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PeakOil is You

PeakOil is You

New economic system for post-peak ?

Discussions about the economic and financial ramifications of PEAK OIL

Unread postby Stauffenberg » Thu 03 Mar 2005, 20:13:37

It seems to me to be the height of folly to believe that we can change the tendencies in human nature that got us into this tight spot. The tenets of human behavior are largely immutable; they have been bred into us since we were apes. Consciously changing your own or a small number of followers' views on economic action is possible, but humanity as a whole has always been and will always be beholden to profit.

Something about PO bugs me as an aspiring historian - the tendency to look at it as something unique in world history. Obviously, in terms of scale, it is. But in terms of concept, it's another example of imperial and economic overstretch. Athens fell; Rome fell; Berlin fell; Washington, D.C. will fall.

History is littered with failed experiments in means of human interaction; someday, we will view HydroCarbon Man as precisely that. But the profit motive has always been, and always will be; forever motivating mankind's triumphs and contributing to its downfalls.
Here lies a toppled God;
His fall was not a small one
We did but build his pedestal
A narrow and a tall one.

- Teilaxu Epigram, "Dune Messiah"
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Unread postby Ludi » Thu 03 Mar 2005, 20:17:33

humanity as a whole has always been and will always be beholden to profit.


If you're looking at "history" then you're only looking at a handful of cultures out of tens of thousands. Many cultures never had a concept of "profit."

You should look beyond history to anthropology; broaden your outlook.
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Unread postby Jack » Thu 03 Mar 2005, 21:10:01

Ayoob_Reloaded wrote:Jack,

Please read Guns, Germs, and Steel.


I've been working my way through Dr. Diamond's "Collapse"....it's a superb book! So, based on that and your suggestion, I've just ordered the book. 8)
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Unread postby JayHMorrison » Thu 03 Mar 2005, 21:55:42

Mercani wrote:Why is Bill Gates trying to own one more billion dollars, when he can live very very well by not working any more. Heck, he would have to find clever ways just to spend what he is earning !

Is this rational human behaviour? I don't think so.


I am sure money has very little to do with what Bill Gates is doing on a daily basis. People at that level (multi-billionaire) are not motivated by money. $100 million is a rounding error to them.

But look at it this way. Bill Gates has started the biggest charitable foundation in the world and is giving away billions for things like vaccinations, supporting educational projects, etc. If you took away Bill Gates' ability to amass his billions of dollars, you would also be taking away the good works that his fortune is now promoting. He has already said that his children will not inherit his billions. They will likely have millions each, but 99% of his fortune will goto his charity foundation.

Taking away the rewards of hard work makes for a very inefficient society. Communism has already proven that it doesn't work.

Capitalism is merely a result of freedom and democracy. In order to take away capitalism, you must take away every form of democracy and freedom. That alone would start civil war in every country on that has a tradition of democracy.
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Unread postby kpeavey » Thu 03 Mar 2005, 22:54:41

lotrfan55345 wrote:I hope you don't realyl belive that. Most rich people were born rich, got the family company/estate and stayed rich!

It isn't people fault they were born in the ghetto and can't afford to go to collage. It isn't people's fault they are born in Africa with no food. I mean, how are you supposed to "smarten up" and "get rich" when you don't have anything to eat?


I believe it and hold it as a fundamental truth. You are where you are in the world right now because of decisions you have made in your life.

The small minority of the wealthy who inherited wealth stayed wealthy because of decicions they made. It may not be a person's mistake to be born in a ghetto, although it is certainly a misfortune. It is absolutely their fault for staying there, they made the choices that kept them there. They made the choice to become and remain a victim.

I have no simpathy for the Victim mindset. It all boils down to letting things happen to you or making thigs happen. I read a poll several months ago where people were asked what makes you rich, hard work or education. The uneducated respondants answered that it was education. The affluent respondents said it was hard work. I've been in positions which have placed me in contact with numerous successful people (make good money, have their own business or an important job, have earned positions of respect). To a person it is because hard work got them there. Not all of them have higher education. I can tell you of several that never graduation high school. It is not the environment that determines a person's wealth, but what they do within that environment.

I was born to a blue collar family in a small town in Maine. We never had money, dad worked a good job, the bills were paid, we had food on the table. I picked blueberries in the summer, raked leaves in the fall, shovelled snow in the winter, delivered newspapers. I saved my pennies and paid for 2 years of college. I have owned several businesses, some made a few bucks, some lost a few bucks. I once started a window cleaning business with a 5 dollar bill, no bullshit, that put food on my table for 2 years. I have bought and sold rare coins, started up a candy company, almost opened a restaurant, and currently build cabinets on the side. I've had some misfortunes, lost everything a couple of times, gone through bankruptcy, been robbed blind. I've had all sorts of jobs. Dishwashing, cooking, waiter, restaurant manager, I've sold meat and seafood out of the back of a truck, managed apartment complexes, bagboy and cashier at a supermarket, painter, bartender on a boat, I even took a job once catching chickens.

Along the way I have made some stupid decisions as well as some smart ones. I am not the victim of someone elses decision. Nobody runs my life. I am responsible for where I am. Are you where you are because of someone else's decicions? Perhaps it is time you gave "Personal Responsibility" a second thought.

It may be possible for me to edit my previous post:
Poor people are poor because the decisions they make keep them poor.
Rich people are rich because they make the decisions thay keep them rich.

It is a fact that I have met some smart people who are poor. I have never met a rich person who was stupid.


now back to the thread...
-----------

The entire concept of limiting a persons wealth is nonsense. If you put a ceiling on wealth, you also put a ceiling on ambition, production, performance, and the entire economy. Let's say Bill Gates had a ceiling on his wealth. Once he reaches that ceiling, there is no more incentive for him or his company to produce. The world would be running on DOS 6.2. Send him to Wal-mart, compel him to spend a big sack of cash on groceries, then he can get back to work? Foolish.

It is the wealth in the nation that creates invenstment, industry, and jobs. It is the dreams of a few that propell the economy. Your plan would punish the overachievers.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever."
-George Orwell, 1984
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twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
-George Yeats
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Unread postby pea-jay » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 00:04:21

I have never met a rich person who was stupid.


Hmm. Some lotto winners may be the exception to that rule. The story of West VA lotto winner Jack Whittaker can show how a stupid person can become a rich person.

By your logic, he will be a poor man before long.
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Unread postby kpeavey » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 00:19:43

and someone smart will have his money
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever."
-George Orwell, 1984
_____

twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
-George Yeats
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Unread postby ECM » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 00:51:47

I've met stupid rich people and talented competent poor people. It doesn't mean they will stay rich or poor. Those that are wealthy have created a system that allows them and their children to maintain wealth and makes it more difficult for those born poor to acquire it. Although I agree that putting effort forth and making good decisions makes acquiring and holding wealth much easier it is not the sole determinant. A wealthy person can put little effort into life and remain wealthy while a poor person can struggle for many years and still not attain wealth.

All of those wonderful traits in humanity such as greed, corruption, racism, etc. have a huge impact on the flow of money and the mobility of individuals. I always thought hard work was the best way to succeed and found out the hard way that who you know has much greater impact.

Capitalism and the barter system is not the same thing. Try to go into a store and negotiate the price of a loaf of bread with the person at the cash register. I don't think you will have much luck. The barter system is by far the most fair and hardest to abuse between parties familiar with it.

There have been many societies that have existed where people respected nature and lived in a sustainable manner. Unfortunately, most of these have been destroyed by the greedy of the world. Some of these greedy people brought us capitalism and the falsehood known as freedom thru democracy. Those that live in democracies that think they are free amount to contented serfs. Laws bind people and we have far too many of them. High standards of living do not = freedom. The United States is a Plutocracy.
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Unread postby Mercani » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 02:05:48

Even if my intitial suggestion of putting a limit on wealth may not make sense, it is clear that capitalism is not the way to go.

Rome was capitalistic. ==> It fell.
America is capitalistic. ===> It will fall.

Does history have to repeat itself?

Whose fault is peak oil? All the humans? SUV drivers' ? People who eat bananas transported from half way around the world? People who fly to Las Vegas for the weekend? President who is elected every 4 years?

Who is responsible? Clearly there is something wrong in the system.

In capitalism, everybody tries to maximize his benefit. Optimization at individual level. This optimization is shifted a little bit to community level by government(rules and laws). However the main principle is the same.

Now, the problem is optimization at individual(or corporation) level does not automatically translate to optimization at the country or global level.

GM prevented mass transit initiatives in California. This maximized their profit, but it was clearly not the optimum for the US.

Microsoft acquires its competitors. Maximized their profit by monopoly power. Killed new accomplishments, new incentives, great ideas. How can this be good? Wouldn't you like to have an operating system superior than Windows? You can't, because Microsoft doesn't allow it.

Even optimization at the country level may not be sufficient for global problems, peak-oil, global warming, pollution, etc.


Therefore after peak-oil, nothing will be the same. We need cooperation at least as much as competition. The current system is based mainly on competition.
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Unread postby gg3 » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 04:31:38

I have no great love of socialism, but (back to page 1), Kpeavey, your remark about "Stupid people make stupid decisions, which keeps them poor. Smart people make smart decisions, which makes them wealthy," is self-justifying claptrap of the chimpanzee variety: the same type of ex-post-facto justification of larger reward for same or lesser task, as has been demonstrated recently in a series of experiments with apes.

The fact is that lazy parasites and vicious predators exist in equal measure across the socioeconomic spectrum. The poor ones parasitize by cheating welfare, and prey by committing street crimes. The rich ones parasitize by living off inherited fortunes they did not earn, and prey by corrupting the legislative agenda and stealing from corporate coffers.

Another irrefutable fact is that the lopsided incentives at the top of the spectrum represent nothing so much as an exemption from competition. Recently the CEO of Hewlett Packard was shown the door for poor performance, with a "severance package" worth $20 million. That was the reward for failure. That is a pure and simple corruption of the principle of incentive.

And last but not least we have the principle of declining marginal utility. The first million makes someone affluent. The second and third million make them "independently wealthy," which is to say, give them a ticket to escape any further meaningful impact of competition in their own lives. After that, absent the potential for serious downside impact of stupidity, they are effectively darwin-proof, and stupidity can thereafter expand fully to fill the void.

I have come around lately to the position that, as a Kantian matter (categorical imperative: what's good for the goose is good for the gander, the same rules apply to all), if competition is "good," there should be no lifetime exemptions because they sap the strength and will of a society; but if competition is "bad," then *all* should be spared its carrots and sticks.

One cannot, as a moral and ethical matter, hold that some people "deserve" to be exempted from lifetime competitive conditions with serious downside consequenecs, while other people "deserve" to be subjected to such conditions with no room for slack. That is the root of aristocracy, precisely the foul and fetid system of entitlements against which the free enterprise system in our free republic was established.

Which, if any, of those "deserves" is a reward, and which, if any is a punishment...?

Now it also turns out, as a matter of empirical fact, well-demonstrated via cellular automata in game theory, that any onetime attempt at forced redistribution, will also quickly return to a condition where many have little and few have much. But since this works with mindless cells on a computerized grid, it has no implication for the "worthiness" or lack thereof, of individuals. It is simply an empirical fact of nature, similar to the fact of population overshoot-and-collapse. The question of *what to do about it* is an ethical question at the *societal* level.

And here it should be pointed out that severe disparities in equity are the predominant cause of violent social upheavals: letting the system run its course leads to a blowup as surely as overpopulation leads to a die-off.

===

The central flaw of economics, is that it has come to be dominated by *finance* to the point where "finance" and "economics" are used nearly as synonymous terms. In effect, "money" (and its abstracted forms such as credit, stocks, bonds, derivatives, etc.) has been raised from being a useful tool with which distribution of goods/services is conducted and accounted, to being the governing factor that has determinative power over virtually all of the allocation of goods/services and resources. It has become, in its own way, a kind of impersonal God/king that rules the lives of individuals and nations with an iron fist.

Philosophically this could be called Mammonism. And it is the central reason why we, here, on this very board, wail and moan about the glaring gap between the necessity of new energy sources and the actual absence thereof: the nuclear reactors and wind installations not built, the efficiency measures and transport alternatives not adopted, the enormous range of things that have not been done for the simple reason that "the money" says No and like a God/king of mythical monarchies past, can no more be challenged than a thunderstorm with its lightning bolts sent from the proverbial heavens.

This particular perversion, whereby the power and the very will, of individuals and entire societies, is abnegated altogether, has led directly to our present position of hurtling toward the abyss at an ever-accelerating rate of speed that is called by the euphemism of "growth." It is as surely deadly as exponential population growth. There is no question that it will simply *stop* when we hit the metaphorical wall at high speed. The only question is what will replace it, and how many will be the casualties before this is done. About which more in my next posting.
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Unread postby Frank » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 06:15:33

I'm glad Jay Morrison pointed out that Bill Gates has started his Foundation. The Gates' have transferred a large portion of their wealth to the foundation and although they'll never starve ( :P ) the Foundation is doing a lot of good.

The issue isn't really Capitalism, it's Industrialism and the fact that there is insufficient value placed on use of natural resources. When we pump oil from the ground, the prices includes money to pay for equipment, time, transportation, etc. etc. i.e. nothing to account for the fact that we're depleting something that can't easily be replaced. There have been various schemes proposed to account for these costs but until price reflects true cost I don't expect much to change. This is true with most resources and other Common Property (such as the air we breathe, water we drink, etc.) Traditional economics seems to assume that resources are infinite and this is wrong.
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Unread postby Doly » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 08:07:22

The problem, as I see it, is that the cost of things isn't related to anything we could call their intrinsic value. Air is free, and it could be argued it's the most valuable thing we have. Instead, the cost of things is related to how hard it is to get them now. There is no consideration about how hard to get they could be in the future with the current practices, or how necessary they are.
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Unread postby JayHMorrison » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 08:17:20

Mercani wrote:Even if my intitial suggestion of putting a limit on wealth may not make sense, it is clear that capitalism is not the way to go.


That is like saying, "freedom and democracy are not the way to go."

Capitalism is not mandated upon us. It is simply what happens when we have freedom.
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Unread postby Mercani » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 09:03:29

Capitalism is not mandated upon us. It is simply what happens when we have freedom.


Maybe this is correct. But what is the definition of freedom? I can't speed over 65 mph because it is dangerous, an accident kill some other people. However, by driving an SUV I can waste a valuable resource and pollute the best thing we have: air. Is this the part of freedom? We are supposed to have respect for other people's right. In a free society I would expect to have the right to breathe clean air.

Most humans are only thinking they are free, although they are the captives of human desires. Most human desires are not good.

You cannot make people free by just saying we live in freedom and democracy. Have you watched the movie "Truman Show" ?
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Unread postby JayHMorrison » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 10:47:39

Mercani wrote:Maybe this is correct. But what is the definition of freedom? I can't speed over 65 mph because it is dangerous, an accident kill some other people. However, by driving an SUV I can waste a valuable resource and pollute the best thing we have: air. Is this the part of freedom? We are supposed to have respect for other people's right. In a free society I would expect to have the right to breathe clean air.


You do have the right to breathe clean air. If you are unhappy where you are currently breathing, you have the freedom to move somewhere else that meets your breathing standards. You have to right to move to a community that meets you driving/walking/biking standards.

You have the right to support candidates which share your views. You even have the right to run for public office and champion your beliefs and make them the law of the land.

Mercani wrote:Most humans are only thinking they are free, although they are the captives of human desires. Most human desires are not good.


Giving up our freedom would be much worse. Would you consider it more desirable to have the world dominated by gov'ts such as N. Korea, China, Cuba, military dictatorships, communism, etc.
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Unread postby smallpoxgirl » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 12:20:55

JayHMorrison wrote:Capitalism is not mandated upon us. It is simply what happens when we have freedom.


That is factually untrue. Every place that capitalism has ever been imposed, it has been imposed at gun point. Trade is natural. Production of goods is natural. Private property is natural.

Capitalism...ie the idea that one should accumulate capital and be reimbursed for allowing someone else to use your capital is a very new and very unnatural idea. It is one thing to make a product and trade that product with someone else. It is entirely another to "own" an apartment complex, a trailer park, a factory, and sit on your duff charging other people for the privelidge of working or living.
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Unread postby Ludi » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 12:59:16

I'm not able to move to a place where trade and barter are allowed, and where traditional tribal lands are respected, because such places are rapidly disappearing due to the imposition of capitalism upon every part of the globe. Not only this, but I'm unable to decide with my neighbors that I would like to pool our lands and hold them tribally, and exist in a system of barter and trade, without the government interfering with us and insisting we pay property taxes on our land, taxes which are largely arbitrary. Being in a capitalistic system is not "freedom" by my standards, because I don't actually have a choice to live some other way, as it stands now. Capitalism is imposed upon me. If I were truely free, I could engage in some other system without arbitrary government interference.
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Unread postby JayHMorrison » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 14:48:38

smallpoxgirl wrote:Capitalism...ie the idea that one should accumulate capital and be reimbursed for allowing someone else to use your capital is a very new and very unnatural idea. It is one thing to make a product and trade that product with someone else. It is entirely another to "own" an apartment complex, a trailer park, a factory, and sit on your duff charging other people for the privelidge of working or living.


What do you think feudalism was?
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Unread postby JayHMorrison » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 14:53:56

Ludi wrote:I'm not able to move to a place where trade and barter are allowed, and where traditional tribal lands are respected, because such places are rapidly disappearing due to the imposition of capitalism upon every part of the globe. Not only this, but I'm unable to decide with my neighbors that I would like to pool our lands and hold them tribally, and exist in a system of barter and trade, without the government interfering with us and insisting we pay property taxes on our land, taxes which are largely arbitrary. Being in a capitalistic system is not "freedom" by my standards, because I don't actually have a choice to live some other way, as it stands now. Capitalism is imposed upon me. If I were truely free, I could engage in some other system without arbitrary government interference.


Move to a place where you feel that you can maintain your values. You also have the freedom to run for office and have the pulpit to try to convince others that your ideas have greater value and that your values should be adopted as the norm. However, if the majority of your country's democracy do not agree with your values, then you are destined to be in the minority. Become a loud and vocal minority and fight to get candidates elected which share your values. That is how most democracies work in Euope, N America, Japan, etc.

You sound like you are a libertarian to some extent. Perhaps you should look into joining that sort of party to find others who share your values and promote those candidates for public office.
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Unread postby Ludi » Fri 04 Mar 2005, 15:23:01

I'm more of an anarchist than a libertarian, but I voted mostly Libertarian in the last election.

I'm unqualified to run for elected office.
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