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The real economy: What is it?

The real economy: What is it? thumbnail

A comment from Pierre Rabhi, a French thinker and farmer, who I prefer to call the “philosopher of the land”: “Today, when one speaks of economics, it is not a question of the real economy. The real economy is a system that aims to share resources as evenly as possible to meet the needs of the greatest number of people. Unfortunately, what is called ‘economics’ is, above all, monetization which makes money represent not only real wealth but also non-real, virtual, speculative wealth, and that it works on itself: money produces money. So we’re not in a real economy.”

These words of Rabhi lead us to a reflection that deserves our attention in the face of the many disparities we have experienced. In fact, economics cannot be called real when it brings together a contingent of millions of hungry human beings in a world that paradoxically produces enough food to feed more than 10 billion people.

Poor distribution, not lack of food

Therefore, taking this peculiar case for analysis, the existence of hunger is a condition of the very poor distribution, not of the lack of food production. If we were really facing a real economy, taking only this “problem” as an example, hunger would not happen.

However, 275,000 people around the world begin to starve every day, and after 24 hours, 28,800 of them will die (20 victims per minute, 1,200 per hour), while 1/3 of all food produced in the world is wasted – simply thrown in the trash.

How, then, to call this the real economy when the current production model, based on economic growth that occurs at the expense of the dilapidation of natural capital, outraging the limited sources of nature, and thereby affecting peoples’ way of life, ends up provoking this social tragedy that decimates so many victims, “victims” of an awkward distribution?

There is no sense in calling it the real economy what we see when only 62 people in the world accumulate fortune equivalent to the gains of the exact half of the world population, that is, of 3.6 billion people, thus evidencing a process of accumulation , (wealth, power, consumption and privileges) which is unprecedented.

Just as there is no reason to look at a model of industrial production, also calling it the real economy, knowing that in order to satisfy the wants of the consumer market, the unnecessary, unnecessary and unnecessary consecrates itself. (Especially in the case of food, as we mentioned).

Without meaning the system cannot be real

Such a system, which goes beyond limits and throws human life itself down the cliff, cannot be seen and termed as “real”, since it lacks full and substantial meaning.

Hence the increasingly pressing need to rethink the economy (in its literal sense) so that the human being and nature are part of the central concerns and political and economic decision-making.

Only in this way will we organize something that, in the future, we can comfortably call the real economy, giving primacy to what really counts: the preservation of human life with elemental quality to the most needy, far from hunger and misery, living in a balanced environment Which preserves and respects the way of life of sapiens, animals and all biodiversity.

24 Comments on "The real economy: What is it?"

  1. onlooker on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 9:24 am 

    The real economy is survival of the fittest, corruption galore, maximum exploitation of people and the planet for increasing profits. It is also the illusory fiat debt currency bubble that eventually will be shown to be just that an illusory bubble Ponzi scheme. Our subsistence comes from the Earth not this Economy

  2. penury on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 9:36 am 

    Do not read the article, just read the last paragraph and have a good day.

  3. Sissyfuss on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 9:38 am 

    By framing the article and the argument as poor distribution causing hunger and starvation, the author is stating that we can continue on with BAU simply by improving the system so that everyone gets their square meals daily. We’ll just ignore distribution becoming increasingly expensive due to PO, that food production will become increasingly expensive due to PO, and that population will become increasingly expensive due to collapse of the ecosystem. Change is scary.

  4. Davy on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 9:44 am 

    “Poor distribution, not lack of food Therefore, taking this peculiar case for analysis, the existence of hunger is a condition of the very poor distribution, not of the lack of food production. If we were really facing a real economy, taking only this “problem” as an example, hunger would not happen.”

    This is a traditional ongoing argument that has little basis in reality. Food and distribution are linked and connected. Today they are both oil and economic related in industrial globalism. This is about economies of scale and financial flows of trade in common survival. Food monocultures are about economic exploitation of comparative advantage that are financial and industrial. There is no place for sustainable development except in profit from these activities. There is little room for change because of the situation of interconnected dependence at multiple levels. Complicating this brittle arrangement is the case of ecological failure and climate disruption. Food production is directly responsible for this this unsustainable arrangement and people want more of it. Civilizing food production by industrialization has led to overpopulation. Overpopulation and overconsumption is the primary ingredient of overshoot and the potential for a die off. This die off is human and all other species. It is those people who think it is about unfair distribution that are those who cannot connect the dots of catch 22 predicament(s).

    These types who are techno optimist and sustainable development types, and or ant-western agendist. Techno optimist sustainable development types feel we can develop our way out of this unfairness. It is a matter of orientating our productive efforts. It is a matter of proper political goals coupled with fair technological development. Anti-western agendist think we can have more China’s and India’s if westerners are less wealthy and we eat less energy intensively. This is absurd because if this where the case why is China and India trying to get rich instead of focusing primarily on feeding their people? Why does China and India have aspirations to put men in space? Human nature says these ant-western agendist are hypocrites and themselves elitist if given the opportunity.

    The thing about catch 22’s are they are a trap with no solution. These humanistic views have legitimate points until they are put to the test of scale of physical limits and human nature. There is no solution for overpopulation coupled with depletion. Combine this with ecological failures and you have a simple and nonrefundable failure. We cannot reproduce what nature has made. We do not have another planet to exploit. Human nature is not going to agree to global fairness. All politics are local not global. We just engage in global politics to try to make money off each other. We are in overshoot on multiple levels and dimensions.

    What we are not in overshoot with is unrealistic ways to solve the unsolvable. We have so many people who feel life could be different but they fail to see life is as it is and cannot be change much. Life is self-organizing it follows its own path. The sooner we accept out predicaments the sooner we can begin to adapt and heal. Mental illness many times has no solution but that does not mean people cannot manage a decent living. Our society could do much more in this respect but what it cannot do is change what we have. When something is destroyed it is gone. When you open a one way door and close it you can’t go back. We can save many people but more will show up. We can get rid of the rich and more rich will take their places. We cannot bring back a once beautiful and productive ecosystem and stable climate. Food is based on this and it is leaving us. All the fossil fuels in the world cannot change that. Fossil fuels are depleting and this global world will never change that. Renewables may help but eventually we will return to the land that has been destroyed with a climate that has be destabilized and there will no longer be rich people because everyone is going to be struggling with survival. This is the time when we will have true fairness.

  5. Jef on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 10:44 am 

    As usual you all are so quick to point out humans bad behavior and state that thats just how it is, learn to live with it. What crap!

    How about asking/learning about what it is that elicits such behavior? Bad behavior doesn’t come out of a vacuum. We have structured ourselves in such a way as to bring out the worst in humanity and we just wave a hand and say hey, it’s a dog eat dog world. BS!

    It is only under the worst strained environment that dogs will eat other dogs. Treated correctly they are instead “Mans best friend”.

  6. penury on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 11:34 am 

    I disagree with the statement that “so quick to point out humans bad behavior” I for one and I am aware of many others whom would like to point out humans good behavior and their kindness and sharing with the other species on the planet or even with their own, however with minor exceptions these examples are sadly missing in most everyday life for most of the species on the planet. Go ahead and post the two examples that you like.

  7. Davy on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 11:40 am 

    Jef, look around and then try to tell us there is tremendous hope for learning from bad behavior. This shit has been going on since Club of Rome report: I will tell you BS. We had so many opportunities and we continually blew it. Maybe a solution is somewhere in between our extremes depending on where we are focusing our attention. We pissed away most of our best opportunities in the last 30 years. What is left is too little too late. That said there is still much that can be done with adapted goals per a reality of decline, decay, and extinction.

  8. Sissyfuss on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 12:28 pm 

    Davy, during the 6th mass extinction what would you consider managing a decent living? To me everything we do now accelerates entropy.

  9. onlooker on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 1:08 pm 

    Sadly the assessment of Davy is pretty accurate. Nature is being compromised at an accelerating rate because of our vast civilization and its modes of living. The catch 22 is that it is too late too transition our food supply system to accommodate all the population of the world and PO is making it an unsustainable system yet any solutions that could allow us to maintain this huge population would itself be counterproductive given the impact such a huge and growing population has on the planet. So a predicament has no solution

  10. Davy on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 1:10 pm 

    Yea, Siss, maybe I should clarify that as some of us can manage a decent living. A significant amount of people are likely doomed to a horrible end regardless of how well we handle this decent. More of us can manage a decent living if more have less which is just more equality and less wealth inequality. That is a no-brainer but a little more complicated because you can only adapt what we have so far before it will snap. If it snaps the drop in economic activity will likely be much greater than adapting what we have even with inequality. A certain amount of inequality is unavoidable in this modified social strategy.

    The “less” I am thinking about is focused on lifestyles with attitudes closer to 1960’s. Those of us old enough remember these times remember them as the best times of our lives. I remember my family being closer in distance and activities. People did less, had less, but had more relationships with themselves and their communities. This then point to a decent living revolves around less stuff and more community. We damn sure are not going to have more natural beauty. This current extinction event including the current global failure of many ecosystems cannot be replaced with anything. That is gone.

    Can we manage to be poor-(er) but live better than an alternative of destroying ourselves because we don’t agree we should be poor? There are those in society today that do not feel we have a future of less ahead. These are the techno optimist, green optimist, and status quo-(ers). Maybe these folks should find a realism with less expectations. This should be a critical aim of society and that is lower expectations from a reality of decline instead of the false promise of progress. These expectations of progress that surely can’t be met considering all the crushing problems we are beset with. The most dangerous situation we face is people who instead of pulling together and learning to live with less instead destroy what is left and ending up with everyone having even less than a less through cooperation. This is the classic case of civil war and we need only look at Syria to see this playing out before our eyes. Any of this talk is likely only temporary because we may be heading for a hard collapse with extinction as a possibility but let’s hope that is longer term or not the case.

  11. Davy on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 1:13 pm 

    sorry for my descent-decent sloppiness.

  12. Sissyfuss on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 1:54 pm 

    That was decent of you to delineate your descent declivities in a declarative derivement.

  13. peakyeast on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 2:04 pm 

    I think another example of procreation is needed here:

    Flies can procreate at fantastic rates.
    “When entering the pupal stage, white larvae develop hard, dark outer shells. Within a few hours of emerging from the pupa case, females are capable of breeding. She is capable of depositing almost a thousand eggs in her lifetime.”.

    Luckily most of the larvae die from fungal infections: 99%

    Otherwise the earth would be literally only flies in a few months.

    The same is relevant for humans. If there is no mortality – for whatever reason the earth would have been full many times already.

    The only thing holding our demise back a little is our own mortality and deficiencies because – we humans – just as the fly cannot control our own drive to procreate.

    So please all: Say a prayer praising diseases, starvation and premature death.

    Because otherwise you, me and all of us would be locked in a vicious cycle of boom and bust. This ONE time we have a SLIGHT chance to make our future better.

    We may still be locked in such a cycle – or even total destruction, but at least the death of billions gave us the chance that we are throwing away now.

    Thanks in advance for your prayer.


  14. makati1 on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 3:27 pm 

    The world can feed 10 billion, but not at Western levels. The u$ wastes enough food to feed the total population of 100 million Filipinos annually. Growing obesity in the West is a perfect example of the problem.

    Huge die-off will happen, not because there is no food, but because the monetary greed of a few has destroyed the local farmers and created heroic measures at high expense to overcome nature’s methods of culling the herd.

    Meds are the plague of humanity. Without them, we would live about 30 years less but have a better life. Only the healthy with good genes would live to “old age” as in the past. Now that long life is rationed by who can afford “heroic” measures (Pacemaker, expensive meds, heart transplants, etc.), not who should merit them by ability to contribute useful genes or intelligence that advance the species. We try to keep the weak alive by any means possible.

    My partner here had a nephew born with a heart problem about a year ago. All kinds of money was spent to try to keep him alive in a hospital equal to any in the u$. He eventually went home, with meds and oxygen for emergencies. Four months later, he died. He should have been allowed to die shortly after birth, when the first attack happened. The pain for the family would have been less. He never had a chance, but, had he lived, he would have passed the bad genes on to his kids. We perpetuate our own weaknesses.

    We all have or know of similar situations. My mother extended her life to 89 years with a pacemaker (not going to be available in the future.) My step-dad has a pig valve in his heart and is 92. (Again, not available in the future.) My dad only took meds for high blood pressure and lived to 88. I hope I have his genes.

    Rambling on, we have made our bed and crapped in it. As a species, we deserve the future we made. Blow-back is a bitch!

  15. Numbersman on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 8:29 pm 

    Thanks all, an insightful and challenging discussion. Best i have seen on this board in a while!

    Davy, you really kicked it off well. But i just cant give in to hopelessness. Is there no way to demonstrate a “better way” and have it slowly grow and take root? I yearn for a small scale self sufficient community, intentionally way underconsuming, and making the most of the talents of each. It is practical for a group of financially secure, hard work loving, and moderately intelligent people.

    The problems are: It cant and wont be promoted by the elite who farm us as consuming units, and the lazy, weak, and unintelligent will have trouble making it work.

    But look at how religions of the past (structured ways of thinking and living) started tiny and then grew into giant trees. (Kingdom of Heaven/mustard seed parable). I will posit that a new “religion”, centered on low consumption, hard work, and community is one way that could possibly slowly build a stairway up and out of the catch22.

    No doubt, the current edifice and construct is failing. The question is, can we shape “what comes next” and in particular, go ahead and make the leap voluntarily, for our own benefit and to begin the evolutionary trials of figuring out what really works.

  16. GregT on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 10:05 pm 

    “The question is, can we shape “what comes next” and in particular, go ahead and make the leap voluntarily, for our own benefit and to begin the evolutionary trials of figuring out what really works.”

    I guess that would depend on who you consider to be “we” Numbers. Many of us here are already giving it our best shot. Whether it will work long term or not, remains to be seen. There are many wild cards in the deck, the biggest of course being runaway global warming. Which very well may have already kicked in.

  17. joe on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 2:42 am 

    Very philosophical view. I wonder, if an a.i was presented with the same set of parameters at the start, ie resource abundance and tiny population, how would it perform. Would it allow humans to grow exponentially or limit their behaviours? With governmemts locked in outdated national political games (US/Nato/EU – v – Russai/China) and in total denial about resource limits and climate change and the future destiny of fiat money as the engine of our destruction, I wonder would an ai allow humans to have ideas like race, or religion? Do any of you know the ancient greek tale of Cassandra, the princess of Troy whoes accurate predictions were ignored by all those around her, a terrible curse akin to being stuck by madness. But the tale is instructive of human nature which does not really value the earth at all. Climate change knowledge comes from science and statisitcs which are from our least instinctive part of us, but our deeper nature is stronger, that for sex and wealth and power, the conflict within each of us is reflected in society, the debate between those willing to accept imperical data and take action and those who cant accept reality because it means becoming poorer and weaker. When Cassandra told Paris that if he went to Sparta he would cause the destruction of Troy, why on earth would he believe her? He was just a man and how could he accept such a prediction? Merkel made the same mistake when she let 1mln refugees into Europe and Peak Oil makes the prediction that the worlds economy will shrink to maybe a tiny portion of what it is today. Why would a ‘normal’ person want to believe such a knightmare. Its like walking around believing that tomorrow you will get terminal cancer even though you dont have it today, its terrifying. On Bloomberg today an English dude was smugly explaining how letting in more hoardes of middle easterners into Europe would fix the ‘greying’ problem, its as if he cant understand that Muslims are setting up rival societies in Europe, not integrated ones. The Muslims coming into Europe foolishly believe that the societies they are creating will be as strong and rich as the Chrisitan ones they are replacing and that Europe will not be destroyed by Climate change. With this in mind I am sure an ai would simply hit delete on the human file and carry on with its program.

  18. Davy on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 6:42 am 

    I am a doom advocate. I do this to reality test optimism so we find a correct way forward. I am not preaching only doom. This study is multi branched scientifically. It is not religion but it incorporates all civilization because everything has its place in this discussion. I want to discredit human arrangements without valid basis forward. Sometimes this discrediting is only partial. Alternatives will likely not be a total transition energy source for a new civilization but they will be vital to what will result from the end of globalism. These various arrangements that need to be discredited tend to be arrangements that appeals to us. These false promises have proven historically to be unsustainable in the past. We all want to live like kings and globalism has allowed it and spoiled us in the process. Even some of the poorest are hooked and on the wrong path. Marketing with its false promises has done this. Technology is a false god today with progress our blindness.

    My point with life today is we are past stable bifurcation thresholds at multiple levels. We are in overpopulation and overconsumption. The overpopulation is obvious. The central point of overpopulation is it complicates and in many cases nullifies most plan B’s at least at the global level. Population is a trap for the current system of growth and stability. We can’t very easily reduce population to less dangerous levels without damaging the brittle global system we have. Any disruption could be a die off if the degree and duration is too hard. Disruption to vast monocultures and distribution systems that support billions can breakdown quickly and catastrophically. Increasing population is steadily destroying ecosystems. Overconsumption is a case of complexity dependence. We need far too much energy in the form of food and regular energy to live sustainably. We can’t imagine anything else. To achieve a degrowth that must happen per ecosystem realities of planetary limits we would disrupt a system that is too brittle to downsize. Our growth based system can’t adapt to less. Overconsumption and overpopulation are unfortunately dangerously interconnected. It is the combination of all these issues that put us in catch 22 traps for most of the global population to find reasonable alternatives that are sustainable. The positive is the time frame on this is uncertain. We live in the short term but stress over the long term. Developing less concern over decades ahead and focus on the near term can help.

    Globalism has proven very resilient but this resilience is brittle and increasingly all niches of growth are occupied leaving dangerous tensions building across multiple layers. I see a point someday where globalism cannot adapt. It will stop and that will have catastrophic result. The scale of what needs to be done to reform and adapt globalism is too great at too many levels. The damage that has been done by globalism is irreparable. We have an extinction event in progress, climate instability, and multiple ecosystem failures. All this is combining slowly in an attrition of stability. We are a technical civilization and the technology is inadequate for what is being expected of it. Efficiency has allowed dramatic growth but it is now at diminishing returns. What is needed is a return to less complexity with smaller population but even trying to get there will be catastrophic to globalism. All locals have been delocalized and dependent or exposed to the global in some way. This all points to making arrangements for an alternative before it is too late.

    This horrible prognosis should be clarified because we have different levels of existence. At the local and the regional we may see byzantine successes. Maybe Northern Europe can build out their alternative civilization and reduce their population as an example. Maybe they can keep out the desperate hordes of dispossessed. Maybe climate change will spare them. Other places across the global may find a niche and find fertile ground for something after globalism collapses in ruin. It should be obvious most large urban centers are likely facing some kind of profound change for multiple reasons. Other locals are likely facing climate change issues along with other issues of sustainability from energy dynamics. We have good technology and plenty of wisdom on what works. What we do not have is the technology and the wisdom to allow globalism to work because there is likely nothing to maintain globalism. It was a short term overgrowth and human folly much like the old story of the tower of Babylon. We reached too far and the end result is collapse. This points to multiple regions and local with comparative opportunity to achieve something post global. There may be a time frame that is adaptable that is an unknown. The required die off might not be as horrible as it could be. There is no reason to dismiss optimism in this respect. What we should be discrediting is optimist who think we can transition without pain. Pain is likely unavoidable. Many people are going to die in some kind of rebalance. Every one of us is going to suffer some kind of privation.

    There are many places with comparative advantage that can and may see a future. This may not be long term because of the effects of climate change may destroy whatever adapts out of the end of globalism. An important factor to consider is time is running out for these places to begin to build out something. Opportunity is escaping us in the negligence of action. Lately science is telling us things are worse than what we thought with climate and extinction but the jury is still out on how bad this could get. This all points to alternative arrangements on multiple levels with time running out. It will be the locals with a future in regions with a future that will salvage an existence. It is pretty obvious globalism with it arrangements that produce overconsumption and overpopulation cannot last. The critical point of globalism is it can’t adapt and survive. This all points to locals within regions that develop alternative arrangements. That is likely the only way forward. It is also a way forward with a much smaller population so a die off is likely inevitable. We can’t feed 10BIL people very long. Doing that will kill even more of the earth ecosystem. Globalism is doomed locals are not.

  19. Dredd on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 8:05 am 

    The real economy: What is it?

    It is the illusion of being ‘here’ (Choose Your Trances Carefully – 8).

  20. makati1 on Tue, 10th Jan 2017 9:56 pm 

    “UK households binned £13bn worth of food in 2015 that could have been eaten, according to new figures which suggest that progress in reducing the national food waste mountain has stalled.

    Despite concerted efforts to reduce food waste through the entire supply chain, a new national update from the waste and recycling advisory body Wrap revealed that an estimated 7.3m tonnes of household food waste was thrown away in 2015 – up from 7m tonnes in 2012.”

    And Western waste goes on, while complaining that the world is over populated. Hypocrisy at its worse.

  21. Davy on Wed, 11th Jan 2017 5:43 am 

    Here makati I adapted your statement. “Western waste goes on but eastern waste is a new and even worse phenomena. The west is complaining that the world is over populated because it clear is and getting worse. Anyone denying this and claiming Asia can grow much more is blind and delusional. Hypocrisy at its worst is now emanating from the east where they want the west to be a force of change while they want to do what the west did. What a joke.

  22. makati1 on Wed, 11th Jan 2017 6:34 am 

    Davy, blind and delusional describes you perfect;y. Denial and pointing that finger means nothing. Three are pointing right back at you. Americans want to believe that they are the “exceptional” country, whereas, they are, in reality, a 3rd world fascist police state doomed to fail terribly in the near future.

    Enjoy your delusions while they last. Their days are numbered.

  23. Davy on Wed, 11th Jan 2017 6:54 am 

    Say something makati because what you wrote above is not saying something. It is an example of you pounding your fist on the table because you are upset. The US is clearly coming to grips that it is not exceptional but that is not good enough for you because what will you have to talk about? Someone like you has so little to talk about except blame and complain combined with hate and discontent. Your Bric message has been a complete failure. Your message of a Russian and Chinese NUK war on the US and the US destruction appears to be going down the drain with a Putin trump romance. You have to hate that situation. You can’t even brag about your farm because I have proven you are nearly never there. The world is turning into a fascist state the US included. I doubt Trump will make any effort to end this even if he could. This is just part of the overall corruption of globalism and a blind drive to technological suicide. We are all doomed to failure if we continue as-is. The worst failures are ahead in your Asia where most of the worst of the worlds issues of overpopulation coupled with overconsumption are now being focused. Your days are numbered makati. You are in your mid-seventies living on a social security check with no family to take care of you if you get sick. You have some kind of boyfriend (platonic so you say). What happens when he kicks you to the street because you guys get in a fight? We know a significant amount of relationships end in failure. You won’t be able to afford a makati condo and your San Miguel beer by the pool. Your weakly steak dinner (New Zealand steak never US beef) will be over. Makati, surely you don’t think everyone but you faces failure. That is mental illness at its finest.

  24. Revi on Wed, 11th Jan 2017 10:58 am 

    I think the challenge is to find a place that will be able to be farmed and to be able to keep the produce in the future. I could see feudalism starting up again, in most places. I think the ideal spot would be cut off from the rest of the world, maybe a mountain pass between it and the rest of the world or something. It’s going to be a cruel game of musical chairs. Better find one before the music stops!

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