels would be easier. I think it is bad for the leaders to be too much in the stratosphere economically. While I have a distaste for the rule of the few, the one thing I can relate to about the "philosopher kings" in Plato and Pythagoras is that they do not benefit directly economically. They rule wisely because it's their job.

3. Will all this sort itself out naturally, or by war(s), or be 'chosen' democratically?

I vote for "naturally." I'm such an incurable optimist! If the stock market crashes, and the wealthy own most stocks, this makes everyone worse off, and may in fact leave the people at the bottom starving. But the relative position of the poorest and richest is narrowed. Intuitively, it looks like this is what explains the difference between the 1920's and the 1950's in the U. S. A.

4. If a paradigm shift arrives, and those previously in the 'have-not' category displace the previous 'haves', will this just reset the social timer on when such an inflection will happen again, in reverse?

It doesn't matter whether the haves and have-nots displace each other or not. What matters, equality-wise, is that the ratio is kept at (say) 10:1 and not allowed to go to 100:1, 1000:1, or whatever it is now. (And what about the ratio between the rich in America and the poorest in other countries?) But the basic ratio between rich and poor needs to be set in stone that is more solid than just the normal political process. Otherwise the rich (or the "haves") will just eat away at the system by putting more money or political capital into the political system, and eventually upset the ratio.

This is basically what happened between 1950's and the 2000's in the U. S. A. In the 1950's and 1960's, as much as we could complain about stereotyped conformity, incomes were much more evenly distributed. Being in a union was normal. By the 2000's, this had all come unraveled via the political process and undoing the progressive income tax. It has to be in the constitution or something like that.

5. What happens to US politics/economic system when middle class can no longer act as buffer between rich and poor?

"Just watch" is the quick answer.

6. Bonus question: If we find reasonable answers to the above, how would they apply, if at all, to inter-generational equity or inter-species equity?

They don't. The question of scale (how physically big the economy can get) has to have absolute priority here. There's no point in discussing the equity of distribution, until you know what exactly you're distributing. If for example we decide that the earth can generate enough human wealth to support 1 billion vegans living at an otherwise European standard of living, then we can talk about how to divide that up. But otherwise, we could all be equal but all be starving.

The same thing applies generally to intergenerational equity -- if you don't care about sustainability over the long haul (greater than 100 or 200 years, at least), then we could conceivably blow it all in a glorious final decade, culminating in the final 15 minutes where everyone lives like an American CEO. Some years ago there was a "voluntary human extinction" movement. But if you don't go for that, then we have to decide, on principle, on sustainability for future generations. Once we've resolved this issue, then we can move on to deciding how to divvy it up.

The standard American capitalist ideology justifies inequality as providing incentives. Work harder and you'll make more money than the person who doesn't. Come up with a better idea, and you'll be rewarded.

The problem is, it doesn't work that way - not any more, at least.

The people who make the greatest contributions to the betterment of society usually DO NOT get rewarded all that well. We all know about the "starving artist" stereotype, but it is based on a reality, and it goes well beyond just artists. Most of our scientists receive pretty mediocre compensation, given the contribution they are making to society. Many corporations make sure that the people who actually invent the new products and new ways of doing things receive nothing more than token compensation; they generally do not get most of the profits that accrue from their creativity.

On the other hand, consider the people in our economy who ARE prospering these days. I could point your attention in the direction of Wall Street, or Washington, or the executive suite of any corporation, but I need not belabor the point; you all read the headlines. The people who are getting the disproportionate amount of wealth are not being rewarded for their creative productivity, but rather for their "creative destruction".

Thus, while the claimed justification of inequality as incentive sounds good in theory, in practice it does not actually work as claimed, at least not beyond a certain minimal extent. There is probably a law of diminishing returns at work. Offer to pay someone twice as much to work twice as hard, and you just might get that result. Offer to pay someone ten times as much to work ten times as hard, and that very likely won't happen. A little bit of disparity-as-incentive can go a long way, but the mistake comes from making that the only tool in the toolbox, and thinking it can be infinitely extendable.

Thus, I wouldn't get worked up over the mere existence of inequalities. The interventions into the economy that would be required to achieve 100% perfect equality are so extensive, and the harm they are likely to cause so devastating, that IMHO it simply isn't worth it. What we do need to do is to have some simple rules that will serve to keep income and wealth disparity down to a fairly low level. I don't much care whether that level is 3:1 or 4:1 or 5:1 or 10:1; any would be preferable to what we have now.

The interventions into the economy that would be required to achieve 100% perfect equality are so extensive, and the harm they are likely to cause so devastating, that IMHO it simply isn't worth it.

From a purely formal enforcement point of view I do not see why enforcing wage equality is any more difficult than enforcing a 5 to 1 ratio. Notice that I say 'wage equality'. I do not think anyone would have any objection to someone who works 80 hours per week earning twice as much (or even somewhat more) as somone who worked only 40 hours a week.

The question of whether or not such equality would damage the economy by wreaking havoc with the efficiency of labor markets is another question. It is true of course that exceptionally productive people would not be motivated to work very hard at their jobs unless they were doing something that had intrinsic value to them beyond its ability to provide them with current exchange income. Why this is a bad thing is not clear to me. We need to find a way to direct our creative abilities and entreprenurial spirit to some other object than manufacturing and selling as much stuff as we possibly can in the short term.

Pure wage equality is the path to the old Soviet system.
"They pretend to pay us, so we pretend to work"

Some level of pay inequality is necessary for incentive, too much inequality leads to systemic breakdown.

Of course I will try to add some math to this. Does anyone know what causes the Pareto-type law in GINI? I think it has to do with dispersion of skills. An exponential distribution of rates (i.e. how hard or efficiently an individual person works essentially) leads to an inverse power law in cumulative wealth after a spread of years.
Will this maintain under a new paradigm?