One (or two) years on - they have learned nothing

Just over one year after it became impossible to deny that the financial crisis that had started in 2006/2007 was a major, systemic event, it is rather depressing to see that nothing has really changed and, to the contrary, if anything has, it is for the worse.

The most striking item, of course, is the continued dominance of politicians by bankers. Banks are universally seen - including by bankers - as being at the heart of the problem, and having created the crisis through reckless behavior and worse. And yet, after having being bailed out at a staggering cost, in a highly asymmetrical way (the losses were socialised, but not the banks), not only have they managed to eliminate the likelihood of any meaningful regulatory change, but more importantly they have managed to maintain the fiction that finance was the reason for earlier prosperity and should thus be protected as a source of future prosperity. The crash has not made anyone question the quality (or reality) of the previous boom, but rather made them wistful for these times. Thus, the dominance of the finance sector on the economy and the airwaves has not changed one bit: we still worry about the stock market, it's still financial analysts and economists that drive the public debate, we're still talking about "reforms" of entitlements or the labor market as if these were the main problem today, and public policy largely avoids the big looming issues of resource depletion and climate change.

To extend on this a bit, here are a few items worth noting:

  • there's very little discussion of the fact that this is an income crisis namely, stagnation/lack of income, which was dissimulated for a long time by increased access to debt. All the endless debating about replacing private debt by public debt and whether that's a good thing or a sustainable one ignore the underlying problem: middle and lower class wages & incomes have been squeezed and need to be supported. Instead, we get savage budget cuts in social spending, ie in the very programmes that supplement or complement most people's incomes, and yet more talk about making the labor market more "flexible" (which only ever means pushing wages down). Public spending in collective infrastructure that would support living standards (including energy-saving plans such as support to home efficiency, or public transport), backed by real income (ie taxes on those who do not spend all their wages) is not seen as something necessary like the bank bailouts were;
  • there's been very little talk of the profound underlying responsibility of the financial world in that drive to reduce the cost of labour. This is usually presented as an inevitable consequence of globalisation, when in fact it's been a clear policy choice to focus policy priorities on improving returns on capital (at the expense of everybody else), and to take decisions that justified these choices. For instance, the permanent push to make pensions market-based rather than government-run: this creates new markets for the finance industry and, at the same time, helps justify return on capital requirements as something good for everybody's pensions; stock market performance and short term returns of investment managers then become key numbers for everybody and further drive the focus on short term profitability;
  • the massive call upon public resources, and the apparent "success" of bailout/stimulus plans (ie governments succeeded where the private market failed), as touted by the markets and politicians, has not lead to a real change of mood about government being a solution rather than a problem. Consistency is not the hallmark of our times. Already the talk is about too-invasive regulation, and unhealthy public debt burdens, as if these had been caused by reckless civil servants. The most obvious point is that higher taxes to pay for government saving the day are still seen everywhere as inconceivable or inacceptable. Just like the War on Terror did not apparently require any financial effort, the Big Bank Bailout cannot be allowed to touch upon taxpayers - or banks, which are too-big-to-failer than before.
  • the oil price increases prior to the crash are now dismissed as aberrations caused by speculators and not a signal of anything deeper happening; similarly climate change worries are often dismissed by Serious People as a "luxury" in today's tough times. As a result, we're doing even less than we could on these problems - and so much less than we should. Oh sure, there's a nice bit of spending on green technologies in the various stimulus plans, but it's still dwarfed by help to traditional sectors of the economy (ie it's not really a game changer yet) and it's nothing compared to what we know can be done. More importantly, it's still seen as a sideshow, and more of a necessary PR exercise than actual policy; more generally, the focus on short term needs eclipses any long term thinking and planning; the past blanket discredit thrown upon government prevents it from fulfilling that natural role (and brings about a slow decay of infrastructure, generally);
  • in that context, the impact of deregulation on energy markets, which encourages investment by private sector (at private sector cost of capital) rather than by the public sector (at discount rates close to long term sovereign debt cost) is never discussed. That means that energy spending is focusing, structurally, on investment-light but fuel-rich technologies, as it is easier to keep such investment profitable in the face of volatile prices even if it's not the cheapest technology. Thus we stay on our oil (and gas)-dependent trajectory through investment that can tie us in for decades. Additionally, private decisions on infrastructure generally lead to boom-and-bust cycles as supply reacts in exaggerated fashion to short term demand and price signals. But the financial world get to trade, hedge and finance to its heart, and apparently this is all that matters;
  • throughout, progressive ideas and parties have been discredited - either by having Serious People call the bailout of the financial world and other current regressive policies "socialism," blaming the continuing crisis on Big Government while preventing actual public intervention where it would matter (public investment, increased transfers to the poor and unemployed, better and/or more universal public health care, etc) - followed by the knockout blow: claiming very loudly that the crisis somehow discredits alternatives to unfettered markets;
  • behind all this, of course, is the agenda of large corporations - old industry incumbents, financial behemoths, not to mention the healthcare insurance juggernaut in the US - and their shareholders, and the twin overridding imperatives of return on equity and "competitive" management pay. They lobby, they run the debate and they outright buy off politicians. The grip of money over politics and policy has, if anything, tightened. But it's not seen as related to the crisis in any way - at least not by the Serious People (ie those that buy Serious People or are bought by them)

We need policies that actively promote (i) increasing incomes for the lower and middle classes, (ii) public investment (in particular on energy and healthcare) paid for by increased taxes, (iii) cutting down corporates (in particular, banks) to size. We obviously won't get any of these until the influence of money on politicians has been cut massively.

The past crisis was obviously not sufficient to shake the current system; if anything, the grip has been tightened. Pain for the masses does not matter if it has no impact on the political process; the past year suggests that the corporatists have been successful at defusing public anger and pointing it away from the real culprits; in many countries, the left is split between those that have been compromised too much within the system and those that are too seen as too shrill and neither can provide a credible alternative.

All this points, unfortunately, to a bigger crisis soon.

Jerome, I have been fretting about this very thing you point to. On Bill Moyers' Journal, his guests discussed the socialization of risk and the privatization of profit which has been arranged by the big banks. JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs are reaping profits (supplied by you and me) while continuing to foreclose on average people. Unless they are stopped (by whatever means bankers are stopped), they will continue ripping off the public and serving themselves (the CEO's continue to command higher salaries than in any other banks in the world). Obama (whom I like in many ways) has an economic team which comes from Wall Street. This recovery is jobless because it has been engineered that way.

Welcome to the continuation of The Class War. Obama's purpose is to continue the disparity; indeed, as Jerome points out, what is happening amounts to an escalation. IMO, the financial elite are out to loot as much as possible before the system is bankrupted by Peak Oil.

There's only one way to stop the Banksters--Open Warfare.

It is all so foolish though. Without the military behind them they have nothing but paper work.
Everything hinges on the military either go along or finally saying enough is enough and taking control.
I can't help but to think that the high ranking officers are seriously questioning what is happening and reviewing their oath to protect The Constitution against all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC.

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

I take it you have never been a member of the military?

Naval Aviator 8 years and I took the oath.

So you are indicating Dupont may be the force that will reign in the bankers?

Hi porge--You might find this recent item by LtCol., Ret., William Astore significant to your thesis. I would also add the plotline from Seven days in May to the mix.

As I see it, the main problem for your thesis is the very generals and admirals you hope will see the light are instead blinded by their subservience to the interests that provide them with their current rank and status, and that the current arrangement serves them all very well. It should also be clear that anyone O-6 grade or higher who wasn't a "Yes Man" has already left the military during BushCo's "purge" of "disloyal" officers.

Myself and others who "took the oath," consider it a lifelong oath as it's directly related to the duties of the citizen. My problem with the oath is that I'm charged with defending a constitution that isn't worth defending as its defects are directly responsible for the multiple crises we face today.

I'm charged with defending a constitution that isn't worth defending as its defects are directly responsible for the multiple crises we face today.

That's utter crap. There is nothing wrong with the Constitution. The MCA, Patriot Act, destruction of Glass/Steagall is on us, not the founders of the nation. Every law that undermines it exists because of a failure to defend the Constitution, not the other way around. It's a document for chrissake.


Sorry, ccpo, but I must disagree. The second constitution, brought forth in multiple violations of the first, is a failure because its illdefined executive allows for the vast accumulation of unchecked power, and because of its several undemocratic aspects--the senate and the electoral college being the worst. For example, what Polk did in 1846 was no different from what Bush did in 2003; and there are many many more such examples.

Which is why there is an amendment process. You are confusing human action/inaction with the process.

Amendments are possible. The EC should be abolished, agreed. The one thing you are leaving out entirely is activism. Get enough people in the streets/striking/etc., and things will change. As long as we sit on our collective butts, nothing will.


"Without the military behind them "

Israeli soldiers shot dead 11 unarmed Palestinian civilians carrying white flags during Israel's offensive in Gaza earlier this year.

In the Honduras soldiers shot at unarmed demonstrators.

The Kent State shootings involved the shooting of 4 unarmed college students by members of the Ohio National Guard in 1970. They were protesting against the American invasion of Cambodia.

Unarmed students have been shot by the police searching for drugs.

A US Marine who led the unit accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha shot five men as they stood with their hands in the air.

Its written in usa's constitution that only gold and silver could be used as currency in usa. What about it?

As time pass, all great and not-so-great empires rust. American empire is no exception. Once america was able to win world war, now it can't win in any of the two weak countries it tried its luck in. It has to use private, corporate armies to not only support logistics but also do the actual fighting. It was unable to even supply the basic necessities to its people in natural calamities, something even Bangladeshi army can do.

The signs are clear. America is here like a guest, that means for a very little time. Enjoy being american, soon you would not be.

The logical successor of america is texas, same way russia is of soviet union. With its oil industry and bully behavior texas may be able to group up a few states into some kind of govt.

Its written in usa's constitution that only gold and silver could be used as currency in usa.

Actually it isn't. The constitution only limits the powers of the states in this regard. It doesn't limit what the federal government can do.

right on the money jaggedben, certainly has openned a can of worms.

Aricle I
Section 10
1: No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

Section 8
1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

2: To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

3: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

4: To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

5: To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

You say Russia won WWII...............
I'm thinking that if the USA had remained completely neutral then your country would not have come into existence and I wouldn't be reading ignorance from Pakistan

Ah yes....., the Partition of India--One of Colonialism's Great Crimes.

'against all enemies, foreign and domestic'

That includes an enemy within the military that would attempt to overthrow the lawfully elected Executive, Legislative and the Constitutionally appointed Judicial branches of government.

The military has no Constitutional right to seize control and there are Veterans like myself who have completed our active duty service to the nation and those still in the military that would respond with force to a military coup.

The military is not a single minded monolith, it's composed of citizens who are not simple drones, it's what when it's at it's best makes us better than the other guys can hope to be.

But attempt a military coup and you'll find me aiming back. The American Military replacing the law by force is a damnably dangerous idea.

These are valid points, BUT.
1. Meaningful change/reform is impossible in the current environment.
2. It is best if the current system collapses as soon as possible, so we can start over.

I see no change now as a good thing, it will force major changes later. The system is broken and must be replaced.

I agree, let the old banks fail completely, and start over with some new system for money.
Why should we put our money into a bank so that they can make 30% off of our money?
And then pay us 1%?

Why not form a new type of bank? Rather than endlessly discuss, why not take action and compete with the broken banking model that prevails?

From a recent post at :

And now to the concept of Essentially, we need to expand capitalism to everyone -- not just the top 5% or so. MindfulWorldBank would own high-quality assets and depositors would own the bank. Rather than paying a landlord, residents would deposit funds in an account at MindfulWorldBank; thereby building equity rather than throwing money away. Administration would be handled by volunteers, rather than by executives/bureaucrats. Eventually, the entire MWB infrastructure would look something similar to a health spa with paths rather than streets. Cars might still be in our future but would not dominate the landscape and our lives as they do today. Rather than sit behind desks and in front of computers, we could all be gardeners, gourmet chefs, bicycle mechanics, yoga instructors, or be occupied by some other meaningful work.

It should be noted that this concept is related to the work of recent Nobel recipients Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson. It addresses the commons in a comprehensive way as well as providing a new organizational structure that is designed to bring out the best in all those who live, work, and invest in the system. While it is exciting to see their work recognized, it would be more exciting to see it put into practice.

To a large extent, I agree: the kind of change that would be required is likely impossible in the current system, thus a bigger crisis will happen because the problems won't have been solved.

The problem with waiting? 1. Peak oil production needs decades to mitigate and 2. climate is not slowing down for us.

Yes, collapse will reduce emissions, from existing infrastructure, but only to a point. When people can no longer get energy from utilities, they'll burn whatever they must to keep warm, power their businesses and homes, and move about.

Mitigating climate means going backwards in emissions AND current concentrations. That will be hard to do in a destabilized world. Preparing for change already in the pipeline means moving or protecting many coastal populations. Time and money.

I'm not arguing that change is bad, only that we have time to wait for collapse and reboot.

That said, if you accept swamped cities and 4C+ higher average global temps as part of your scenario, then, yeah, we have all the time in the world.


Your solutions are BAU. Continued growth. How else do you prop up the middle class? What, then, are your thoughts on limits to growth and steady state economies?


"Your solutions are BAU. Continued growth. How else do you prop up the middle class? What, then, are your thoughts on limits to growth and steady state economies?"

Hi ccpo--Thanks for putting flesh on the elephant in most economists's living room.

I've partly responded downthread (and hopefully clarified my position). We've discussed "growth" a lot on European Tribune, and what it means and how it is defined. I of course agree that endless growth in the use of resources is impossible, but that does not mean that continued growth in the value (however defined) of what we do with a given set of resources is impossible.

The first item needed would be to find ways to not count as "growth" the use of stock to create flow, in particular via irreversible processes.

Perhaps a first step would be the repeal of "depletion allowances"?

I of course agree that endless growth in the use of resources is impossible, but that does not mean that continued growth in the value (however defined) of what we do with a given set of resources is impossible.

Continued for how long? At 2% growth per year the increase in dematerialized production between the year 2509 and 2510 will be 400 times the size the current global economic output. Also given the fact the global population is not likely to stabilize at much less than nine billion people all of whom will want the same standard of living as you and I have, there is a lot of fully materialized growth left to occur in the rest of this century. Do your really believe that the OECD nations insistance on indefinitely continued growth in value is not going to impact the prosperity of the underdeveloped world in the face of resource depletion?

The bank failures and subsequent bailouts are just symptoms of a broken economic system. The question that should be asked is why aren't individuals and businesses paying their loans? The answer is the 17% real unemployment rate. This didn't happen overnight. Jobs, companies, and entire industries have been shipped overseas for many years now. Unfortunately, politicians from both parties have been allowing this to happen (how much money did Clinton get from China again?). And the genius economists were saying all along that manufacturing industries were dinasaurs that didn't matter. All of these "service industry" jobs were supposed to magically appear and never did. Increasing the size of government, and socialist money giveaway programs only make the situation worse.

The bailout programs have been great for banks and the Federal Government. The Fed has been giving away free (close to zero rate) money meant to stimulate lending. But instead of lending to main street, banks have been using it to buy treasuries. This is great for bank profits, and bonuses. And for politicians wishing to give away free money, free food, free health care etc, that's basically being paid for with printed money. The politicians in charge now are the worst we've ever had. This is a disaster. 3rd world type inflation is on the way.

I found it very sobering to watch this interview by Bill Moyers. It is obvious that lots of very smart people know what the problem is but have no power to do anything about it. Hearing them use the word "oligarchs" shows how low things have gotten. Is there hope? Yes, but I suspect the price will be very high.



I'm afraid that it's pretty obvious, and it's very tragic, that they have no interest in helping the homeowners. They make money with what they're doing. They expected a lot of these mortgages they made to default, okay? It was in their models. A high default rate. Now, they didn't expect house prices to come down so much. That's where they got their losses. But they absolutely made these loans expecting they would have to foreclose on people. And figuring they would make money on that.

Adding salt to injury is this "memory jarring" information about the Financial saviors.


We need an economic system that does not reward sociopaths, and their behavior.
In other words, capitalism must go.
Society even admires these psychopaths, and holds them up as heros.

"Society even admires these psychopaths, and holds them up as heros."

Wrong. The Propaganda and Indoctrination Systems herald "them as heros" and thus delude the gullible segments of the public into similar behavior.

Gullible segments = just about everyone.

Hello again--It's very hard to quantify how large the gullible segments are. We can start by looking at the audience sizes for FoxNews and its HateRadio allies, but we ignore the audience at NPR, the NY Times and "mainstream" others to our peril. While not a large percentage, 10% of US population equals about 31 Million--a really good sized army of the non-gullible from the left and right. My historian allies say only 15% of the colonial populace was in favor of the Revolutionary project, with that percentage increasing after the British defeat at Saratoga.

I assume you and I agree that the US's economic climate will continue into deep winter, partially by design, that will continue to radicalize the populace, and that populace might continue to be gullible but is unlikely to remain passive. My fear is this segment gets co-opted by HateRadio and its allies, who are the powers behind BAU and WarInc.

My last question: Is the Union worth saving without drastically changing its current constitution?

karof1, I really hate to jump into this type conversation, but i must add my 2 cents. Freedom of speech! the constitution doesn't need to be changed, it only needs to be adhered to. There is an idea of the states joining up with other neighbor states and succeeding from the union. (texas, oklahoma, louisiana, joining up together) rather than an individual state trying to go it alone. Radical thoughts? yes. I would not be surprised to see other states join together and succeed from the union.

but as it stands, you ask, is the union worth saving? Yes, but not at the way the current elite are running it.

Besides, it's not hate radio allies. radio is a media alternative to the govt run media, talk radio is a means to hear "the other side of a story" , televison is govt propaganda, ie Pravda. talk radio gives you individual peoples perspective on things in life and current issues. It's not hate. hear both sides of the story, and make up your mind. its not that hard, check the facts, hear both sides , make up your mind. pretty easy. the elected elite are out of touch with mainstream. They have an agenda, the agenda is not always best for the country.

hope this helps

Depends on who you listen to on talk radio. I have listened to Rush, and I have seldom heard a more bitter or hateful man in my life. I don't see how anyone can listen to him on a regular basis and not have their bile rise every time they see someone who isn't lily-white.

And the Republican party supports him. So anti-establishment. I'm sure there's no agenda there...

Tip: radio is as bought and paid for (thoroughly, and on a national scale) as TV. It is mostly Clear Channel.

The Internet, and blogs, are the real alternate media. What talk radio show would give you enough time to say what you did above?

true, radio is bought and paid for mostly Clear Channel, as you say.
And true, internet and blogs are real alternative media. I can honestly say, i don't watch TV news at all, I listen to talk radio when driving, (savage,rush,hannity,beck etc..) and read blogs on the net like here on TOD and TAE (automatic earth), as well as listen to newshour on, and a couple of other podcasts.

If you want to say your piece on talk radio, try the Phil Valentine show at, or Ralph Bristol at the same station. they are not syndicated, and perhaps that is a reason they will talk with you.

But, hear me out, as someone once mentioned. talk radio is the 3rd party, the dems and repubs are not listening to the people. and as Gerald Celente, CEO of Trends Research Institute, (he's on you tube) says its a 2 headed one party system. the dems and repubs are one in the same, they just go by different names. he's right. think about it.

I am not republican nor democrat, i am independent. I look at all angles and make my own decisons based on the best information. I think for myself. as should more people.

hope this helps.

I answer your question with a question.
I have a copy of the United States Constitution sitting right in front of me.
I think that all of the current problems can be traced to a continuing subjugation of this document.

Specifically what do you think needs to be changed or added?

Start off giving me three items.

Sorry to jack your challenge, but that's unresistable!

1. Balanced budget amendment - The Congress of the United States shall pass no law resulting in an deficit between federal government revenues and expenditures for a given fiscal year, without a 2/3 majority vote of both houses of Congress.

2. Adjustment of Senate apportionment - Each State shall receive representation to the United States Senate based on the population of United States citizens in that State, with no State receiving less than one Senator.

3. Line item veto - The President of the United States shall have the authority to veto any expenditure in any bill passed by the Congress of the United States; the Congress may override such veto with a 2/3 majority of both houses of Congress.

4. Patents, trademarks, etc; limited life - No item of intellectual property may receive legal protection beyond 25 years from the date it is initially protected by law.

5. Bodies receiving Federal Monies; apportionment - No body, created with the purpose of planning or directing the spending of Federal Government monies, may be apportioned on any basis other than population of United States citizens.

I could probably go on for a while longer. So the first one prohibits deficit spending, without a supermajority in both houses. The second redraws the Senate so that states with tiny populations no longer get two Senators and the Senate is based largely on population. The third gives the President line-item veto. The fourth prohibits patent, trademark, copyright, etc. extensions beyond 25 years. The fifth deals with a problem that applies mostly to transportation planning - a topic dear to Oil Drum hearts - in which most transportation planning organizations are stacked by suburb representatives, who largely want expanded roads. They get away with this because those "metropolitan planning organizations" or MPOs, give one vote per jurisdiction, regardless of how many people are in the jurisdiction. So every township that wants to send a representative gets a vote equal to a nearby city with 10 times the population. The fifth change would require apportionment in those bodies to be by population.

Why not just eliminate the Senate entirely? Or limit its powers to confirmation of appointees and ratification of treaties? The really bad things Congress has done happens in those secret House/Senate reconciliation meetings where they sneak in things like special tax breaks for a single corporation and repeal of Glass/Steagal.

1. Agree
2. Populous States will always get their way this could cause exploitation of smaller states.
3. Strongly agree that has been an ongoing fight.
4. Agree
5. Same type of potential problems as 2.

Some great amendments but 2. and 5. are debatable.

1. The powers of the executive must be defined; in your copy, you will see they are not.

2. The Electoral College must be abolished and direct elections using machines with paper trails must become the rule along with publicly financed elections [sorry, more than one point].

3. The whole regulatory edifice that exists in the executive must be removed and reconstituted into its own branch of government.

I have others. But in a nutshell, what is needed is more democracy, transparancy, and checks and balances. As you see in your copy, there are no rules governing the conduct of political parties or corporations, which is a grave defect. You will also see the ratio for representation; obviously we can't have the number such a ratio calls for, but we need more than 535.

Perhaps the best lesson is to compare the first constitution: The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union with the second, which was brought about by violating the first. Also worth considering are the 13 state constitutions written during the Revolutionary period and how they reconciled democracy with executive power. They could be followed by Merrill Jensen's The Articles of Confederaton: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781 and The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781-1789, as well as Gordon Wood's Radicalism of the American Revolution and Bernard Bailyn's Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, while also devoting time to explore the historiographical evolution of Charles Beard's thesis An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.

"I think that all of the current problems can be traced to a continuing subjugation of this document."

I have pursued this question: What is in the current constitution that allows for its easy subjugation?

1. Are they not defined or too broadly or too loosely defined? But I definitely see your point.
2. I can see the original intent of the Electoral College given the limited availability to information and today it is readily accessible to every citizen however I do not believe the average voter has a clue. Given the outrageous corruption today I can't disagree with you on this.
3. I am not sure what you mean by this????

More Democracy in theory is great but in practice, in todays America of ignorance, it is just as likely to cause more problems.
More transparency, absolutely agree here.
More checks and balances again absolutely but the problem here is who is watching the watchmen?
The grift between corp lobbyists and politicians is THE problem but how do you break that link without replacing the whole lot of them?
Agree on the need for far more Representation at least closer to the ratio.

I agree that the Constitution is vague and incomplete and needs to be amended in many ways but first we need to get the country back and then fix the rules to prevent another hi-jacking in the future.

Thanks for all the references.

A brief response to your: "3. I am not sure what you mean by this????"

One of the US government's greatest failures is to regualte/enforce rules/laws primarilly because the vast majority of regulatory agencies exist in the executive branch and have thus been politicized and corrupted by the "revolving door" that results in the foxes watching the hen houses. For example, if the SEC had done its job, the current economic crisis wouldn't have occured in the manner it did; and if the FBI had been allowed to do its job, would 9/11 have happened? And Impeachment would never again be Off the Table. Unfortunately, the list of failures is far too long and ugly. Rip those agencies away from the Executive and some procedures from the Legislative Branches and reconfigure them into another governmental branch--The Regulatory Branch--which would be overseen by its own directly elected representatives based on a population formula somewhat like the House's and thus increase representation and democracy.

The power of the Executive must be deminished and the power to regulate and govern democratically must be increased.

That is a good idea. But I have to wonder if the same corruption won't grow again because what we are ultimately dealing with here is human nature.
But at least there will be a "chinese wall" between the branches. We need to fill the Regulatory Branch with Elliot Spitzer the sentient agents in the Matrix..........incorruptible.

If nothing else, how do you deal with controlling campaign contributions? Any effective attempt at this has been thwarted by cries of "First Amendment!" and "Free Speech!". Trying to mandate complete public financing of campaigns would also run up against this.

So maybe an Amendment entitled "Elections" in which the basic rules for all election-related stuff, whether campaign rules or just the mechanics of taking and tabulating the vote, issues of who can vote for who in primary elections, how far can political parties go in setting their own rules, dates of elections, etc is all laid out.

But this is what COULD happen, doesn't mean it will. Too many Fat-Cats, too many oxen to be gored. The only way around this would be for some critical mass of the overall electorate (a large majority) to be "politically aware" and plugged into what is really going on. And this isn't a one-time goal to be reached, your critical mass of the electorate has to STAY plugged in. Being "plugged in" means an involvement beyond simply turning out every year so to drop a ballot in a box, and yet even by this minimal measurement too many people are uninvolved. I think the modern record for turnout was something like 61%, and that was in the Kennedy-Tricky Dick Nixon election of 1960, almost half a century ago.

What seems more likely is that as world-wide long-term economic contractions persist over the next decades, various political entities, probably for the most part starting with the larger ones will break up, and a greater number of geographically and demographically smaller entities come into existence. This process could repeat itself several times over the next couple hundred years until it finally levels off at some sustainable point.

As economies contract, everything else will also, including the complexity and purposes and scope of our governments. And I suspect that as new political entities emerge, their political structures and process will primarily be limited by the degree of which level of societal complexity is possible, given each society's situation, ie. geographical location, energy/resource issues, population, etc. These sorts of issues will trump the wishes of ideologues and idealists off all stripes.

Antoinetta III

Governmental reform in the face of economic contraction is quite possible because of the political crisis that would also be present. You pose pertainent points. The future national government will need to be much smaller and efficient, yet more democratic and transparent. Shedding the overseas empire will make that much easier. The real problem exists in the realm of politicsl economy as any hope for an equitable future reats on the masses winning the Class War, but then transitions to different paradigms are always messy.

In other words, capitalism must go.

Peak Oil is about flow rates which affects Industrialsim because industry feeds primarily on Oil, Ntaural Gas, and Coal.
When Oil Peaks, or worse, after Peak Hydrocarbon, Industrialism will begin to starve.
I know that our monetary system is also a problem because it encouranges growth in consumption and debt.
Exponential growth in population, consumption of resources including hydrocarbons and our moetary system are unsustainable...,
but I don't get what that has to do with Capitalism...???
Capitalism is about who owns production or industry
govt., or individuals

when captialism fails.., if it does..., it will do so for the same reasons as communism.

the underlyign problem is growth.
we think we're cancer cells and we want to keep growing until we kill the host (earth)

what does that have to do with capitalism???

what to do with capitalism? EVERYTHING. Capitalism cannot function without growth. Communism can (not that I think its much better).

Markets work, in general.

Markets with wildly differing economic power levels between the participants fail, in general.

Communism fails because they suppress markets.
Western capitalism fails because it allows artificial participants with orders of magnitude more economic power than the average person.

I think the solution is obvious (and no, I don't think the Austrian School Economists have it).

What was called "communism" cannot function without markets. What masqueraded as communism was a command economy that created its own market and told its state-owned producers what to produce to serve that market.

There are always markets--they are fundamental for transactions within ANY type of economy based upon whatever form of production/lifestyle. It's the level of market sophistication that denotes differences between cultures and Ages.

Regarding growth, what was called "communism" was also heavilly growth based because the masses had to be lifted a long ways.

What we are talking about is adopting Communalism as the driving force of a steady-state economy.
Such an economy still contains great possibilities for growth--personal enrichment, knowledge-based growth of the intellect and spirit: Stuff much more valuable than mere material stuff. We can either have endless war for the rest of the century, or we can work together to overthrow Business As Usual--aka, The Class War--defeat the climate crisis and strive to civilize humanity.

Now, that's Change.

You sound like me!
Sociopathic behavior is the same observation I have had for years. I have observed this behavior rewarded and watched others try to emulate the same behavior for economic gain. I am amazed that they don't see it for what it is!!
Am I naive?
I just assume that greed polarizes common sense!


It's not just capitalism. It's _civilization_.
Any time the technology and the resources to run it are available to concentrate power,
power will be concentrated. This absolutely, inescapably, reinforces the most agressive, sociopathic, and ruthless
players. Whoever sits in the driver's seat of such a power concentrating machine reaps the benefit, whoever does not,
gets run over.

Start in an environment with no technological means of concentrating power, but ample and widely distributed resources- this for example is the environment H. Sapiens found himself in ~10k years ago. Observe the emergence
of some technology that affects the balance of power - like, say, a preference for collecting, and even replanting,
particular grains, and hoarding the harvest. Repeat for some seasons, for some generations, for some centuries.
surpluses getting stored somewhere start to become wealth, some clever fellow gets the idea to build a bigger storage
pit that anyone else, maybe convinces others to use his and let him 'guard' it... forest gets killed off and the
farming becomes the only game within a day's walk if you want to eat, someone 'guarding' the granary gets the bright
idea to institutionalize the reciprocal idea of exchanging food for helping out, and he now has employees. he pays
some of them to guard the granary, some of them to farm- peasants are invented. repeat for some more seasons,
some more generations, some more centuries. You have the more aggressive honchos expanding their franchise to
multiple villages, and sooner or later they notice that there isn't limitless new forest to cut- some clever honcho
says why not just take those farms over there? a whole new kind of war is invented, unlike tribal back-and-forth
feuding, and kings are invented too. Some other clever folks figure out somewhere along the way (maybe in some
places they already knew it) that if you heat up the right kind of mud you get pottery- some other clever folks
notice that sometimes particular rocks left in the fire turn into shiny copper.. and so on and so on and so on..
let it stew for a few seasons, a few generations, a few centuries, and you have technology- and over time, the one
who is quickest to pull the trigger will be the one to prevail. The repeated selection for most aggressive on the
trigger had bred not only thousands of years of sociopathic, brutal rulers&elites, but also bred entire sociopathic,
brutal cultures as well. A population which is on a whole more eager to use some new source of power to dominate
and feed its power-concentrating machine will tend to prevail over those who are hesitant to make the move.
By our own time, we get to see the refined result of centuries of fierce competition- a few cultures all of which
strongly resemble each other in all the places where it counts (like ruthless expansion, especially at the expense
of the natural environment, an enormous capacity for rationalizing anything into 'good' or 'evil' as needed,
strong convictions about 'right' and 'wrong' which tend to be equally abused to suit the needs of the elites, a
population which accepts this situation as natural, right, and what it means to be 'civilized', an unwavering
belief that they are on a divine mission to conquer the universe, marching on into a brighter future of 'progress',
and a powerful hierarchy), differing cosmetically, dominating the entire globe.

That's not capitalism, that's, in a word, civilization.

capitalism is merely a theory about the relationships between investment and production in _industrial_ technologies. It happens to be a pretty realistic illustration. Some people, all of them fools, have turned it into
a holy ideology. This makes them exactly as much fools as those who turn any other idea into an ideology,
but no bigger fools than all the other ideologues.

"The question that should be asked is why aren't individuals and businesses paying their loans? The answer is the 17% real unemployment rate. This didn't happen overnight."

Actually, the 'market' has been training US industry for years that, to get quick short term increase in market cap, you downsize your employment base or off shore your work. Wall Street rewards that behavior by raising share values... and the CEO and his cohorts can use that increase to increase their net worth by exercising their options quickly. Even if two quarters later the share price decreases, they can give themselves more options at the new, lower base, and repeat the formula over and over. Long term, they are killing their corporations with a thousand cuts; every option given dilutes the rest of the shareholders' equity, but what do they care? Those are sheep who don't have a clue.

Hi Zaphod,

Wall Street rewards that behavior by raising share values... and the CEO and his cohorts can use that increase to increase their net worth by exercising their options quickly.

I watched this process up close and personal. I can strongly support the claim that our system breeds ruthless corporate managers that will do any kind of dirty deed to the rank and file workers to increase their own personal wealth.

Somehow, the idea of "common good" needs to be restored.

I have personally seen a CEO steal the company from its owners by refusing offers then selling it at a lower price and receiving a kick-back when the parcel was again passed. In this case all the other employees were also shafted. The guy commited suicide a while later.

Deflation and inflation are taking place at the same time. There are two economies, the physical economy is experiencing deflation and the financial economy is at the border of hyperinflation, paticularly stock and bond markets.

The central banks world- wide are obsessed with the financial economy, which produces nothing useful but does create liquidity in various forms. Since fractional lending gears with Quantity of Money effect, there is no limit to the amounts of liquidity the finance economy can create - and is creating right now. In this context, central bank interventions are miniscule, the real issues are the rolling over of swaps and other derivatives. These are also forms of liquidity; the total of these denominated in dollars is over $500 trillion and represents the largest amount of available liquidity in the finance economy. This number is from the Bank of International Settlements.

One outcome is the rise in stocks against the decline of the dollar; more funds aren't sold into the markets, but are lent into existence within the markets themselves. The monetary expansion is reflected in the 'cost' of dollars in less inflated currencies. What is also being measured by the declining dollar isn't the decline of overall investment risk but the increase in derivatives risk, since dollar inflation measures the increase in overall unsecured debt. In other words, the debt is secured by the dollar itself, rather than any productive asset; this is why stock prices have diverged from underlying value; stocks measure the quantity of money- plus- velocity rather than the earnings that will probably never take place.

Meanwhile, the physical economy is constrained by oil prices which at current levels absolutely prohibit inflation. Inflation could take place if the crude price was less than $20. Firms could afford very high wages at same time afford the low priced fuel which could be used to accelerate productivity.

The $20 price or its relative equivalent will never be seen again. Peak oil is real and took place in dollar terms in 1998.

China's cheap labor/cheap coal advantage is a wasting asset; increased petroleum prices are racing to catch up with the Chinese advantage and to destroy its economy as it is currently doing to the US, Japanese and European economies. Since Chinese wages are too low to allow workers to afford Chinese products, its race with increasing relative petroleum prices will be, unfortunately, a very short one. The issue is capital allocation; either fuel or other capital/operational expenses can be paid, but not both. The consequence in the US has been offshoring expensive labor and creating asset bubbles as a hedge against rising energy prices. This exeriment has failed. Likewise, and the current financial bubble attempt will also fail. The reason being the inability of the physical economy to support the bubble prices.

The only solution in the developed countries is conservation and de- industrialization. There are no other solutions, any other attempts will hasten the depletion of petroleum reserves and accelerate deflation which will result in conservation, anyway.

China is at risk of hyperinflation, its dollar peg allows the US to export its liquidity overflow to China via currency exchange, 'hot money' flows and the carry trade. China has sufficient savings to provide 'fuel' should the government convince citizens their savings will be worthless and should be spent at one time. Shaky PBOC and government pronouncements increase the likelihood this can happen.


Keep in mind the current high price of crude reallocates capital toward energy and away from other capital- and operating requirements, reducing aggregate transactions and stifling money expansion. Without money expansion, there is no inflation and no growth, either.

The simultaneous increasing inflation & deflation in the two economies is an intriguing concept. Compensating effects such as these are almost impossible to detect as the aggregate looks stable.

As I have been working out models of oil depletion, I see similar mathematically compensating or counteracting effects. For example, my "real" solution to the logistic includes one piece of calculus that effectively cancels out a potentially complicated expression. I sometimes wonder if people miss these ideas because they can't think comprehensively, in a parallel mind-set so to speak.

So why model two economies? I say why not. Occam's razor may just drop out something surprisingly simple. BTW, excellent comment.

So why model two economies? I say why not. Occam's razor may just drop out something surprisingly simple. BTW, excellent comment.

I think the aggregate has everyone confused, it's supposed to be one or the other. Right now, I'm trying to remember when and where I got the idea. Endogenous credit creation is part Steve Keen and catching bits of pieces of ideas 'in the air'.

Actually, inflation/deflation occurs simultaneously in gold regimes. 'Spastic' devaluations are rare, which reconciles the two conditions. I was able to synthesize from Bagehot. That's such a great book; it can be read for free online; 'Lombard Street'.

Derivatives structures were explained by John Hussman who runs a bond fund. Hussman is one of the smartest economists around; a trader rather than an abstractionist. Here is his blog

'Peak oil 1998' came from the last IMF report and research I was doing for Gail & the FOMC article that I posted here. I can't believe nobody in charge never picked up on it ... wow! The power of wishful thinking. The hedging concept derived from a blog post I read awhile ago about the Japanese economic difficulties beginning in the early 1990's. I don't recall which blog at this moment.

I think the biggest problem with 'the economy' is it automatically creates (well compensated) partisans as it evolves. The whole comes across as enormously complex so people specialize,it's in their self- interest to do so. There isn't a lot of cross- pollination with other fields. The prejudices are 'baked in'. Afterwards, the partisans get onto TV or write stupid articles for the New York Times ...

Hmm, so there is increasing amounts of money trapped in the investment side of the economy while the production side of the economy wastes away for want of it?

All of the points you made Jerome are greed based. Whatever moral compass that use to maintain a somewhat steady course has been thrown out the window to sqeeze as much profit as possible by way of any means conceivable. Many of the greed based situations that led to a huge bubble bursting temporary collapse are the result of deregulation. If you let the dog up on the couch it will, and if you leave an opening unethical people will use it to make as much money as possible, as quickly as they can regardless of longer term consequences to society. Business must have rules that protect people for decent wages, reasonable terms and interest rates on credit cards and home loans, etc. or business simply gouges people where they can.

All of the points you made Jerome are greed based

Your statement is one of the many that blame "greed" for the crisis. But this is the wrong way of looking at the issue:
Greed is not the problem! The problem is the laissez-faire policy that allows the "greedy" to reign the world.

Since Thomas Hobbes we know that "man is a wolf to [his fellow] man". But this doesn't mean that wolves are bad animals. But it is pretty bad if the wolves aren't safely locked up but are allowed to roam freely in town.
This is what the "greedy" are allowed by our society.

drillo, did you miss this part from my post?

Many of the greed based situations that led to a huge bubble bursting temporary collapse are the result of deregulation.

Doesn't that part of my post mirror what you say in your post shown below?

The problem is the laissez-faire policy that allows the "greedy" to reign the world.

So I'm not sure we're in disagreement - what do you think?

Sure, greed is a problem. Usually, when corrupt politicians, corporate executives or brigand investors display greed, it is condemned for a good reason, but is their greed any different from that of middle-class trying to maximize its exchange rate for labor (i.e., salary) or the contents of the shopping cart?

I believe many of our problems arise from middle-class publically expressing confidence in "values" but ultimately buying the cheapest. This is not all and everybody, but at the checkout counter good things tend to lose the race. Any call for ethics that sees only big lumps of money is half blind.

We're all 3 in agreement there:
1) greed is a natural, human behavior, and all of us are guilty (more or less frequently)
2) what we have today is a society where selfishness and greed have explicitly been encouraged and lauded as helping society get richer, as a whole. That was true in a very narrow way, but caused huge inequality and massive imbalances which could not last and brought the current crisis
3) thus, society should try to restrain greed rather than encourage it

Very well put Jerome. I agree.

The problem is that “greed” is not just encouraged, but is the base of the whole financial system.
Companies want more, people want more, anything than says “I have enough” is outside this system. Imagine that one would only work until it has enough money for food, that would need nothing more than a humble ceiling… Could this system survive?
Yes, greed is a natural human behavior, but also are pity, generosity or kindness. However, the last are not motivating enough to make people work.

Take greed away, and this society collapses.

The BIG ISSUE is: what human emotion are we going to replace greed with?

what human emotion are we going to replace greed with?

Excellent question, though I suspect that the greedy elites already have figured that one out. Hunger.

Hunger is not efficient. Millions in the third world are starving, and that does not improve production.
Today, we depend on mass production for everything, and mass production is only possible because there is a market, and a market exists because a large number of people can afford luxuries.
A system depending on hunger is a system of misery. You cease to have mass production. An elite may not care about people not having a cars, but it will surly care about the price of tanks becoming prohibitive.

My girlfriend compares it more to an addiction,

The alcoholics (bankers) drank themselves into such a mess they had to go for liver transplants (bailouts) but as soon as they walked out of the hospital they walked straight back into the pub again (making more complex derivatives to play with)

I call this the 'George Best' Syndrome.

Is greed then a natural state that we need to be conditioned out of by our parents and/or society?

No, it's counterbalanced by the natural empathy and trust in our own good judgment with which we're born. We just have to keep parents and society from conditioning those things out of children.

Parents are part of nature. What they condition their offspring to become is part of the "natural" flow of things.

The human brain is not fully formed and developed at the time of birth.

It keeps evolving.

Some say even into old age.


Parents are part of nature. What they condition their offspring to become is part of the "natural" flow of things.

If you think about it this way - isn't everything part of nature?

Isn't nature vs nurture (genetics vs environment) a useful distinction?

What they condition their offspring to become is purely a function of culture.

Do you have children?

Do you make choices about what to teach them?

Of course but don't forget we are all colored by our culture.

Sure - there are some things that are cultural that we haven't yet identified, or thought well about, due to the fish not seeing water problem.

But, there are some things that we have identified, and those we can do something about. And, while it's certainly useful to occasionally remind ourselves that there are things we haven't identified, on a day to day basis, it's not that useful - we'll get to them when we can, and until then, well..we don't know about them, do we....

My dog is on the couch with me right now. She isn't greedy, she just enjoys comfort

One difference between people and dogs is that dogs aren't naturally greedy. She is very happy to be allowed up on one couch. No need for three or ten. And she's happy with battered old upholstery fabric. Doesn't require silk.

People should be as good as their dogs.

As the zen saying goes:
I wish I was the person my dog thinks I am

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.

Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

You just confirmed my point. If you let the dog up on the couch, it will. It doesn't mean the dog is greedy, it simply means animals and people will take advantage of every opportunity open to them. At a certain threshold of behavior humans are deemed to be acting greedy.

For example: If there were a 1,000 bars of gold sitting on a pallet and a 1,000 people were given an opportunity to race to the gold and could take what they could carry in their vehicle, and anyone not getting a bar of gold would not eat for a week, the first person there would take all of them, provided time permitted, and the other 999 would go without food for seven days. That's what I mean by greed. In other words the rules dictate the results. People only know what they want for themselves, and if the rules permit such action, most people will take that action.

So Jerome's point is that we must set rules that maintain civility between individuals at the hands of bankers, corporations, etc. And it is a good point, well taken.

Will the powers to be do anything to change the playing field though? That was another point of Jerome's that nothing seems to have changed.

"the first person there would take all of them, provided time permitted, and the other 999 would go without food for seven days."

Not me. If I were first I would grab one bar and threaten the rest with a clubbing to join me in a cartel.

Did you expect anything different? The human condition, so well described in another post today, or yesterday for you, aptly described a planetary population wired for not understanding what they do not want to understand. That is the bankers sucking us dry, and the sheeple not caring that they are. It will most definitely take another round of calamity to bring more gray matter in line, but even then not enough. One of the beauties of this site is that even though you and I may differ on what is the correct solution to the problems we face, we both actually see the problem. Whether finance shenanigans, or the final oil fiesta, the problem is clear. But to so few people! Now that is the real problem.

the people who caused the problem can hardly be expected to solve it to any but their own advantage.

The age-old and only way for the ruling class to get ahead and stay there, the paradigm PROBLEM--> REACTION--> SOLUTION

Naomi Klein expresses it so well in Shock Doctrine -- it requires a "crisis" to pull off these shenanigans, and if it is a "natural" crisis (e.g. Katrina) then so much the better. But if there isn't a convenient natural crisis, then with enough media power, a crisis can be manufactured (e.g. War on Terror).

There is no solution for the masses, they will simply be bled dry. I wonder how you (Treeman) and Jerome actually differ in your analysis of the correct "solution."

Of course, I, in my intellectual arrogance, exclude myself from "the masses." I can see what is coming, but there is nothing I can do about it -- at some time in the near future I, too, will be forced to check my brain at the door and don my brown shirt.

The Georgia Guidestones is a large granite monument in Elbert County, Georgia, USA. The structure is sometimes referred to as an "American Stonehenge, though in comparison to the massive plinths of Stonehenge and the empty space of Salisbury plain surrounding that monument, the Guidestones are of a noticeably smaller scale.

A message consisting of a set of ten guidelines or principles is engraved on the Georgia Guidestones in eight different languages, one language on each face of the four large upright stones. Moving clockwise around the structure from due north, these languages are: English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature.

Thanks for the link Energeek. The guidestones are interesting. In reading more about them on Wikipedia I was surprised and dismayed that they were considered a threat to some religious groups. I am not deeply religious but do believe in a God like presence. It is sad that these attempts to minimize man's destruction of the planet through his own greed should be defamed and suffer the same grafitti you would expect on a metro NY subway car.

These are noble sentiments, and can be found more or less in all religions that I have ever studied.

The devil is in the details. By what means do you hold the population to 500,000, for example? And when did reason ever hold passion in check? Can you really imagine a group of normal human beings (not saints) that would behave that way?


For me, the simplest formation of how humanity should proceed is written in the Tao Te Ching -- but you could just as well quote the Sermon on the Mount or any of dozens of other wise words. It isn't lack of knowledge that holds us back, and it isn't lack of some moral compass -- I think almost everyone believes that they possess one, and that it is in working order.

It seems to be that people, in general, just don't know when is "enough." We are, as a species, too anxious.

My current idea of the "solution" was pioneered in the 1940's and elaborated in the 1960's -- just keep everyone stoned!

But I admit that there may be some problems with this approach, but "make love, not war" does sound attractive.

The guidelines on the Georgia Guidestones are noble. Yet, the creators of the inscriptions lacked basic knowledge on the worlds languages. What were their motives to use Hebrew or Swahili, two insignificant languages. It would have been best to use the 6 UNESCO languages, for example, that reflect a meaningful sample across all languages. They are: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian.

I roughly summarize this article as follows:
Capitalism is still too deeply rooted in the ruling minds of this age, and no one will let go of it easily. The bankers, economists, MBA's and their like will continue to rule until the system is brought to its knees. Wisdom does not come without pain. It's human nature to think wisely and act foolishly or not act at all. Nature will defeat our economics and our technology.

Thank you.

I found The Oil Drum from your postings at Daily Kos.
I found The Automatic Earth at TOD.
I read both at least once a day.

You are one of the people I wish I could fly to meet and share a pitcher of beer or a bottle of wine with. Leanan, Stoneleigh. Ilargi, greenpa, airdale, Darwinian, ...

Thank you most of all for showing that bankers can have compassion. Something that seems to have disappeared in the USA.

"Leanan, Stoneleigh. Ilargi, greenpa, airdale, Darwinian, "

Shucks but thanks for the mention.

My friend I am happy that you found TOD and the other sites.
I once felt the same and posted copiously.
Yet a time came when I had to go beyond TOD and its many observations.

I had to go to that place where one actually puts words into actions.

So that is where I am and I hardly find the occasional time to explore TOD on much of any basis except during storms or other appropriate times.

So I took a vacation from TOD. Perhaps more or less permanently.

My view of TOD and its massive postings I relate to Christanities' churches and make this observation:

The purpose of a church should be to 'point the way' and then 'get out of the way'.

In other words once you get the primary issue and idea? You need to implement and rise yourself up onto that PATH and seek further without crutches or other reliance's. Talk must end at some time so activity can begin.

Go where you have to go, for this planet and society is self-destructing rapidly. Who will be left? Those who acted upon what they perceived as truth and did what had to be done.

Airdale-as per Spock: Live well and prosper (but regard nature as your friend and do no harm)

PS: A 38 foot flood crest is headed our way here.This is coming downstream from the Ohio and Mississippi. 7 days of rain here has created havoc with the crops here as well, causing soybeans to sprout on the vine,etc. Many crops are going to be lost. There are not enough combines to save the day. This is "Climate Change" in action. Overall many farmers elsewhere are seeing events that may result in a great crop loss and a strange market. All equipment is headed for the river bottoms.There is a possible 2 or 3 day window to salvage some of it. I am too busy to do aught else.I have no dog in this fight but I do have to keep the electronics running since most all are now computer controlled. One faulty sensor can stop a combine in its tracks.

This is "Climate Change" in action.

This is why I advocate land reform in the sense of breaking up large farms into many small ones. I am not meaning the seizing of privately held farms (but would have no problem seizing Big Ag farms, Monsanto's in particular), but the sale of plots for cash or future shares of the production - but with no right to seize if there are bad harvests.

Were there enough hands on small enough areas, might this not help avert this crisis? (Non-rhetorical question.)


I, too, advocate land redistribution of this sort. Is it enough to "save" the US populace? My equation shows the need for 70 Million 5 acre (minimum) farms, or 350 Million arable acres out of an estimated 470 Million, to accomodate the needs of the US populace. (Assume 4.5 members per household/farm divided into the current @ 305 Million equals 67.7 Million--rounded to 70 Million.)

So, it would seem on its face that such a scheme would "save" the US populace, would the Monsantos allow the populace to be saved? The current evidence calls for that to be answered in the negative.

Too late to see if the numbers match up, but I figured this from CIA Factbook data and found there were 1.3 arable acres, at least, per person in the US. Taking one acre as the space needed to fill *all* food needs (not just fruit and veggies) of one person, we can feed ourselves and build a surplus. Or sell some.


Might it not be an error to force them out into small holdings on the floodplain with that 30 ft flood crest approaching?

Jerome, what emates from the above is that basically legitimacy of governments is highly questionable, which must lead to revolution, probably violent in the present-day setting of increasing resource contraints.

All I can see is misery, and more misery, ahead.

There will be no revolution, at least in the United States. The people are mostly docile sheep especially on the left. The right makes noise, but their bitch is change. They want more of the same which revolution will not provide.

The most likely outcome is devolution. A slow decay brought on by failure to deal with the problems at hand. At some point, if it continues, collapse will follow. By then it will be accepted as the only outcome possible from the events that preceded it.

People here will continue to vote against their own self interest as they have done many times in the past. They all hate government but love their own representative and the benefits they collect from government. I know it makes no sense but where is written that life has to make sense?

As long as worthless, fat, stupid Americans are fed and entertained they will go along with anything.

It seems there are similar financial problems in Europe and Asia.

OK substitute people in general for Americans.

Yes, and the Brits before that, and the Romans before that and the Athenians before that -- and who knows about Knossos, but odds are they were up to something similar.

Americans may be fat, stupid, arrogant and lazy -- but I haven't noticed a surplus of ascetics in any country I have ever visited.

While there are similarities (bread and circuses anyone?), one ingredient which makes the picture
very different for britain and the US (and the more broad present day global economic empire we live in) is
the mass media. No roman emperor or aspiring athenian tyrant ever had the ability to so completely control
the flow of information into peoples' heads, to so totally subvert the basic equation of human interaction,
as the mass media have today. Without this amazingly efficient mechanism for controlling huge numbers of people,
the pressures the industrial empires bear on their populations would have shattered them a long time ago. Think of
how expensive and troublesome it is to control people using the old-fashioned methods! yes, even the most
benign looking regime will fall back on brute force in a heartbeat, but it is a whole lot more costly and causes
a whole lot more resistance if you use those mthods- they keep them for when nothing else will work. But in BAU,
the brilliantly efficient methods of simply controlling what information people have access to, teaching them how
to think (or not) about the world from an early age... oh man, that investment pays off an enormous dividend of
efficient low-cost control.

To think that it is somehow different in Europe is to believe a fantasy. Either it is the fantasy that most of the
people in Europe believe, which is the smug 'we are better than those dumb americans' fantasy (which they say as
they drive their Audis through the McDrive on the way to Europa-Park or Ikea, paying 50% income tax and 20% VAT and smiling about it), or it is a common fantasy found in America, where 'people cant be this stupid EVERYWHERE, at least in europe they still have a few brain cells', which is a fantasy of wishful thnking, a ray of hope in the hearts of the few thinking people in america, and a dim excuse for ignorance in the rest of americans- 'leave worrying about that sissy stuff to those pussy europeans'.

There are a few differences, it is true. More europeans have a blind faith in the benevolence of their institutions
and leaders, and more americans have a confused, incoherent and inconsistent distrust of 'politicians', but their
sentiment has been derailed into a harmless distraction or placebo, and almost always split along the brilliant
diversion of the two party system. thus most americans think that they really are expressind dissent, when they
are really just participating in a collective venting of hot air and then going back to their unchanged lives.
They've been at the _really_ sophisticated propaganda game longer in the US, and the control (and dumbing of everything) is a bit more advanced. Maybe europe is 15 years behind the US.
big deal. Theyre catching up very quickly. It might take another generation to get rid of those older folks
who still grew up thinking more or less critically about the world around them, but the US showed us how to deal
with them. pigeonhole them into some hyperspecialized career, narrow their scope til they can't think about
anything outside of that field, sell them a lifestyle of consumption and debt, and when they're dependent on you
they will be as compliant as ever.

The few who still dissent? ignroe them, brand them as insane, commoditize their dissent into a plastic manufactured
counterculture and sell them an 'alternative' lifestyle..

The net result of all this is that we have built a much bigger structure using these more efficient methods
than would ever have been possible using the old fashioned brutal methods of empires past. Like all efficiency
gains, we've spent that return somewhere else, and actually we depend on that return to keep spending elsewhere.
One thing we can't easily do without breaking the whole thing to bits is downsize. Empire building works only in
one direction, expansion. Now that we managed to build essentially a global empire, the only way to go is down,
and because we have such a fragile (but efficient while it works!) glue holding this aspect of it together,
we really cannot afford to do anything but keep on doing as we are until it disintegrates (regarding the techniques
used to efficiently keep hundreds of millions of people in line). Changing those methods might help prepare people
for the fall, or might improve the chances of something recognizable surviving the collapse, but we simply
cannot afford to change those methods anymore- if we relaxed on those methods even a bit, we lose the whole thing
right now. there is no fixing this, it is FUBAR through and through.


I agree. But this may be an evolution toward something ultimately less violent and even "sustainable" -- if that word even means anything any more.

You could look at this vast propaganda/mind-control machine as a latter day caste system. And once in place (we are in transition now) it might be less violent -- the world controllers won't have to fight to maintain their position. Human beings will have evolved into termites.

it will take more than this to turn humans into termites. We're a terrible match for the kind of life required of us to live compatibly with civilization, much less the extreme version we call an industrial or machine economy.
If the whole machine manages to continue functioning for long enough, certainly the kind of high-tech orwellian
situation many envision would be implemented. Enough drugs, media, and even more direct intervention into human
functioning would be used to keep every smiling empty stupid smiles, and any who objected or resisted would be
found out and eliminated. A small and comfortable elite, be it a class of the owners of the fabulous industry, or be they the politicians and despots over political organizations, would of course exempt themselves from such
treatment, and nobody of any substance would be around to object. However, if industrial power over the earth continues that much longer, we will cause such an ecological collapse as to destroy both that civilization and possibly also take humans entirely over the cliff to extinction. All the techno-utopia crap that people who
read way too much asimov as children believe in, is so much fantasy. We're already putting immense stress on the
planet, and are only buying ourselves continued time at our present burden with huge application of energy and chemicals. Not only are those coming from nonrenewable sources, they are also very crude tools, which do allow
us to postpone disaster and boost production _for a while_ but they cause even wider damage in the process. Even under total BAU, within a matter of decades, we would have killed a lot of the ecology we take for granted today.

Beyond that, such a prozac-1984 society would be almost completely pointless, except for sadistic and demented
maniacs. In such a situation, the elites would probably find that most of those people they spend so much effort
keeping under control could just as well be eliminated entirely. Any regime which would treat people like
that to begin with would have no qualms whatsoever with just getting rid of the superfluous populations outright.
The machines, of course, would sitll be around, still need to be fed and maintained. Maybe not as many, to be sure,
but it is likely in such a hypothetical world that some of the elites would do the math and say 'hm, 70% of our
economy and population is merely maintaining itself but otherwise redundant'.

That might delay the demise of the unsustainability game by a decade or two.

Luckily for all of us, it is highly unlikely that industrial civilization will ever have the surplus resources
needed to do any of this. The machine is eating itself alive and long before the whole world is roped into a
single termite hive, it will spin apart under its own imbalances and weight. Those elites, the refined product
of centuries of selection for the most egotistical, psycopathic, remoreseless, ruthless creatures, certainly have
no love for each other. To confuse confluence or coincidence of interest with cooperation is a common mistake
make when thinking about the world's powerful people. There are a few choice specimens who have enough ego
and enough insanity to dream that they have a single system they must impose on everyone, but the vast majority
of them are in the game for their own good. any oligarchy of these types will very quickly find itself riddled
with a thousand private scams and side-deals and sooner or later turn into open conflict amongst themselves.

Since we have already had, more or less, a single global integrated economy for close to 20 years, we see that
these people have to to some extent 'play nice' as their power all depends on economic and industrial machinery
moving smoothly- the consolidation of all this economic machinery puts them all into a common failure domain-
but the pressure of competition, the pressure on unsustainable environmental burden, the pressure of internal
investment/capital/return demands, inertia, etc requiring continure growth will demand that these players
turn on one another at some point. Once they do when they're part of the same economic organism, it doesnt
matter what the outcome is. Even if they win, they lose.
Now that the stresses in the BAU model are getting harder to ignore, the smart players up at the top have already
been busy turning on the rest. This will get a lot more visible in the next few years.

so, no, we won't have human termites. (thankfully! i for one like being human as i am)

it will take more than this to turn humans into termites. We're a terrible match for the kind of life required of us to live compatibly with civilization, much less the extreme version we call an industrial or machine economy.
If the whole machine manages to continue functioning for long enough, certainly the kind of high-tech orwellian
situation many envision would be implemented. Enough drugs, media, and even more direct intervention into human
functioning would be used to keep every smiling empty stupid smiles, and any who objected or resisted would be
found out and eliminated.

I do not understand why you think that the type of control system described above is the only possible version of a sustainable civilization. I work for a large complex technology company that has to integrate the work of many different engineering and manufacturing organizations. It is not paradise, but I do not live the life of a termite, and in fact, termite like rigidity would not produce good results.

I think that the percieved need for rigid control comes from need to control consumption. This need arises from the fundamental structural nature of our economy which encourages universal and constant preoccupation with the accumulation of consumption rights. My father, who retired from a career as biochemist at a land grant university, has a great, cost of living adjusted pension, and medical coverage to die for, and yet he is constantly managing his excess money in various mutual funds. He does this not because he especially greedy, but because the built in monetary inflation of our financial system makes it necessary to 'put your money to work' if you do not want to see your wealth inflated away.

We need to change the focus of our ecconomic system from the accumulation of consumption rights to end use efficiency of resource consumption. If computer engineers can figure how to make computers last for twenty years this change is good for society, and the engineers who work themselve out of a job should be given a share of the remaining work and not have their consumption rights interrupted or diminished. Note that this work flexibility requires a high degree of income equity. If large income variations exist then people who have worked themselves into the upper part of the income distributions will rigidly cling to their jobs for fear of losing consumption rights. I do not see why a flexible, cooperative effort to improve end use efficiency of resources is termite like.

Of course you might say that human beings cannot be content with merely earning an average income which keeps a roof over their head and food on the table. Human ambition cannot suppressed. If you are referring total income including psychic components, I tend to agree with you. Human beings will always try to maximize their psychic income. However, it is not obvious to me that psychic income must be univerally and uniquely tied to flows of material wealth. Other avenues of seeking public distinction must be provided.

I realize that these ideas are quite radical, and I am not holding my breath waiting for implementation. Nevertheless I think that there is more in heaven and earth that is conceived of in your Orwellian vision technolgical civilization.

The problem with technological civilization is not so narrowly confined to people living
in it being greedy or ambitious or even driven by a particular mentality to consume or acquire
'stuff'... the problem with technological civilization which seals its goal as ever tightening
control running a race with collapse is the 'technological' and the 'civilization' parts ;)

let me expand on this:
technology is by its very nature something (rather, an abstract term applicable to a whole body
of things) which enables the concentration of power. There are exactly two places the power
can be concentrated from (often it's a mix of both): the physical environment around, or
another player in the same petri dish as you (who you might consider to just be part of
the physical environment anyway). What you do with the resources/power you concentrate
in your hands is a different matter (i can expand on that, too), but lets stick with this part
of the problem. There is no such thing as a technology which disperses power. It would be
a negative investment, its maker would be penalized for using such a thing, and even if
there wer eplayers who DID make such a move, they are, surprise, gone before long.

Now, most technologies involve some investment of some kind. Knowing how to build a gun or a steel mill is not the same as building one. This investment also requires resources.
If anyone does make the investment in technology, he at least needs to have a way to pay for
it. I do not mean debt- debt is by nature an artificial relationship between people, there
is no way to really borrow in the physical universe. if you borrow the resources from
someone else, thats between you and him, but before you can make the investment in this
game, you do utlimately have to pay the cost up front. physics does not work any other way.
This means that those players in the game who HAVE some surplus of resources or power are
the ones who CAN make investments in new technologies... and where did their surplus
come from? Aside from the first few rounds of the game, where it was just hunter-gatherers walking around inquisitively playing with the world around them (and indeed enjoying an
abundance of resources around them), this surplus has been the dividend of a previous round
of investment. why would _anyone_ ever even get that far?
now, if the technology exists, meaning payers in the game know how to turn resources or power
they might have access to into some device to concentrate more resources/power in their hands... you tell me if anyone is going to try it. Even in a species where people by and large
do not try, eventually someone is going to stumble into it. Primitive technologies are
a lot easier to stumble into than ones that require billions of dollars and research laboratories. The important part is what happens next. As soon as ANYONE starts using that
technology, EVERYONE in the same petri dish is in competition with him, willing or not!
Those who refuse to escalate eventually starve. Play this game a few times and the only
folks who are left are the ones who DID pull the trigger, or their descendants (who probably
inherited or learned an attitude about escalating that is a bit more aggressive).

again: technology IS a concentration of power.

Now, lets get back to the civilization part. What is civilization? it's the natural result
of technologies concentrating sufficient power and resources beyond a certain scale. Do
this and every time you will find a civilization springing up like a mushroom on shit.
Maybe some of it has to do with human social tendencies, because even in the absence of
the technological component, there are documented cases of hunter-gatherer societies living
in particular niches of extreme abundance, and also concentrating themselves into villages and
with that many people, even just on an 'economy' of social capital, some degree of
chiefdoms developed (e.g. the tribes of the pacific northwest of the US before white folks
got there). Now, in the PRESENCE of the technological resource and power concentration
game weve talked about, sch hierarchies will have emerged even before there are enough resources capable of being concentrated for anything like a city to emerge. But, if the
environment is rich enough, people playing the technology game will force each other to
escalate enough that eventually they will either die out or be concentrating enough
resources that something like a city shows up. With something on that scale, well, you
got despots and politicians and middlemen and every other kind of scam artist scrambling
for a place in the pyramid, you have people still playing the obligatory escalation
game (if they stop, they get kicked out of the game instantly!) and guess what? every
further application of technology to concentrate power.... has the effect of concentrating

the only other option is failure, which is the fast trip to being kicked out of the game.

Now, let some bunch of people too clever for their own good manage to keep pulling
lucky ideas out of somewhere such that they manage technological escalation to the point
where they indeed had giagantic factories, spaceships, operate strip mines the size of
small countries, bulldoze entire forests, and so on. They are still playing the very
same technological concentration of power game. They desperately need to at this point,
for everything they have built around themselves in the past couple thousand years has been
built predicated on the kind of surplus that only ravenous escalation and expansion can
provide. they have to race against each other, because somewhere someone else has some
power concentrating machine that he's running which you need to at least keep abreast of,
and they have to race against themselves, because they are living unsustainably and CAN NOT
return back to the primitive biological baseline type of existence they once had _even if
all the other players had to fall back to that level as well_ without taking serious losses,
and probably getting kicked out of the game. why? because the more primitive forms of
exploitation wont work in an environment thats already been stripped bare to the point where
only more sophisticated methods can still squeeze anything out of it!

Now, how your enlightened high tech company (i work in a big corporation that likes to
think of itself as an enlightened high tech company too. it is still a gigantic power and
resource concentrating machine, and ultimately HAS to make the rest of the world poorer in
order to pay my salary) can escape this? some kind of neo-communist ideology where everyone
is happy just with what they have and nothing more? maybe a religious style ideology
instead? hardly matters how you'd like to call it, it's a utopian ideology all the same.
Let's take a look at it.

So, consider a situation where we have, say, 6 or 7 billion people struggling to survive.
Almost all of them employ some power concentrating technologies. Most of them are actually
also pawns in other peoples' power concentrating machines, some of them not even aware
of that other level of play! How are any of them going to stop escalating? Anyone who does
while everyone else continues to, is just swept under the bus, and the rest of the folks
riding that bus might not even notice the bump. Those scraping by near the bottom might
strip his corpse as the bus goes by, that's about it. That leaves everyone still playing
the game. Now some great messiah comes along, and he makes everyone, in a great flash of
rapturous light, decide to stop escalating right this moment. Kings, presidents, and CEOs
decide they don't need their billions of dollars of their huge armies anymore. Bums eating
out of dumpsters in the back streets of huge cities are content with their scraps. Joe
Sixpack turns off the SUV and leaves it on the side of the road. What do these people now do?
A keen observer at this point might notice a whooshing sound, of the ground flying
up to meet them. This is the unsustainable past consequences of the game catching up with these people. They have been running faster and faster to keep ahead of this disaster for
so long the very concept no longer exists in common thought or language. It's been taken
as a given for a long time that it is just part of the natural order of things that we need
to seek new resources because weve depleted existing ones. Well, now if these folks
have just had a global epiphany of happy hippy-ness, and did indeed decide to stop
escalating, they find out just how unsustainably they have been living. Not like it wasnt
going to catch up with them anyway, but it certainly will catch up with them just then
if they ever do so. And that will be the last chapter in the story of this big game.
the last few sentences are all about starvation and collapse, possible extinction.

(we are pretty close to this point regardless of what we do, now, so don't feel so bad for
these folks, they just got there a bit sooner, and at least they got to do so by a voluntary
suicide instead of going kicking and screaming)

The rounds of the game where any kind of reform of what motivates people inside societies
could have had any impact on avoiding this ugly outcome were all played _thousands_ of years ago. That's when people could have walked out of the trap before it got too tight. Since then,
the cost of failure to escalate - be that failure voluntary or involuntary- is collapse.
If the petri dish has grown to the size of the entire earth by transportation technologies,
then that inevitable final collapse is inescapable and global in scope.

(previous collapses have been confined to particular regions, effectively isolated from
each other by geography and transportation realities of the day)

There is no other way to operate a technological power concentrating machine- this is the
necessary result of ever using one in the first place, regardless of the intentions of
the user.

(i think this post is already long enough, i will leave discussing what must happen
to a surplus and what role this plays in forcing growth/escalation to another time :)

Technology is a way of increasing human productivity and therefore increasing human power to exploit biospheric resources relative to other species in the ecological community. However, there is no a priori physical reason why this increase in power must turn into an unending competition for ever larger degrees of power between human beings and between human beings and the rest of the ecological community. I am not impressed by 'history has proved' types of arguments. One million years of human existance as hunter gatherers did not prove that we were incapable of other forms of social and technological organization. I am not particulary optimistic about a soft landing from our current ecological dilemma, but your claim that it is impossible for technology and ecological intelligence to coexist is an unprovable verbal assertion.

increasing productivity and increasing power to exploit resources... yes, this is exactly what technology does. How is it ever possible, with technology in the picture, for anyone using
it to be in balance with his surroundings, when he is already, we just clarified, employing
some technology to increase his relative power over his surroundings?

If he doesn't use this power, what good was it? then he is doubly a fool. Once because he has
made the investment in the technology and now for some reason won't use it, and second, because there might be someone else who goes ahead and uses it anyway, and then this fellow finds himself hungry and being pushed off the map.

We are both quite clear and in agreement about what technology is for. If that technology
is used, then it will concentrate power and/or resources. I suppose i must go into what
happens with a surplus, so we can see why the presence and use of any such power concentrating
device leads to escalation.

So, using this technology, we have a surplus in our hands. What do we do with it?
Do we throw it away? Sooner or later, then, when we have to pay for the technology,
either in terms of investment or in terms of maintenance (all physical systems need
maintenance, and usually fodder too, not to mention initial investment), we will come
up short and lose the technology. If we don't throw it away, then what do we do with it?
Some of it goes to feed the overhead of the technology: investment plus maintenance plus fuel.
If we are unwilling to give up the technology, we have to pay these costs. Now, these
costs are in addition to the costs we already were paying just covering our own existence.
Our total requirement, our burden on the environment, has increased. Now what?
Let's consider a world with no competition. We're alone in the world. We start using this
technology, and we start consuming resources at a rate greater than the biological baseline
we once lived at. So, as we go, we find (just as we did before, though perhaps we were only
doing it by biological means and didn't notice) that if we run a perfectly even balance
between input and output, we are living a very risky life. Even small organisms store a little
for a rainy day. We do in our own bodies, and many organisms even store external reserves, like the squirrel and his proverbial caches of nuts. We with our machine now still must
run a surplus over our current requirements, and as a matter of fact, since part of our
requirements and expense is now spent on the technlogy and not just biological (i.e. food),
we find we are storing surplus resources of a character that might not even be compatible
with our own organisms. In any case, some of this surplus is stored outside of the fat in
our own bodies. So, now we are piling up this surplus. Nothing lasts forever, so now we have
a new problem. Either we have to pay some cost for maintenance of this surplus, or we lose
the surplus to waste, or we have to spend the surplus on somehting before we lose it.
What does a surplus get spent on? It gets spent either on more investment or waste.

If we waste it, then we might be able to eventually work out some kind of stable situation
where us with our technological sidekick are just barely getting by, paying the bills and
not accumulating anything beyond maintaining a small reserve for a rainy day. We have made a bigger hole in the ecoogy around, but basically claimed a larger but stable share of the
endless flow of sunlight into the planet. We've pushed back the diversity and wealth of the
rest of the biosphere a bit, specifically by the amount correspding to the resources tied
up in our techology, the extra burden of consumption that technology involves, and the extra
surplus backing that technology up.

Eventually the technological toys wear out, and have occasional larger costs of replacement or serious maintenance. If we did not run a sufficient surplus that we have the resources
handy to replace the technoogy, then at this point we're SOL and lose the technology, and
are no longer in this scenario. If however we did keep the resources around to do so,
then we replace it and continue. Again, we extract resources for ourselves and the technology
and then any leftover from our idea of a prudent surplus is wasted back into the surroundings.

If our entire technology is still within the broader confines of the biological community-
either materials directly taken from the ecosystem like wood or parts of creatures , etc,
or else its only real energy input is our muscle, hence calories from inside the ecosystem,
then this kind of recycling and waste/giving back of surplus can be done.

For the moment let's not consider that when the tecnologies are more sophisticated,
this kind of natural circulation is not possible (and often indeed the operation of those
technologies is destructive or toxic to the ecosystem, regardless of what you do with the
surplus it pays you)

If we're not going to do anything with this technology beyond extract enough resources
to sustain the technology, then what on earth is the point? just because modern people
have this psychological dependence on technology and can't dream of humans without machines,
they have to imagine irrational scenarios where people can keep their machines yet not
do anything with them beyond keep them around?

So now let's consider what happens if we do NOT waste the surplus. Then we must invest
it. We invest it in either more technology, or in more of us, or in what could largely
be considered a special kind of 'waste', which i will call the 'art project'. There's nowhere else that investment is going to go.

Let me consider the second scenario, then, the 'art project'. Lets say we take all the
surplus we keep accumulating, and we spend it building stone heads. We build a fine collection
of stone heads. Lets say we dont care to do any maintenance of these after weve built them,
we are just wasting the surplus our technology gives us on something amusing. If we
continue doing this, we will be destroying a certain part of the ecosystem and converting it into a stone head every so often. Our technology is slowly pushing the ecosystem out of the
way and leaving a stone head in its place. We might go a very long time slowly degrading
the environment with our harmless art project, but eventually using those resources on
something involves pushing some other part of the ecology out of the way, which sooner or
later adds up to environmental degradation. There is a level of technological intensity
below which this sort of thing can be sustained, because the environment recovers at a
rate faster than that at which we can destroy it. If our technology produces a surplus
above that limit, then we will eventually deplete our environment and collapse. Explorers from a different world might send each other postcards with pictures of our stone heads, centuries later.

Let's now consider the final option, where we invest our surplus. We can, as we mentioned,
invest only in more technology or more of us. Either way, the result after the investment
is that not only have we spent the surplus, we also have a bigger ongoing resource
requirement from now on. If we invest in more of us, well, we are not alone anymore
and eventually even the competition feature enters the picture, but more immediately,
why on earth would the young'un not also demand or make for himself a technological
wonder like ours (and indeed we might as part of our investing of our surplus, supply
the resources for that from the payout of our own machine) and start playing a second
instance of what we're doing?
If we don't invest in more of us, but just in more technology, then up to some limit of
scalability, we operate more technology and run an even bigger surplus. If we are in
the habit of investing our surplus, ow we have even more surplus to invest. When we reach
the limits of the ability allowed by that technology to scale, we can no longer invest
in more technology and either return to wasting the surplus or invest in more of us.
Since we're the investing side of the scenario, we then have to invest in more of us.
As you can see, the short name for this scenario is exponential growth. It is limited
by the environment, of course, but because the universe is full of all sorts of feedback
loops, we can very possibly expand past our carrying capacity, destroy our environment,
and go extinct.

You can see that of the three possibilities, the only one where we really can be safe with
such technology around is exactly the situation where we deliberately forgo the payoff of
that technology, at which point the question becomes, what the hell is the purpose of
the tecnology beyond a psychological crutch for people already damaged by living in
the modern age. The other two possibilities, spending the surplus on 'benign' stuff or investing the surplus, lead to disaster.

(though it is true that a sufficiently primitive technology can feed an art project indefinitely, we do have some pretty good hints from archaeology at what the sustainable levels of technology are. It's definitely stone age, and even then some stone age technologies would have to be off limits)

And of course, as soon as you have other players in the same petri dish, pressures of competition add to the pressures of outrunning yourself.

Increased productivity can be leveraged to allow increased time for artistic or intellectual pursuits which do not require increased consumption of resources. You can argue (but not prove) that such a use of technology will never happen because human beings as a whole will never be sufficiently interested in such pursuits. However, this is an argument about human psychology rather than an argument about the fundamental nature of technology.

Termites is too complimentary. How about leaf-cutter ants (Tainter, Allen, Little, & Hoekstra, 2003)?

Among the fungus-farming ants, there appear to have been at least two resource transitions. First, there was the emergence of fungus-farming itself, perhaps derived from fungus growing on collected droppings and the ants' own excrement. It is easiest, and therefore common, to start the exploitation of a resource from high-gain material. DNA and morphology suggest that genera such as Mycocepurus, which depend on insect droppings, seeds, and fruits, are closest to the original fungus-farming species, and Atta the farthest from this founding species (Wetterer, Schultz, and Meier 1998). Second, there was the shift from collecting droppings and other materials to cutting leaves, which involved speciation. The first transition depended on the exceptionally high quality of the substrate (hypotheses 1–3). The second transition depended on the leaves as a resource, but was less driven by quality. Leaves are a low-quality resource, abundant but not far removed from the sun. Accordingly, the ants had to become more organized so that they could transport and process massive amounts of this resource (hypotheses 1, 3, 5–8, 10, and 11). E. O. Wilson noted that, "The leaf cutters consume more vegetation than any other comparable numbers of herbivorous species, including mammals, birds, and other kinds of insects" (1986:6). They are so voracious and efficient that they are considered an agricultural pest (hypothesis 12), and can cause millions of dollars in crop losses (Fowler et al. 1986). Like the low-quality taxes of Roman peasants, leaves must be aggregated through high organization and at substantial cost (hypotheses 8 and10). . . .

Renewable energy is a popular concept, but there is a certain irony in this. Although environmentalists are quick to blame industry and fossil fuels, the environmental damage done to the world is only partly from industrial sources. The energy used in the industrial world is principally of high quality. It works in a focused fashion with concentrated side effects. In contrast, low-gain agriculture, a highly dispersed activity, is causing a substantial loss of species as well as environmental degradation. The distributed nature of agriculture means that habitat is removed and landscapes are greatly altered. Increased flooding, soil loss, and nonpoint sources of pollution are to a large extent caused by agriculture, as exemplified by the flooding of the Mississippi River in 1993 and the Ohio River in 1997. Although some observers criticize the environmental effects of agribusiness, Third World peasants at their present population levels have an aggregate effect that is substantial, and perhaps comparable. Similarly, the environmental impact of ants that use droppings is minimal compared to those that strip leaves from plants. The former are not considered agricultural pests, whereas the latter are. Environmental degradation is greater when the resource is of low quality and distributed but heavily used. Thus, a switch to renewable energy sources might bring, ironically, environmental damage comparable in scale to, or greater than, that caused by the use of fossil fuels. It is also ironic that, although industrialists have not rushed to embrace renewable energy sources, great profits would be made from building the infrastructure needed to capture and concentrate renewable resources. Politicians would be influenced less by road builders and more by businesses that recreate coastlines for wave capture and cover huge tracts of land with solar collectors or wind generators.

Hi x,

I wasn't refering to any particular nation. But there will be a moment in the future when the misery is so widespread and the recognition that people's lifes have been robbed blind by public policy (ie. temporarily bailing at failed institutions at the expense of the working class) that even comtemporary fat, fed and entertained sheeple are going to revolt. Possibly going to coincide with the moment when police can't buy any food for the trasn cash they get paid.

What amuses me is that our governments fall into the definition of “Democracies”, when people’s only choice is the public face of power.

It is incredible that, in an age of alleged free access to information, no country has its government information and its decisions transparently presented in the internet for all citizens to see. It amazes me, than instead of digested news, there is no global network of uncensored information about world events, with raw data, footage, and interviews.

But most of all, it amazes me that no government EVER attempted to create an online repository of human knowledge, for the sake of the human evolution. The best thing in that direction had to be the result of individual efforts: wikipedia.

It amazes me that people fail to notice that we are kept in ignorance, and as such, remain powerless…

It amazes me that people fail to notice that we are kept in ignorance, and as such, remain powerless…

It amazes me that so many people seem to revel in their own ignorance. There are those who use it as an excuse for laziness, i.e. "Don't ask me to do math -- I went to school in (insert school name here)!"

Actually THAT is quite easy to accomplish.

Just make the rules so that the kids progress without effort… After a while, their basis will be so weak that everything will appear to be greek (except for Greeks :), and they keep graduating. The message imprinted in them is: knowledge is boring, and not actually necessary. Those that think otherwise are geeks.

It’s a sheep making factory! I know, I was a teacher for a while, then I left: I happened to enjoy results.

Go figure why 30% of Nasa scientists are Indian?

the impact of deregulation on energy markets, which encourages investment by private sector (at private sector cost of capital) rather than by the public sector (at discount rates close to long term sovereign debt cost) is never discussed. That means that energy spending is focusing, structurally, on investment-light but fuel-rich technologies, as it is easier to keep such investment profitable in the face of volatile prices even if it's not the cheapest technology. Thus we stay on our oil (and gas)-dependent trajectory through investment that can tie us in for decades.

This point fills me with dismay. Optimistically, and naively (and characteristically), I believed that the nexus of energy and credit crises would inspire some strategic thinking on the part of the European political class. Do you see no sign of this, Jerome?

The current approach in France, and probably in other Euro countries, is to throw money at alternative energies in the form of subsidised tariffs, notably for photovoltaics. The result is likely to be a flowering of photovolt roofs on shopping malls, and 20 years of taxpayer subsidies to the owners. To put it mildly, I'm not sure that this is an optimal use of public resources!

You would like to see direct state investment in (random example!) offshore wind; what other energy sectors do you see as crying out for direct public financing?

To some extent, the market approach to investment in Europe has been tamed by a number of exceptions - you mention those for solar, but they are not yet macro-economically significant. Feed-in tariffs for wind go around the problem I flagged and have allowed significant investment in that sector.

If you're a fan of nuclear, the same approach could be taken (and was taken, it could be said, by France, which used, 30 years ago, public funding and system-wide marginal pricing to build its nukes).

But basically, you need public (or quasi-public, through long ter mregulation offering highly stable prices & returns) investment in energy and transport infrastructure.

Dear Jerome,

I hold your writings and views on economics and economical politics in the highest esteem.

Would it be possible to ask you to contribute more regularly to TOD? Especially I would be very interested (sort of regularly) in your views on the current (global) macro-economic situation. For example do you share the presently more or less dominant view that the recession has almost ended alternatively is about to end or do you believe in a much slower recovery than what is generally believed. Your present article obviously gives some clue to this, but it seems to focus more on longer term, whereas I would be very interested in also hearing more specific views on the short-term macro-economic situation from you.

As to your stand on economical politics I agree more or less completely!

Best regards from Sweden,

hi elm

my writing has slowed down because I've been pretty busy at work (thankfully the offshore wind sector is booming in Europe right now), so that's not totally beyond my control... I've been a bit more active at European Tribune (, my 'home' blog, where you should find more discussion of economics and finance.

Generally, I don't think the crisis is over. The financial markets are recoverign thanks to large scale money injection for their exclusive use, but the economy is, at best, stabilizing at a much weaker level than 2 years ago, and that will continue to have an effect as it means that millions of people are left on the way side and will drag down the fianncial world over time. Banks were bankrupt *before* unemployment hit...

Economics is just another religion

Don't agree?
Do a comparison test.

MainStream Religion versus Economics:

Belief in an invisible intelligent designing deity
<--> versus Belief in an invisible Hand;

Belief that God rewards those who do good works
<--> versus Belief that Mr. Economy rewards those who do good works;

Belief that the omnipotent God got "tired" and needed a Sabbath, day of rest after a long work week
<--> versus Belief that Mr. Economy gets sick once in a while and needs a booster shot of "stimulus";

Belief that God is fair and just
<--> versus Belief that Mr. Economy is impartial, unswayed by emotions and political considerations, and always comes to the market-driven, fair and just results

To call economics a religion gives it a status it in no way deserves.

I prefer the term "pseudoscientific cult"

"pseudoscientific cult"
sounds about right

I don't know if there is a solution. We all posess a innate desire to want more for less, it just the bankers have ready access to "more" than most of us and have in effect access to legalised robbery. This is in the interests of goverment because it generates the cash flow, dubbed GDP, from which it can extract taxation. The problem is finance is a zero sum game and cash flow alone creates no wealth, as the UK might soon find out.

If one considers the British car industry in the 1970s, it basically committed suicide because the unions wanted more reward than customers would pay. Along come the Japanese with the Datsun 100 and 120 models (Toyota had the Corolla)and the British public bought them in droves because they were cheap. They suffered catastrophic corrosion, but were mechanically sound. No individual who bought a Japanese car would care less about the long term effects on the wealth of the British manufacturing workforce from the importation cheap goods. The same goes for Chinese goods today. Eventually the Japanese produced cars of such durability that we no longer have a UK owned car industry. The postal workers are about to go the same way.

The UK government sold of all our utilities in the 1980's to generate revenue. It enabled a period of lower taxation, an illusion of prosperity and everybody appeared to gain and the Tories had 18 years in power. Now we face the consequences of this policy; our energy infrastructure investment is in the hands of capitalists who will invest on their terms only and not the terms that ensure only security of supply.

Had we kept the CEGB and regional electricity boards, maybe we would have had more expensive electricity over the last 20-30 years, but we may also have had more control, as a country, on how we keep the lights on.

It annoys me that politicians keep saying no one saw this crisis comming. I won't say I saw it comming, because I can't predict the future, but I was convinced it was highly probable and can claim personally to not taking part in it. With the exception of a mortgage which I have now paid off, I have never bought a car or anything else prior to having the cash to pay for it. The current scrappage schemes, for which I own two eligible vehicles, I will take no part and good luck to those who do. This is classic example of trying to solve a problem using the methodology that caused the problem in the first place, to which I think your article is loosely referring.

Politicians are in a quandary, banks lend capital for investment, investment creates jobs. The banks have lent too much capital, created too much debt and created too many jobs [the party was on]. Her commeth the great correction ready for the next cycle, this time with even more expensive energy to catalyse the process.

I always say the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you can choose your dictator.

What is interesting about your electricity observation in England is how a very different scenario, much more socialistic, in
South Africa (I fly into the Joberg airport which is named after a communist) probably got to the same place of not having
enough power plants and infrastructure. My observations on these phenomena might include the following:
- having a real indepandant regulatory regime monitoring/fining the key infrastructure companies is a good thing. Back in the 80s
in the US we used to laugh at the PTT's in Europe where there was no separation. Now we laugh at the US because there is a huge
separation because there simply is no regulation of anything.
- assuming that the entire food chain or pyramid from the lowliest consumer to the most mighty ceo or politician is greedy is probably
a good starting point
- Being highly involved in the Internet days as an engineer and manager, i remember that for a few years that people who created products
were heroic. this had followed years of heroic lawyer ceo's, and marketing ceo's and now heroic bankers and politicians (at least in the
US we seem to have messianic delusions about our political figures). My guess is that "classes" that are made heroic that actually
create nothing is probably a bad idea, though it has been going on for a long time
- ideologically it would be nice to have someone who is interested in building something, vs re-arranging the deck chairs. I would prefer
no more che tshirts in favor of say gustavo gutierrez (author of liberation theology) who works among the poor

In fact this IS more of a spiritual/philosophical crisis then anything else. I think Amos' criticism in the 8th century BCE are
probably just as appropriate today as then:
- taxing the poor - BAD
- exploiting the poor economically - BAD
- working them almost to death - BAD
- ignoring what is going on - BAD

So the system and the regime fails, but what comes next can be very ugly until things settle down - the Assyrians were not the nicest
people to be conquered by, I'll take those Persians any day!

We all posess a innate desire to want more for less...,

Speak for yourself.... I'm not all that material. Cars are just utilitarian to me. I only use one because I live in L.A. county. I don't own a home, nor care to.... And as long as I have my computer, some healthy food, a roof over my head and some arrowhead water..., I'm happy

oh wait..., Maybe some MP3s too
but that's it!


I suggest you read Brian King's book "The Lying Ape". You might find you are not as pure as you think, it may even amuse you as you find that out!

Interesting writing and I actually agree with what you said. However, I'll make some comments so let me first put on my flame suit.....
There are several different ways to interpret what you have described above.
If banks were not making lots of money now the complaint would be that the bailout never ended, was clearly the wrong policy choice, and that the taxpayer was still on the hook, etc etc.
Banks are owned by the public. Specifically,in the case of Citi bank, about a third is owned directly by the US government, and the rest is mostly owned by the citizens through their mutual funds, life insurance and 401(k)s. In effect The People are the beneficiaries of the banks making money. Right now the managers are not getting the paychecks they once did (and that is a good thing) and there is a good chance that it will be quite a while before senior managers of banks/financial institutions will do so again, if ever.
And that is a good thing given that effectively they are long the trader's option.
Politicians, often referred to as "leaders", do not lead.They follow. Witness the phenomena of opinion poles. The reason why they follow rather than lead is because they want to be elected, so they have to espouse whatever the sheeple want at a particular point (election day). That is a big problem in a political system where politicians are elected on a regular basis. Perhaps a system where you get elected once for a reasonably long period of time, and then cannot be relected for ANY office ever again would work better.

Lastly, it is human nature to want more/bigger/better. Even algae want to grow. A big part of being alive that that we want to be more than what we are. It is the force which has gotten us out of the caves. We want bigger cars, more education, more access to healthcare. The problem is that until fairly recently there hasn't been a force to balance that forward pushing life force. Only fairly recently (say in the last 50 years or so) has it become a bit more clear to those with their eyes open (and there are very, very few people who are even slightly awake) that the rate at which we can extract from our surroundings has limits---> limits to growth, both on the resource side as well as on the externalities side.
Virtually no individual, let alone politicians, has set or will set shrinkage as a goal. I really doubt that there are many people who have as a goal to have 10% less next year for the next 10 years, and to know less next year than they did last year. Make no mistake about it, attaining knowledge also takes a toll on the enviroment too. Perhaps in the future enlightenment is going to be measured by suicide?
The only way to get a semblance of discipline is to get hit over the head with a sledge hammer. Obviously that is going to happen, which to most people on TOD (just my guess) is a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion.

(still wearing my flamesuit)

Unfortunately, there is an "anything for a buck mentality" (referring to the US side of things)that seems to have taken over as seemingly sensible people run a strength through exhaustion policy.

The latest "in-thing" for Wall Street to make a buck is the securitization of life insurance policies (a quasi-Ponzi scheme in and of itself).

And then, of course, there is the health insurance debate where the don't do anything to harm health insurance crowd does not even question the very fact that they quote...that 16% of the US GDP is health care related. That's the next bail-out bubble going somewhere to deflate.

It's no wonder the private health insurance companies don't want any competition but want the requirement to use private health insurance mandated. In the last 20 years the private health insurance companies (in the US) have pick-up a net of only 200,000 mreo customers.

Can you hear the wolves salivating at the prospect of nearly 46 million new customers with no control over what they charge or how minimal the coverage provided?

I assume you are referring to Viaticals, or life settlements.
There is a decent market for people who are terminally ill and want/need the cash before they die rather than have to go to their heirs.
It is a market which is fairly regulated (little that I know) but the devil is in the details. It is almost impossible to regulate how much pressure you can put on somebody to cash out their life policy, or, on the other hand, if you should accept somebody's insurance if they want to sell.

"securitization of life insurance policies"

It ought to be fairly clear that by lumping a number of financial transactions together does not improve those transactions but just allows another set of commissions to be extracted thus decreasing the overall value.

The economy is a confidence racket. If the MSM can engineer public perceptions in the right way then even 2+2=5 is the truth. That is why there is endless talk of recovery. Of course the elites want business as usual, they are too afraid of change and losing power and money and they will do everything to preserve the system. It is disappointing that the middle and lower classes are so gullible that they fall for the MSM propaganda that is transparent in its purpose. It does appear that the only thing that will bring about change is a collapse of the system. But the biggest losers will be the middle class and the relatively poor.

It isn't just the elites that want BAU. I think the vast majority of the population is hoping for a return to BAU as they think that would be the way that many of them would get re-hired doing whatever they were doing before the crash. And for that matter a lot of people holding onto underwater real estate are hoping that a recovery will mean rising prices that will get them above water again.

Now make no mistake - the big bankers have a whole lot more invested in BAU than everyone else. Without BAU, many of the bankers no longer have a raison d'être. But it isn't just the bankers that want BAU back again.

It's true-- everyone wants this ponzi scheme to continue.
Joe Six pack needs it to finance his next jet ski---

Kuntsler's Psychology of previous investment.

Joe is niether particularly bright nor particularly well informed but he does understand that the current bau scheme enables him to live better than the average Joe has ever lived before.

He cannot concieve of any scheme that would make him better off.

It will take a while for him to figure out that the game is over-right now he still thinks the rain will stop and the umpire will soon restart the game.

We may see some very interesting characters elected in the next decade or so in this country.

It's not entirely out if the question that enough such characters might get elected to upset the bau applecart.

"He cannot conceive of any scheme that would make him better off."

No, it's worse than that. There's no credible scheme either on the table or borrowable from history that could be made to look like an improvement. The Communists, well, they were simply a sick joke. The Peak Oil Doomers offer him suffering and death. The not-so-doomish still offer a huge reduction in physical standard-of-living. The pastoral-arcadia fruitcakes offer him a short brutish life of hard labor. The CO2/350 fruitcakes offer him virtual house arrest in an unheated 3m x 3m cardboard shack. The 450 guys might deign to allow him a somewhat sturdier and perhaps better-appointed shack.

IOW there's simply nothing available in this context, aside than BAU, in which to root any sort of concept or scheme promising to "make him better off."

Well, not quite that bad.. ;-) There are Economies That Become Part of Nature. It takes you well beyond the usual moral dilemmas to discover oddly obvious ones with productive consequences we never chose to explore before, which is not easy, but definitely possible.


I'm impressed with your work-but as you yourself point out, if the elites in positions of leadership don't get it....

Joe hasn't got a prayer-inso far as understanding the changes that are needed.

Whoever can best represent himself as Joe's ally will command Joe's loyalty when tshtf.

Since the sort of solutions you and I have in mind(mine might be different but they are at least based on physical realities) can't be reduced very easily to sound bites, I fear that Joe will never be on our side.

I talked to two young people today, both bright and educated(?well they have degrees at least!)and although both are obviously personally rather liberal in nearly every respect(they DO NOT listen to talk radio or Fox news), both are absolutely convinced there is no shortage of energy resources but rather only a big biz cartel hawking a fake shortage in order to bump up prices.

A gentle suggestion that they might take a look at the evidence themselves by exploring this site for a few hours elicited about the same response as offering a Baptist a tour of an exhibit on evolution.

If newly minted graduates can't be bothered with thinking for themselves, well .......

LOL - in my experience newly minted grads have just been through an intensive process of learning how not to think for themselves.
One has to toe the correct theoretical line to acquire the GPA after all, and the youngsters tell me that GPA weights heavily in terms of either further education or landing that all important first job.


Al, I'm afraid you have made the point better than I did.

I suppose you and I are among the relatively small number who did learn to draw our own conclusions-Most of the people on this site likewise.

Yeah, but that writeup's a bit on the academic, abstract side. Asserting that "there are" such economies is a stretch, since no such economies operating in an acceptable manner on a suitable scale are identified or named.

It may be interesting to speculate by analogy to cells in organisms or organisms in wild ecosystems (natural system 'economies'), but cells and organisms are entirely and utterly expendable in those roles. That returns us directly to the point about offering Joe and Jane nothing beyond short, nasty, brutish mere existence. Would Joe and Jane perhaps be expected to commit apoptosis should it be required for what someone else deems to be the common good? That sort of thing is so far in opposition to the "middle and lower class wages & incomes have been squeezed and need to be supported" meme that it can surely be dismissed as having not the slightest relevance in any political context where even the faintest whiff of democracy remains.

It's quite a lot less interesting to speculate by analogizing governments or societies to families. For one thing, modern societies are so huge as to render any analogy to a family into another sick joke like Communism, and perhaps for vaguely similar reasons. For another, family members, by the very nature of family life, intrude upon and irritate each other to a point where, all too often, a court must step in and break up the family as the least worst option. And that's despite the lack of diversity in a family unit, simply owing to the small numbers. Try to extend it to an unimaginably diverse society of hundreds of millions, and you'll have a war of all against all - at least until people have sense enough to get a divorce, the result of which will be... well... funny thing about that... something more or less like BAU... the least worst option.


Your comments are always funny, in a wry sort of way. I can't decide if you are "cynical" or "fatalistic" or if it is just silly scholasticism to make the distinction.

Everyone who isn't brain dead -- and really, I think there are a lot of those folks -- looks at the world from their own perspective and says "things could be so much better if ...." The fact that all those dreams conflict with each other leads to the default position you seem to call "BAU"-- but then BAU is then just a moving average, not a real position, and not at all stable.

It is at least a reasonable expectation that out of the ferment of modern society, and all this fantastic ability we have to communicate with each other, that progress will be made toward improving the lot of all, not just the select few.

That makes me a "pastoral-arcadia fruitcake" -- so be it.

We may see some very interesting characters elected in the next decade or so in this country.

I worry that future elections may tend toward neo-con fascism. When things really start getting tough, the People won't care about ethics -- or even the rule of law. If restoring BAU (even temporarily) means destroying another people in order to pillage their resources, then moral qualms (and international law) will take a back seat.

I suppose this would qualify as interesting, though...

"... the People won't care about ethics -- or even the rule of law."

That seems to be the case already.

"... means destroying another people in order to pillage their resources,..."

This has already been done on a massive scale several times and still continues.

I don't want this ponzi scheme to continue...
it's shallow and meaningless
it's empty

I'd rather live like old time Europeans
I'd rather have neighbors I know
I'd rather live in a community.

I hate L.A.
I hate southern california.

I only live here because of the rest of my family.

Regarding globalization, I had kind of reached the conclusion that globalization was inevitable for the following reason. The capitalistic economy needs to grow to survive and thrive - a shrinking economy is not a healthy one, but a growing economy is one where there are opportunities to make lots of money. I think there was a subconscious realization that Western economies had reached limits - the consumers were largely tapped out in terms of income and were overburdened by debt, and as a result the only places where they could find higher growth rates were in the 3rd world. The problem was that the "consumers" in the 3rd world weren't sufficiently wealthy to afford all of the consumer crap that those of us in the west have become accustomed to - thus there was a concerted effort to build those economies in order to make it possible to continue economic growth.

I hate to overload the "peak" concept in one more way, but you could extrapolate BAU to some time in the future, you would find that eventually there would be no more low-wage nations in which sweatshops can be built, and the nations that had higher standards of living would be overburdened by debt and be unable to continue consuming crap. Eventually you would reach a point where economic growth (perhaps not in terms of currency which could be devalued, but in terms of quantity of goods) is simply no longer possible. Thus in the end one could argue that the economy as a whole is itself the mother of all speculative bubbles.

Anyways, In your conclusions, you talk about the policies that we need in rather vague terms, and perhaps for good reason as it would be easy to get bogged down in policy discussions - not all of which are applicable to each country.

I think a lot of regular people have come to understand what some of the costs of globalization have been in terms of jobs lost, and for the moment anyways people seem more interested in paying down debt than they were before. But these haven't yet yielded policies that would serve to reduce globalization.

One interesting idea I see starting to be floated about is that any subsidies to the existing oil/gas/coal infrastructure should either be ended or directly passed on to consumers. Thus from a government perspective, the total cost would approach zero, and from the end-user point of view the costs of cleaner forms of energy would be appear to be more reasonable.

You're very right about how restoring old solutions won't change the problems they ran into. Economies are a great deal like organisms. People, unfortunately, have a real cognitive deficit when confronted with understanding the behavior of whole organisms, particularly ones the are cells in. Your liver cells don't know much English, do they? Same thing.

The main thing a cell can sense about its organism is general stress. In our case, the rub is that being more creative and skillful in reducing stress on ourselves, productivity and efficiency improvement, has been the main source of our multiplying stress on the earth. We just can't turn around that feedback by working harder at it.

We should think carefully about the choice Keynes originally presented in identifying how whole systems come into balance with themselves. Would we prefer to stop adding our returns to our investments voluntarily or involuntarily?

For most people it means nearly starting over in learning to think about how organisms, like economies, work. But wouldn't it be better to have Economies that become part of nature?

One or two years on we have learned nothing. I think it is more like one or two centuries on and we have learned nothing.

What we know doesn't matter much, it is what we do that counts. Like it or not, our existence is mostly lived in ego space and dominated by subconscious decisions. Worse yet, almost none of us have a clue as to what is going on inside our own brains, and never will.

We are only privy to a small chunk of the "thinking" that we do. Most of our motivations are hidden from view and vanishingly few people ever glimpse them. In spite of our consciousness and language, it is increasingly clear that we cannot overcome our genetic predispositions. Most people will never seriously consider the possibility that we are just another mammal that will ultimately become extinct. Those of us that do seem to suffer greatly for the awareness.

Some religious groups have alluded to as much in their teachings, in particular the Buddhists. Since logic and reason seem to be failing us, perhaps a dose of self-knowledge is a better prescription. However, even that may not be enough.

Western economies entered into a period of what economists call “secular stagnation” with saturation of major industries like autos, airlines, chemicals, agriculture and housing. At the same time we’ve exhausted the productivities of electrification, internal combustion engines, scientific management and lastly, computer and the internet.

The financial crisis was the result of government and financial system intervention to keep the economy going by creating artificial demand, mostly speculative, for housing. History is full of similar financial crises, the most recent previous being the savings and loan crisis of the 1980’s, which coincided with the build out of the highway system and post peak US oil and gas production, but going back to the 1920’s, 1890’s, 1870’s, 1850’s there were major depressions brought on by stagnations and overextended credit.

All of these crises had unique features, such as saturation of railroads in 1870’s, electrification, agricultural mechanization, and factory productivity in the 1930’s. Today we have saturation in manufactured goods (who needs a third flat screen TV or a fourth computer), declining resource quality, and the biggest problems of all, global wage arbitrage and ageing populations.

My ideal vision of the future is streetcar suburbs of sensible sized houses built to last for centuries that use little energy. However, I expect it turn out to be somewhere between the fall of USSR and Mad Max.

Paul,somewhere "between the fall of USSR and Mad Max" looks more likely every month -how long do you guess it will be before we pass a tipping point that is obvious to everybody?

Calling the wake up day would be like forecasting the stock market. But I think informed people are getting concerned, as in the nationwide "tea parties" and comments made during discussions in a tax and economics class I'm taking.

Of course, there are people in government who are concerned, notably Ron Paul, but also a number of less vocal members of the House and Senate of both parties.

All out economic collapse is not a likely scenario for the next few years; however, there is no short term solution to our problems. Replacing oil for transportation will take decades and will be complicated by declining GDP. The sensible solutions like a street railway system, is seen as a threat to the current unsustainable system that developed “cash for clunkers”.
Our leaders have yet to fess up to the problem, much less come up with a plan. No doubt there are emergency plans that haven't been announced. I expect to see presidential emergency orders within 10 years.

Replacing oil for transportation will take decades and will be complicated by declining GDP. The sensible solutions like a street railway system, is seen as a threat to the current unsustainable system that developed “cash for clunkers”.

PHEVs like the Chevy Volt are here, and can be ramped up much more quickly than an extensive railroad program in densely populated areas.

we’ve exhausted the productivities of ... computer and the internet.

That doesn't really make sense to me. Most people are knowledge workers, and their work can be made much more productive via automation.

ageing populations

They're only aging because they're healthier, so they live longer. The solution: later retirement age, so that people are productive, instead of bored and a burden on the young.

Jerome, your policies are all oriented towards a money system that supports a growing economy. This is what happens when you let the field of economcs guide your conceptual framework. You need to think in the other direction, using the thermodynamics of the situation that create a descent economy.

We need policies that actively promote (i) increasing incomes for the lower and middle classes, (ii) public investment (in particular on energy and healthcare) paid for by increased taxes, (iii) cutting down corporates (in particular, banks) to size.

We need just the opposite. We need to shrink incomes at the high end of the scale. Second, expanding funding to healthcare will just potentiate the malinvestment going on there. We need to shrink healthcare and provide basic universal healthcare for all, and then let the chips fall where they will. A lot of people are going to die in the next few decades, and there is no way around it. We need to rethink medical ethics, too, while we're at it. Less money devoted to energy extraction would be helpful, since one day soon when the dollar tanks, 2/3 of the US's oil will stop coming to our shores. We need a crash diet, now. I can't argue with your third point. We need to sideline all of the useless eaters and paper pushers on Wall Street.

All the endless debating about replacing private debt by public debt and whether that's a good thing or a sustainable one ignore the underlying problem: middle and lower class wages & incomes have been squeezed and need to be supported.They're being squeezed because we have endlessly inflated the dollar. So you are proposing that the solution here is to pump wages to match the massively inflated global currency system?

there's been very little talk of the profound underlying responsibility of the financial world in that drive to reduce the cost of labour.The underlying basic goal of the capitalist financial system is to amass wealth. Why would you expect anything different?

We're in the process of inflating the bejeezus out of the dollar. We should be doing just the opposite. We need to allow all multi-nationals to go extinct overnight, remove all the human privileges of corporations, and start contracting the monetary system, starting at the top. But we won't do it. Those derivatives festering in the vaults of pension funds and Goldman Sachs will continue to fester there, in perpetuity. Instead of contracting the monetary system to match a contracting economy, we're going to inflate the entire system and devalue the dollar. Eventually it will be replaced with a new currency, which may or may not be accepted over barter.

All good points, but in fairness I'd suggest that my proposals are not incompatible with yours:

(i) I should have made it clearer that the goal should be to increase the share of total actually available income that goes to the middle and low (and indeed that means bringing down the real income of the rich)
(ii) "investment" does not necessarily mean spending more - especially in the case of healthcare, where a public system (single payer or other) is a lot cheaper than the current US system.

So, on debt, we agree: we need to get rid of a good chunk of the imaginary money we've been using, and live on actual income/production instead of taking it from our future. That likely means a lower real standard of living (at least when expressed in monetary terms - the trick would be to switch to more enjoyable, even if not GDP-rich modes of living)

"...public policy largely avoids the big looming issues of resource depletion and climate change."

Of course what's troubling about this keypost is that after complaining about avoidance, it goes on to do just that, by focusing intensively on "middle and lower class wages & incomes have been squeezed and need to be supported."

Public policy issues simply can't be engaged in a serious manner without acknowledging that "you can't have it both ways". Unfortunately, to look first at the narrow banking issue, Americans especially, but also Europeans, weren't about to complain loudly as long as it seemed that they were effortlessly reaping unearned riches merely by sitting around watching TV and stuffing their faces to bursting with calorific snacks, while real-estate brokers sold houses similar to theirs back-and-forth at ever-escalating prices. As ever, the allure of something-for-nothing was absolutely irresistible.

Now, to address the quoted complaint more directly, if, say, the CO2/350 proposals being bandied about were ever to carried out in even a rather desultory manner, then "middle and lower class wages & incomes" in developed countries would not merely be squeezed - no, in terms of real goods and services, they'd crash. And few would be fooled by fatuous, airy academic arguments into believing that they were living anything other than vastly more poorly than before.

So, Jerome, do you want to implement radical climate proposals, or do you want instead to prop up "middle and lower class wages & incomes" - which virtually by definition means propping up middle and lower class consumption? Which is it? I don't see anything credible on the table that would allow both to happen simultaneously, soon enough to be of any interest.

Paul, I've answered (and hopefully clarified) partly in reply to the comment just above yours. We need to acknowledge the real size of the available pie, and then share it better.

I think that reply responds but without answering. In kindergarten, Mommy may well replace the toy you lost by "sharing" it. In real life, which is not kindergarten, there's no such exogenous Mommy to make "sharing" safe. Any serious "sharing", especially in the context of your complaint about climate issues, seems bound to "squeeze" the Western middle class, and most of the lower class, with existentially-threatening severity. After all, in the West and Japan, even nearly all of the lower class lives quite high off the hog - i.e. they are "rich" - as measured against global norms. And eating the rich, in the more usual connotation of the word (i.e. rich enough that you and I are not threatened by falling into the category), i.e. dispossessing Bill Gates and his ilk, will not actually sustain much of anything for long, even if some might find it to be satisfying vengeance. After all, much of that sort of wealth is of such a nature that it can't really be converted to consumer goods and services.

We're still left with nothing to suggest we can have it both ways. I think you already know that, since you did say, "...that likely means a lower real standard of living (at least when expressed in monetary terms - the trick would be to switch to more enjoyable, even if not GDP-rich modes of living.)" That trick may be comparable to squaring the circle for two reasons. One is that in the context of this discussion, said "lowering" would be so drastic that few would be fooled by airy academic notions of "enjoyable" poverty; and the other is that even to the extent some people might be fooled, notions of what is "enjoyable" are so diverse that they will rarely correspond to what ivory-tower academics contemplate in "happiness" surveys.

This all reminds me that politicians will be dominated by the lust for power, which in most democracies, however imperfect, means they will be dominated by the quest for re-election. By comparison, "continued dominance of politicians by bankers" is almost an irrelevance. What the politicians did with respect to banking happened to be aligned with the interests of the bankers, but as I indicated, it was also squarely aligned - and still is - with Joe and Jane Sixpack, and their European cousins, getting something-for-nothing. That latter alignment was the important one, and as I implied upthread, campaigners wishing to change things need to face up to it.

Call me an optimist, I guess. I think there's a lot we can do to move with relative ease towards much more sustainable societies. Maybe it's due to my current involvement in offshore wind, which looks to offer a fairly large scale real solution to our energy needs, or to awareness that there's so much waste that could easily be limited if we only bothered (and such "bothering" should not be confused with poverty).

I don't have any firm rebuttal of your points. All I can say is "we'll see"

Now, to address the quoted complaint more directly, if, say, the CO2/350 proposals being bandied about were ever to carried out in even a rather desultory manner, then "middle and lower class wages & incomes" in developed countries would not merely be squeezed - no, in terms of real goods and services, they'd crash. And few would be fooled by fatuous, airy academic arguments into believing that they were living anything other than vastly more poorly than before.

I have to agree with Jerome that the claim than any attempt to reduce consumption must necessarily look like extreme poverty is incorrect. Our current economic system is obsessed with efficiency on the production side, in the sense that we want to make the ratio of profit to the consumption of production resources as high as possible. But on the side of end users we are fundamentally an anti-economy; The faster that yesterday's toys are thrown into the landfill and replaced by today's toys the 'healthier' our economy looks. If we concentrated our creative energies on end use efficiency I think that great opportunities exist to maintain a decent quality of life with much lower per capita resource consumption.

Of course creating the necessary new economic focus will require profound changes in the social contract to which our current cultural programming is ferociously resistant.

However, two quibbles.

1. I didn't claim that any attempt to reduce consumption must be experienced as extreme poverty, which would be silly. However, I do think reduction on any scale grand enough to be meaningful in the context of the discussion likely would be. I'm reminded again of a conversation I had a while back about urban life in Asia, which went a bit awry when it dawned on me that we were talking past each other - I was musing on China, while he was musing on the (to him) intolerable conditions in Japan(!)

2. I doubt that very many people throw away "toys" for the purpose of making the economy look good - that's merely a spun narrative. I think they throw them away because they're bored with them, or done with them, or they have Version X and Version X+1 has shown up. This is not exactly new to human history - I have little doubt that Huck Finns have been throwing away pebbles by skipping them over water from time immemorial. It's just that lately 'we' have been able to afford to throw away rather more complex toys than pebbles. Indeed we're so rich that, IIRC, it just became illegal in the USA to resell or give away toys, or more precisely, it just became so administratively cumbersome it might as well be illegal.

This is a really good post by Jerome and a worthy stream of comments. There was some agonised introspection recently on where the Oil Drum is going and whether it is worth continuing. In my view, you are doing just what is needed. Please keep it up.

I am absolutely convinced based on studying volumes of evidence that we are heading for a significant peak oil problem.

On the other hand, many people on this site seem to take it for granted that there will be man-made climate change. I ask in light of the following why you can be so sure? I am not saying whether or not there is or isn't man-made global warming but I can not see a whole lot of clear evidence in light of:

- The world has likely been cooling for the past 12 years

- A panel of 600 something scientists (who were lumped in with the group Al Gore cited that was supposed to be concerned about climate change)signed off on a letter saying they were not so concerned and that the threat has been greatly exagerated.

-Many many scientists (including an MIT physics prof.)believe the planet has warmed a total of about 2 degrees in the past century and only 1/4 degree of this is man made.

- The new name "climate change" was possibly suspicously substituted for "global warming" relatively recently. Now every huricane and drought can be attributed to "change".

-Some scientists who fear global warming are now saying we may not see the effects for 20 years. That is a long time. My weather forecaster cann't forecast next week. A study was done about weather reporters and it was a better bet to look outside and predict the weather tomorrow will be the same as today than to listen to a weather reporter.

- The planet will never be naturally static and will always be changing. I recently went to Glacier Bay Alaska and was on a large body of water that would have been covered by a mile of ice just 200-300 years ago. It didn't all melt recently and did undergo very dramatic change well before the invention of the automobile, hundreds of years ago.

-Ice in some areas around the planet that were supposed to be shrinking is actually growing.

In the 70's Time Magazine had a I believe a front page article on Global Cooling. I have no personal clear position on man-made global warming but I don't see a whole lot of convincing evidence that it is clearly occuring.

On the other hand, many people on this site seem to take it for granted that there will be man-made climate change. I ask in light of the following why you can be so sure?

I suggest you go discuss those points somewhere other that TOD. might be a better site, at least you can talk to people there who are actual climate scientists.

BTW no one who understands the scientific method takes anything for granted. Not even that the sun will come up tomorrow, it might not! However based on what we know about the earth completing one revolution on its axis every 24 hours it would be a bet I'd be willing to make.

Oh, and for the record I don't usually ask my plumber for advice on how to replace the transmission on my car. Why? because he hasn't spent the time becoming an expert on it...
In the same way I usually defer to people who have spent their careers getting doctorates in climate science and spending decades studying it, rather than coming to my own conclusions.
Makes sense to me!

I agree that these points should not generally be discussed on TOD but people on this site keep on talking about clmate change as if it were inextricably linked as one problem with peak oil.

I wouldn't defer to anyone when it comes to political issues because there are so many self interested or uninformed parties who often have a stake in the outcome (possibly including research scientist who get grants). I like to come to my own conclusions and I will take a look at the site you mentioned. I will say that despite what some media or politicans would have you believe, there is more widespread disagreement, not agreement, among the scientific experts (as mentioned above) on the issue of global warming and especially man-made warming.

A friend of mine recently went through every scientific journal article on climate change and found that over 95% of the articles directly supported the scientific theory. From a statistical interpretation, there is no disagreement that we are seeing human-induced climate change.

I will say that despite what some media or politicans would have you believe, there is more widespread disagreement, not agreement, among the scientific experts (as mentioned above) on the issue of global warming and especially man-made warming.

That is a flat lie. Don't pretend to be open-minded. You aren't. Don't pretend you don't know the science. You do. Don't pretend you don't know what the science says. You do.

The evidence is in the tripe I quoted above. This is what every denier pretending not to be a denier says.

Your statement is false. You know it, we know it.

You are wrong but I will say I totaly respect your intellect. I am absolutely open and even concerned that global warming will effect the world and especially concerned that it MIGHT be man made. I just cann't find the evidence.

I am hesitant to argue this because I don't want to convince anyone it isn't true because it might be but anytime someone argues the world is flat and everyone agrees and kill the heritects I at least want to start asking some important questions. So I am forced to take the polemic position that I am certainly uncertain of...

For those of you who are so sure, I just searched "global warming and refute" and open your mind. Read this stuff. Correct Very maybe...unanamous...Very not.

Let me try a different analogy to make it a bit clearer.

General practitioner tells you, you have a brain tumor. You need to go to a specialist.

Choice A: Neurologist

Choice B: Proctologist

Side show: Bartender has heard that the gardener at the Proctologist's golf club is not sure that the Neurologists really know all that much about neurology.

So you go and ask the bartender for advice on how to extract your cephalic protrusion from your arse. Good luck with that!

Excellent! Exactly.

wallstreet express - a well chosen name.Why is it that deniers quite often choose an often tenuously related subject to air their cornucopian,head in the sand views.

There is very little in the article and even less in the comment thread about climate change yet you have chosen this venue to air your weird views.My advice would be for you to stick to Wall St as you are sufficiently insulated from reality there to keep you happy until you're not.

public policy largely avoids the big looming issues of resource depletion and climate change.

That's the last line in the article and I often see climate change mentioned in Oildrum articles about peak oil and that is my objection. That's fair game I certainly see the reality of peak oil but when it comes to climate change rather than consider my points you say I have my head in the sand. In fact I ran a website to alert the public about peak oil and I have been interviewed on major radio stations 4 times about peak oil.

By tacit agreement, I think, discussion of climate change here is limited lately to the economic effects of any proposed mitigation strategies, and the relevance of rapidly depleting petroleum. Please take your c&^p disturbing elsewhere.

...And one more thing some on this website are clearly confused about is the causes of peak oil and its effects when they blame the capitalist system and greedy bankers (although I would blame many but not all politicians (yet some like Roscoe Bartett and his committee are working to alert the public) for not acting to prioritize the energy issue.

Do you finger pointers believe peak oil won't be a problem in socialist or communist countries? Or if America wasn't a free capitalist society peak oil would never occur? What if we had no bankers and no financiers in the world, do you think the planet could support an ever growing population with the lifestyles and even the necessities that people want?

Unfortunately, the problem is simple supply and demand. The worlds resources (whether oil, nat. gas or eventually likely many of our critical minerals) are likely not designed to support 6 1/2 billion people who are forecast to grow to 9 billion by 2050. It is not anyones fault and certainly not the capitalist system. It is just not so simple. For instance 4 billion people now have cell phones. Are these people and their families entitled to heat their homes, drive a car and to have basic necessities? Are they entitled to have families who have access to energy and resources. I would say of course but...entitled isn't the issue.

Neither are a few bankers or capitalists in a world population of billions and billions.

So your point is??? Are we, because of the ?points? you pose above, then to in future quietly allow the built capital of our society and the accumulated resources of earth to be pilaged and plundered in a one-time orgy of excess by wall street brokers and investment bankers competing to see which of them can purchase the most outlandish helicopter to carry on the fantail of their private yaughts? Merely because you propose it, without reference, evidence or debate?

No. My point is that it might be nice to understand the real causes of the peak oil problem. I am not necessarily in favor of conspicuous consumption but neither am I particularly concerned about it. There just aren't enough investment bankers or brokers to make a difference. If everyone you seem to blame had two yaughts and two helicopter (and most don't probably have one) that would not make a mathematical difference to peak oil demand. I once worked on wall st. many years ago and many people there are just about paying their bills (the middle level) without yaughts. Yes there are some few thousands? of people who make millions and waste resources (but so do Hollywood Stars, Rock Stars, Baseball Players, and pretty much most people who makes good money.

The heart of problem is mark-up, the extra money taken on top of the amount given in debt. This is the reason there are willing lenders. With so many willing lenders available the logical thing would be govts taking debts to have an extra income. This extra income makes them very powerful and very deadly.

The whole idea behind interest-based debts is flawed. There is no time-value of money. Money don't give eggs. The growth seen since past few centuries is a function of ever increasing utilization of fossil fuels and human labor and entrepreneurship, its not money cloning itself. If its just money there would be growth in absence of the above factors. As we have seen, since about the time the growth in utilization of fossil fuels end, the growth in economy ends. Financial games just masked the truth, it can't change it.

Once you learn to give up the mark-up on debts and only claim the original amount back, you would see a fall in investment and also in consumption. Those falls have to happen anyway, the production of fossil fuels have to go down due to natural factor of peaking. Year after year, the world have to live in less and less. This would be happening in a world of rising population (there is a time lag and due to that world population is estimated to continue rising for the next 20 to 30 years) and decreasing net energy (more energy needed to mine, pump, refine the same quantity of fossil fuels).

The world is fat with money today, better we take the depression now when we have lots of fat to cut.

Growth is exception, not rule
Affluence starts with the first car

What's your reaction to the lesson from the Submission site - Usury and Interest ?

The Quran forbids usury, not interest. Quite a few states in USA have laws against usury. Usury is defined as excessive interest. A Dictionary defines usury as "an excessive or inordinate premium for the use of money borrowed", "extortionate interest", or "the practice of taking exorbitant or excessive interest." The Arabic language also makes distinction between interest (Fa'eda) and usury (Reba). The Quran forbids Reba or usury.

Basically it states that the Q'uran bans loan sharking, but has no problem with normal loans or interest.

I suggest that you have a good look at Islamic Finance

The difference between Fa'eda and Reba is the difference between a return on a productive asset, and a return on money. ie to make money purely from money is forbidden or 'haram'.

Islamic finance is about sharing risk and reward equitably. The contract of debt does not achieve that, whether or not it is secured against a productive asset. One could argue that limitation of liability does not either, and some scholars regard that as 'haram', as well.

So I am afraid that in saying that 'normal' loans or 'reasonable' interest rates are sharia'h compliant I believe you are mistaken.

I agree.... I know of two seperate young couples who are buying houses that are priced at 5 times each couple's total salary. Apparently the banks have approved these loans. Neither the buyer nor lender seem to have learned much in either case.

On a seperate note: Greed may be a natural drive, but so are many other things. Humans are capable of learning social skills to counter drives; until that is acknowledged no system can support itself for long.

buying houses that are priced at 5 times each couple's total salary.

Your statement says nothing. The key question is "what is their ratio of debt to annual earnings?". Price is not the factor, if they have, by savings or other means, acquired say 50% of the equity of the purchase as a cash payment.

deleted (wrong thread)

Capitalism is actually much weirder than you think.

Everyone's focused on government, and businesses. Nobody has focused on money itself, or what it is to humans.

Self replicating phenomena like money have certain invariant properties. They take resources from their environment, modify their environments and make more of themselves. DNA (e.g. a virus) is a self replicator in the chemical domain. Money is a self replicator in the human collective cognitive domain.

DNA takes resources from its environment and makes more copies of itself. So does money. Only the environment differs.

DNA is not intelligent, per se. Neither is money. Both, however, as self replicators, are able to modify their environments in order to reproduce more efficiently. Both infect unsuspecting hosts. Some forms are symbiotic, others pathological. Neither care about their host species, per se.

We need to start looking at "the economy" the way we look at complex systems made of many small agents following simple rules. The simplistic "Adam Smith" view of money is just not working well enough.

You will find many in agreement with you on this site.
I think, along with many others here, that the key is to link the medium of exchange (money) to the physical environment.
All the problems are a result of money being an unrestricted abstraction that is used as the driver of all human activity.
Energy/resource based money is the best first attempt to correct this and will realign human activity with the ecology of the planet(or at least get us much closer).
All our man made systems should be modeled after Natural Process. We have the example right in front of us every day yet we fail to see the connection.
Education based on the Scientific Method would make this relationship more obvious to those educated.
This type of mindset could also be acheived through the media.
The problem with all of the above is that the people that control these conduits are the ones who will loose by altering them.

I agree with your assessment, however - you miss the underlying cause of the push for lower labor costs. Not globalization, but free trade. Free trade is the Rights equivalent to Marxist theory. Perfect on paper, never proven to work. It is (like Marxism) the adherent's fault that free trade doesn't work. It will at (a Utopian) future date.

America was a much more prosperous country when we had FAR more restrictive trade policies. Our "free markets" have added to the profits of multi-nationals and paupered everyone else.

BUSH - there really a difference? Not much it seems. Our "free trade" policies also require open borders, as a necessity under this dogma. How are those 16 million extra workers working out right now? Are they even counted on the jobs reports?

So what would cure this? Well, "free traders" suggest the dollar become the American peso, and of course - more trade!

Good job Mr President! (Either one)

Corruption is the toxic element that prevents meaningful and equitable socio-economic change. Corruption is bad in the G20 and it's affiliates and even worse in the 'Z whatever' countries-the rest. As I have alluded to before, it is rampant, and a structural element of the business culture. The root is of course greed. Greed feeds on capitalism, which in turn feeds on the populace and the Earth.

People can also choose to say no. However, most education systems are inadequate to tool people with the knowledge, and the ability to think for themselves needed to do that, and make their way in an alternative direction. Thus, dumbing down of cultures and creeds is being actively implemented to cripple peoples ability to analyse and question the dominant paradigm.

"All this points, unfortunately, to a bigger crisis soon". Oil prices are heading for $80/barrel. Will we see another break that mainstream analysts and some at theoildrum have predicted. And yes,the next hole is going to be deeper.